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A History of the United Nations Association at Northeastern University

Compiled by Matt Cournoyer (SSH12) former UNA President and club member 2007-present Authors Note: This is the start of what will be an ongoing project to collect stories, photos, and documents related to the United Nations Association and its predecessor, the International Relations Club, at NU. So far Ive conducted my research through the Universitys special archives, the Cauldron yearbook collection, and records in the UNAs files. Ive done my best to ensure accuracy of dates and other information, but expect that I may have erred with some and look forward to corrections where needed. I encourage alumni reading this to contact me with your own tales of UNA in years past so we can fill in the gaps in the story and build our alumni network. E-mail me at The 1930s-1960s: Birth of the International Relations Club (IRC) and Model UN Northeastern Universitys International Relations club was founded in 1932, at a time when such clubs were springing up on campuses all over the country. NUs IRC was a member of the American Association of International Relations Clubs. The IRC served as a forum for debate and discussion of critical global issues, hosting speakers and events on campus and attending events at other universities.

Figure 1 - 1934 Cauldron Yearbook - Just two years after the founding of the IRC

Figure 2 - 1941 Cauldron Yearbook An overview of a number of events held by the IRC

In 1960, the IRC hosted one of the first Model United Nations conferences in the city of Boston, just 15 years after the creation of the UN.

Figure 3 - 1961 Cauldron Yearbook References the 2nd Annual Model UN Conference

Figure 4 Article from the Boston Globe about the IRCs 1960 Model UN Conference

The 1980s: A New Era of Model UN on Campus Though I havent yet been able to determine what happened to the IRC between the 1960s and 1980s, somewhere along the line it must have faded away, because the next record of Model UN programming in the Universitys archives is in 1982. In 1982 the University hosted a Model UN program that featured a visit to the United Nations in New York City and an on-campus simulation. The International Student Office, Student Activities Office, and a student steering committee helped organize this program.

Figure 5 Program from the 1982 Model UN conference at NU

Figure 6 - Students involved in the 1982 Model UN

Figure 7 Northeastern News Article about the 1982 Model UN

Figure 8 Flyer from the 1983 Model UN Conference

Figure 9 - Northeastern News Article about the 1982-1983 Model UN program

1990s: Model Arab League Emerges Beginning in 1990, the UNA began attending Model Arab League conferences, and started attending the Cairo International Model Arab League in 1993. The UNAs annual trip to Cairo as part of the MAL program inspired the creation of NUs Dialogue of Civilizations faculty-led study abroad program, which now features trips to dozens of countries. Below, a March 2001 article from the Northeastern Alumni Magazine discusses the UNAs travels abroad.

A Passport to Cairo
When students attend an international conference, the true destination is political and cultural sophistication. By Bill Kirtz A long, draining journey to an unfamiliar place. Seat-of-the-pants conference sessions. Unfor-gettable sights. Vivid realizations and new understanding. All set against a backdrop of political chaos and bloodshed. Experiential education, at its most experiential. In November, six Northeastern students made the universitys annual pilgrimage to the Model Arab League congress in Cairo, Egypt. There, representing the state of Jordan, they plunged into security, eco-nomic, and socialdevelopment discussions with 250 college-age counterparts from the Arab world, Africa, and Europe. This is a miniature study-abroad program that introduces students to a very different

