'Student life will be huge after such a long wait'
After months of pandemic, THS looks ahead
When Charley Jönsson took over the KTH student union presidency during the first days of Spring 2020, he had come prepared with a raft of proposals for improving the organization’s operations. In a matter of days, however, his presidency was consumed with the COVID-19 crisis and “keeping the boat afloat.”
Now, as Sweden begins easing restrictions, Jönsson has handed the torch to his successor with the hope that the 2021-2022 academic year will be one of forward movement—rather than crisis management.
Pandemic restrictions dealt a blow to Tekniska högskolans studentkår , or THS as it is commonly known. The organization is responsible for numerous student services, including housing assistance, cultural events and entertainment, job fairs and onboarding new international students through the annual THS International Reception.
“My priorities had to be set aside. It was unprecedented—we had to keep the organization alive rather than focus on development,” Jönsson says. “And there was a lot of focus on regulations.”
Impact on Nymble
COVID regulations impacted on the organization’s building, Nymble, which houses a bookstore, restaurant, café and numerous rental activity halls. But while occupancy restrictions made THS revenue streams less predictable, the government’s measures conversely highlighted the importance of another feature of the building—its free gathering spaces for studying and gathering for meals.
Incoming president Teo Elmfeldt, says these parts of the building offer an outlet for those at risk of social isolation.
“The main mission of THS is to make the students’ time at KTH as good as possible,” Elmfeldt says. “And during a pandemic that main mission has to be dealt with in other ways—so it’s important to keep Nymble open, to provide students with a place to be. That’s essential, and while these responsibilities by law reside with KTH, we share that same goal and help KTH meet them.”
Picking up the baton
Elmfeldt says he’s ready to begin picking up where his predecessor had to set ambitions aside, hopefully turning his attention toward internal issues, to improve operations and work conditions.
“Of course I hope we are returning to normal, but I also think that with the stability that Charley and everyone else has helped establish, even if the restrictions continue it won’t continue as a crisis—it won’t be so much a survival mission even if we are not seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.”
Jönsson says that while his year at THS’s helm confounded expectations, he’s optimistic for the near term. “Next year could be kind of the happy 20’s,” he says. “The union ended up way better economy-wise than we feared and the interest in involving oneself in student life will be huge after such a long wait.”
Elmfeldt agrees—with a caveat. “I have to remain mentally prepared for things going the wrong way.”