This week’s snowstorm delayed approximately half of the high school delegations set to arrive at the 51st North American Invitational Model United Nations conference, which runs from Feb. 13-16 and is held and staffed by the Georgetown International Relations Association.
With over 150 high schools attending the conference, many faced trouble in arriving in time for Thursday’s 7:30 p.m. opening ceremony and 9:00 p.m. committee session.
Georgetown staffers additionally faced trouble arriving to the conference, held at the Washington Hilton in DupontCircle, as both the Georgetown University Transportation Shuttle and public transportation did not run.
The NAIMUN LI team began to anticipate the effects of the forecasted weather and contacted the team that led NAIMUN during the 2010 “Snowpocalypse.”
“They said first of all that we should inform our staff and make sure that we’re prepared to be able to run committees if we have fewer people there, especially for the Thursday session. The other thing was to send out a letter to the moderators and students to make safe travel arrangements as alternatives to whatever they had planned as necessary,” Executive Director Sarah Pemberton (SFS’15) said.
The 2010 conference took place during a weekend that saw 18-32 inches of snow.
“NAIMUN has happened for 51 years and it hasn’t been cancelled yet. Actually, ‘Snowpocalypse’ in 2010, basically all airports were shut down for almost a week. Georgetown staffers walked all the way from the front gates to Dupont Circle to make the conference happen, and if that’s the kind of dedication our staff has had in the past, I see no reason why this year we can’t make things work,”NAIMUN LI Secretary-General Pavan Rajgopal (SFS ’15) said. “We have to adapt and it will be challenging, but at the end of the day, the snow won’t stop us.”
In order to help staff members arrive safely, NAIMUN staffers are offered $5 subsidies for cab rides, among other support and planning.
“We’re still working on trying to arrange it with staff to make sure that we can send people out in groups and make sure that it’s not too much of an expense for staff, but we’re still working out the kinks and making sure that staff can safely arrive and arrive on time before the first committee session,” Pemberton said.
Many members resorted to taking taxis or Uber to arrive at the Washington Hilton.
“My original idea was to walk, but I walked to Wisconsin and I started walking down to Q [Street] and the snow was up to my ankles and it was sleeting out, so I took a cab,” NAIMUN staffer Jason Petty (SFS ’17) said.
Besides the snowfall in D.C. itself, the weather patterns affect the origin cities of the delegates, as it started in the South, hit the D.C. area and then travelled to the tri-state area, from where many of the delegations hail.
“It’s really the perfect storm, pardon the pun,” Rajgopal said.
However, late arrival for NAIMUN delegates poses difficulties, as late delegates will cause committees to be nearly empty.
In relation to assessment of delegates and awards, late delegates will not be penalized.
“We’ve instructed our chairs and crisis managers to take appropriate measures to make sure that no delegate is put at a disadvantage because of the time that he or she arrives,” Rajgopal said. “Obviously, the weather is something that’s outside of their control and they shouldn’t be penalized for that, so we’re taking the appropriate measures to make sure that everyone is on a level playing field on Friday afternoon.”
Pemberton said that the staff was well-equipped to deal with the twist in weather fortunes.
“One of the benefits of having such a large travelling team, as well, is because a lot of us have had to face similar circumstances in terms of arriving at the conference so I think our staff is aware of how we can make it easier for delegates to transition late into the committee,” Pemberton said.
Staffers remain unfazed and confident in the success of the rest of the conference.
“Considering all of the planning that had to go into the conference as a whole, I think that [the weather] is not as big of a factor as compared to the other things,” Petty said. “I don’t think it will be as big a deal as it could be just based on how much they put into alternative planning and coming up with contingency plans.”
Hoya Staff Writers Katherine Richardson and Mallika Sen contributed reporting.