A delegation of 10 Butler students took part in the Harvard National Model United Nations Feb. 17-20, joining more than 3,000 university delegates in Boston. This was the largest delegation in the 17 years Butler has participated in the Model U.N., according to adviser Antonio V. Menéndez, Ph.D., director of the International Studies Program.
He credits the increased student interest to the work of Roberto Oprisko, appointed last year as Butler’s first full-time professor of international studies. Oprisko taught the fall course “United Nations and Other International Organizations” (IS390) — a prerequisite for Model U.N. participation — and helped students develop position papers to present in various Model U.N. committee meetings.
“The students were very involved this year and very prepared,” said Menéndez. “They built personal connections and have become a learning community and friends.”
This year, Butler students portrayed the delegation from the Dominican Republic. Juniors Allison Gardner and Maclin Sweeney successfully proposed a fictional merger between the Dominican Republic and Haiti, its neighbor on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola.
Sweeney, an international studies major from South Bend, Ind., said he and Gardner argued that combining the countries would promote their mutual stability. “It would help eradicate the immigration problems between them, and would help to pull Haiti from its economic slump,” he said.
The greatest obstacle to an actual merger, Sweeney said, is “the inherent animosity” between Dominicans and Haitians, based on differences in income, race and social class.
In her second Model U.N. appearance, Avery Stearman served as Butler’s head delegate. A junior international studies and German major from Austin, Texas, she also played the role of a World Health Organization representative.
“This year in my committee we talked about preventing the spread of disease after natural disasters,” she said. “I found it to be a really interesting topic that I will definitely pay attention to in the future when I see it in the news or am learning about other countries.
“I think the real positive result of all of the committee discussions is that every delegate walks away with a new appreciation for how complicated and interdependent all the topics are.”
Stearman presented a position paper on medical ethics in the international pharmaceutical industry. “Essentially, big drug companies from the western world (most often the United States) are able to skirt ethical regulations in their home countries by going to developing countries where such standards do not exist,” she said.
She gave the example of a U.S. company that conducted tests in the Dominican Republic for a massage therapy to treat AIDS. “The company denied [test subjects] AIDS drugs during the study, which is illegal in the United States, in order to use them as a control group for their new therapy,” she said. Other Butler students attending included seniors Carmen Murphy and Quinn Clark; juniors Kiely Keesler, Matthew Kasper and Aja Cacan; and sophomores Scott Nemeth and Kelly Hamman. Their committee work looked into such topics as cyberterrorism, humanitarian concerns in the Gaza Strip and political stability in former African colonies.Involvement in Model U.N. gives U.S. students different perspectives on their own nation, Stearman said. “You witness in committee how influential the U.S. is in making international policy, often at the expense of a lot of other developing nations.”
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