region, says political science professor Denis Sullivan. It takes a huge leap of faith and courage for them to do this. The trip immerses them in Egyptian culture, politics, geography, and economics, says Sullivan, a respected Arab scholar and consultant, and former special assistant to President Freeland. The modern world and the Third World unite in Cairo. The students stay in the lap of luxurythen they go to the City of the Dead. Sullivan calls the grueling eight-day trip, undertaken last year amid escalating Arab-Israeli violence, a perfect example of the kind of international experience Northeastern can offer students. He brought the NU delegation to Cairo three days before the start of the congress, so they could soak up all the sights, sounds, and smells. And its a great way to promote the value of lengthier study-abroad experiences, he adds, noting that several students have parlayed their Model Arab League stints into yearlong international adventures. James Beaudreau, a junior political science major who was making his second Model Arab League trip in November, followed up his first experience with home stays in Israel, the West Bank, and Jordan. Brian Burleu, a senior majoring in international affairs, attended the model congress in 1999 and is currently studying at Cairo University. Moreover, many past leaders of the Model Arab League, which began in 1990, have gone on to high diplomatic positions, a goal held by several of last years NU participants. The tough got going Sullivans been leading these Cairo trips since 1993, the year the Oslo Mideast peace agreement was signed. Last fall, Northeastern was the only American university that attended the Model Arab League. Worries over the intensifying Palestinian-Israeli conflict kept other invited U.S. universities away. This wasnt the first time a Northeastern contingent had encountered a difficult situation in the Middle East. Three years earlier, political science department chair Christopher Bosso and his delegation were in Cairo when Islamic militants killed fifty-eight tourists in Luxor. Despite all this, Bosso calls the universitys participation in the Model Arab League a vital part of the tapestry of a Northeastern education. Hes pleased all the universitys international internship, co-op, and study opportunities make it hard for students to escape some form of intense interaction abroad. Its important to get students out there in the world, he says. Its an extension of Northeasterns older theme, co-op. Traditional co-op works very well, but its also important to make sure students meet people of different cultures. The Model Arab League is especially intense, requiring negotiating skills and a lot of preparatory work. Safely back on Huntington Avenue, the students agree the Cairo trip was as educational as it was stressful. The congresss organizational snafus and political biases frustrated some. The kamikaze traffic that makes Boston driving look timid left others agog, as did the flocks of commuters that hang off vans and squash into buses. All marveled at the seemingly endless waves of the worlds largest police forcesporting Traffic, Tourist, Antiquities badgeswho did little more than smoke, sip glasses of tea, and solicit tips for letting incontinent camels and their

passengers approach the pyramids. Off the tourist circuit The students days started at sunrise, as loudspeakers at Cairos 15,000 mosques made the first of five daily calls to prayer. They sometimes ended in a way the average visitor couldnt hope to experience: a climb up five dark stories to share sweet pastries with a hard-working Egyptian familylongtime friends of Sullivanwho welcomed the students warmly, proudly presenting one with a keffiyeh, the kind of black-and-white checkered headcloth worn by Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. Amid the crowds, the poverty, and the stench, stereotypes dissolved, friendships grew, and career plans blossomed. The Northeastern students began to see their Arab counterparts as having similar goals, just different ways of reaching them. At the model congresss home base, the American University in Cairo, the students got an overwhelming sense of Arab voicesand a vastly different society. The Northeastern delegationalong with their counterparts representing Jordan, Kuwait, Palestine, Gaza, and the West Bankheard opening-session calls that would soon become very familiar: Boycott American goods like McDonalds, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and Marlboros. Remember: The angels of the martyred Palestinians are watching your deliberations. However friendly the Arabs were to the Northeastern contingent, they espoused the Palestinian causethrough keffiyehs, posters, or sloganeering. Arabs arent used to divergent views. The relatively liberal Egyptian government has repeatedly ignored protests against its use of criminal and libel laws to muzzle dissenters. Egypt imposes fines and prison terms for inciting hatred, violating public morality, and harming the national economy. The NU students were surprised their Arab colleagues assumed all Americans think and feel the same way. Indeed, some Cairo students believe CNN censors the news to falsely suggest Israelis are just defending themselves from Palestinians. Teachers at American University say they cant convince their students that religion doesnt play the huge part in America that it plays in the Arab world, or that Jewish writers in the United States dont automatically toe the Zionist party line. They also say their students often dont acknowledge the subtleties of a free American press, which has in fact roundly condemned Israeli gun-ship attacks that killed Palestinian civilians. Pervasive restrictions Arab students face tight control over what they can read and hear. In 1999, American University was forbidden to import more than ninety titles, including detective stories, historical works, and political studies. Such restrictive thinking proved equally prevalent at the Model Arab League. Some NU students were told, Youre representing Jordan wrong. Others complained of getting arrogant instructions, not policy advice. On opening day, some were informed that their caucuses had been held the previous day. Meeting locations and times were similarly

