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Mustafa Arif: Flagrant Self-Publicist or Champion of the Student Cause?

Aug 07 2003 18:47
Nia Stevens
In the name of truth, honour and dignity Live! goes in search of the truth behind the ICU President.
Mustafa Arif lives up to his attention seeking reputation by posing for a photo.

Mustafa Arif is a bit of a show-off. From his penchant for dressing up in City and Guilds regalia, to his abject refusal (until very recently) to acquire a mobile phone to the golfing umbrella he carries around reminiscent of a wizard?s staff, he exudes an air of self-importance. One can?t help but wonder if standing for President was a move designed to promote and complement this self-built image. He tells me that his motivation for the post is a genuine desire to do good for the Union ?I?ve spent 4 years here, I?ve thoroughly enjoyed my time and I relish the opportunity to give something back to the place?. As the interview progresses it becomes apparent that he really does care about students and believes in the Students? Union?s ability to make their lives better saying ?I?m here to serve students? and that the Union may help students though what it does ?to represent students to the College on matters that affect them, to be concerned about their welfare and to facilitate student activities? however it seems highly probable that the high profile nature of the role, the brief opportunity to play the ringleader in this circus, appealed to his psyche and played a part, albeit perhaps subconsciously, in the decision.

So what does Mr Arif intend bring to Union during his term in office? One place to start might be his election manifesto and his infamous pledge to attempt to provide both a ?Starbucks style? caf? and better catering, including chips, in Beit. He says that one of his core aims for the year will be to put in place a long term (of order 5 years) plan to develop social space in College. It?s a bold initiative and one that would only succeed with support from the College, however he seems to think this will be forthcoming and cites talk of plans social space on the walkway and in the library. However he was keen to stress that such catering outlets need not necessarily be located within Beit or even run by the Union ?It?s not simply a case of what trading outlets the Union?s providing it?s more a case of what?s available on campus for students.? He added ?We will be conducting a space review of Beit to identify the usage of the area. We?ve got to actually balance that now with some of the new developments coming across in College such as the new Faculty building?. Certainly the face of College is changing weekly at the moment and it would seem likely that these changes would include the development of catering facilities. What role the Union will play in these developments is unclear at the moment, but it is evident that Mr Arif is keen for the Union to play a key role in the decision making process.

The achievement of these goals will rely heavily on maintaining good relations with College. Our new President has a tendency to be argumentative and at times provocative (another product of his attention seeking nature) and whilst the benefits of this is that he is likely to provide a strong voice when standing up for what he believes to be the students? best interests, there is a danger that he could take this too far and hammer home pedantic arguments on points of principle thus rendering future arguments less effectual. It is also possible he could antagonise College staff to the detriment of the Union?s working relationship with College however he doesn?t believe he will have difficulties working with College stressing ?There is no contradiction between constructive criticism and working with College administration. It?s a paradox that every Union President has to face because you have to work with College administration but at the same time you are the senior student representative and where students are unhappy or disagree with what College is doing it?s your job to represent that?. He is of course correct in this latter statement, and this is arguably the single greatest challenge for any Union President. It will be interesting to see over the next year whether he manages to strike a good balance.

If external relations carry this tricky paradox at least internal relations within the Union should, in theory at least, be simpler. In practice however relationships such as those between the central Union and its constituent Faculty Unions has not always been a smooth one. Mr Arif seemed relatively relaxed about this though, saying ?It is a 2 way thing, the Faculty Unions are part of ICU and we need to recognise that and recognise that they are an integral part of us but also they need to recognise they?re part of the Union.? adding simply ?If you actually talk to them and involve Faculty Union Presidents in general decision making it kinda helps?. Of course, ICU stretches not just outside of South Kensington but outside of the M25. Distant territory for a lifelong Londoner such as Mustafa Arif who freely admits that he knows little about Wye or Silwood in terms of what their student needs are. ?Dealing with the outlying campuses is something I don?t think we?ve ever done really well? he tells me but perhaps during the course of the monthly visits he has promised to make to these campuses he will learn something. Perhaps he will even be persuaded to part with his umbrella for a pair of wellies and a Barbour jacket.

It emerges that this year will be his first experience of living away from home for any significant length of time. It will be interesting to see if he will have any difficulties coping with this additional stress on top of that of the role of President although he claims he does know how to use a washing machine and that he already irons his own shirts. In many other ways though he is the archetypal Imperial student being a self proclaimed geek (and proud of it didn?t you know) and ISE graduand (am I repeating myself here?). As well as being a techie geek he is a political geek and it seems his political interests do stray outside the Union. He is toying with the idea of standing for Mayor of London sometime in the future (that desire to be the centre of attention rearing its head again) and the misadventures of his youth include nearly joining the Labour party. Interesting therefore to note the tone of disapproval he uses when referring to the contamination of the NUS with Labour party politics. On the subject of his current political stance he told me ?if you look on the London Student weblog I did not one but two political quizzes and both of them put me just left of centre? which is possibly just as telling of his techie affections as his political ones.

