Sibling influence in clubs: Model UN

Vivien Sweet, Staff Writer

Similar to the UD Debate team, Model United Nations (MUN) is home to many generations of siblings. 10 out of the 24 MUN upperclassmen who participated in Horace Mann Model United Nations Conference (HoMMUNC) XXXIV had an older or younger sibling on MUN.

“I would say that 95 percent of the members of the club didn’t have someone [on MUN] that they were related to,” said former MUN Secretary General (SG) Evan Megibow ‘18, whose brother James Megibow ‘15 was an SG when he was a freshman. When Evan was a senior, he and his co-SGs, Valerie Maier ‘18—whose older sister Jacqueline Maier ‘15 was co-SG with James—and Jenna Freidus ‘18 made a concerted effort to recruit underclassmen who did not have an older sibling on MUN, he said. One of those ways is through HoMMUNC, which has served as an introductory tournament to many freshmen who aspire to join MUN. 

The SGs’ job is to run all of the club meetings, organize partnerships, and determine which freshmen attend the four away conferences, Jenna said. The SGs are very careful not to give younger siblings of club leaders an advantage: an older sibling leader is not involved in any decision regarding their younger sibling, primarily concerning tournament spots, Evan said. 

Since current SG Arman Kumar’s (12) younger brother Avi Kumar (9) is also on MUN, Arman’s co-SGs, Eliza Bender (12) and Noah Fawer (12), made decisions about Avi without Arman, Arman said. “We don’t bring [younger] siblings just because of older siblings—that has not been the case, and that will never be the case.”

By the time Avi first joined MUN in middle school, Arman was a freshman on the UD MUN team, so Avi was able to talk to his brother about their different experiences with MUN together, Avi said. “That’s part of what makes it a family, that it goes through [generations] and siblings join together.” 

However, the MUN “family” is not exclusive to siblings pairs, Arman said. “Obviously, you don’t have to have a sibling on the club to feel part of the family,” he said. “I think everyone feels part of the family and we all, in a way, colloquially feel like siblings.”

The prevalence of sibling pairs on MUN is a testament to the positive experience that people have on the team, former Chairman of the MUN Board Shant Amerkanian ‘19 said. His younger brother, MUN MD Coordinator Garo Amerkanian (11), was in part inspired to join after seeing how MUN had improved Shant’s public speaking abilities and hearing about his stories from tournaments, Shant said. 

In many MUN siblings’ households, conversations often ensue about the tournaments and strategies, Evan said. At home, Arman sometimes gives Avi advice about giving speeches at conferences, which Avi does not always like to take, Arman said. “But we also do stay pretty separate entities,” Arman said.

During tournaments, MUN MD Coordinator Aaron Shuchman (11) is careful not to give his younger sister, Ariela Shuchman (9), more hands-on assistance with speeches and formatting procedures than other freshmen, he said. “It’s not like people go out of their way to give special treatment to siblings or to let that relationship cloud the better interest of the team.”

When the team would practice speeches, Sabrina Fredius (11) said that Jenna often distanced herself so Sabrina was not receiving special attention. “I think it can feel awkward sometimes, or other kids can feel like someone’s being favored,” Jenna said. However, Jenna said that Sabrina did not end up attending a lot of conferences her freshman year, which Jenna did not remember intentionally happening when she was SG.   

When deciding who the SGs are going to be for next year, many skill-based factors come into play, but sibling bias does not, Arman said. Good candidates are “people who put in their blood, sweat, and tears in this club, people who are mindful, people who we think will be good at working with the administration, [and] people who will be respectful,” Arman said. 

Since the rigorous application process of becoming SG includes an interview and an examination of each applicant’s skills in an outside committee, nepotism does not influence the leadership decision, Shant said. “People like to make drama about it, but I’m more of an optimist about our community.” 

Over the past three years, three out of the eight SGs had an older sibling on MUN, and two out of the eight have a younger sibling on MUN. 

Although Evan said he has seen incidents of sibling nepotism occur within smaller clubs, most long-standing, established organizations like MUN have created “more robust systems” to ensure that the leadership application process is entirely merit-based. “Something that every club should be thinking about is, ‘How do we make sure that we’re passing these positions along based on what’s best for the club?’ and not ‘Who do I want to have this extra position for kind of their college applications?’” Evan said. 

Deciding next year’s SGs feels like passing down the torch of a 60-year legacy, which is why it is especially important that the decision is entirely free of sibling bias, Arman said. “I don’t think I’ve encountered any nepotism that I can articulate.”