Displeased. Francesca Cucinotta, Head of International Relations, is not happy about the way some exchange students have been behaving in Vaasa. Photo: Kaj Paulamäki
International Office struggles to curb excessive exchange student parties. This year three complaints will lead to expulsion.
Foolhardy partying, damage to public spaces and an astonishing number of police calls have been a thorn in the side for VOAS for many years. Last year the situation took a turn for the worse and VOAS changed their house policies for the exchange students: no more Tekla for them.
Francesca Cucinotta, Head of International Relations, and Juuli Savola, International Students' Coordinator, are at the helm of the International Office. They have been struggling to curb the reckless partying and it seemed they were coming out on top, until our last article (Vaasan ylioppilaslehti 5/11) awoke the sleeping giant. Nebojsa Dimic, a student of Finance, defined the laundry room of Linna "the best party place in town."
Cucinotta and Savola decided to speak up and set the record straight. This year there will be no mercy for misbehaving exchange students. Going too far over the top with partying can indeed lead to an early flight back home.
"Sorry, but we just couldn't turn a blind eye to it. We have done so much, and it is also our job to assure that every International Student has a good experience and a good time here in Vaasa, and that is just not possible if the parties run so wild. And it also creates huge risks", Cucinotta says.
"Yes, and we do mean threats to safety, it's not just a fuss from VOAS or us", Savola adds.
Threats? Could you elaborate?
FC: "Well, the parties we had to put an end to involved really idiotic things, such as people smoking indoors. And as if that was not enough, they would deactivate the fire alarms to not get caught. Do I need to remind that Tekla has caught fire twice in the past two years? Not to mention a list of other acts that would be inappropriate to mention in here."
But that's actually what readers want! Blood and gore? Sins and revels?
FC: (laughs) "Something like that. But seriously, we have faced real crises in the past few years. It's not exactly what you would call an enriching experience to wake up in the middle of the night and find your apartment on fire, nor is it a good definition of quiet living to be unable to use your own laundry room, because it is jammed by partygoers."
JS: "But the point we are trying to make here is that everybody has the right to study in a peaceful and supportive environment at our university. On the other hand, we do not mean to spoil our students' fun, we have in fact programs and activities for them, but partying that way just makes it impossible for other students to live there. We have received complaints from local students, neighbors and international students alike. Having fun is indeed a part of the exchange experience, but not at the expense of others. Plus, we found ourselves caught between VOAS and our students over these unrests."
VOAS? Isn't it a part of the University?
FC: "No, actually VOAS is a foundation that has student representation in the board, but it's a totally autonomous body. Therefore they pretty much have the final say in everything."JS: "In theory they might even decide not to host our exchange students anymore, which translates to our university not being able to welcome exchange students, and no incoming exchange students equals no outgoing exchange students. The whole university would be in the same boat then."
FC: "And VOAS has already resorted to hard measures in the past that are still in force today."
The son pays for the misdeeds of the father?
JS: "In a way, yes. The common spaces of Tekla, for example, have been closed because they had been trashed by previous exchange students. So, VOAS made the decision to lock them up until further notice."
But students lamented the lack of common spaces to gather in, so they started taking over available spaces such as laundries and hallways.
FC: "But there are alternatives, such as Leipis and other spaces offered by the Students' Union. The place can be rented for a mere 50 euros which shared between twenty heads is not such a prohibitive expense, as many claim."
What steps have you taken to keep these harmful episodes at bay?
FC: "Starting this year, all our exchange students have signed a commitment upon registration where they agree that the following procedure is followed in cases of reported misbehavior, including complaints from VOAS. If we receive a complaint, for example from VOAS, we will contact the exchange student's home university automatically and inform them about the incident."
JS: "If we receive three complaints of the same exchange student, that student's exchange will be terminated and the student will be sent home."
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