Model U.N. stays home

COVID-19 has disrupted many things, and the NVU Model UN club is one of them. Last year, they were able to attend the Harvard-sponsored conference remotely, but this year, that isn’t an option. As the world tries to return to in-person events, many still worry about health risks that in-person gatherings present.
This year, the conference will be held in person once again, but NVU-Johnson has chosen not to attend due to concerns about.
“At the hotel, people are just on top of each other,” said Professor of Humanities David Plazek, who also advises the club. “It’s in the middle of winter, so it’s indoors … as one student put it, it’s essentially a Petri dish.”
He says that while some students, understandably, were disappointed, many of them agree the risk isn’t worth it.
“Of course I wanted to go,” said Maria Mesquita, the Model UN secretary at NVU-Johnson. “It’s Boston, and we would have gone away for a weekend doing Model UN, but there’s a lot of health concerns, especially because you can still get COVID even with the vaccine. It’s also a lot of stress on David Plazek. If someone gets sick, he’s the advisor, so I really feel OK not going.”
Unless Harvard decides to open up a remote version, the Model UN club will not be attending the conference.
But what is Model UN? The United Nations is a coalition of most of the countries in the world, formed to try to peacefully solve conflicts, address human rights issues, and generally attempt to make the world a better place. Unsurprisingly, it’s something that’s replicated at lower levels.
Students in Model UN clubs essentially become delegates or ambassadors of the country they are assigned. They then have to write resolutions, give speeches detailing what’s important to their country and negotiate with other ambassadors to resolve conflicts.
Many colleges have model UN clubs, including NVU-Johnson. They usually attend the Harvard Model UN conference, which has been held annually for the past 67 years, according to their website. Beginning in 1953, they are one of the oldest Model UN conferences in the world. Hosting over 3,000 delegates, they are also the biggest conference in the world.
Model UN is an interesting experience, and students join for many reasons. “[Model UN] teaches you how to speak about certain things and how to argue your case with evidence,” Mesquita said.
She added that writing papers is another important skill that she has honed as a participant. Learning how to craft a solid argument that covers a specific amount of pages but doesn’t repeat the same information again and again is something Model UN can help students practice, she says.
Even when Model UN isn’t in session, students are acquiring other skills and experiences. “There’s social activities, networking, cultural affairs, dances and all kinds of other things that occur when they’re not in session,” Plazek said.
Unfortunately, since COVID-19 concerns have put a halt to their attendance of the conference itself, they can’t engage in these activities this year. They are discussing alternatives, however. “We just had a meeting last night, and we were talking about bringing in a guest speaker or making food from all over the world, but it’s all still in the planning stage.” Mesquita said.
There is a silver lining to the COVID-19 cloud. Plazek says that, because of Zoom, it’s easier to get guest speakers, because they don’t have to travel all the way here, so he’s hopeful about finding one. He also says that they are going to do some community service, since they are a student club.