Because the club is large (usually around 150 members), busy (28 hiking trips per year plus socials) and spends lots of money (annual turnover ~£16k), it takes a fair few people to keep it all running smoothly. To be more precise, it takes 14 people – these are the committee and they selflessly devote their energy, their sanity and their Monday evenings to UMHC. They are elected at the Annual General Meeting (AGM) which takes place every March. Each person has a specific job which they do for one year, although often people will end up staying on committee for two or more years in some form or other. Below is a guide to what everyone on committee actually does. Anyone unlucky to find themselves occupying one of the following positions can also find out more information on the handover page. You can also find an exhaustive list of the old, current and next 10 years' committee members over there.
The chair is in charge of the club and spends their time giving stirring speeches, awarding stars to their subordinates and pointing at maps in an authoritative manner. They chair the weekly committee meetings (hence their name) and gently remind everyone else of all the things they should be doing, whilst simultaneously trying to avoid doing anything themselves. The chair is also ultimately responsible for the safe running of club trips and is accountable to the Union in this respect. But it’s mostly about the pointing.
The vice-chair’s most important job is to take on the chair’s role when they are absent for whatever reason. What they do when the chair is present has never been that clear. The constitution states that the vice-chair should co-ordinate the activities of the hike secs (it’s assumed that this applies only to their activities within the club and not their lectures, social engagements etc.). Often however, the vice-chair ends up taking on any jobs that don’t fall under the remit of other committee members.
The wielder of the cheque-book. The guardian of the secret bank account. The knower of the numbers. The treasurer is in charge of all the club’s financial affairs, which usually involves writing cheques, counting up large wads of cash, extorting the Union out of money and chasing up debtors. To assist them with this final issue, they have the legal right to break the legs of anyone who owes the club money. Basic adding-up skills are a useful attribute for treasurers.
Unlike all the other secretaries, this secretary is rather like a real secretary, in that they take the minutes at committee meetings and email these to the rest of the committee. This is an important job because it’s all too easy to get caught up in the breath-taking excitement of the meetings and forget which matters of vital importance were discussed. The secretary also takes care of all the contact details of the club’s 150 or so members. They are strictly forbidden from selling these to any junk mail services, even if they donate the profits to the club.
The primary function of these people is to plan the routes for our coach hikes. You may wonder why this task requires three people. It doesn’t, but their secondary function is to inform people on the coach of the options for the day and to organise the groups and their leaders. In theory, having three hike secs ensures that at least one of them will appear on every coach hike. In practice this never really works and mathematicians have calculated that the club would actually need 17.4 hike secs to be confident that at least one would turn up each Sunday. Their tertiary function occurs on weekend trips, where they don’t have to come up with all the routes themselves but they do have to make sure that are enough suitable options to keep everyone reasonably happy. In the Dark Ages (pre-2006), the club had two hike secs and one mountaineering sec, with the latter person specifically responsible for planning scrambles. This was scrapped when it was decided that it would be more flexible to have three people sharing responsibility for walks and scrambles.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that the weekend sec only works at weekends. Oh no, it’s a full-time job organising the club’s many weekend and vacation trips. This lucky person gets to book our accommodation, organise minibuses and other forms of transport (unless this is delegated to the transport sec), arrange food and meals and ensure that everyone on the trips is happy at all times. On the plus side, they do get to tell people what to do quite a lot.
This person books our coaches and deals with the lovely people at Freebird when things go wrong. They are also technically responsible for arranging the transport for weekend trips, though in reality this is often handled by the weekend sec.
The social secs are in charge of organising our weekly social events. Because their job is entirely non-hiking related, they get more freedom than most other committee members and are free to drag people along on whatever activities take their fancy. Since every social ends with a visit to the pub, social secs are required to have strong livers. Their crowning achievement each year is the Annual Dinner.
As the name suggests, the responsibilities of this person are two-fold. On the publicity side of things, they tell the world about our hikes through posters, entries in Student Direct and any other means they can think of. For merchandise, they create (and sell) the splendid hoodies and t-shirts the club comes up with each year. It’s impossible to describe how many debates there are over merchandise: for many people this is the most important issue in the running of the club (even more than which pub to go to). But the pub and merch sec can ignore everyone else’s opinions and go with those skin-tight fluorescent pink t-shirts they’ve always dreamed of.
The kit sec is in charge of all the club’s shiny and not-so-shiny gear (except for maps). They store the beloved kit bag and make sure it gets to all the hikes safely and they shout at people when they lose/break the precious things. Luckily, they don’t have to physically keep all the ice axes, crampons, stoves and tents in their own house – nobody’s house is that big. Being kit sec can be a thankless task; however, kit secs often progress to greater things within the club.
The job of website sec is fairly self-explanatory: to keep the website running smoothly and update it to meet the needs of a 21st century hiking club. The club’s presence on the web has expanded considerably and the website has been completely revised a few times in the last years. The current version features a whole host of interactive features for maximum procrastination. It can only be a few years until we get virtual reality e-hiking experiences and then we can avoid going out to the hills altogether.
Sometimes the committee would like to have extra people around to do the jobs they can’t really be bothered to do themselves. In these situations they will co-opt someone to perform a certain task within the club. Although co-opted persons are committee members, they aren’t allowed to vote in meetings. But this hardly matters, as voting has gone out of fashion in the past couple of years (probably because the chair can’t be sure that people will vote the right way, which is a fundamental problem in democracies everywhere).