the westminster news
Published by the students of Westminster School
By Annie Brewer ’21
Image Credit: ymun.org
This past January, 16 martlets took to Zoom to participate in the 47th session of the Yale Model United Nations Conference. These students ranged in form and previous Model UN experience. Representing various countries, individuals, and interest groups, Martlets took part in committees ranging from 15 to about 100 delegations. Sixth Former Sydney Schuster, whose first-ever YMUN was this year’s virtual conference, thought it was “a great way to engage in model UN considering the circumstances,” as she referenced challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the past, Westminster students, along with students from across the country and the world, have traveled to Yale University’s campus in New Haven for the four-day conference. But this year, the conference, like so much else, migrated online. The platform, a website designed specifically by Yale students to broadcast the conference, was a resounding success. Their Model UN website featured a virtual map with wings for general assemblies, regional bodies, crisis and specialized committees, and “rooms” for each specific committee. Within these virtual rooms, Yale offered high school participants the option to participate on the browser itself or use a direct link to Zoom. Virtual rooms also had tools to help committee chairs-Yale students-to moderate debate, including a blank speakers list box and a timer.
While this was the first YMUN to go virtual, it is not the first to experience hiccups due to COVID-19. Last year’s conference was cut short due to fear of a COVID-19 case when a student traveling from China began to experience flu-like symptoms. While the student ended up testing negative for COVID-19 and had influenza, fear of the unknown led Yale to call off the final day of their 2020 conference. One year later, Yale Model UN’s adaptation to COVID-19 reminds us all of the longevity of this pandemic and the challenges that have come along with it. Even still, Yale’s Model UN organizers and the Westminster students who debated topics ranging from the Paris Climate Accords to neocolonialism in Africa, and represented 14 different delegations, prove that anything can happen when intelligent, creative minds work together. As an experienced delegate, Fourth-Former Caroline Bartley ’23 recalls, “Despite being completely virtual, YMUN was able to run their 2021 conference to its full extent. As a delegate, I learned a lot from my chairs and committee members, and felt that Yale could not have done a better job.” While the experience of a virtual Model UN was unable to mirror that of an in-person conference, Yale’s 47th YMUN was undoubtedly a success.