The college-level Model UN system is a simulation of the United Nations, first held at Harvard in 1955. The Ithaca College Model UN team team was created in 1983. Prof. Marty Brownstein, Politics, advised and cultivated the team until his retirement. The Politics Department sponsors the team, and faculty advisor Juan Arroyo works with students to prepare for these conferences.
IC Model UN attends at least three conferences per year: the Security Council Simulation at Yale in October, the University of Pennsylvania Model UN Conference (UPMUNC) in November, and the Harvard National Model UN Conference in February. The team is also looking into the possibility of attending a Security Council Simulation at Cornell in the Fall of 2014.
Each participating college is assigned a UN member state to represent at the MUN. Most recently, in the Spring of 2014, students represented Peru and Iceland at the Harvard conference, and Spain at the Penn conference in the Fall of 2013. The delegates may participate in simulations of the large General Assembly committees, but also many smaller committees on dozens of possible issues.
Before the conferences, the team meets twice a week and sometimes on weekends. The delegates share information on our assigned member state, they practice writing and presenting position papers, writing draft resolutions, and simulate committee meetings and voting.
The conference committees can address many kinds of issues: UN reform, maritime piracy, birth control education, deforestation, responses to internal conflict, and much more. Our delegates do their own research to become familiar with the topics. More importantly, they have to learn how our assigned member state is affected by that issue, and the position of that government in response.
Students take advantage of UN library materials, the collections of the IC and Cornell libraries, Ithaca College faculty, numerous on-line data-bases, and the press and foreign ministries of our assigned member states. They find treaties, resolutions and protocols that have already been supported by our state, and use this information to play their roles more effectively. The IC team also looks for specialists or natives to provide some background on our assigned state. In recent semesters we have heard from a two Belgians, a Bosnian family, a visitor to Bhutan, and Cornell specialists on Thailand, the Middle East, and Peru. We have also been able to speak to the EU delegation in New York via Skype.
At the conference itself, our students have to convince the delegates from other nations to support a resolution that is consistent with our state's positions, or block those that do not serve our interests. The debate is held in committee, moderated by the chairs. The process also includes un-moderated caucuses, during which smaller groups of delegates meet, bargain, argue, cajole and compromise (maybe) in order to get a satisfactory resolution.
Ithaca College students have been recognized for their performance at MUN conferences. A short list is available in the sidebar to the right.
We also try to immerse ourselves a little bit in the culture of our country, primarily through food! One semester a guest treated us to genuine homemade Belgian waffles, and we have also enjoyed börek, ceviche, enchiladas, churros, pad thai, and more.
The MUN process is all about simulation and role-playing, but the learning, team-building and resulting friendships are very real.
by Juan Arroyo