Rules trip up Model United Nations

The 23rd annual Model United Nations Conference at UAA started off like any other but nearly collapsed late afternoon Feb. 26. What made this year’s conference different from previous years was an unprecedented calling of James Waldo’s credentials. Waldo, president of the General Assembly and a third-year philosophy and political science major, presided over the meeting and was in charge of the rules of the conference. Waldo was also responsible for teaching the rules to all committee chairs and helping them lead their committee. After feelings from the body that Waldo was not doing his job, a member of the General Assembly called his credentials.

According to MUN rules, credentials may be questioned any time a delegate acts inconsistently with the official views of the state the delegate is representing.

Doubt sprouted when delegates decided which resolutions would be presented. Each committee worked Friday, Feb. 25 and Saturday, Feb. 26 on different resolutions, of which only some were selected for presentation to the General Assembly. In previous years, a vote was taken by the committee to decide which resolutions would be presented. This year, in the interest of time, committee chairs solely decided which resolutions would be presented.

Lila Hobbs, an Indonesia delegate, wanted to change the order in which resolutions were presented because hers had not been selected, and other members of the committee on which Hobbs served didn’t agree with the resolutions that were chosen.

“My resolution was the only resolution in the committee to be unanimously passed,” Hobbs said. “So I was very disappointed when I learned that it would not be seen by the General Assembly.”

Hobbs’ request to change the resolutions to be presented was immediately turned down by Waldo because it wasn’t in accordance with the rules. Hobbs called a point of order, declaring an error in procedure. In response, Waldo countered that Hobbs had the incorrect and outdated set of procedural rules. The rules from the 2004 MUN Conference were changed for 2005 and Waldo was of the understanding the rules for 2005 were in effect. In reality, each delegation was given a packet with 2004 rules. Disorder erupted as students and teachers were shocked by how Waldo disregarded Hobbs and why every delegation in the General Assembly apparently had an incorrect set of rules.

“(Waldo) likes things done in a certain way which angered some people and caused resentment,” said Nina Johnson, the Bhutan delegate and a Chugiak High School senior.

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UAA student and fifth-year MUN participant Sam Dunham explained Waldo was a stickler for the rules.

“James went much more by the book than previous presidents of the General Assembly. I think that sometimes you have to be flexible with the rules,” Dunham said. “James was so adamant about strictly following MUN rules that he really alienated a lot of the body. The way that he was leading the General Assembly was not making him any friends. At least 10 guys came up to me asking how to get rid of him.”

At this point, the meeting had ground to a halt. Delegates from Indonesia didn’t want to accept Waldo’s ruling.

“A lot of high school teachers didn’t like what was happening. They thought the power was being taken away from the students,” Johnson said.

The high school teachers became so upset they threatened faculty advisor Kimberly Pace that if something was not done about Waldo, they would withdraw their delegations without finishing the conference. To appease the teachers, Pace approached UAA student Shawn Jefts, the United Kingdom delegate and sixth-year MUN participant.

“Professor Pace called me over and told me that I needed to call the credentials of Waldo,” Jefts said. “She probably asked me because I was physically closest to her. Pace’s exact words to me were, ‘I need James removed and I need it to pass.’”

“It was really exciting right after the credentials were called,” Johnson said. “There was this gasp that went out in the audience. People began immediately whispering and moving about. It was pretty cool, definitely not what I expected from the MUN.”

Many participants thought calling Waldo’s credentials was technically the wrong action, but it sent the right message.

“I think there were no grounds to call his credentials but it was a good move because it showed James that the youth of Anchorage weren’t going to just take crap from the president and it wasn’t done in a way that would be undermining,” Johnson said. “It was really encouraging for me.”

Dunham said he’d never seen anytyhing of such magnitude at previous MUN conferences.

“We had to recognize that the president was making some mistakes and it was done without derailing the whole conference,” Dunham said.

Once Vica Lozinschi, acting as secretary general, realized Waldo’s credentials were called, she made the executive decision for Waldo to continue as president.

“Regardless of his mistake nobody there knew the rules as well as James did,” Dunham said. “He is well-seasoned and ultimately the only one present that was capable of finishing the job.”

The meeting picked back up and was able to finish but some students were concerned about how the situation was immediately dismissed.

“Vica didn’t make the decision in the right way,” Johnson said. “If she had explained that she didn’t see it as being fruitful to dismiss James then much of the commotion afterwards wouldn’t have taken place. It seemed that she made the decision arbitrarily. My friend, a delegate from Indonesia, is still angry to this day.”

The lesson learned from the 2005 MUN Conference is that the rules need to be clearer.

“There needs to be an adequate way to put a check against those in charge,” Dunham said. “There isn’t a clear way to make a vote of no confidence against the chair. Ultimately, I think James should have listened a little more and there wasn’t an easy way to check that.”

Diddy Hitchins, faculty adviser for past MUN conferences, requested Waldo preside over the General Assembly. Waldo has participated in Alaska’s MUN for the past two years and won the most outstanding delegate award for the Security Council in 2003.

Pace, Waldo and Lem Wheeles, a Dimond High School teacher who brought students to the conference and was 2004 MUN president of the General Assembly, declined to comment.