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Do we know enough about racism at the Uniarts?

The University Collegium, the Board, and the authors of this text challenge all members of the university community to think about whether you recognise racism when you encounter it and whether you know how to act against it.

Racism was the topic at the joint discussion event between the Uniarts Helsinki’s Board and the University Collegium.

In preparation, all participants had received a copy of the university’s strategic goal 5: An inclusive and diverse university as well as the University’s statement about equality and diversity. Participants had also received a link to a lecture on antiracism by Sharia Rask, part of the resources provided by the Finnish institute for health and welfare (THL). You can find links to all of these at the end of this blog post.

The discussion sought to identify what steps the university should take to concretise its strategy and equality work on anti-racism. Our university is part of the Finnish society, and unfortunately Finland is, according to a recent EU report,[1] one of the most racist countries in Europe. Racism is still poorly recognised in Finland. It would therefore be important that our university should declare itself anti-racist, not only in words but also in deeds.

This blog is based on both the discussion in the event and points raised during the writing of the blog.

Everyone is responsible

The discussion revealed that there is racism in our university. Even though the most obvious manifestations of racism can generally be recognised, there are several levels of racism that are difficult to recognise – or they stay completely unrecognised. Since this is the case, the university cannot know when and where racism occurs and in which ways it manifests itself in the daily lives of bipoc people (black, indigenous, people of color). The discussion called for the responsibility of every member of the university community to learn to recognise the various levels racism and address it as part of their role. To be able to see racism, you need to first recognise your own prejudices. Unfortunately, many people may not even realise that the comments or attitudes they have can be harmful to others.

It seems that reporting about racism does not necessarily change the situation. Even though the university has clear instructions on how to handle inappropriate behaviour, the instructions about racism are not clear, and the channel for an individual to report racism should be easier to find and use. The university also needs to nominate one person who deals with the reports and has the power to take the necessary actions to ensure that the problems can be solved. Too often the responsibility for making sure that things change remains with the victim of racism, which is both burdensome and unfair for the victims.

The discussion called for anti-racism training, starting from the various levels of racism as well as micro and macroaggressions. The university needs to nominate one person with the responsibility and power to contact experts in the field, create materials, and organise training so that it reaches everyone in the university community. There is some training at the university, and there are online materials on the subject, but on a general level, too little is known about the issue so far.

Concrete actions

The University Collegium and the Board proposed several concrete actions. The short-term actions include:

  • More precise wording to clarify that anti-racism is part of strategic goal 5.
  • Rerunning ”I am not a racist” campaign.
  • Anti-racism training that increases the ability to recognise racism at the university.
  • Stipulating that anti-racism training is a compulsory part of equality training for all members of the university community.
  • Support for handling reported situations.
  • Support for those who have experienced racism (responsibility should not be left to the abused one).

The long-term actions include:

  • Making anti-racism a cross-cutting theme at the university and a part of budget planning of each unit.
  • Including anti-racism in the negotiations with the Ministry of Education.
  • Defining guidelines for including anti-racism as part of curricula and course planning.

The University Collegium, the Board, and the authors of this text challenge you, as a member of the university community, to think about whether you recognise racism when you encounter it and whether you know how to act against it. We, further, challenge you to listen to the THL materials and attend the training sessions. Let’s make our university an anti-racist environment. Let’s act. Now.


Isabela Hueara Carneiro (member of the University Collegium; MFA Student, Praxis, Academy of Fine Arts)

Tuire Kuusi (professor, chair of the University Collegium)

[1] Second European Union Minorities and Discrimination Survey – Being Black in the EU.

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