Author: Irvin McCullough
This past weekend, the Cornell International Affairs Society (CIAS) hosted 850 high school students for the annual Cornell Model United Nations Conference (CMUNC). Welcomed by hundreds of undergraduate staffers, high school delegates from all over the world polished their public speaking skills in one of eighteen committees.
These committees are broken up into three divisions: general assembly, specialized committees, and crisis committees. While most Model United Nations (MUN) conferences have variations on committee topics, CMUNC organizers pride themselves on the uniqueness of their committees: ranging from UN High Commissioner for Refugees to the Ancient Greek Council.
One of the specialized committees, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), urged high schoolers to improve developing countries’ educational systems while respecting their cultural diversity and national sovereignty. Delegates came together in various factions to fight for what they believed to be the best educational systems for developing countries, crafting “resolutions” around their policy.
These delegates crafted resolutions and practiced their public speaking skills before the group. But some delegates took longer to warm up to the crowd. Holly Grace, a Cornell sophomore and the chair of UNESCO, tried to “bring delegates out of their shells”. One of her favorite moments chairing was “watching the high school students becoming more comfortable discussing the issues”. However, some delegates had attended other conferences and compared their experiences.
Other staffers and delegates praised the uniqueness of CMUNC committees. Two of their most unique crisis committees worked together: the Joint Crisis Committees for Republicans and Democrats. Through these committees, CMUNC organized a national election.
The Republican candidate was Governor Whitmore while the Democratic candidate was Josiah Bartlett, both played by the chair of each party. The second name may sound familiar to some of you; almost all of the delegates in the Democratic Party were named after characters from Aaron Sorkin’s The West Wing.
Each high school student was assigned a position on the campaign. While some conducted polls and others steered communication, they all had a voice in deciding the campaign’s internal workings.
Making the election more interesting, members of the Crisis Committee Staff developed crises requiring campaign responses. One such crisis was a school shooting, while another involved selecting a Vice Presidential candidate.
The running mate selection devolved from two candidates for each party, who stormed into the room dressed in “character” and delivered platform speeches, to a House of Cards style contested convention.
Delegates applied their knowledge of politics throughout the entire crisis. Some delegates supported one running mate, a male from Ohio, stating that “whoever wins Ohio wins the election” in a passionate speech. Another responded that “Ohio doesn’t win the election, but women’s votes do” in support of the other, a socially conservative female.
Burhan Abdi, a Cornell freshman working on the Crisis Committee, compared CMUNC to “their own little world”. While the general crises were planned nearly a month in advance, some crises are made up on the spot by a small team coordinating with committee chairs and vice-chairs. Burhan enjoyed using their “power over their created world” to interfere with the delegates’ goals.
While Burhan joined the crisis committee this past fall, there are still plenty of opportunities for all students. CMUNC will soon start accepting applications for chairs, vice-chairs, and staffers wanting to participate in this fast-growing conference.
You can learn more about CMUNC at their website.