The Night Chicago died, or at least went virtual.


Marilyn Malnar, Staff Writer

Each February, teams worldwide compete in the Model United Nations competition at the University of Chicago (MUNUC). This conference is the CIHS Model United Nation team’s biggest meet of the season; we have won numerous national awards and have ranked as high as 14th in the nation, solely from the reputation we’ve built at the conference.
In 2021, the conference became a virtual event due to COVID-19, and our team was devastated, but we knew it was the right choice due to how severe COVID was at the time.
This year MUNUC required either proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test before the conference; they then changed to the requirement that everyone is fully vaccinated by January 20th to attend the conference to ensure the safety of the staff, coaches, and delegates. This sudden policy change threw us for a loop over winter break; there was no feasible way to contact everyone on the team in time. Some people weren’t fully vaccinated, and by the time they got the news, it was too late: they wouldn’t be able to get both shots by the cutoff date.
On Friday, January 7th, at about 4:30 pm, our Model UN coach, Mr. Woodbury, got an email from MUNUC. The University of Chicago had decided to move it to a virtual conference due to the Omicron variant. Because the news was so important, Mr. Woodbury chose to break the news over a Google Meet because he felt that the team needed to hear the information straight from him. At 5 pm, the team hopped on the Google meet to discuss the change and let out our frustrations. The whole team was upset; a few of us even cried because of how upsetting it was to find out that we wouldn’t be returning to Chicago for an in-person conference. The meeting started while I was in the midst of the one-act play rehearsal. As a senior, hearing that my final chance to visit the Chicago conference broke me. I had to sit in the tech booth alone, crying over lost opportunities.
Many will say that these reactions are dramatic and over-the-top, but these outbursts were justified. The WIFI issues alone are a massive struggle with the lagging, and then we have people unmuting and muting mics and camera issues. There are a lot of problems with Zoom for many people. The virtual version doesn’t give you the same feeling as talking in front of those hundreds of people, passing notes to delegates, talking with people over breaks, or unmoderated caucuses. Winning and accepting the awards in front of the thousands of people that came isn’t as fulfilling on a Zoom meeting as in person. The online conferences have no team bonding, memory-making, or pure fun that in-person conferences give us. A great deal of team bonding happens during the 9-hour bus ride to and from Chicago, in the mall where we stop on the way and in the hotel rooms.
We see musicals, go to art and science museums, eat at several fun restaurants, and so much more while in Chicago. We have so much fun preparing for MUNUC and make so many memories while there that the news of it going virtual was genuinely heartbreaking. I am hoping next year’s team will finally be able to return and have as much fun as I did my sophomore year.