by Julia Hingorani
Over the course of four days, a group of students had the opportunity to be a part of the largest congressional simulation conference in the world: the Harvard Model Congress.
Before the conference began, students were given the opportunity to explore parts of Boston, such as visiting Boston College and the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. Students were even able to see the Broadway show “Waitress” on the night they arrived.
Nearly a decade ago, Marian took students to conferences for eight or nine years. Other than the Harvard Model Congress, Marian also attended Harvard’s West Coast conference in San Francisco and the Rutgers Model Congress.
“As far as starting it back up this year, I think the idea was to offer an educational trip for students interested in government and social studies-related topics,” English Department Chair Ms. Susie Sisson said.
Any juniors and seniors who were able to pay for the trip were allowed to participate. Fourteen juniors and seniors who are currently or have already taken a government class were able to put their knowledge to the test. Harvard, the oldest university in the United States, sponsored this government-based conference.
On Thursday, Feb. 22, the conference launched into action. In this role-playing experience, each student was assigned the role of real life congress member, senator or member of government. “They are basically pretending to be a government official for the weekend. They’ll sit in committees and debate issues. They’ve done a ton of work ahead of time, and were assigned their parts a few months ago. These issues are happening rights now and they will attempt to try and find solutions,” Sisson said.
The entire time at the conference, students were to be referred to as their given role. “I was a part of the G20, so this meant that for the most part people refer to each other as their country rather than their actual name,” junior Lauren Philips said.
While acting as a government official, students participated in a number of simulations. Students were able to engage in committee meetings, open debates, trials, press conferences, testimonies and caucuses.
Students were presented with a modern issue facing the world at the beginning of the day and drafted a bill as a solution to solving the issue. Some of the issues students faced included student loans, confederate symbols and how to work on water crises around the world.
“I was in the National Economic Council and I dealt with the Student Debt Crisis and U.S. Sanctions. We passed a resolution called TIDEPODS which was about privatizing student loans,” senior Donna Yang said.
After drafting a pseudo bill, students followed it through committee meetings before the House and Senate. If the proposed bill is approved by the House and Senate, it would proceed to the Executive Branch. If actually passed as legislation, the bill proposed by the students could be sent to the White House for consideration.
This hands-on experience has allowed students to expand their perspectives and understanding of how issues are dealt with in the government. “I knew I would be learning, but the knowledge that I attained extended far beyond parliamentary procedure and how Indonesia feels about globalization, I learned a lot about interacting with other people and how to effectively get an idea across and work with other people to create change,” Philips said.
Being able to witness a simulation of the political process can help spark an interest for a career in government or policymaking.