In relation to the budget, the Student Union of the University of Oulu (OYY) decided in its meeting on 10 Dec 2019 to cut the grants for subject and interest societies in 2020.
The Board of OYY presented two proposals to the Student Council: in the first proposal the grants for societies would be 25,000 euros and in the other 17,750 euros in 2020. After voting, the meeting adopted the counterproposal by Lääketietellisen vaaliliiton edustajistoryhmä (“Medical Electoral Alliance”, LED) with grants of 10,600 euros for 2020.
In addition to the amount, also the recipients were limited: according to the proposal, only interdisciplinary societies that are open to all OYY’s members should receive funding. This includes the interest societies but not the subject societies. The subject societies that have less than hundred members are an exception. These small societies will be funded with 1,400 euros and the remaining 9,200 euros will be directed to the interest societies.
This year OYY has granted grants to societies with 17,736 euros, of which 10,070 euros were to subject societies and 7,665 euros to interest societies.
“In practice, OYY’s all income consists of membership fees. When every student in the university has to pay the fee, there should be sufficient grounds for using the money. At the moment this kind of funding isn’t beneficial to everyone, and large societies and certain faculties are relegated to the sidelines. Part of the reason is in the process and part in the interest to apply for funding – but the end result is skewed nevertheless,” Eelis Palokangas, member of LED, justifies their proposal.
Palokangas sees the grants as an unnecessary transfer payment from one student to another. He thinks that there are other ways for the subject societies to raise money: they can, for example, raise the membership fee or work harder on fund-raising.
“In the faculties that receive most of the grants (Faculties of Education, Humanities and Science), the grants are approximately 2 euros per student. We think that finding a substitute for that small amount isn’t impossible, especially for bigger subject societies. The smaller ones will certainly be affected. The societies that have less than hundred members would be guaranteed the same support as they have received this year,” Palokangas says.
Is the reason behind LED’s proposal that for example Oulun Lääketieteellinen Kilta (“The Medical Guild of Oulu”) has had too big turnover to apply for grant?
The criteria for the activity grants states that if the income and expenses are over 100,000 euros in total, the society will not primarily receive the grant. The criteria also states that this kind of society can, however, receive the grant if they give reasons for the need of financial assistance in their application.
“When you think about it, we have over 1,000 students in the Faculty of Medicine, and only a small percentage of the paid membership fees comes back to the Terveystieteiden kilta (“Health Science Guild”), it is seen as an unfair system. When we thought about this proposal, we came to the conclusion that the system is redundant,” Palokangas says.
Before the meeting, other council groups Interdisciplinary Election Circle (PoVa), the Green list and Tieteelliset (“Science students”) published a common position, where they declared to support the Board’s proposal to grant activity grants to the subject and interest societies in the future as well.
The position states that “viable student associations benefit the whole university community. For example, guilds organise student culture, events, services, and other things that help the students integrate into the university community. Together, OYY and the student guilds can promote students’ interest in a more effective way at the university and in the society.”
According to the undersigned groups, the counterproposal was presented to the Student Council in a rush and there hasn’t been enough time to appropriately consider its implications.
The discussion about the activity grants was lively in the Student Council meeting. The voting was tight.
The proposal 1 (25,000 euros) was defeated by 26 to 11 and the proposal 2 (17,750 euros) by one vote 19–18.
In the voting, LED themselves and Opiskelevat Kokoomusnuoret (“Coalition Party Students”) sided unanimously with LED’s proposal. Unanimously against the proposal were PoVa, the Green list, Tieteelliset and Keskustaopiskelijoiden ja sitoutumattomien vaaliliitto (”The Centre Party Students and the Independents”). Members of Tekniikan ja Talouden vaalirengas (“The Election Circle of Technology and Economy Students”, TeTa) were divided: some sided with LED’s proposal while others were against it.
After the Board’s proposals had been rejected, there was a vote on LED’s proposal (10,600 euros), where the votes were 20–17 in favor of the proposal.
The Student Council members Aino-Kaisa Manninen (Green list), Roosa Heinonen (PoVa), Bruno Gioia Sandler (PoVa), Timi Kärki (PoVa), Salla Karhunen (PoVa) and Jarkko Impola (PoVa) expressed a dissenting opinion.
The amount of grants to societies is decided annually in relation to the budget. The amount has varied along the years: for example, in 2016, the societies received 23,497 euros in total, in 2017 14,874 euros and in 2018 16,969 euros. Starting from 2018, OYY has granted all grants as activity grants and not separately as project grants or special grants.
Translation: Essi Ranta