HOT TOPIC: Awards at HNMUN – Yay or Nay?

By ELLA BROWNLIE, AL QUDS AL ARABI

Yes No Total
19 14 33

Survey Results: Should there be awards at HNMUN?

On my first day at Harvard National Model United Nations (HNMUN) I happened to hear some people talking about the awards for “Best Delegate” being given out at the closing ceremony. As an international delegate, I was extremely curious about this because none of our national MUN events have any awards at all.

As the committees begins to wind down and everyone is preparing for the closing ceremony, I thought this was the perfect opportunity to complete a little survey of peoples’ opinions on the awards that will be handed out this afternoon.

The survey results above were obtained from a snap poll I did of 33 delegates, directors and faculty advisors who I met and spoke with in committee rooms and hallways this morning.

As is seen above, the overwhelming majority of participants agreed with the awards. However, the percentage who voted “No” was far higher than I had expected at 42 percent.

When I questioned some of the people I surveyed about their views — they were surprisingly candid. One delegate in the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) disagreed with the philosophy of the awards, saying that “It makes people think they are competing against each other and undermines the spirit of collaboration.”

A delegate from the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) disagreed, stating that the awards motivated people, “I mean it’s a game, right, and part of the game is that people want to win.”

However, it appears the game is more ruthless than it appears. There were several comments made by survey participants who voted “No” that the awards made people “cut throat” and “self-interested.” However, this was rebutted by a delegate representing the United States — who said that while ‘dicky’ things happen, overall the awards were a good motivating force for people to get engaged in HNMUN.

Most interesting was the perspective of the faculty advisors I interviewed. One faculty advisor, who did not wish to be named argued that, “the awards are what makes HNMUN so beautiful, because it is the most competitive.”

Yet on the other hand, two other faculty advisors I spoke to outside the SOCMUN committee made a strong case that there should be no awards. They explained that members of their delegation had reported “backstabbing” amongst their committee as different people tried to position themselves favorably amongst the members of the dias.

An international delegate argued that the awards create a climate of collaboration between the most competitive universities, a dynamic which “means international delegates, who might not have had as much MUN experience are left out.”

Members of the “No” camp also emphasized that “the only person judging you should be yourself,” and some also voiced the concern that the awards were creating an unhealthy fixation on external validation, rather than encouraging students to focus on their own self-assessment.

As we all move into the closing ceremony in the next couple of hours, perhaps some reflection is needed on the true nature of success in HNMUN. Regardless of the awards, it is the participation, engagement and active learning that makes the experience of HNMUN so valuable.

After all, in the real United Nations, the only ‘award’ is enacting lasting solutions to the complex challenges of our age.

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