ZUMUN: Zoom University Model UN

ZUMUN: Zoom University Model UN

Model UN club has long been a favourite academic extracurricular for many students. Conferences are held across the world, with students from all parts of the globe in attendance. Students participate in a simulation of a United Nations assembly and learn about international relations, diplomacy, structured debate, and leadership. Current world issues are debated and discussed, and policy proposals are formulated by participants, all while staying true to the country or position of the member they are assigned to represent. Delegates meticulously research the topics of their assigned committees, and come to a solution that every nation can uphold to solve the crisis at hand and maintain international peace, unity, and security.

This year, however, due to the circumstances surrounding Covid-19, conferences will not be able to be held in their usual fashion, with hotel ballrooms and lecture halls packed with delegates. Travel restrictions prevent many schools from sending students to conferences, and the nature of hundreds of students traveling from all over to be in close contact with each other in a room is a hazard in these unprecedented times. Model UN conferences of the previous school year, such as Harvard MUN, had already taken precautions of restricting students from traveling to the event from countries where the virus was prevalent, but now with the disease being a risk all across the globe, conferences cannot proceed with their usual motions.

For the 2020-2021 school year, King will attend virtually held Model UN conferences , including New CaMUN, Brown University Model UN, and King’s own conference, King MUN. "We think that Model UN will constructively adapt to the current circumstances," says student Ava Bussan, who leads the Model UN club along with Alesia Paz and Thomas Mandel-Mantello. Public speaking and critical thinking skills can still be developed and practiced in a virtual setting, and typical conference procedures can still progress. Students newer to Model UN can still familiarize themselves with the logistics of a normal conference to prepare them for future years.

"We have dedicated and enthusiastic leaders with whom I have been working to organize our own conference as well as attend several other conferences via Zoom," says Mr. Christos Galanopoulos, faculty advisor to the Model UN club. The club's student leaders are confident that the club will not be hindered by the new conditions. Numerous students have signed up for the club and conferences, including many ninth graders. "I was very glad to see that several grade nine students registered," Galanopoulos remarked. "It is always important to have students gain Model UN experience when they are in grade nine, as they will be more equipped to participate in conferences in higher grades." It seems that the tradition of Model UN will carry on for years to come, even in the face of a pandemic.

With the new conference conditions come some unexpected positives. "We think that meeting online may take away some of the unfamiliarity and pressure of public speaking that some feel", observes club co-leader Ava Bussan. "Zoom meetings provide flexibility and accessibility, and will be a great way to get lots of practice in." Not meeting in person can be seen as a drawback to some, but useful skills can still be gained even through a virtual medium, as demonstrated over the course of 2020.

Mr. Galanopoulos points out, "The positives are that we may be able to attend more conferences since we do not have to use transportation and stay in hotels. Certainly, this also saves us money since there is no cost for attending Zoom conferences." Model UN is as active as ever despite conferencing online, but the active presence of the delegates may be negatively impacted as they get to know each other during debate and deliberations. It will be interesting to see how the new procedure will unfold. The topics will be exciting, and King's delegates will learn significant lessons on UN deliberations, the issues surrounding the United Nations, and the global scene overall.

This weekend, students from King will attend New Canaan Model UN, New CaMUN. This committee offers positions from the assassination attempt of former South Korean President Park Chung-Hee to a Star Wars-themed council where the Senate will decide your fate – unless, of course, you are the Senate. The future is looking bright for King's Model UN club – but, sadly, not for Mace Windu. It appears that the circumstances of this year are no match for student volition.