February 22, 2005

MUN wins big at Harvard contest

Chicago's Model United Nations Team captured first place at Harvard University's conference this past weekend, completing the Triple Crown in major conferences this year.

The 29-person Chicago squad tore up the 2,000 delegate—strong competition at the Harvard National Model United Nations conference to receive the Overall Best Delegation award, while garnering awards for 13 of the 18 committees the team's delegates served on.

"This clearly demonstrates that we're the best team in the world, if not the galaxy," said Will Segal, the team's president and a fourth-year in the College.

Segal spent the conference filling the shoes of former Israeli Army Chief of Staff Dado Elazar in his assignment to reenact Israel's strategy to the 1973 Yom Kippur War, maneuvering against Egyptian and Syrian raids while responding to twists from the Harvard staff—and from the competing Egyptian cabinet.

Segal's next-door hotel neighbor was Yasser Ghanchi, a fourth-year in the College who plotted attacks against Israel as Egypt's minister of war, Ahmad Ismail Ali. Both Segal and Ghanchi won best delegate awards for their respective committees, presenting the strongest ideas, circumventing other delegates, and impressing the administrative staff.

Besides Ghanchi's and Segal's first place finishes, three other Chicago committees earned top distinction: Peter Bartoszek in the World Health Organization; Ryan Naughton and Danielle Zheng in Social, Humanitarian, and Cultural; Ali Cirone and John Lee in the UN Development Programme.

Chicago's victory follows wins earlier this academic year at the University of Pennsylvania and Yale University, considered the other two top conferences by the Chicago team. "I've always thought of this conference as the most important conference of the year for us," Segal told the team on Thursday afternoon, motivating them for the opening session that evening. "Try to keep it light; try to keep it fun."

Illness unfortunately hampered the goal of fun and struck hard against the sleep-deprived team. Ghanchi said that roughly one-third of the Chicago team fell ill during the conference, and having to travel from a Holiday Inn to the downtown conference several miles away only exacerbated the health problems. "This was the most adversity we've probably ever faced," he said. "Our performance was incredible."

Hosted in the swank Boston Park Plaza, the Harvard conference drew delegations from Boston to Beijing. Each attending university represented a nation and presented their policies in committees ranging from the Security Council to the Commission on Human Rights. They ranged in size from over a hundred members to less than a dozen.

All followed a structured procedural process enforced by the chairs (members of the Harvard National MUN team), though the smaller committees—such as Ghanchi's and Segal's—allowed more freedom of discussion. In the larger committees, discussion of ideas was often constrained by 30-second time limits, parliamentary formality, or the capriciousness of the committee chair.

After the awards ceremony, the Chicago team huddled in the center of the expansive ballroom for a congratulatory tradition.

"Themistocles, Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War, X squared, Y squared, H2SO4," they shouted, their voices echoing off the chandeliered ceiling and drawing the attention of the other delegations. "Who for? What for? Who we gonna yell for? GO, MAROONS!"

Ghanchi, finishing the Maroon cheer with a chant of "Kant, Kant, Kant," deadpanned as the thinning crowd still stared at the Chicago team. "What a fairy-tale ending," Ghanchi said. "What a great way to finish off."