TrojanMUN 2017 Conference Recap: Growing the West Coast College Model UN Circuit

by KFC on October 25, 2017

The University of Southern California hosted their college conference, Trojan Model United Nations (TrojanMUN), this past weekend. The conference officially kicked off the Fall season on the West Coast Model UN circuit, which starts later than on the East Coast as a good number of West Coast colleges are on the quarter system.

The TrojanMUN Secretariat with the opening ceremonies keynote speaker, Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer

The TrojanMUN Secretariat with the opening ceremonies keynote speaker, Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer

West Coast College MUN Growth  

TrojanMUN is a key player in the growth of the West Coast college MUN circuit. The conference is only in its fourth year, and the development of TrojanMUN alongside UC Santa Barbara’s SBIMUN (which takes place in November) has created a West Coast Fall college MUN circuit from scratch that previously did not exist. Now, West Coast college MUN teams do not necessarily have to invest in expensive cross-country flights for their delegates to participate in MUN year-round.

This year, TrojanMUN grew to its largest conference yet with 340 delegates attending. This expansion required it to upgrade to the shiny, brand new Hotel Indigo in the heart of downtown Los Angeles — though the conference will already outgrow the hotel when it gets bigger next year. TrojanMUN recruited West Point to attend by adjusting their dates to not conflict with East Coast Fall conferences. It’s considered a coup for any West Coast conference besides UCBMUN to get an elite East Coast team such as West Point to attend. There is a push by multiple West Coast conferences, including UCLA’s LAMUN, to attract East Coast teams and boost the profile and overall competitiveness of all the West Coast circuit.

Delegates participating in the US National Security Council

Delegates participating in the US National Security Council

Novice-Friendly Conference 

I observed the committees to get a feel for the conference. Although TrojanMUN is billed as being a bit larger and a bit more competitive than SBIMUN, in practice they are both still in the novice-friendly range. A majority of the delegates were noticeably new to Model UN, and chairs and delegates who I spoke with reinforced this. The committee environment was distinctly non-competitive, which is a refreshing change from what I’d normally observe on the East Coast. Many delegates had not heard of BestDelegate.com before when I went around taking photos.

TrojanMUN did a good job catering to novices. The committees were a balanced mix of General Assemblies and crisis committees. The conference simulated 13 committees, so most of the GA committees had only about 30 or 40 delegates each and therefore were less intimidating for novices. I observed the Interpol committee for a while and the dais encouraged delegates to speak during moderated caucus, and they mentioned that they had also given delegates tips on what to work on during various stages of unmoderated caucus.

Novice delegates pose for a photo during unmoderated caucus at TrojanMUN

Novice delegates pose for a photo during unmoderated caucus at TrojanMUN

West Coast Growing Pains 

There are some growing pains for the West Coast circuit of delegates. The majority of delegates were new, and most of the established teams primarily sent novices. I noticed that GA debate would go around in circles. Novice delegates asked each other about motions and weren’t sure how to jump in during unmoderated caucus. A Head Delegate pointed out that delegates were confused by the resolution format, and that the working paper phase could be better reinforced by chairs to help novices understand that they could merge similar ideas. But at least delegates can learn here as opposed to the “trial by fire” method on the East Coast, and delegates should improve over time with better team training and more West Coast conference opportunities.

TrojanMUN itself is only in its fourth year, and that’s reflected in the staff’s experience. Half the 60-person large TrojanMUN Secretariat were underclassmen, and the vast majority of crisis staffers were new to the club or even to Model UN. I spoke with an advanced delegate who had won an award at Columbia’s CMUNNY a few weeks ago, and she mentioned that the crisis staff responses were less polished than what she experienced at CMUNNY.

That said, the crisis staffers were working very hard to draft crisis updates, often engaging the Secretary-General Vivek Ramachandran and Deputy Secretary-General Tarek Roshdy for feedback. And debate seemed healthy in the most advanced crisis committees, the ad hoc JCC between the Soviet Politburo and the US National Security Council. They both seemed to have more experienced delegates and chairs, and I was told that both committees received rave reviews during feedback sessions.

For the long-term, USC is significantly upgrading its East Coast MUN conference participation, so their crisis staffers should gain more crisis experience over time. And USC’s staff training has become more vigorous and started in March of last semester, so this new process should also pay off in future editions.

TrojanMUN crisis staffers getting feedback from the SG and DSG

TrojanMUN crisis staffers getting feedback from the SG and DSG

More Female Delegates Needed on the Circuit? 

One committee that stood out in terms of the quality of debate was the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples (WCIP), chaired by Zack Ali and Alex Melnik (who I previously met when he was Secretary-General of SCMUN). I have a personal interest in indigenous rights as Best Delegate works with indigenous youth every year in Northeast India through NEIMUN, and I have chaired WCIP before for indigenous youth delegates.

I found the solutions proposed to be detailed and that both the questions and answers during the author’s panel to be critical thinking-level. The two rival blocs addressed issues ranging from biases of arbitration boards, impact of climate change on indigenous lands, mobile health clinics in rural areas, indigenous women’s land rights, and unfair government development of indigenous lands (mining, farming, dams). The delegates built their resolutions on top of the existing UN DRIP (United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples) — which I appreciated as I typically hear MUN delegates rehashing solutions that already exist because they didn’t do their research.

WCIP Resolution 1.1 addressed arbitration board biases and mobile health clinics. Women made up the entire author's panel.

WCIP Resolution 1.1 addressed arbitration board biases and mobile health clinics. Women made up the entire author’s panel.

But topic aside, the most interesting thing I noticed about the committee was that its delegates composed a female supermajority. I counted and calculated that 76% of the room were women. And eight of the nine delegates who went up for author’s panel were women. This was in contrast to the male-majority rest of the conference — and really the rest of college Model UN and more broadly careers in international affairs. I won’t speculate on why this committee happened to have this female-majority ratio, but given the concrete solutions I that heard, I believe more women should be participating in college Model UN. Perhaps both conferences and teams could do more in this regard.

WCIP Resolution 1.2 addressed indigenous women's land rights and damages to indigenous lands caused by mining and farming

WCIP Resolution 1.2 addressed indigenous women’s land rights and damages to indigenous lands caused by mining and farming

**

Here are some more photos from the conference:

The Soviet Politburo at TrojanMUN

The Soviet Politburo at TrojanMUN

The Secretary-General dresses up as a dinosaur during a crisis update for the Ingen Board of Directors, which dealt with the topic of Jurassic Park

The Secretary-General dresses up as a dinosaur during a crisis update for the Ingen Board of Directors, which dealt with the topic of Jurassic Park

Australia speaks during moderated caucus in Interpol

Australia speaks during moderated caucus in Interpol

Knights of the Round Table dais at TrojanMUN

Knights of the Round Table dais at TrojanMUN

Delegates strategize over motions to use in order to pass their resolutions

Delegates strategize over motions to use in order to pass their resolutions

A delegate in the US National Security Council points out that the cabinet can take different private and public actions toward the Soviet Politburo

A delegate in the US National Security Council points out that the cabinet can take different private and public actions toward the Soviet Politburo

The 1984 committee in action at TrojanMUN

The 1984 committee in action at TrojanMUN

Delegation awards went to:

  • Co-Best Large Delegations: Claremont McKenna College and the University of California, Los Angeles
  • Best Small Delegation: United States Military Academy at West Point
  • Outstanding Small Delegation: University of California, Davis

Thanks to Secretary-General Vivek Ramachandran and the TrojanMUN staff for having me visit!

The TrojanMUN 2017 Secretariat!

The TrojanMUN 2017 Secretariat! Fight On!

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