Protesters of various ages were demonstrating against the Helsinki University's decision of inviting the finance minister, Alexander Stubb, to speak at the university's 375th anniversary event on Thursday November 12 2015. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

Protesters of various ages were demonstrating against the Helsinki University’s decision of inviting the finance minister, Alexander Stubb, to speak at the university’s 375th anniversary event on Thursday November 12 2015. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

“Shame on you!”

The shouts echoed in the vestibule of Helsinki University on Thursday evening half an hour before the finance minister, Alexander Stubb, was to deliver his speech as an honorary guest at the grand finale of Helsinki Challenge seminar, a culminating event of the Helsinki University’s 375th anniversary year held at the historical Great Hall. The seminar’s agenda was to build solutions for the future wellbeing.

“Education lie!” the chants kept attacking the people who were striding about in suits and dresses, hurrying to the seminar where the top names in Finnish and international research were to hold speeches.

But the words of about 100 frustrated university employees, students and anarchists fed up with the cuts in education were to not let their words bounce back like a boomerang from the thick mahogany doors of the Great Hall, which was protected by men in suits.

Since September, the University of Helsinki has started the planning of significant cuts because it has to adjust its finances due to the unforeseen funding cuts made by the Finnish government.

According to the estimation of the university, the cuts targeted at the institution will be 106 million euros by the year of 2020. The university board aims to save a total of 86 million euros, which means that costs will be reduced all over the university organisation in the years to come.

According to the estimation of the university, the cuts targeted at the institution will be 106 million euros by the year of 2020.
Thomas Wallgren, a lecturer and docent at Helsinki University, encouraging the protesters to chant. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

Thomas Wallgren, a lecturer and docent at Helsinki University, encouraging the protesters to chant. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

“You can stick your innovations up your ass!” This time one of the protesters holding the famous banner was Taina Riikonen, 46, who introduced her as “an old dog” working as a researcher at the university. I’ve seen the banner been carried around in several rallies regarding education cuts.

“Innovations should be understood as a broader phenomenon. It’s much more than something technical or something that expands the economic growth. That’s Slush talk,” she explained the meaning of the slogan, “Think twice and don’t just say that we should produce innovations. Let the researchers and scientists work in peace.”

The time approached 17:40 and Stubb was to hold his speech. The protesters had taken slow steps towards the doors of the hall while shouting. The guards seemed somewhat puzzled when all the sudden the screams were about to blow your ears off.

The guards seemed somewhat puzzled when all the sudden the screams were about to blow your ears off.
A man holding a large banner trying to get in the Great Hall where the finance minister, Alexander Stubb, is speaking. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

A man holding a large banner trying to get in the Great Hall where Stubb is speaking. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

A man holding a banner and wearing a dark cap tried to get in several times when the doors were opened to let in attendants with an invitation. The guards shoved him back. But now when Stubb was holding his speech each small opening of the door resulted in the protesters pushing themselves towards the doors and screaming with all their might.

When the guards tried to close the doors, the man with the cap resisted, while a bunch of others screamed in from the crack.

When the doors were finally closed, the screaming continued inside the semi-circular hall. There were at least 10 unhappy protesters sitting at the benches among hundreds of guests. In front, behind the lectern, which is considered the most prestigious in the Northern countries with its shiny golden embellishments, minister Stubb was trying to deliver his speech but the screams at the amphitheatrical room turned the setting into an anatomical theatre, where the sharp echoes of the slogans slashed the speaker as if the demonstrators were attempting a verbal dissection.

“It would be weird if people were not protesting against the cuts,” Stubb had said, according to a protester who was present at the hall. “But of course he didn’t admit the cuts were his fault.”

Among the protesters were mothers carrying toddlers. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

Among the protesters were mothers carrying toddlers. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

The shouts of the protesters bore the disappointments of the past spring; the demonstrators still held vivid images on their retinas of the to-be premier Juha Sipilä posing with a paper stating that the student benefits will not be weakened and the smiling former premier Stubb embracing a student holding a paper saying “The education will not be cut underlined with a hashtag #koulutuslupaus (#educationpromise).”

The hashtag of today’s event was #STOPSTUBB – stop Stubb from speaking at the Helsinki University because “The cuts conducted to the education by the authority of Stubb mean a historical record low in the politics of the Finnish system of higher education and science,” the invitation to the protest said.

The government is planning to cut 70 million euros from the student benefits by the year 2019. In total, the education cuts sum up to about 600 million euros. The education promise had turned into an education lie.

There were now protesters exiting the Great Hall and once the doors were opened several furious people tried to bum-rush the show to the rhythm of the “Shame on you!” chants.

The guards grabbed people from the neck and pulled them back. A young man with a pink rose decorating the bow of his glasses stumbled to the floor.

The guards grabbed people from the neck and pulled them back.

After a while, the wrestling match settled and one of the organisers, Thomas Wallgren, a lecturer and docent at the Helsinki University, had an announcement to make.

“Our target [Alexander Stubb] has left. Regarding that the moment is over. Thank you all!”

The vestibule rang with claps and cheers. A woman shook a male sex doll with “traitor” written on its pelvis and its face covered with a caricature mask of Stubb.

The man with the rose in his glasses pushed the trigger of a foghorn three times. The sound was excruciating.

“Sorry. I just had to do that.”

 

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