After two years of struggling with low membership and deficient funds, the University's 15 member Model United Nations (MUN) has climbed its way back into prominence. The team captured third place at last weekend's Yale Conference, losing to first place West Point by only two points and coming in just one point behind Harvard.
"The U of C's team and conference have consistently been considered part of the top five in North America," said Jamie Stevens, the team vice president and secretary general of the College Conference. "About five years ago, it was unheard of for the U of C to leave a conference without winning all of the awards. We used to be a powerhouse on the North American circuit. Today we are almost back at that top standard."
The group, though young, has set a standard for MUN teams in the future. Three University students placed first in their committees: Yasser Ghanchi, a third-year in the College and MUN president; first-year in the College David Clayman; and third-year in the College Emily Janoch.
Also winning places in their committees were second-year in the College Neal Desai, third-year in the College Khalid Fakhro, third-year in the College year Nick Saenz, third-year in the College Matt Talbot, and first-year in the College Dan Worthen.
The group prides itself on its ability to intimidate competitors. "Our MUN team has a reputation for being one of the premier model UNs in the circuit," Ghanchi said.
"When the other teams find out we're from Chicago they get on the alert. When we meet competitors from other schools, they know we are the ones to beat."
Saenz also expressed this sentiment, referring to a conversation in which a delegate from Georgetown told him that the University of Chicago is described as one of the teams to beat.
The MUN team attributes their success largely to the University's well-informed student body. "University of Chicago delegates tend to be better informed about international politics than students from other colleges and the classroom discussions we have in the core are a great means of preparation of organized debate," Saenz said.
The leaders of MUN are also quick to point to an increased membership pool and student interest in the team. "People are no longer saying, MUNthat's just for the poli-science and international relations majors,'" Stevens said.
The group is eager to expand, hoping to attract more surprises like David Clayman, a first-year who, without any experience, won his committee at the conference.
The team will be attending three more conferences this year, at the University of Pennsylvania, Berkeley, and Harvard. The team would like to send more competitors to conferences but must select only a certain number of participants from its group due to budget limitations.
Despite the constraints, Ghanchi insists that everyone on the team has the opportunity to attend at least one conference during the year.
The cost of these conferences is subsidized by the Coalition of Academic Teams (CAT), but still requires a $100 fee from all participants. But the leaders still note the difference between the schools with bigger endowments who pay the entire way for their MUN students and the University's limited MUN budget. If it was raised $2,500 per conference, the budget would cover the all of the team's present cost and possibly permit more students to attend.
The tight funds do not hamper the delegates' school pride. "A lot of people say Chicago doesn't have school spirit, but I would say you need to meet the Chicago UN people. We compete for Chicago and win for Chicago," Ghanchi said.