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Lord of the Guilds

Mar 11 2004 02:06
Nia Stevens
The only City & Guilds Executive committee position to be contested, the C&G Presidential race looks to be a close one. I spoke with John Collins, Giles Dunn and Chris McIver to find out more about the people behind the manifestos.
Aspirations (current City and Guilds President, Shrenik Patel)

Chris McIver comes across as quite quiet but nonetheless determined. Soft spoken and brief in his sentences, not giving too much away at once, he tells me that, if he is elected, he would particularly like to see the Internship Fair and Centre expand. "It is oversubscribed" he says, referring to students, "it would be nice to get more places in actual engineering companies" explaining that "banks etc are fine and bring in money" but that he would like to expand on the engineering companies there already are. He suggests following up letters to companies with phone calls, with the labour divided amongst a larger team of people (also explaining that 1 or 2 people have already expressed interest).

John Collins is more outspoken and verbose, occasionally giving quite bluntly honest answers but managing to keep soundbites tripping out (happily for me, the journalist). He details his main aim as increasing awareness of and participation in Guilds. This theme features heavily in his campaign and he tells me he would be disappointed if, in a year?s time there are as few contenders for positions on the Executive Committee as there are this year. The examples keep flowing; "I would be disappointed if a Dep Rep didn?t know who I was. Which is the case, a lot of my year reps don?t know who Shrenik [Patel, current Guilds President] is". To achieve this he would use the Freshers? Induction lectures to enthuse and interest Freshers and explain where Guilds can fit in alongside Imperial College Union and the College itself. He also boldly proposes hour long individual introduction sessions for departmental representatives.

Giles Dunn, I have never met since at our scheduled appointment he was looking in the JCR while I was waiting in the SCR (an easy enough error) but via the technological wonders of email we managed a virtual interview. Perhaps appropriately, his main is to increase the level of organisation in Guilds "it is an important part of the position, an event or paper work needs organisation and a lack of organisation results in the loss of quality and involvement. It can be seen too often in Guilds", citing as an example the recent faux pas of scheduling hustings to coincide with the Buddies Event. He points out to me that his experience of being in two committees have taught him the necessary skills for this and comments that "good organisation is achieved by precise delegation and internal discipline".

This mis-scheduling of the Buddies event and hustings is clearly a popular topic since it was mentioned by Mr McIver when I asked him about the role of President. Describing it as a "bad clash" he gave the opinion that "President is there to link between things" and avoid this sort of error. Continuing with the theme of ?linking in? he voiced plans for departments to promote their activities through Guildsheet and Live! and hopefully grab the attention of more people. Mr Dunn gave an enthusiastic response to this question stating "I would say I'm very much more prepared from the position of President." and cited his experiences on leadership training courses with P&G, Barclays, Coutts and RBS. "I always want to make team work fun whilst getting the job in hand done." He elaborated "Its not easy, from working in orchestras and quartets to negotiating prices and sponsorship with companies. I'm tough on the business side but cool to be with." The job would, he assures me, be "like taking candy off a baby". Finally, Mr Collins told me that "President is clearly a leadership role but I see myself as more as a shepherd, a facilitator. A role where you stand back, look at the whole picture and enforce decisions that are in the best interest of everybody", elaborating "if a President is involved in one area too much you tread on the toes of the person responsible for that area and also lose track of the what?s going on outside of that, that?s not to say they can?t emphasise on a bit but just not too much".

Of course the role of leader, almost by definition and certainly in this context, involves motivating other people to work hard. Many Union officers put in seriously long hours to make Guilds what it is, President is just the cherry on top of this. Mr Dunn summed up this role quite neatly saying that he will expect the best from his officers but that "our errors will be each others? experience". On the topic of motivation he said that "hopefully I won't have to persuade them as the students elected them for their dedication but I?ll give them a little 'push' if things need a little more momentum". Mr Collins emphatically declared "I know the hours are long" but pushed that "the higher up you are the more hours you should give". He stated that if a member of the team was not pulling their weight he would ask a person to stand aside "because [the support provided by an officer] can be so important sometimes" but quickly added that "looking at the other candidates I?m confident they?ll be great so I?m not worried". He also expressed a wish to sort problems out earlier rather than later and to clarify during officer training in October how much time everyone is willing to give. Mr McIver approached the same question from a slightly different angle and told me he would motivate his team through increased communication, explaining that "at the moment people don?t know what needs to be done" and that an office to do list and an office calendar would form part of this communication.

As well as being a leader for a team of Officers, the Guilds President performs an important representational role both within ICU and the Engineering Faculty. All three candidates assured me that they would speak up when necessary and exercise their vote. John Collins, who as a member of Council is a regular figure at Union meetings, gave this as one of his motivations for standing for the post of Guilds President, "I have been involved in the political side of the Union for a while and I feel I don?t want to be involved unless I have a mandate to" explaining that through election to a position he would gain this mandate. Mr Collins began however by telling me that a number of people from across Guilds have been suggesting to him that he should stand for the post. It would seem that people?s confidence and support and the responsibility that brings is important to John Collins. When I ask him why he decided to stand for election Chris McIver explained that he wanted a committee position and was looking at leadership of some sort and then saw he was the best person for the job, venturing that he has a good attitude, remaining calm under stress and that he is the most experienced candidate. "I think it?d be good" he says, followed by "it?d be fun". Giles Dunn?s reasoning for standing stems from his frustration with the lack of awareness of Guilds till this academic year (through involvement on Chem Eng Soc committee). "I feel that the Presidents in previous years knew about C&G from day 1 which I think is great but I feel there are too many of people like me as a Fresher who knew nothing, so this in turn makes my position unique if elected as President".

I finally asked the candidates what their favourite recipe was; on the pretence of probing deep psychological traits but actually because I was stumped for what to have for dinner. Mr Dunn likes "Goats Cheese and Pesto Tortelloni with Putunesca sauce... magic!!" whilst Mr Collins spent a long time describing food he tasted in Morocco and plumped for the Mille Feuille (very thin layers of pastry interspersed with cream and a chocolate decoration on top) he had there. Mr McIver likes to make spaghetti bolognese, sometimes from scratch with fresh tomatos but more often from a tin. Rejecting all these culinary delights I opted for Tesco?s best spinach and ricotta tortellini with a (almost entire) bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon. The aesthetically pleasing offerings made during elections campaigns are not always the quick and satisfying result the engineering student is looking for.

Voting for all positions on the C&G Exec, departmental representatives and departmental society committee members takes place in departments today and tomorrow.

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