Regarding Racism at Sitsfests

Over the last few weeks, there has been an ongoing debate over what kind of behavior is acceptable at sitsfests, and frankly, this discussion is long overdue.

For the record, it is definitely not okay to use the N-word, dress up in a Nazi costume, or sing about pedophiles. The most common argument I have heard in defense of this behavior is that sitsfests are about black comedy and poking fun at everything and everyone. Be that as it may, I don’t think that you need to resort to using racial slurs to engage in nuanced political commentary. Those who have had the courage to speak out against the status quo have been labeled social justice warriors and mielensäpahottajat, and I believe that this discourse is not only counterproductive, but also incredibly destructive. It is a moral imperative for subject associations and organizers of student events to push for change in our culture.

I’ve attended many sitsfest over the past few years, and although I have thoroughly enjoyed myself most of the time, I’ve been complicit in some of aforementioned questionable behavior, and for that I apologize. The bottom line is that the vast majority of students who attend sitsfests are part of a rather homogenous (and usually very intoxicated) group of Finns, and therefore, maybe not in the best position to decide what should and should not be offensive to other people. Just because you have no qualms singing about pedophiles does not mean it is not a very delicate subject for someone else. I think it is deplorable that we are so ambivalent about possibly alienating our peers with the jokes we feel the need to tell.

Those who have spoken out against the blatant racism on display at sitsfest have immediately been labeled social justice warriors on social media. The use of this labeling just boggles the mind -it’s as if they were saying: Oh, you’re one of those people who’s for social justice, I ,for one, support injustice. Describing those who talk about this problem as mielensäpahottajat (upset) is dismissive and rude, and a symptom of the larger problem we have.

The guidelines for sitsfests that the Student Union is preparing are a step in the right direction. I also think it is up to the student associations to follow these guidelines and set an example for a way forward. Neglecting to do so would be an abandonment of this responsibility. This is a conversation we all need to be having right now, and it doesn’t matter whether you’re a member or a board member of Parku, Dumppi, Syrinx, Magna Carta or any other student association at the University of Jyväskylä.

Welcome to 2018, the year the student movement debated serving crickets at Ilokivi for several hours and then whether it was okay to say the N-word.

-Nick Bursiewicz, Council member of Union of Alvar


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