University hosts Model U.N. conference

By Will Powley

Model United Nations of the University of Chicago (MUNUC) hosted a Model United Nations conference this weekend for more than 2,400 high school students at the Palmer House Hilton Hotel in Chicago. The conference lasted from Thursday, February 1 to Sunday, February 4.

The conference was a simulation of the U.N. General Assembly and was coordinated by University of Chicago student volunteers for high school students from across the globe.

“The way the conference works is the high school ‘delegates’ are divided into 20 committees and a press corps. The students debate topics based on the research papers that are written by the college student volunteers who run the conference,” said Greg Kamstra, MUNUC’s Undersecretary General for the General Assembly Committees.

MUNUC, which was founded in 1988, is a registered student organization at the University of Chicago. It seeks to “educate high school students in the arts of debate, negotiation, and public speaking by providing a forum in which they can hone their skills,” according to the group’s website.

This year, 104 high schools from across the United States and from Honduras sent students to participate in the conference.

“Between advisors, chaperones, high school ‘delegates’ and the college student organizers, we had over 2,700 people staying at the Palmer House Hilton Hotel in Chicago,” Kamstra said.

While high school delegates write position papers, pass resolutions, and debate, the conference also requires its college staff to perform quick research, and, in some cases, even to act.

Charlie Hopkins, a second-year and two-year member of MUNUC, said student volunteers sometimes research issues pertinent to the resolutions and then dress up as experts and lecture the delegates.

“This year one of the college students gave a lecture to the delegates on China’s Cultural Revolution that moved some delegates to tears. It was really a powerful speech,” Kamstra said.

Second-year Kat Benesh, also a two-year veteran of MUNUC, said, “The highlight of the conference for me was giving a speech on child soldiers to the African Union as a representative from UNICEF, and the students actually believing I was a UNICEF official.”