As a council member what would be your overall vision for the Student Union ?
My vision is of an effective, representative and accountable Students union and Student Council. Being effective will be about doing what the student wants and moreover doing it well as to respect the budget.
"Being effective will be about doing what the student wants and moreover doing it well."We haven’t got large budget but we are trying to get as many students involve as possible and hopefully increase not just the volunteers but also decision makers within the union. I think that is a really powerful challenge, and I will make sure as a member I will be able to push that agenda forward.
You have been unusual in that you discussed the financial crisis as an election issue. What is your take on the whole situation and how can you and the Student Union help to resolve it ?
I think my take on the issue is that this a really unfortunate situation that we’re in and there have been miscommunication between the University and Higher education founding council.
Whatever your views, one view is that the University purposely lied and one view is that the university had a arrangement with the funding council, so it’s a bit difficult to get to the bottom of that issue, but the issue is the management at this university had failed the students and failed the staff to a certain degree and should be hold accountable for that.
"The job of the students union should be to organize the students to have their say about the funding difficulties the university is in."What the students Union can do is to push the student attendance to the top and to the forefront at the debates. For example when the lecturers go on strike during a certain period, the Students Union should have been there - if there was a Student Union – saying that they shouldn't strike because we need our lecturers for advice and information during that period.
For me that’s the difference, though, the Student Union is there to put its members first and its member are students, so during this financial crisis if we had a Students Union there would have been no doubt there would have been talks about the new financial crisis in the new semester.
The job of the students union should be to organize the students to have their say about the funding difficulties the university is in.
You mentioned that the National Union of Students and the Met Student Union do not get on. Can you give us more detail about this and what you would do about the situation?
It’s not about getting on, it’s more about the fact that the MetSU hasn't been very representative of the Students really... There’s has been a lot of “Love and Hate” conflicts, the MetsSU has not really wanted to get NUS involved, not really caring about NUS but they really want to help us to represent the Union.
I think that’s the key thing and hopefully that relationship can be fixed and then we can actually say that the NUS can be more representative and more effective so hopefully if I am elected – and if everyone else get elected - we will be able to push that agenda forward and get the NUS involved and actually make the university as effective as possible.
I think the main effect is that we are already affiliated to NUS, we already pay them to do stuff for us, so its about taking advantage of that.
"MetSU hasn't been very representative of the Students really."The NUS put some training courses on for us, we should go to those training courses, the university pays a lot of money (over £20,000 a year) so we should be claiming that money back or we should using the facilities they give us and the resources they gave us.
We have been going to the training courses but we haven’t been using their resources in term of making the University sensitive, getting involved but that’s what we need to do.
Another issue is the structure of the Student Union and the imbalance of power between the Student Union and the university. What specifically would you do to the Student Union structure and to make the Student Union's relationship with the university more equal ?
First thing is the Student council needs to recognize the student Union. The people who don’t know what’s about, the student council is group of 60 students who are elected for various constistuency.
"The board of government of this University shouldn't have any say on what our Union does."The student council actually is the policy making body of the Union and has the power to dismiss officers. It’s a really powerful and influent body and that body need take on more responsibility and recognize that it has got that responsibility, it has got that power and within the past why the relationship has been so bad, it’s because the executive were free-ride.
I think another issue we need to address is the fact that the Union policy has to be ratified by the board of the government which is appalling, that unless it’s a financial or legal matter, the board of government of this University shouldn't have any say on what our Union does, this a student union not a university Union and we, students, need to recognize that or make campaign.
You also talked about a lack of community spirit. Why do you think this is so, and do you have specific plans to deal with this problem?
There are three reasons. The first reason is that the university is so large, that is very difficult to foster a community spirit. The second is the fact that it spreads towards campuses and over 20 buildings, there is no focal point for student activity and I think the third thing is the bar is very low standard.
"We will never get every one involved, but hopefully we can build up some sort of atmosphere."The centre of most community spirit whether it would be a village, a university or a town centre tends to be the bars and where the entertainment are and that is where people get to know each other, we need to make sure the bar is doing stuff we are meant to do and hopefully we can get people.
We will never get every one involved, but hopefully we can build up some sort of atmosphere where people are actually proud to be at London Met.
You talked in your manifesto about the creation of focus groups and face to face consultancy?
Well, in terms of consultation we need to recognize that there is a lack of face to face consultation and not enough sitting down to discuss what students want for the union and we really need to challenge that, be out there and kind of say we gonna engage with students and yet there was the husting, a community organized as well, but it’s a skill to do that and I do believe it’s a skill that I have got.
"We need to recognize that there is a lack of face to face consultation."The whole point of community organization is to get to the point where we have a good relationship with students and the way you do that is by being face to face and say “okay, this what we do for you what do you want from us.” We do really need to encourage that.
What do you think about the husting that started after the beginning of the voting session ?
I think personally that the hustings and the election should have been earlier. I think that’s ridiculous. Having an election period during exam is appalling. We should be holding elections in February at the latest on the end February, beginning of march.
"What shouldn't be happening is the university secretary being involved in the election."That’s when the election should take place and that should be the matter of the university to realize that, because student are not going to get involved.
I was writing essay during the husting; they got finished but that’s not the point, I shouldn't be in that situation because it’s the university that call the election, it should be the union’s job to call for the election.
The NUS should be running our election as they would have free service. What shouldn't be happening is the university secretary being involved in the election. The university secretary does a really good job but you have to question whether or not a union is made to defend the student from the university; if their relations are free and fair, where in that case a university manager is in charge of those election.
For me that’s not really independent at all. I’m not saying, in any way, the university secretary is biased. He conducts himself very fairly and openly. The fact the university runs our election is for me a bit of a contentious point.
You have talked about RONs (Re-Open Nominations) and encouraged people to use them, which I think is unique so far. Aren't you worried that other candidates may take offense, or that people may re-opened your nomination ?
First of all, what I say is unique, because I am fairly unique with my experience to election. I’m not worried that someone would re-opened the nomination to me if students have no confidence on me.
It’s democracy and that’s what happens in democracy.
The other candidates should be worried, the candidates who don’t really care about students issues, they are the ones who should be worrying. The reason I am encouraging the open nomination is because most people won’t vote as a protest and actually that doesn't get recorded.
"What I want to do is to have a special edition of the student magazine, because people don’t know how the election works."If you vote re-open the nomination your vote is recorded and you can actually claim "no one in this election represents me". That’s really important.
If enough people re-open nominations the university has to re-open that position and we have to have another election and I think this really positive. That is called democracy and competitors need to deal with it. It allows student to say they want somebody else to do this job.
If it upsets the candidates, so be it. I am willing to have my place re-opened and fight again for this position and I will hope the other candidates will agree on this democratic side effect.
What I want to do is to have a special edition of the student magazine, because people don’t know how the election works. Ideally I would like to publish all the details about the candidates, their manifestos, giving to the students the access to that information is vital to the democratic process.
Has the student union been threatened by the financial crisis?
Have you heard about the next year’s module reductions?
I will admit not knowing all of the details but I personally think that it is a bit shocking. If we had an active students union we would have been focused against that. I think if they are reducing staff it make sense to reduce modules but they should not be doing it either. Particular not without consulting students that will lead to a loss of students.
Thank you for your time.
Mr. Chiarelli has an additional website here, with additional details about himself and his campaign.
Voting ends at midday on May 8th and the editor urges everybody to vote for the candidate of their choice or to vote Re-Open Nominations if they cannot find a candidate of their choice.