Orange County MUN: Favoritism and Philosophy

by Ryan on November 18, 2007

When I was in high school, a particular school tended to win a particular conference. Either Huntington Beach High School or Mira Costa High School always won at the Edison High School MUN Conference. When Mission Viejo High School (my alma mater) hosted, either Tustin High School or Santa Margarita Catholic High School won.

This became a problem when students felt jilted out of awards and starting holding grudges. The schools that don’t win blame the hosting school for being unfair and showing favoritism.

One student from my school was a funny guy and a good delegate. He felt that he deserved Best Delegate, or at least an Outstanding, at Edison’s conference. He got neither. At closing ceremonies, he was called for a Commendation (the equivalent of an Honorable Mention on the East Coast); approached the stage to receive his award; and tore it in front of everyone. Even worse, during our conference, he did not give any Edison students in his committee an award. This student has long since graduated.

This was not an isolated feeling. Everyone blamed one school or another for stacking awards in favor of its “allies.” There was even a conspiracy going at one point. Someone theorized that if Edison and Huntington had a deal to award one another at each other’s conference to not only increase their winnings but maintain district funding.

I didn’t believe this theory, but I nonetheless criticized schools for favoritism. I felt cheated out of awards multiple times. Everyone does; sadly, this is a common feeling in MUN today. But looking back, I realize now that the problem was not favoritism; it was philosophy.

Delegates from Mira Costa, Huntington, and Edison had reputations for being very aggressive. Mission, Tustin, and Santa Margarita, on the other hand, focused on diplomacy. The aggressive and the diplomatic schools did not simply favor themselves at their own respective conferences. They were merely looking for the same traits that they themselves valued.

In other words, an aggressive delegate from Edison will most likely become a chair that views aggression favorably. So it’s no surprise if he awards the aggressive Mira Costa delegate; he, too, values aggression.

Of course there were very aggressive and very diplomatic delegates at each school, but nonetheless reputations existed. I now believe they existed because of philosophical differences between MUN programs.

Several years ago, a local paper wrote about the Mira Costa MUN program. Its advisor used the Socratic method to question his students on their topics. They sat in a circle; one student presented his country’s policy; and for ten minutes, everyone questioned this one student. At first, this made them all uncomfortable, but they became more and more confident. So, during conferences, Mira Costa students challenged other delegates in the same way that they had been challenged, questioning their ideas and debating their stances. I suspect the other aggressive schools had similar practices. This is part of what made them so aggressive.

The more diplomatic schools (Mission, Tustin, and Santa Margarita), on the other hand, were taught to be likable. That way, other delegates became willing to work with you and give you primary authorship over resolutions. We were still told to be aggressive, but not so much that we became domineering or abrasive. We competed more on personality than intellect.

I share this post because favoritism was a problem and I suspect it still is. I hope someone from Orange County reads this and realizes that their school was not simply screwed over. I do realize, however, that getting screwed out of an award does happen on purpose, so don’t discount that possibility. But my point is that it happens less often than people think and not as likely the case when it happens to them.

I just think that the first step towards resolving this problem is to realize that different MUN programs teach differently. This directly translates to delegate styles and, consequently, the awards. If Orange County MUN wants a fairer awards system, then it needs to standardize its awards criteria between all schools, aggressive and diplomatic alike.

I also think that the MUN community as a whole needs to standardize the awards, but I will save that subject for another post. The takeaway point for now is that different MUN programs view and teach MUN differently. I want us to share these differences because they don’t have to be problems. Indeed, understanding one other’s differences is a major lesson of MUN. Most importantly, though, we must recognize these differences if we are to build a true MUN community.

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