In the bleak, wintry days of February, while most students prefer to remain inside snuggled up with lattes and textbooks, the students of Nanette LeCoatâ€™s Model United Nations class brave the chill by heading to Boston, Mass., to compete in Harvard Model United Nations.
â€œModel United Nations is a class thatâ€™s offered that prepares students to participate in an international, very prestigious and well attended conference that takes place every year in Boston,â€ said LeCoat, associate professor of modern languages and literatures and director of international programs. â€œStudents learn a protocol, they discuss current events, prepare position papers, study parliamentary procedure and do simulations as preparation to participate in this conference.â€
Model UN is based on the United Nations itself in that it has a secretariat, which for the Boston conference is Harvard University, and is organized into subgroups, including the Security Council and the General Assembly, which are split into even more subcommittees, such as the World Health Organization. Schools are then given a country to represent at the Model UN conference.
â€œThe Government Department at Harvard assembles the study materials and creates the agenda for each committeeâ€”for example, the Security Council is facing some sort of crisis or the World Health Organization has to deal with SARS [a virus],â€ said Donald Clark, Murchison Professor of History and director of Trinityâ€™s Model UN from 1991-2006. â€œStudents become knowledgeable about the issues and do research on the foreign policy of their country to determine if the country would be for or against each action. Then, the students must go to Boston and carry out the role.â€
The Harvard Model United Nations conference attracts about 2,500 students annually from all around the world.
â€œStudents come from Indonesia, Venezuela, all over the Middle East, Ghana, Canada and Japan,â€ Clark said. â€œYou get on an elevator in Park Plaza and three or four languages are spoken.â€
Throughout the 1990s, many Trinity Model UN competitors won individual awards, but the group as a whole did not win the top award until 2001, when they won Best Delegation for Small Colleges for their representation of Iran.
â€œWe had so faithfully represented the Iranian position and taken stances that everyone knew Iran would take, so we were able to make alliances with people that Iran was aligned up with,â€ Clark said. â€œThey were just a group of ordinary kidsâ€”one of them now is a Ph.D. political science professor, and one was a prince from Kuwait. He was more of a party animal than anything, but he was very smart, especially when it came to keeping us on our Islamic toes. For instance, all of our communications had to begin with the formulaic, â€˜In the name of Allah, highest and most merciful,â€™ which is the way diplomats from Islamic republics discourse.â€
Today, one problem facing Trinityâ€™s Model UN class is the rising price of costs and hotels.
â€œWe have a budget thatâ€™s part of the international studies budget and with that money we go to Boston annually, but it is true that between airfare and hotels itâ€™s more expensive to go to Boston than it used to be,â€ LeCoat said. â€œTrinity has been very generous in actually helping students to go financially, and the supplemental money was raised by students this semester. We had hoped to go to a conference in the fall, but it didnâ€™t work out, so weâ€™ll roll over those funds to help supplement the cost of attendance for Boston in February.â€
Despite the minor setback, the students of LeCoatâ€™s Model UN class are working hard as they gear up for Boston.
â€œThe class is structured where we write position papers on past topics over different countries, present those and then improve those papers. Weâ€™re also going to have mock simulations later on,â€ said sophomore Allison Martinez. â€œItâ€™s a lot of fun, and itâ€™s really interesting to meet all these people and have these interesting experiences.â€