Students recognized at Model UN conference


Students who participated in this year's North American Model United Nations Conference at the University of Toronto distinguished themselves among students from across the globe as they served on a wide variety of committees to work through some of the world's problems - both present and past.

Standouts included Dominick Cooper '15 and Stephan Rochefort '14, who won awards for their efforts. Cooper, who served as defense counsel on the International Criminal Court for the "Trial of Ratko Mladic," wrote the best position paper. And Rochefort, who represented the Democratic Republic of Korea on the Disarmament and International Security Committee, was named as the outstanding delegate.

"I'm always impressed with how well our students do," said Dr. Robert Bence, professor of political science. "They meet the challenges of speaking publicly and defending their positions. The skills they use to negotiate, bargain, and compromise are not only valuable in the political world, but also extremely important for most of us in our place of work."

For Cooper (left), a double major in philosophy and political science from Lewisburg, Pa., defending Serbian General Ratko Mladic during the mock trial posed a great challenge.

"It did not take much research to realize that he was actually guilty of the most atrocious war crimes since the Nazis in WWII, so overcoming the dissonance to defend him was very difficult," Cooper said.

In addition to exploring case law to find semantic issues with the technicality of what it means to actively discriminate against an ethnic group, the crux of his argument, Cooper said, rested on the claim that Mladic was not personally responsible for the atrocities that occurred in the Former Yugoslavia.    

"By questioning the efficacy and control that General Mladic had over his troops, and the lack of eye witness testimony directly linking him to the physical events, I argued that he was not responsible and that others should held accountable. Moreover, a second and equally important point was found in the existence of jihadist paramilitary forces which entered into the region before Mladic was even appointed to his command post, which allowed me to argue from the point of self defense, rather than active aggression," Cooper explained. 

On the Disarmament and International Security Committee, Rochefort, a history major from Wrentham, Mass., focused on the issue of landmines.

"Within that, we discussed the use of landmines by state and non-state actors, the legitimacy of landmines as weapons, the de-mining of nations, and the language surrounding the different types of landmines," Rochefort said.

"Model United Nations - and this trip specifically - really helped me to understand the complexity that is global politics. Furthermore, it showed the advantages and shortcomings of the United Nations; experiences like this can help those who attend hopefully shape future international policy," he said.

Among the six other students who participated were history major Devon O'Dowd '14 of Methuen, Mass., and Dahlia Gallagher '16 of Burlington, Mass., a double major in history and sociology.

On the Environmental Programme, O'Dowd represented France as she worked to create resolutions about overfishing and to prevent natural disasters. The experience, she said, was a "great confidence booster."

Gallagher served on a joint crisis committee, "From Edo Bay to Pearl Harbor." Set in 1942, it dealt with Japanese and American relations. As a representative of the United States, she took on the role of Henry "Hap" Arnold, commander of the U.S. Air Force.

"The conference was one of the most enriching and wonderful events in which I have ever had the opportunity and pleasure to be involved," Gallagher said.  "I learned not only how to compromise and work with others to achieve common goals, but also when it is not okay to sacrifice your morals in order to achieve compromise - both of which I believe to be vastly important not only in my field of study but also in any career path one may take in life."