Williston Competes in Virtual Model UN


This year, the Williston’s Model UN team competed in their first virtual conference.

On November 8, Williston’s Model UN team competed against other New England schools on a variety of debatable topics, including Artificial Intelligence Rights, the Yemen Crisis, and Post-Apartheid South Africa, at the Phillips Exeter Academy Model UN event.

Due to the Covid pandemic, school’s cannot met in large groups due to social distancing guidelines. Since most conferences are held in large groups in classrooms or lecture hall, virtual conferences were held instead. Williston’s team consists of 40 members, however only 12 spots were available.

The leaders of the club, seniors Nathan Shatz and Liam Coughlin, have run the club for the past three years, but were thrown a new curve ball with virtual conferences. However, going into their final year of running MUN, they were prepared.

Liam believes that while conference itself was different, training the students for it was not. Both Liam and Nathan were able to teach the new delegates the same material that they normally would in an effective fashion.

“Training for an online conference felt surprisingly similar to a traditional in-person conference,” he said. “We went through parliamentary procedure, debate tactics, and position paper/opening speech/ and resolution writing as though it was going to be a normal conference.”

While prior to the event the leaders did not have all the information about it would be run, but they did their best to prepare the candidates. They did tell the delegates that the conference would be different at that everyone would be adapting.

“Nathan and I did our best to help convey how we assume committee would be run and what thing might change due to the virtual nature of the conference however we really did not know what to expect and made that clear to the delegates” he said.

Liam is unsure if MIT will hold their annual Model UN conference, since this is a larger affair that already requires a lot of organization, however he is hopeful.

“I think other conferences will have to see whether they are able and willing to put in the effort to host a virtual conference,” he said. “I would not be surprised if MIT hosts their annual conference online in February because being a college always have one of the better organized and run conferences and certainly seem on top of wanting to offer an enjoyable MUN experience.”

Liam is hopeful that Williston will be able to hold committee for themselves and other schools but thinks that unless Williston starts competing in athletics, MUN will not hold their own.

“I think it is unlikely that an in-person multi-school conference will happen this year, but I remain hopeful,” he said. “I can certainly see hosting a conference at Williston for our delegates, but not until Williston is playing other schools in athletics,” he said.

This year sophomore Diana Yaseen participated in the Latin American Spring confrence. She was not a fan of virtual Model UN.

“It was a lot less fun and felt very isolating,” she said.

While the conference went well overall, she said that is was difficult for herself and others to form groups and have unmoderated caucuses. Due to this, she said she did not participate as much as she normally would.

“It was harder to form blocs and have conversations … it was very stressful through Zoom,” she said.

Overall, Diana does enjoy participating in Model UN, and said she will participate virtually rather than not at all.

“I would so that I can continue with MUN,” she said, “but it’s not my first choice.”