Mr Arif joins a long line of Union Presidents who believe that ICU is better off outside the NUS citing the party politics as the main reason for this. ?It would cost us money to affiliate and frankly I don?t think that what we?d get out of it would be worth it? he says ?NUS is very much dominated by party politics, in particular Labour party politics and that overshadows a lot of the work they do for students [and] on the big issues they always get let down by the fact that they?re overrun by political factions and frankly they just get ignored?. On the topic of ICU?s affiliation to ULU however, he is, unusually for an Imperial hack, more positive. ?It is true that whenever ULU have done surveys of whose using their building when they?re running their ents nights that actually there have been more students from Imperial there than any other College and it there are more ULU card holders at Imperial than any other College which implies that a significant number of Imperial students are actually making use of those facilities?. The benefits from possession of a ULU card include use of the sports leagues and ULU clubs and societies. With Imperial College?s future with the University of London and with it ICU?s future with ULU up for renewal at the end the of the 2004/5 academic year it is likely that exactly what Imperial gains and/or wants to gain from its membership of UL will be much debated over the coming year.

Whether buoyed by the glow of attention or the opportunity to do good for ICU or, more likely, a combination of both, Mr Arif is clearly very enthusiastic and optimistic about the year ahead. How long this enthusiasm will last and how many of his aims he will be able to implement as the problems of termtime and their inevitable associated bickering and in fighting dog much of the Union?s proceedings, is yet to be discovered. In any case with the new building developments in College and the impact that may have on catering or entertainments facilities, Imperial?s future with UL to be under discussion and of course the wider ongoing problems of tuition fees and funding issues in higher education to be addressed with a vocal and strong willed President thrown into the fire, this year will certainly be interesting to watch.

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Discussion about “Mustafa Arif: Flagrant Self-Publicist or Champion of the Student Cause?”

The comments below are unmoderated submissions by Live! readers. The Editor accepts no liability for their content, nor for any offence caused by them. Any complaints should be directed to the Editor.
Aug 07 2003 20:04


A barber jacket is worn by the man who cuts your hair, and can vary in style depending on the fashion choice of your particular hair-care professional.

However J BARBOUR & Sons produce an excellent range of clothes perfectly suited to life beyond the city - perhaps you've heard of them?

If you are buying a Barbour Jacket, maybe you'd like to purchase a pair of Hunter Boots and while you're at it, don't forget to buy a large 4x4 (Toyota Landcruiser would be about right) and drive round Chelsea.

ignorant proles...

2. Sam   
Aug 07 2003 20:05

wow, the first pro-presidential article on Live!

last guy to get such a back scratching was probably (Dr.) Heeps...

Aug 09 2003 12:21

Well it is hardly suprising the article is so pro-Arif considering that the article is written by someone who is a good friend of his.

I agree with one of the previous posters on Live! Get Dr Heeps back with a "Heeps on Arif" article.

But at the end of the day can anyone be worse than the conniving little s**t we had last year? I think not....

Aug 10 2003 19:43

The first pro-Presidential article?

Does no-one remember this.

5. amram   
Aug 10 2003 21:46

I think you will find that it was I who suggested a "starbucks" style cafe first!

6. Sam   
Aug 10 2003 22:20

No-one does remember that obviously - all anyone actually does now is bitch...

Aug 11 2003 09:49

"I think you will find that it was I who suggested a "starbucks" style cafe first!"

I think you will find, Amram, that you suggested it long after Arif put it in his election manifesto... (and, apparently, made an enemy of the Union Catering Manager in the process!)

8. phil   
Aug 11 2003 13:59

Wizard's Staff - perhaps he is actually Harry Potter ??

9. Sunil   
Aug 11 2003 23:46

I'm ancient enough to remember that the starbucks idea has been floating around in some form or another since my first year here back in '98 (that's before Mustafa ever got here). The one in Gloucester Road opposite the Sandwich Shop was still pretty new back then.

10. amram   
Aug 12 2003 20:42

maybe u can invite ur good mate paxo for a late...

11. Sam   
Aug 13 2003 14:33

I too heard of coffee outlets in college in 98, but not relating to the Union - i thought they were talking about JCR/Walkway... because soon after that coffee franchise thingy popped up there.

Although in the 1st year i abstained from coffee and related caffeine products anyway...

12. daz   
Aug 14 2003 12:23

Talk is cheap.

In the last 2 years nothing of real significance has changed except for the increase in sandwitch prices at the JCR.

Everyone should realise that in reality, being president only makes the president look good.

Can you really expect us belive things like a Starbucks style cafe in this lifetime?

I personally expect nothing and everyone should too so that when something really happens like free ketchup in the dining hall we can all say to ourselves ... wow we really have a great president who has surpassed our expectations and is willing to help us cut costs and make student life worth living.

13. amram   
Aug 14 2003 15:21

well would almost agree with daz- certainly with reagrds to current president elect. This questionnaire he sent out was pathetic. although i personally would prefer barbecue sauce in those nice litlle tubs...

14. Steve   
Sep 27 2003 16:53

At the very least the questionnaire shows some interest in being active (unlike bitching on Live about people which is not very constructive)

Nov 30 2004 21:54

well.. attention seeking?? couldn't this be said of anyone who seeks to become the union president? to be reaosnable a bit of self promotion is justified for anyone running for presidency anywhere... just my two cents.. :)

elizabeth cole

x imperial graduate (Mechanical engineering), Acne-Tab

Closed This discussion is closed.

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