Pomona College Model United Nations hosted its fifth SageMUN Conference last weekend. Hosting about 40 students from the 5Cs, the conference brought together a close-knit team of delegates devoted to solving global affairs issues.
Apart from a scrimmage with the University of Southern California during the first semester, SageMUN was the club’s first event of the 2021-2022 academic year. In a typical year, SageMUN would welcome students from other schools beyond the Claremont Colleges; however, due to COVID-19, PCMUN opted to restrict this year’s conference to only students who attend one of the 5Cs.
The 2022 SageMUN Team was made up of 26 students who fell under the leadership of the Secretariat Team, an elected team who headed up the planning and execution of the conference.
The club, comprised of over 30 members, meets weekly, and its governing body meets once more each week on top of this meeting. Preparations for SageMUN had been on the club’s agenda since December. Creating and chairing the conference’s committees, the SageMUN staff planned the situations for the attending delegates. This system allowed for students who didn’t do Model U.N. in high school to gain exposure.
“[SageMUN] is also a really great opportunity to get first years and sophomores involved who don’t necessarily have the experience to run for an [Executive] board position yet,” Alexandra Rivasplata SC ’22, the Chief of Staff of the conference, said. “It’s this natural progression where you get involved in SageMUN, and then you gain that experience of being able to do logistics, and outreach, and media and things of that sort. And then you’re able to run for labor positions, because you’re able to tie all those things together.”
The conference featured three distinct committees, the first of which was the General Assembly: Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Committee. This committee focused on the illicit drug trade in Latin America, asking delegates to “explore various ways to resolve this issue, all the while bearing in mind the humanitarian mission of this committee,” according to the SageMUN website.
The second committee was the Specialized Agency: International Court of Justice, dealing with the true historical case of Kulbhushan Jadhav, an Indian man arrested in Pakistan on terrorism charges. Asking its participants to act in accordance with International Law, this committee taught delegates about the importance of adjudicating legal disputes and advisory proceedings.
Most Model U.N. conferences do not usually include these kinds of true historical cases. Bryce Kelly PO ’23, one of two directors of the Crisis Committee, said the Specialized Agency committee set SageMUN apart.
“[Criminal Court] is something that’s unique to [SageMUN] because the stuff that you do in that kind of trial isn’t the same as what you do in a domestic American trial,” he said. “There’s the history that’s involved in it, there’s kind of the international diplomacy aspect of it. It’s niche, but it’s also unique.”
SageMUN also found distinctiveness in its third committee, the Crisis Committee: The High Council. Kelly was responsible for planning this portion of the conference, which enjoys a bit more creativity than the other two committees.
“Normally, when you think Model U.N.,” Kelly said, “you think that there’s a person sitting in front with a gavel who bangs it, calls on people to speak and write directives and everything. Crisis is different. There’s more of a roleplaying element to it. You’re not representing a country, you are a person, and you’re navigating through some sort of event … In this case, every conspiracy theory in the world was true.”
“[SageMUN] is also a really great opportunity to get first years and sophomores involved who don’t necessarily have the experience to run for an [Executive] board position yet.”
Interrogating the idea of a “Deep State” or shadow government, this committee assigned its delegates the roles of real people like Princess Diana and Ted Cruz as the Zodiac Killer. Kelly wrote up a 20-page background for this 11-person committee, cataloging the shadow government and other influencing factors.
Beyond the experience Kelly gained with organizing a committee, Model U.N. has also taught him leadership skills, confidence while public speaking, the ability to bluff and how to work off his opponents.
“Sometimes in a committee,” Kelly said, “you will be plopped down in a room with a bunch of people who can only be described as sharks, and you have to learn how to swim.”
The conference was also unique in that it allowed delegates who were not already affiliated with PCMUN to attend. This allowed for a wider range of 5C students to get a sense of the club and was promising for the future of the program.
“I had several people tell me at the end of the conference [that] they want to try out in the fall,” Rivasplata said. “So it’s really great, where [the conference] is almost like an open house,”
Simulating global affairs issues, Model U.N. found an especially apt resonance to real events this past weekend. Originally planning to have the Crisis Committee surround the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the SageMUN Team shifted their topic selection with the current crisis in Ukraine. This concurrence of events reminded the SageMUN team of their work’s greater relevance and applications.
“[Model U.N.] is supposed to make you relate more closely to real life issues,” Rivasplata said. “It’s supposed to make you research things and learn about things you’re ignoring … You can’t just check Twitter for your preparation for a committee … What you’re supposed to get out of Model U.N. is more sensitivity and [understanding of] importance and less ignorance — as opposed to where you’re just in it to win a reward.”