inexplicably switched without notice. Beaudreau found the conference frustrating. Because of the political situation, we were seen as representatives of the U.S., not as individuals, [though] we can empathize with the Arabs, the Palestinians, and the Israelis. He notes that although many young Egyptians he met see us as the evil empire, their perception of the Middle East is just as skewed as ours. They dont understand the Israeli point of view. Tania Dall, a middler majoring in journalism, agrees. Disappointed with the conferences disorganization, she says she still got a lot out of it. I met very interesting people. Youll always find cultural differences, and its always difficult to integrate into foreign cultures. She stresses, as did the others, that Sullivans classroom neutrality had prepared her well for Cairo. He doesnt lean on one side or the other, Dall says, as it should be. He lets you formulate your own opinions. Although she found the Northeastern group had a lot in common with Arab students, she says the increasingly tense Mideast situation led to a chilly welcome. The Arabs saw us as representatives of the U.S., a mistake many people make, she says. Looking back, that was the most surprising and disappointing thinghow much politics can affect people on a day-to-day basis, Dall says. I thought university people would be much more open-minded. The power of the new Ana Carcani, a sophomore majoring in political science and international affairs, currently in Germany on a publishing co-op, says the conference was a great learning experiencenew ideas, new people. She, too, applauds how Sullivan prepared them. He was very neutral. We collected information, and got an understanding of the conflict from both sides. Shy at first about participating in conference sessions, Carcani discovered that the African, Indian, and Arab students respected her opinions. Expecting a totally anti-Israel point of view, she was impressed with Arab students logical explanations for their beliefs. Its a very old conflict, very difficult to understand from my perspective. Carcani says some Arab students didnt try as hard as other students to find solutions. Their emotions were a negative. Still, she met a new generation of students more open to negotiation. Some were very radical, but some were open. Liz Larcano had a better experience. The Arab students she got to know didnt brand the NU students as pro-Israel. Though some saw us as puppets of American imperialism, she says, many of those stereotypes dissolved with personal contact. Larcano says some Arab students thought that it said a lot that American students are here. Youre not what we think Americans are. The fact that we came over to Egypt during a very tense situation really communicated something to them. What resonated with her even more than the conference, she says, was the experience of Cairothe markets, the warmth of the hospitality. We had been saying Arabs and us. But they just want to do the best for themselves.

I want to be someone who makes a difference, says Larcano. So does everyone at that conference. Were so quick to judge people and politics. But we got to see others points of view, how much we have in common. A sobering day trip Surprised by Cairos underdevelopment, Larcano was especially moved by the City of the Dead, a teeming warren where thousands live in abandoned tombs, scrambling for tourists ballpoint pens and candy. The poverty, the day inday out struggle was incredible. We could always just turn around and go back to the hotel. A 3.9 student who is the first member of her family to attend college, Larcano calls the Cairo trip more proof that Northeastern has really given me a lot. Currently an intern in Senator Edward Kennedys Washington, D.C., office, she has also lived and studied in Belgium and interned at the European Parliament. In Egypt, Sarah Frye, a sophomore political science and international affairs major, was quick to defend the NU group against evil empire slurs. She told one anti-Israeli cabbie, Were not American foreign policywere individuals. Despite such incidents, Frye says, its important to make individual contacts on both sides. She continues to e-mail several Arab students she met at the conference. Over half of my high school friends are Jewish, Frye says, but you cant be on just one side if youre fully informed. Being pro-Jewish and pro-Israel are two different things. Jonathan Sahady, a senior majoring in political science, says, We were all excited to attend the conference, but also excited to see another culture up close and personal. We were very fortunate to have Sullivan, whos capable of translating nuances of culture for us. Weve tended to see the Middle East through the perspective of the West, says Sahady. We knew anti-Israeli sentiment existed, but it was still surprising how blatant it was. It was a little bit eyebrow-raising. He says some Arabs told him they had never talked with an American before and, having been given the chance, realized not all of us are stereotypically jingoistic. Sahady had wanted to study tax law. Now I want to study international law. Its a bigger world than I thought: more things to see, more things to do. Election-time chaos While the Northeastern group was in Cairo, Egypt held its parliamentary elections. One day, as the students attended the conference, Sullivan and a colleague went to a polling place, where they witnessed a melee that made pregnant-chad outrage look tame, including a man who angrily tried to push his way into the voting booths. (Minor stuff compared with scenes at other precincts. One woman reportedly refused a $50 offer to cast four votes. Scores of people were killed or injured during the several rounds of voting.) At the polling place, Sarah, a well-dressed Cairo University medical student, whose sleek attire sharply contrasted with the veils on the women around her, carried a sign in support

