From Behind the Dais: 10 Things to Avoid Doing That Will Upset Your Chair

by Sarah Collins on February 5, 2013

The role of the chair is to execute the procedural functions of committee. In a perfect world, this would be done in an unbiased manner, but, as we are all human, sometimes this becomes nearly impossible. Usually, the chair tries to keep his bias in check by looking through points given and trying to call on people who have yet to participate much, though a delegate he finds annoying or disrespectful may be “accidentally” overlooked. Here are ten things to avoid being blacklisted among chairs.

1. Don’t talk during speeches. This one is a given. Obviously, if you are busy being a Chatty Cathy (whether you’re on policy or not), your chair will see you as disrespectful and insensitive to the current speaker. If you do need to discuss something MUN related and important, it can wait until unmoderated caucus.

2. Don’t be rude. Model UN is all about being diplomatic. You may feel pretty suave making some smart aleck comment, but it will just make you look arrogant to the chair and lower your chances of staying on his good side.

3. Don’t wave your placard around like it’s on fire. It’s good to be enthusiastic in committee, but doing that just gets annoying. The chair has the best seat in the house; he can see everyone. Be calm and raise your placard high and – most importantly – still. If you feel the chair is unfairly ignoring you or just seems to have a blind spot where your seat is, send up a note explaining your concern.

4. Don’t chew gum during speeches. You are dressed in business attire and representing an entire nation. If you’re obnoxiously smacking your lips together in between every other word, you will come off as neither professional nor intelligent.

5. Don’t talk over other delegates as soon as the chair pokes his head in during unmoderated. Chairs are not stupid. They know if someone is drooling a little too hungrily over that gavel. Trying to be dictator of a resolution group does not make you look impressive; it makes you look like you’re on a power trip.

6. No texting. Or tweeting. Or Facebooking. Or reading magazines… you get the idea. You can give up looking at those irresistible Ryan Gosling memes for one weekend while you work hard creating resolutions to world problems. (Trust me, it’s a lot more rewarding anyway.)

7. No minutely modifying motions on the floor. If someone motions for a ten-minute moderated caucus at 30 second speaking time, do not motion for a nine-and-a-half minute one. Not only will the chair probably rule it dilatory, but he will also pin you as someone who just likes to motion for things for the chance to speak more.

8. No asking the chair if you can see the score sheets. He will not give it to you. If anything, you can ask the chair to gauge how he thinks you are doing in committee, and ask if he thinks you can do anything to improve. Save this conversation for a break, though.

9. Do not make pseudo motions, such as “Motion for a one hour extension to lunch break”. You know it will not be passed, and it will make you seem like you don’t really care about committee. If the chair doesn’t think you’re taking committee seriously, don’t expect to be called on much.

10. Do not send a ridiculous abundance of notes to other delegates. If you’re communicating that much, chances are you’re probably talking less about committee and more about hanging out at the delegate dance. Remember: Chairs See All.

If you follow all of these “what not to do” rules, you’re well on your way to leaving a positive (or at least neutral) impression on your chair. Happy MUNing!

  • Ark

    While I wholeheartedly agree with points 1-9, 10 is absolutely wrong. As any large GA (or crisis for that matter) delegate knows, passing notes abundantly is the ONLY way to start building blocs early. In fact as a chair, I attempt to keep tabs on which delegates are actively communicating. Admittedly, delegates should pass topic-focused notes in a respectful and nondisruptive manner, but given the amount of work that happens outside of committee, there is simply no such thing as a ridiculous abundance of notes

    • kevinfelixchan

      I agree that passing a lot of notes is necessary to build a bloc early on in large committees. However, I think notes are more effective for beginning communication and not in maintaining a conversation. Delivery time slows down as everyone starts passing notes in the middle of the sessions. If I need to maintain a conversation with other delegates during the middle of the sessions (something that would require multiple back-and-forth notes), I would instead send just one note to them to basically meet outside to discuss now or during the next unmoderated caucus.

      Of course, crisis is a different game and delegates should send all the notes they feel is necessary to achieve their goals.

  • Spencer Slagowitz

    Great article! I plead guilty to #3 though.

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