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Computers Should Not Be Allowed in Committees

Written by Frank Pobutkiewicz

I'm the founder/Managing Director of the All-American Model UN Programs! If you have any questions, please email [email protected]. Happy MUNing!

July 24, 2014

Computers Should Not Be Allowed in Committees

Computer and laptops do not belong in Model UN committees.

This is a topic of meaningless debate for conference organizers and should trace back to the goals of any given Model United Nations conference.  Unfortunately, conferences choose to allow computers because it is the easier, though not necessarily correct decision. For a conference with the purpose of stricter UN simulation in the academic context, allowing computers in committees makes sense. Obviously diplomats exchange ideas via electronics and use the online resources available to them.

Most Model UN conferences in the United States, however, are not meant to be academic UN simulations. Instead, they tend to focus on educational skill development, competition, or both– (a topic left to debate at a later time). With those goals in mind, the use of electronic devices within committee harms the conference experience.

Typed Draft Resolutions Make Chairs/Directors Lazy

Aside from moderating debate, the most important duty of a chair or director is to guide the academic discussion of the topics on the agenda. The best chairs should take an active role in the substantive action of a committee, particularly at the high school level. This does not mean chairs and directors should supply solutions but rather challenge their delegates to develop comprehensive, meaningful, and realistic draft resolutions, regardless of bloc positions.

The best chairs read each draft resolution submitted to the dais. Most conferences insist working papers and draft resolutions must be approved by the dais, but what does this mean? It should entail member of the dais reading and providing feedback on working documents. Let me stress, this feedback should not be in the vein of good or bad; it should include critical questions: “Have you thought about x? What are the ramifications if the UN proposed this solution?  This solution is out of the UN’s jurisdiction. This clause is not a realistic solution.”

Without critical feedback, the educational experience is dampened.

Laptops Give an Advantage to Privileged Students

Students with laptops automatically gain a sizable advantage over other students. You can argue this point until you are blue in the face but ultimately no one ever wants compete against someone with a laptop if you do not have one. Being the “keeper of the resolution” carries incredible influence and power. No amendment in added, no verbiage is altered, no comma is deleted without the “Keeper’s” approval.

And before you counter and claim that these days everyone has a laptop, I’m going to tell you that just isn’t true.

You may come from a privileged up-bringing and you may only know other people with a similar background and that’s great. The point is, particularly at larger conferences, not all schools and students have the same financial advantages. To push these students to the sidelines because they do not have laptops is not only unacceptable in competition but it also borders on larger moral & societal issues.

Technology Provides Unnecessary Distraction and Temptation

Assuming all students use their gadgets for Model UN purposes (you’re not texting or tweeting to your friends in committee, right?), technology constantly distracts and tempts students. What am I talking about? Consider the following situations and explain to me how they benefit either the educational or competitive goals of Model UN.

Scenario One: You and an ally are working a draft resolution. Your ally happens to be typing it on his/her computer and now you’d like to have a copy. There is no internet access but you do have a USB drive. Your ally refuses to give you a copy. The chair has to intervene to settle the dispute.

Scenario Two: You and an ally are working a draft resolution. Your ally happens to be typing it on his/her computer and now you’d like to have a copy. There is no internet access but you do have a USB drive. She/he gives you a copy and you begin altering your version and your ally is altering his/her copy and you’ve both changed your stance enough to where they’re conflicting resolutions and you decide to submit yours to the dais without your original partner’s name as a sponsor– after all there are now 2 draft resolutions. You’re accused of stealing his/her work; way to go.

Scenario Three: The other bloc in committee has just submitted a 15 page draft resolution an hour into committee. You accuse him or plagiarizing. The Secretariat has to intervene.

I have witnessed or experienced each of these situations at every conference I’ve been to that allows computers in committee.  These are not fringe examples. These are scenarios that distract every conference that permits typed resolutions. So why do conference continue to allow this practice?

I do not know. Occasionally conferences claim that it speeds up committees. This is a weak excuse. Giant conference have giant supporting casts. You know the conferences that stack 8 people on a committee dais. What is it exactly those 8 people are doing? They should be reading, providing feedback, and typing resolutions.

What do you think? Should laptops be permitted in committee sessions? If you do, I think you’re incredibly incorrect but I’ll give you the chance to persuade me.

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