Last week the Student Senate Finance Committee granted the Knox College Model United Nations (KMUN) $2,151 to attend the McGill Model United Nations Conference (McMUN) in Montreal, Canada this January. Sophomore and KMUN Treasurer Ryan Higgins is excited for the chance to meet other MUN teams and exercise the skills he has cultivated.
“It’s basically a way to allow our group to put our skills into action, have a great time, and make connections from around the world that can then be used later in life,” Higgins said.
The $2,000 for the conference, which covers conference fees and rooms, would normally be included in KMUN’s annual budget. Senior and Student Senate Treasurer Sam Cohen said that KMUN was not initially granted funds for the conference last year because their proposal for the event was not descriptive enough.
This is part of a larger initiative by Cohen and 2017-18 Senate Treasurer Junior Cayne Randle to impose stricter guidelines on those requesting funds from the Student Senate Finance Committee. Randle added the stipulation that if a club does not have a mission statement, accurate information and sufficient description in its annual budget to be submitted in Spring Term, its funding could be cut in half.
This is what befell KMUN last spring in addition to being denied funding for the McMUN trip.
KMUN usually makes two trips each year, sometimes as far as London or Paris. Because of the budgeting issues, last year’s KMUN made just one trip to a Model United Nations conference in Chicago. Higgins said that KMUN is still in contact with people they met at the conference which included schools across the United States, from Ivy League universities to community colleges. Sophomore and KMUN Public Relations officer Max Caplan said that conferences like these give students a chance to build networks with people from around the world.
“It’s the first time I’ve actually worked with the people you just sort of hear about from various Ivy League schools, and you’re right there with them and schools from all over the world,” Caplan said.
McMUN is a popular Model UN conference attended by schools from the East and West Coast, the Midwest, Canada and one or two international schools. The conference consists of 20 or 30 staff members monitoring 10 different committees. The staff run simulations of crisis scenarios faced by the United Nations with members taking on the roles of different countries’ delegations. While there is a focus on teaching members how the UN functions, they also deal with foreign policy, historical and current events. Since KMUN is relatively small, with just four exec members running simulations, this is an important opportunity.
Delegations made up of students from different schools work through simulated crisis scenarios, solving complex issues by giving speeches, writing proposals, working collaboratively and asserting some form of leadership. The 2019 McMUN topics range from the International Court of Justice to the formation of Imperial Japan to “Black Panther.” Caplan said he finds the process of performing difficult and anxiety inducing and that is precisely why he does it.
“I’ve done theatre a long time, I do improv here at Knox, but now the audience is performing back at you and you have to captivate them,” Caplan said. “It’d be like two plays facing each other down, trying to compete for the most attention.”
Flights to Montreal for nine KMUN members could cost an additional $3,000. Because of budgeting constraints, the club will submit a second request at the beginning of Winter Term. Senate gave KMUN the original $2,000 on the condition that the club attempt to raise most of the funds themselves. KMUN is currently in the process of choosing a platform. Caplan believes this is a fair stipulation.
“I think it can be fair if we go and we rise to the occasion and work as hard as we can to go,” Caplan said. “I think it will be fair but now it’s on our end to earn that money.”
Cohen said that while $2,000 is a large amount, it is reasonable and sustainable in the context of Student Senate’s budget and KMUN’s financial situation. Cohen, who was on KMUN for two years, knows how valuable it is for members to attend larger conferences.
At conferences, Caplan has encountered many people who have never heard of Knox College. While this can be incredibly frustrating, he sees it as an important opportunity to give back to the school in addition to helping members hone valuable skills in negotiation, leadership, communication and networking.
“I think we’re a small club but we’re an important one,” Caplan said.