The Student is The Owner 

Text: Mari Lähteenmäki | Pictures: Tiina Salminen, Tiitu Design

Hilma Hintikka studies management at the Jyväskylä University School of Business and Economics. In autumn 2021, she had stopped working full-time in her previous profession as a pharmacist and joined her new subject organisation, Pörssi.  

Hilma was elected as a member of the JYY Council of Representatives in the same autumn. On her first term, Hilma led her own Council Group PD. The Student Union movement swept her along, and in autumn 2023, Hilma announced her interest in becoming chair of the entire Student Union.  

The JYY Chair is responsible for the activities of the Council of Representatives, chairs the speeches at their meetings and plays a prominent role in the leadership of the highest decision-making body of the Students’ Union.  

“It’s a fairly typical story at JYY that you give your little finger, so to speak, and get pulled into something much bigger.” 

JYY’s main decisions are made by the Council of Representatives, a 41-member body of students. It represents the students in JYY’s decision-making, and the owner, as far as the business unit of JYY is concerned. Decisions are implemented by the Student Union Board. 

The Chair of the Board of Executives in 2024, Akseli Immonen, tells of a similar story of his journey from freshman to a prominent trust position in the Student Union. Former chair of his subject association, the major student in political sciences had decided to leave organizations aside and focus on studies. Then folks had started to persuade him to join the Council Group Jyviva’s newcomers’ evening.  

“I said, ‘Alright, I’ll come have a look, but I’m not throwing my hat in the ring’ – and then I decided to run for the elections there and then in the 2021 newcomers’ evening. I realized the Student Union affairs are a lot of fun. So much for the studies, again.” 

Akseli has been thinking the secret for the Student Union JYY’s charm. What makes the people so excited and ready to commit themselves, even when they were reluctant initially? 

“The Student Union affairs are so unique. Nothing like this, anywhere. People just cannot imagine what it’s like.” 

The Student Owner’s voice is heard in the Council of Representatives 

Akseli says that when he’s asked about his favourite student event in Jyväskylä he tells honestly it’s the meeting of the Council of Representatives. 

”I cannot pretend that it’s some May Day thing. Something must have gone off in my head.”  

Akseli’s enthusiasm is understandable looking at what the Council of Representatives has done. Listing JYY’s achievements almost always refers to matters arising from the decisions made by the Council of Representatives. According to law, JYY must select student representatives for designated seats in the University  administration. JYY also does a lot of other things, having gathered a bunch of responsibilities over its 90-year history. 

At the webpage jyy.fi, the Student Union JYY describes the Council of Representatives as its Parliament, dealing with the following tasks:  

“The Council of Representatives decides on various matters, including JYY’s rules, budget, financial statements, loans, and construction. [It] also elects the Student Union’s Board, the Chair of the Board, and key JYY employees, such as the Executive Director, CEO, and Editor-in-Chief.” (Freely translated from jyy.fi) 

So in 2023 alone, the Council of Representatives addressed, among other things, the recruitment of a new editor-in-chief and a substitute for the Executive Director, the construction of the new building U in Kortepohja Student Village and the adjacent commercial space, a land use agreement with the City of Jyväskylä, and Ilokivi affairs. 

In addition, the Council of Representatives addresses proposals, or initiatives, submitted by the members of the Student Union. In 2023, initiatives included the Opinkivi floor renovation and enhancing JYY’s visibility across all campuses. 

Soihtu, owned by the students 

In most student cities, student housing is provided either by a municipally owned enterprise (such as KUOPAS in Kuopio) or a foundation (such as LOAS in Lappeenranta or TYS in Turku). 

JYY decided to address the student housing needs in Jyväskylä independently and began constructing student apartments in the Kortepohja student village in 1968. Today, through Soihtu Housing, JYY owns over 2,000 rental apartments and several commercial spaces. Ilokivi Venue is also part of Soihtu. Soihtu business employs over 20 individuals.  

“In other Student Unions, the situation can be dramatically different. Many can be surprised when hearing of JYY’s assets”, says Akseli. It’s not only the people from other towns that are surprised. Many Jyväskylä university students might be surprised to learn of the specialty of their own student union. 

”It can happen that a student applies for the JYY Board and learns after being chosen that it’s, simultaneously, the board of a medium-sized real estate company in this city’s scale.”  

Approximately one half of the real estate assets of JYY is student housing supported by ARA, to which a special set of legislation is applied. Despite the myths, the Student Union membership fees do not fund the business operations of the Student Union, but stable property ownership serves as the backbone of member services. Hilma reminds that the real estate assets of the Student Union JYY have been built over the decades, and it wouldn’t be possible to gain it any longer, if the work was to be started now.  

”The financially sustainable business is for the benefit of all members of the Student Union.” 

In the long term, the Student Union’s goal is for the property business to finance JYY’s non-profit activities, thereby reducing pressure to raise membership fees. 

The Student Union encourages to learn 

Hilma says she’s learnt a lot in the official positions of the Student Union, and her joy of the new skills are audible in her response. “I feel the opportunities for learning are endless in this position, and I will learn so much more during this year.” 

Hilma lists a bunch of valuable skillsets: Argumentation and persuasive speech, team leadership, decision-making, public speaking. Communication and organizational skills develop in various workgroups. Working with students from diverse backgrounds broadens perspectives. A multi-disciplinary organization that operates as an employer, landlord, property owner, and event organizer is subject to a wide range of laws. 

“If influencing any matter interests you even a bit, the Student Union JYY is where you get to do it”, Hilma sums. 

From within JYY, national-level influencers have emerged, for example, in the National Union of University Students in Finland SYL and in the Parliament. 

“A member of the parliament is expected to be able to manage large subject matters. One needs to understand the process of political decision-making. Here’s where one can learn it. The process here doesn’t differ much from that of a Member of Parliament”, says Akseli of JYY. 

With business ownerships, JYY has more complex management structure and wider financial processes than many other student unions. Understanding these will add to the skillset of the representative of the student owner. As the JYY and Soihtu financial issues are discussed in meetings, it gives a good basis for basic citizen’s skills. When one’s got the hang of basic stuff like balance sheets, income statements, and annual reports, one’ll breeze through things like an apartment building’s meeting documents. 

Responsibility over the future 

Hilma thinks of securing the services important to students. “It’s crucial for us to closely monitor the direction in which the overall student housing situation in Jyväskylä is evolving and, for instance, to investigate housing needs arising from the University’s international degree programs.” 

Akseli Immonen strongly sees the current actors’ role.  

 ”The Student Union JYY needs to pay attention to the development of its investments so that future stakeholders can thank us for our foresight.” 

Kielimalli ChatGPT:tä on käytetty tämän tekstin käännöksen yksittäisten kohtien työstämisessä.  
ChatGPT has been used for processing individual parts of this translation. 

“The Student Union affairs are so unique.”

Akseli Immonen, The Chair of the Board of Executives of JYY in 2024

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