Moderated Caucus: Chairing Applications Should be Open to All

by Sam Povey on May 27, 2017

Welcome to Moderated Caucus, a series examining the questions that keep delegates, chairs and secretariats up at night. Should closing ceremonies have guest speakers? Does crisis actually count as MUN? How do you explain to your non-MUN friends what you’re doing in a suit on a Saturday?

This week we’re discussing the chairing applications. Chairs are central to the successful functioning of a MUN conference. The position comes with a lot of responsibility but also power and prestige (as far as MUN goes of course). But different circuits go about finding chairs in very different ways. Across North America, chairs are usually selected from the same institution hosting a conference. By contrast, European conference usually open applications to anyone who is qualified.

And that makes this week’s debate not only a battle of ideas but a battle of between America and Europe!

Kristen Corlay: Keep chairing applications within host institutions

Kristen Corlay has been participating in MUN for 3 years and is a member of Best Delegate’s Media Team. She served as the Director General for her school’s conference in 2016 and is currently a freshman in high school.

When people learn that a conference is only chaired by students from the host school, a negative stigma usually brews in their minds. However, as someone who has always been surrounded by conferences that are only chaired by their host institutions, I would like to highlight the benefits of this system.

One of the things that people may worry about when having chairs from a sole institution is the lack of students interested in MUN. However, this can actually be taken as an opportunity to get people interested in Model UN. When we were recruiting people from my school to become chairs at our conference, we were concerned about the fact that many people had very limited experience. Yet, with a comprehensive chair training process, they all came through in the end. Not only that, but it served as a bonding experience for the school as a whole. After that, MUN participation was higher and the conference helped fuel school spirit.

Being a chair typically requires several meetings and training sessions. For many students with lots of extra-curricular activities, time is precious. When it comes to high school (or even middle school), students who don’t have much freedom over their academic schedules, having a chair team composed of students from the same school can help reduce scheduling complications. Communication is key, so having all chairs around in the same campus can be of huge help to the secretariat.

It is believed that having chairs from the same institution causes bias when it comes to awards. However, when the great majority of the students who do MUN are staffing the conference and not actually participating in it, bias towards the host institution shouldn’t be a problem. If bias does turn out to be a concern as the simulation approaches, it could be taken as an opportunity to teach a few lessons about the importance of being impartial.

Personally, I believe having chairs come from the host institution makes things a bit easier for the conference organisers and the school in general. Maybe that’s not the case for every simulation, but it has been in my experience. Nevertheless, I think we can all agree on one thing: chairing is tiring and waaaaay harder than it looks, but it’s an amazing experience.

George Mullens: Open up chairing applications to everyone

George Mullens is a British/Italian Masters Student at SOAS studying International Studies and Diplomacy. He is a member of the Best Delegate Media Team and has been active in the European MUN circuit since 2009.

Competition in all aspects of our modern world is positive. It forces smartphone manufacturers to develop better, more sophisticated technology. It forces the world’s best athletes to work harder, to hone their craft and ability. It forces the best Model UN teams around the world to train their delegates in the art of public speaking and diplomacy. Why shouldn’t the same be true for chairing?

Open applications for all chairing positions is not only good for delegates but allows for less experienced delegates to be encouraged by their chairs to participate by having a great experience at a conference. Unfortunately, it is the case at some of the top conferences in the world that the Head Chairs of some committees have less experience than their Assistant Chairs. This has resulted in the bizarre situation where some Assistant Chairs know the rules of procedure, and generally how to chair, better than the Head Chair.

An open application process does not mean that individuals from an institution are excluded from chairing. It simply means that they have to prove themselves via interview to be the right candidate for the job of chairing a committee. The qualities expected of the best chairs are often different to those expected of award-winning delegates. Some of the best chairs I know haven’t won an award at a conference, yet they still perform admirably, and their delegates love them.

An open application allows for other benefits. By chairing with students from different universities and backgrounds, a stronger link is created between students of different cultures and experiences. I’ve personally had the pleasure to chair 20 times at MUN conferences with a wide variety of students, from Ecuadorians and Americans, to Turkish, Polish and French students. This wouldn’t be possible if chairing at a conference was done only on the basis of institutions. This exchange of information across countries has led to best chairing and debating practices to be adopted on a continental scale.

I firmly believe that we should not allow the institution or place of origin to determine who has the best chairing positions at the best conferences. Instead, a meritocratic, interview-based system is the best way to select chairs. All delegates can rest assured that their chair was selected knowing, that they were the best candidate for the position.

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