College students from across country convene for model EU


As the threat of war brings unprecedented strains to alliances within the European Union,… As the threat of war brings unprecedented strains to alliances within the European Union, college students from across the country convened at Pitt during the weekend for a model E.U. simulation. The event was the University’s first chance to host a model E.U. simulation as well as the first major event held in the newly constructed Sennott Square.

Students from as far as the University of Washington came to learn about policymaking in the European Union, which is comprised of 15 western European countries. Two of the most prominent of these are France and Germany, who were represented by students at Pitt. Pitt’s Model United Nations Club also portrayed Belgium, which previously held the presidency of the European Union.

Through role-playing, about 50 students assumed the duties of heads of state and foreign ministers of the E.U. member countries. In true diplomatic fashion, they wrangled deals both before and behind the scenes on topics such as a common defense policy, relations with the North American Trade Organization, and economic concerns.

Faculty adviser and simulation judge Claire Piana said she was impressed by the knowledge and interest of the participants.

“A lot happened during lunch, as they tried to make deals outside of procedure,” Piana said. “They were really motivated and working out of enjoyment, not obligation.”

Many of the students agreed that the two-day conference, sponsored by the University of Pittsburgh European Union Center and the Model United Nations Club, taught them how difficult it is for the European Union to come up with a general consensus.

“It’s brought to light the pressures involved as different belief systems try to merge different policies,” Pitt freshman Iysha Evelyn said.

Jeremy Hilgert, of Centenary College, described how the variety of opinions leads to the “lowest common denominator policy” in real E.U. politics.

“There’s so much negotiation and bureaucracy involved that the policies are diluted by diplomacy,” Hilgert said.

But even as different opinions proved tough to mesh, students also learned about the level of cooperation needed within the European Union, which passes resolutions only with the agreement of all member states. Laura Lubinsky, of Slippery Rock University, said she now appreciates the unanimity required to implement E.U. policies.

“There is unity and integration,” Lubinsky said. “It’s different than in the United Nations, where resolutions pass with a two-thirds majority, and someone can easily be left out in the cold.”

The University of Pittsburgh European Center is one of 15 such centers in the United States, chosen by a commission within the European Union. Other centers in attendance were the University of Washington, the University of Oklahoma and Syracuse University. Washington and Jefferson College and Pitt’s Johnstown campus also sent envoys to the simulation.

Many of the students said the conference gave them a practical knowledge of the European Union that couldn’t be learned from newspapers and textbooks. The University of Washington’s Allison Johnston, who represented Denmark and took home an award for “Outstanding Prime Minister,” said the experience was “very well worth it.”

“It taught me about how much effort goes into the simplest resolutions in the E.U.,” Johnston said. “And I learned more about the process than you can learn in the classroom.”

Foreign dignitary Tom Harvey, director and chairman of numerous agencies worldwide that deal with environmental issues and European affairs, gave the keynote address as the conference began Friday evening. Harvey brought much experience in dealing with E.U. procedures to the simulation, and said it’s good for students to learn through “double exposure.”

“It’s one thing to learn the legal aspects, and another to talk to someone who has actually done it,” said Harvey. “It’s good to get people that have been involved,” he added, referring to how the E.U. Commission that chooses E.U. centers at U.S. universities sends scholar residents such as himself to the simulations.

Harvey also praised Pitt political science professor Alberta Sbragia and her implementation of the E.U. simulations. Sbragia lobbied for an E.U. center in Pittsburgh and now heads the department.

The conference ended with an awards ceremony Saturday afternoon. Two of three “Country Awards” went to teams from Pitt’s Model U.N. Club representing Germany and Ireland. The other went to the University of Washington, representing Denmark.

Individual awards were given to the aforementioned Johnston and to Pitt at Johnstown’s Greg Quinn for “Outstanding” and “Distinguished Prime Minister,” respectively. Pitt’s Erica Dollhopf and Washington and Jefferson College’s Stuart Keckler won “Outstanding Foreign Minister” and “Distinguished Foreign Minister,” respectively.

The Pitt Model United Nations Club travels the country to participate in U.N. simulations. The group meets on Monday nights in Room 204 of David Lawrence Hall.