of her politician uncle. The sparkling twenty-one-year-old abandoned her cell phone long enough to talk about dating in Egypt (casual among the upper classes), her trip to Boston to visit her brother at MIT, Red Sox prospects, and her delight that Americas new vice president isnt Jewish. Every encounter in Egypt held contradictions, a realization not lost on the Northeastern students, who saw some Model Arab League participants calmly peruse pro-Hitler graffiti on the American University campus. And many beliefs were reexamined. Are Palestinian rock-throwers terrorists or freedom fighters? Are the Israeli soldiers they oppose an army of occupation or peacekeepers? Are the homeowners they protect pioneers or squatters? The students, like the rest of the world, mull more questions than answers. Sullivans opinion? The Palestinians should have their own land. His commitment to creating a solution? We have to find ways to pull people together. I feel the urge to bring people here, to search for peace and reconciliation in this troubled land. Bill Kirtz, associate professor of journalism, wrote about Dr. Joy Browne in the January issue.

2000s-Present: Community Engagement and Continued Growth In 2003, the UNA began its partnership with the United Nations Association of Greater Boston to host conferences for middle school and high school students in the Boston area. Since 2003, the partnership has grown to feature an annual Middle School Model UN Conference in the fall semester and an Invitational Model UN Conference for urban schools in March, in addition to the Regional Model UN conference for high schools from throughout the northeast in May. Two Security Councils and a Human Rights Commission were the committee offerings at the 2004 UNA-GB Regional MUN, which featured approximately 150 attendees. The 2011 Conference featured 7 committees and nearly 400 attendees. The first-ever Boston High School Model Arab League was hosted at Northeastern in 2001, and the first Northeast Regional Model Arab League was organized in the fall of 2003. Throughout the decade, Northeastern attended Model UN conferences at McGill University, Harvard University, hosted a Model EU Conference in 2005, and attended the National Model Arab League conference in Washington, DC, as well as the Southeast Regional Model Arab League in Spartanburg, SC. NU has continued its tradition of excellence in the Model UN and Model Arab League programs over the last several years, and began attending the National Model NATO Conference in 2011.

Figure 10 Program from the 2nd annual UNA-GB Regional MUN Conference in 2004

Figure 11 Staff for the 2004 UNA-GB Regional Model UN Conference, including current UNA advisor, Professor Philip DAgati

Figure 12 From the 2004 UNA-GB Regional Model UN Conference handbook

Figure 13 Article from March 7, 2008 edition of the Northeastern Voice

Figure 14 Article from a UNA-GB Newsletter

Figure 15 Article by UNA President Jon Barcus in the January 2008 Political Science Alumni Newsletter

Figure 16 Article from the Summer 2009 Political Science Alumni Newsletter

Figure 17 Article from the Fall 2010 Political Science Alumni Newsletter

Figure 18 The UNA has taken the lead in organizing election watch parties on campus, including the Presidential election in 2008, the subject of this article from the Huntington News

Figure 19 Article from the Huntington News about the UNAs participation in the 2010 National Model Arab League

Figure 20 Article from March 18, 2011 Northeastern Voice