Model U.N. struggles to match past successes

By Hassan S. Ali

The University’s Model United Nations team, once the most successful in the nation, has failed to place in three major competitions and is yet to win a first place Best Delegation award this year.

The team was once the dominant force in collegiate Model U.N. competitions in the 1990s, winning a Best Delegation award in at least eight straight seasons.

This year, however, the team failed to place at competitions hosted at Harvard and McGill universities, placing second at the University of Pennsylvania and Yale University conferences. The team placed second at all four of these conferences last year.

Some members attribute the relative dip in team tournament success to a strategy employed by the 2004 team, which itself garnered three Best Large Delegation awards. Rather than partnering younger team members with experienced upperclassmen, the team sent only their best debaters to tournaments. As a result, the team was able to sweep major awards, but left the current Model U.N. team with less experience than past teams.

“There was a much lower focus on delegate development than on strict competition, taking the oldest members of the team to every conference,” said fourth-year Derek Russell-Kraft. “ team left weaker for the following year.”

In response, the current team has put an emphasis on developing a strong group of younger delegates in hope of creating a sustainable dominance.

“This team is a lot more tight-knit,” said Russell-Kraft. “It wasn’t as common to take first-years to conference, and I think that’s changed in the last two years.”

Further complicating the efforts of the ChoMUN team, the collegiate Model U.N. circuit has become more competitive in recent years with the entrance of relatively new teams from Stanford and Columbia universities. Additionally, foreign teams boasting large delegations and dedicated research efforts have entered the scene.

At one of the season’s major conferences hosted at Harvard this past weekend, the competition pool included 32 members of the United Netherlands Delegation, which won both the Best Large and International Delegation awards. Yale took the Outstanding Large Delegation award and UPenn took the Best Small Delegation award.

The U of C team sent 27 delegates but finished the weekend without any team-wide awards.

“In order for any member of the team to get an award, it means a lot of hard work,” said ChoMUN team member and fifth-year Michael LaFond. “The gap was small enough that it didn’t really bother me,” he added, referring to the team’s narrow loss to Yale.

Despite coming up short on top team-wide honors at the Harvard conference, the U of C team highlighted the accomplishments of four individual delegates who won best delegate awards.

ChoMUN has one final chance to win a top team award at UC–Berkeley’s conference on March 1–4.