Jamestown Community College students, led by advisor Greg Rabb, traveled to Brussels, Belgium to represent the college at the 31st SUNY Model European Union in January. Joining them were students from across the SUNY system, as well as their European counterparts representing a variety of nations, including the United Kingdom, France, Kosovo, Germany, and Belgium. JCC was the only community college present.
JCC was an active participant in the simulation, with students on each of the committees and as members of the press. To conduct an accurate simulation, each participating institution represents one or more of the 28 European Union member nations. Each of these nations is then represented by a maximum of four delegates, one on each of the committees present in the simulation. These committees are tasked with discussing, debating, and ultimately passing various reforms.
The reform topics change annually to correspond with the most urgent issues currently faced by the EU. This year, the participants discussed a variety of topics, including cyber security, fake news, human trafficking, and the Greek debt crisis.
JCC played the role of Sweden, represented by Sydney Kresconko as Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, Mathew Kornacki as Foreign Affairs Minister Margot Wallström, Jack Winsor as Minister of Finance Magdalena Andersson, and Kody Robbins as Lars Danielsson, Swedish Ambassador to the EU.
The students worked for months to adequately prepare for the simulation. They were tasked with knowing the background of the issues as well as the views held by their specific nation. Students also practiced parliamentary procedure, diplomatic techniques, and strategies for debate.
Additionally, the Swedish delegation, along with Avery Sirwatka and Zak Haynes as members of the international press, submitted an additional proposal to be discussed by SUNY MEU participants. Taking on one of the most globally controversial topics, JCC students addressed the so-called “Palestine issue.” They proposed that, because colonial Europe created the initial conflict between Israel and Palestine – by drawing arbitrary borders, by encouraging unhampered immigration and, eventually, by becoming complicit to the human rights abuses faced by the Palestinians – the EU should take direct action in peace talks and in creating a Palestinian nation-state.
After such extensive preparation, there was no better place for the students to travel than to Brussels, the home of the EU.
In Brussels, students had the opportunity to interact with actual EU members and institutions. The students toured the building of the European Council, the EU institution responsible for setting the organization’s overall political direction. They also toured the European Parliament building where the 751 directly elected members of Parliament meet to serve as the EU’s law-making body. Each tour was accompanied by presentations from EU employees.
The participants were able to get a more in-depth look of the EU during the simulation’s opening ceremony. Following a speech by Kathleen Dowley, professor of political science at SUNY New Paltz and director of SUNY Model EU, the students had the privilege of meeting with and listening to Gergana Karadjova, Bulgarian ambassador to the EU and member of the EU Political and Security Council.
The following days were filled with debate and discussion as the delegates represented their alter egos in their respective committees. Playing the role of the international press, Sirwatka and Haynes reported on each committee’s daily successes and failures. They practiced their journalistic techniques by participating in press conferences and conducting interviews with the delegates. The articles written by each member of the press were later organized and published in a SUNY Model EU newspaper, available to the participants both online and in print. At the end of the simulation, Sirwatka was awarded ‘Most Inquisitive Member of the Press.’
JCC students relaxed with day trips to various parts of Europe. The students traveled to Ghent to view medieval art and architecture before heading to Amsterdam. Arguably the highlight of the trip, Amsterdam offered students opportunities to view some of Europe’s most remarkable achievements, as well as some of its most haunting histories.
Upon arriving in the Netherlands, the students toured art museums, viewing works by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Goya, Monet, and Van Gogh. Yet nothing was more breathtaking than their tour through the Anne Frank House. Dubbed ‘The Secret Annex’ by Anne Frank in her book,The Diary of a Young Girl, the house offers a public view into the lives of those who lived in the space during the German occupation of the Netherlands during World War II.
Though the Franks have not lived in the space for over 75 years, traces of the inhabitants remain. There are Anne’s pictures of celebrities that she pasted on the wall; there is her sister’s Latin book; there is a shopping list written by the other family who lived with the Franks during those horrific years.
And there is Anne’s diary itself, preventing us from forgetting the horrific acts that occurred not even a century before.
In some ways, the EU prevents this, too. Created after World War II, the EU solidified the notion of a stronger and more united Europe, one that would ensure that the tragedies that befell the Franks and millions of others would not occur again.
Yet in an increasingly globalized world, the guiding principles of the EU do not simply apply to Europe alone.
While the students across the SUNY system returned home with souvenirs, stories, and memories, they also returned with knowledge: about diplomacy and debate; about empathy; about responsibility; about compromise; and about creating a safer and more just world. These ideals do not simply apply to Europe, nor are they limited the European realm.
Rather, when JCC students return from the simulation, they bring these ideals back to Jamestown Community College, tucked into a small, rural corner of New York state.
For more information about the SUNY Model European Union, contact Greg Rabb at GregRabb@mail.sunyjcc.edu or at 716.338.1242.