A trainwreck, the flu, and seven hours of security surveillance: A day in the life of MUN


Photo Credits: Liam H. Flake

Liam H. Flake

It was striking how close and coherent Fossil Ridge High School’s Model United Nations team was during the first of their lunchtime congregations. On the first Thursday after winter break, I grabbed my packed lunch from my locker and found a seat amongst the tables of Mr. Huckaby’s room, and it quickly became apparent that the majority of the attendees were already well acquainted. The atmosphere was distinctly warm, as friends greeted each other and exchanged jokes and casually bantered. However, out of the conversations that took place, another fact came to light: as opposed to everyday topics that one may overhear being discussed in the halls of Fossil, students debated and deliberated over geography, from world affairs to the nuances of nation’s flags. Every member had a specially honed knowledge of the content they studied. MUN, as it seemed, was a unique micro-community of its own – a closely-knit group of students who were deeply invested in the niche topics that the club was built upon.

MUN is a family that supports each other through and through, but which is not afraid to be savage when needed.”

— Brandon Richardson

Fossil’s Model United Nations (MUN) team traveled to Colorado University (CU) in Boulder on Friday, February 2, and Saturday, February 3, for CU’s annual conference. The 15 delegates in attendance joined five separate councils, ranging from Beginning Councils to the General Assembly to Advanced Councils. There, they represented a myriad of world nations and debated three topics for a total of about seven hours amongst students from schools across Colorado. Though they scored well, no Fossil students received awards during the conference.

Students chat while waiting for the opening ceremonies to begin. Photo credit: Liam H. Flake

Over the next two weeks after I joined MUN, the meetings retained the same, lighthearted feel, starting at 12:40 and going over important information for the upcoming conference, but continuing to hold no particular schedule or procession. Prices and plans for the conference were projected onto the smartboard while the MUN delegates conversed over lunch. Those in charge of the club and arranging its trip to Boulder made inquiries and pieced together a plan. Amongst all of this, I was introduced to the role I would be assuming at the looming event and briefed on what responsibilities I would have to fulfill (including one website to browse, one position paper to write, and a $50 fee for the hotel). From there, the conference started to take form.

“I love doing research. It gives me a reason to do research,” stated Abby Riley, one of two leaders for Fossil’s MUN team. Here, Riley cited enjoying the very involved research process that precedes a MUN conference, in order to acquaint oneself with the country they will be representing, as well as their relation to the assigned issues, and ultimately write a position paper. However, this is not the sole factor of MUN that Riley appreciates. “As teenagers, we don’t have a voice in politics or in world major issues at all,” she explained, “This gives a platform for discussion, gives a platform for us to actually think about these issues, which I think is really important. It’s one of the reasons I’ve stuck with it.” In an MUN conference, delegates are effectively treated as UN representatives, both by facilitators and fellow delegates. The experience is intended to replicate a United Nations congregation as accurately as can be achieved. This experience provides a diverse abundance of benefits for various members. “MUN teaches you important skills to effectively communicate with peers, and personally, I hope to get out of it an effective way to communicate real issues to get solved in the future,” provided Brandon Richardson, a senior in MUN. The organization, allowing students to explore and represent a variety of stances on world issues (real and hypothetical), requires diplomacy and effective communication to operate optimally.

Kayman Riley reviews his position paper before the conference. Photo Credits: Liam H. Flake

After attempting to write my position paper (the culmination of one’s research for a conference and the statement of the stance one will take in the conference), I encountered an issue I would have to address at my third lunch meeting on January 25. After spending a fair amount of time browsing the vast databases of the internet, I had discovered that there was unexpectedly little on the political positions of Cote D’Ivoire. I wasn’t entirely sure that Cote D’Ivoire even cared in the slightest about surveillance and human rights or about Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces thereof. I was stuck. Thus, I consulted with Mr. Huckaby, the club’s dedicated sponsor, for advice. After discussing and searching up until the three minute bell, Huckaby was able to point me towards some better sources, and I was able to complete my position paper.

