I was once the future – surviving in the backstreets of Saltaire, Bradford

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Back in the 1990’s, my father after 30+ years working as a car mechanic in Bradford was given a gold watch and interviewed by the local newspaper and his photo shown being thanked by the Managing Director.

Fast forward to 2024 and I am entering my last year at the University of Helsinki after 30+ years of service. I got my little plastic medal, there was no celebration and that was it.

I do not like celebrations and avoid them like the plague having not been to one of my degree ceremonies. But the treatment of those on the cusp of retirement by the University is a sad indictment of the pursuit of equity at the expense of equality.

On the 5.12.2023 the University announced that 2024 was going to be the ‘Year of Cultural Equality.’ At last, a beacon of common sense emerged from the hidden recesses of HR and the dictum of Martin Luther King was being promoted – ‘I have a dream…everyone is equal.’

For several years now, in the University this pursuit of equality had been replaced by the pursuit of equity. Activist academics and a HR department trying to justify its own existence by looking for fashionable trends have been pushing the equity agenda on the back of Critical Race Theory (CRT).

This was seen firsthand in the summer when those who publicly displayed their preferred pronouns in recruitment processes and thereby introduce extraneous information to the process were remarkably successful…

It seems Finland is becoming so indoctrinated with American educational and military imperialism, be it NATO or CRT. Why Finnish universities want to replicate the toxic atmosphere on American campuses or create a society espousing the rhetoric of militarization is a conundrum. But perhaps it is my problem…I am too old to understand…

I saw the murmurings of that toxicity when I attended an anti-racism course at the University. The company presenting it was sponsored by the Ministry of Justice. Emblazoned on a slide was White+Finnish=Racist. Coming from one of the most deprived areas of the UK, being white and lacking educational opportunities came with a health warning for me. Many of my friends ended up in institutions other than educational ones. Thankfully, most Finns have not got to go through the travails of being brought up in a British urban dystopia. But maybe the fault is all mine, the guilt lies with me, as some on the course wanted to articulate…

Seeing the University embrace the Culture of Equality was refreshing. At last, all members of the community were going to be treated equally. The same level of service offered to minority groups was now going to be made to the rest of the community. I was going to get a professional service where there is a dedicated unit that gives advice, where issues are addressed and solutions put in place. Someone was going to initiate, respond and listen to provide support, professionalism and a counselling service was going to prevail…

My idealism was short lived. Within a few days, the University changed its mind, the Year of the Culture of Equality had morphed into the Year of the Culture of Equity. Priority was still going to be placed on certain communities, resources were going to be invested in achieving equity outcomes. For others it was their problem…

The fact that no one in HR had contacted me about my impending retirement and that I was left to swim in a morass of incomplete information about pensions brought home the realization, yet again, that I did not conform to the cultural equity revolution sweeping the campus or the rest of society. My problem…

The University information website – Flamma has gone through periodic transformations, it is still like walking through treacle to find information. When you think you have got the information you are often confronted with incompleteness and this is endemic when it comes to retirement information. Compiling 30+ questions of clarification should not be the default position for those wanting to retire. But the problem is mine…So they advise:

Contact KEVA they will give you information. It might only be in Finnish or Swedish. They might have in red letters on their web page that they might be busy but they will give you the information…the problem is yours… yes, absolutely my problem…I was only allowed a work visa years ago because I did not speak Finnish…

But the University interacts with the tax authorities, why do they not work closely with the pension provider? Perhaps I am past my sell by date, beyond redemption and need no help. The majority reaching pension age are not eminent professors who want to continue researching. For most it is getting out of an employer – employee relationship where they feel devalued…But the problem is mine…getting old…what an inconvenience…

Yes, in the Year of Cultural Equity, age discrimination evidenced by lack of care, professionalism and sheer incompetence by HR still uncomfortably resides. But it is my problem…

In the pursuit of meeting the moralistic fashionista, HR departments, and I fear this extends to many organisations, tick the boxes of ESG resulting in the majority becoming marginalized and political correctness dominates. Those pursuing equity will be saying better late than never… And again it is my problem…

Martin Luther King espoused the path of equality. Walking the path of equity is following Malcolm X. Too many in HR confuse the two. Too many activist academics want to impose their world view on others. The interesting question is why does Finland want to import the fractures and tensions endemic in the USA into Finland where the only outcome is increased conflict?

By Graham Wood 
Graham Wood has been a lecturer at the University of Helsinki for over thirty years. He gained his Executive MBA from Aalto and his PhD from the Faculty of Social Sciences at Helsinki University where he researched conflict and collective violence. He is also a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy in the UK. Soon to be pensioner…


This is a "Viewpoint" opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or position of The Helsinki Times. This column is not fact checked and HT is not be responsible for any possible inaccurate or incorrect statement in this article.

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