On the 17th of March of 2012 I had the displeasure of witnessing one of the worst demonstrations of excess and debauchery within the student community of the University of Helsinki. As a concerned member of the student body I felt bound by my sense of justice to partake in the 40th anniversary dinner party of SUB, which I have gathered is the student organization for students of English philology at the University of Helsinki, so that I could witness first-hand one of these celebrations of so-called student culture. What follows is the account of that evening.
The party took place in Käärmeenpesä, a space owned by Yliopiston farmasiakunta ry, located in a seedy location reminiscient of an abandoned industrial district in the even seedier neighbourhood of Kallio. However, I was at first pleasantly surprised by the decor of the place and the fact that the guests were all garbed in formal dinner attire according to etiquette. I had to rethink my position again as the greetings started: most of the gifts given to SUB by various delegates (including one from the esteemed journal Better Than Sliced Bread) were alcoholic in nature and while most of the greetings given to SUB were of surprising quality, many also resorted to vulgar humour in order to arouse a reaction from the audience. Furthermore, the former presidents and chairpersons of SUB turned their greeting into a self-celebratory farce which only acted as an excuse for each of them to open a bottle of spirits. I downed my drink in the hopes that it would help me recover from the shock of what I had just witnessed.
As the dinner party proper began we were each seated at two long tables and as we waited for our dinner we were informed that there would be singing at the party. As we went into the first song of the evening “Helan går” (a Swedish song that is a shameless celebration of excessive drinking) I couldn’t help but feel shocked by the boorishness of the events going on around me. The entire evening was punctuated by singing to my endless frustration, as the singing distracted me from one of the few not thoroughly unpleasant things about the party: the food, which was of an absolutely superb quality. Appalled by the vulgarity of the singing that was going on, I took solace in another drink.
In addition to the singing and the eating the only events worthy of mention were the two speeches given at the party as well as the mid-dinner performance. The first of the speeches, given by university professor Anna Mauranen, was on the subject of student activism and student participation in university politics, as Mauranen herself was apparently something of a pioneer in that field in her time as a student. A good speech that touched upon many interesting topics, but looking at the increasingly inebriated crowd around me I couldn’t help but think that the speech was entirely lost on them, for how could such a bunch of drunken revellers hope to accomplish something by way of student politics? The second speech was a much shorter and more sentimental one by the current president of SUB, Anna Kamula. Undoubtedly touched by the occasion, Kamula made a speech that was heartfelt and brief before she was whisked back to the dinner table to let the bachannalia recommence. In celebration of this, I took a drink.
We were also treated to a mid-dinner performance by Pilvi Kirppu, accompanied on the piano by freelance musician Anne Patosalmi, who sang to us three songs: “Wouldn’t it Be Loverly” from the musical My Fair Lady, “I’m Not That Girl” from the musical Wicked and “Journey to the Past” from the animated film Anastacia. The performance was simply fantastic and extremely moving; I even found myself reaching for a tissue during the second song. The absolutely wonderful and touching performance only served to highlight the atrocity that was going on around it, as the dinner was shortly nearing its end and there were no signs of the party coming to a halt any time soon. With a longing look at the ending performance, I comforted myself with another drink.
As we dug into the dessert which was of an absolutely divine consistency and taste I was made aware of a bus having been chartered to take us to an after-party. We were thus loaded onto a bus headed towards Alina at the new student house. There transpired some of the most confusing events of my student life: the party was non-stop, people were drinking liberally and the DJ, whom I had seen only a while ago at the dinner party, was playing music of the most scandalous sort all the way from the seventies to the present day. My confusion was compounded by the fact that I had somehow found myself in the possession of someone else’s shirt and had similarly misplaced mine. Having no other course to follow, I took yet another drink.
My next memories are at best fuzzy, but I recall waking up the next morning feeling extremely weary, still trying to recover from the events of the previous evening. Having witnessed the excesses of student parties, I promised myself I would never step close to one anytime in the future.
At least not before there’s a really good party again.
I am forever your humble servant,
About the author: Patrik Renholm is one of the chief editors of Better Than Sliced Bread and he actually really enjoys student parties. Take the above with that in mind.