MUN delegates enjoy lunch at Starbucks during their hour break between sessions. Photo Credits: Liam H. Flake

“It was a trainwreck,” stated Richardson, explaining his views on the conference in retrospect. Many delegates from Fossil shared a common sentiment: the conference was not the best they have attended. “Overall, I feel like the students who worked together did a fantastic and mature job,” provided Richardson. “However the organization, or lack thereof, is a critical part of why CU has become an unpopular conference.” Richardson was not alone, however, in the opinion that the conference was lacking, on CU’s part, in structure. “With this specific conference, the main issue is definitely organization,” Riley posited. “Our council was too big. They should have just done two councils. I know the whole point of the General Assembly is to do it together,” she elucidated, “but we had a PO who just couldn’t command the room, and the whole thing just fell apart.” The General Assembly at the 2018 CU conference contained more than 100 delegates.

Delegates reconvene with their schools after a long session of negotiating. Photo Credits: Liam H. Flake

In our final meeting before the conference, the day before we left, a looming problem came to light; our sponsor had not been at school in a week. Huckaby had come down with the flu, and would not be able to travel to conference with us. This created a multitude of obstacles: we would not be able to stay, as planned, in the Marriott (instead, having to drive back overnight); we had lost our bus to the conference, as Huckaby had been planning to drive it, and we resorted to arranging carpools. Nonetheless, we followed through and traveled to the conference.

Fossil students rendezvoused at Fossil at 7:00 on 2/9 to travel to the conference. Photo Credits: Liam H. Flake

“I see it as a community thing. We’re all helping each other, and it’s almost like a connection through a thing most people see eye to eye with. In a way, it’s almost like a tiny organized project, but we depend on each other to do what we’re doing.” This is how Alex Lei described what he thought MUN was. MUN is a closely-knit community of intellectuals, who are bound by a common goal. Within that, they become incredibly comfortable and familiar with each other. While describing his summary of Fossil’s MUN team, Richardson stated that “MUN is a family that supports each other through and through, but which is not afraid to be savage when needed.” This highlights the members’ lighthearted and joking attitude towards each other, capable of acting seriously when the situation calls for it, but also laugh and have fun together.

Fossil students casually chat before breaking off into their councils. Photo Credits: Liam H. Flake

We left for the conference after lunch on Friday, February 2. Our group drove for a little over an hour (without the use of GPS), before reconvening in a parking lot at CU. From there, we grabbed our papers from the cars and walked towards the cafeteria. We stationed ourselves for the next couple hours in the college food court, where we sat, and talked, and ate lunch (or was it dinner?) from Panda Express and Subway. And we waited. Leaving Fort Collins around 1:30, we had given ourselves ample amounts of time. The opening ceremonies started at 6:00. We spent the afternoons milling around in the food court and the physics building (where the event took place), and visited the campus art museum.

Photo Credits: Liam H. Flake

After several hours, we entered the opening ceremonies in a lecture room in the Duane Physics Building. We were surrounded by delegates from countless schools from a wide range of locations. Before long, we were sent off to our councils.

MUN delegates take a seat and prepare to voice their stances. Photo Credits: Liam H. Flake

For the next several hours, we debated meticulously over the use of surveillance for security, continuing into the next day for another five hours. Diplomacy proved to be unexpectedly difficult; while many delegates had similar stances, there were small but critical discrepancies in each’s wishes. No proposed solution to the topic had unanimous support. And the entire time, the entire operation proceeded with uninterrupted formality. Each procedure was followed to the dot, nobody spoke out of line, and every single person in the room wore a blazer. After seven hours of deliberating over a resolution for the issue of surveillance, when everybody was growing tired of the topic, we finally completed and instated, through popular vote, a resolution.

And we repeated the process, formalities and all, with the topic of nuclear non-proliferation.

MUN delegates compromise on provided topics. Photo Credits: Liam H. Flake

MUN is not for everyone. Everybody involved has a deep passion and interest in a very niche area of study, and geography-specific jargon is frequently exchanged in conversation. It is a club for those with an interest in world affairs, geopolitics, anthropology, and lots of research. However, for those who meet such criteria, and are passionate about just the right area of study, MUN is a family. Every member of MUN shares inside jokes and memories. Every member comfortably laughs and works with one another. It is a community unlike any other at Fossil, with a sort of people not found anywhere else.

Fossil’s MUN team Photo Credits: Liam H. Flake