“An equal community = happier students”
Good practice for tackling discrimination: Harassment contact persons appointed by the Student Union of the University of Helsinki
A person faced with discrimination or harassment often feels uncertain about how to deal with the situation. In these cases, members of the Student Union of the University of Helsinki (HYY) are helped by a harassment contact person.
“Our two harassment contact persons offer guidance and support to students who have encountered harassment, bullying, discrimination or any other unequal treatment. These contact persons are student union employees who have been trained for the task,” says Lauri Linna, Member of the HYY Board, who is responsible for equality issues.
The Student Union of the University of Helsinki has nearly 30,000 students as well as 250 smaller student organisations operating within it.
According to Linna, the harassment contact persons already have a well-established role within HYY.
A harassment contact person can be contacted even without personal experience of harassment or discrimination. Assistance is also available if such situations are witnessed, or merely if there’s a wish to discuss ways to take action against them. The contact persons can be reached both by phone and by email.
“Harassment contact persons don’t take further action without consent, and they work under obligation of secrecy.”
To guarantee confidentiality, the cases submitted to the harassment contact persons aren’t recorded in statistics. For this reason, there is no information about the number of contacts or the most common reasons for seeking a harassment contact person’s help.
“The contacts cover a very wide spectrum of cases, from bullying to sexual harassment,” Linna describes.
Apart from the HYY harassment contact persons, students can also seek support from the Equality Adviser of the University of Helsinki in cases of harassment and discrimination at the university.
“Sometimes questions associated with equality also arouse opposition, and people may wonder whether these issues really are important. However, here in HYY we think that an equal community makes for happier students.”
Linna says that, for example, the activities of the harassment contact persons have had a definite impact. The mere existence of the contact persons emphasises the fact that HYY takes harassment and discrimination seriously. In addition, the impact of the individual cases they have handled is always great for both the student who needs help and the organisation or other community where the event has occurred.