Every child dreams of having an exciting, glamorous career when they grow up — imagining that they could be tomorrow’s police officers, astronauts or delegates from Burkina Faso.
Now out of the backyard, Yale students are still fantasizing about their dream careers. The Yale Model Congress, Model United Nations and Mock Trial teams all attempt to recreate the experience of the real thing, trading the glory of the Capitol rotunda, the General Assembly, and the witness chair for a dusty classroom in Lindsly-Chittenden Hall.
Unlike the pretend politicos in the Model United Nations and Model Congress, the mock trial team avoids affairs of state and tries to give Yale students the experience of the courtroom. In February, Yale’s four mock trial teams will vie for spots at national competitions in glamorous hotspots like Iowa and Minneapolis.
“It’s just like a real trial,” team president David Butkiewicz ’03 said. “There are opening arguments, testimony, cross examinations and closing arguments.”
Some teams see little distinction between a mock trial and the real thing. Dan Connolly LAW ’03 , a coach for Mock Trial, recalled the intense preparation of a the geriatric member of a competing team.
“There was a guy we were competing against this year in his 50s. He got kind of intense at times,” Connolly said. “He brought in props and visual aids.”
Connolly said that the Yale team doesn’t take itself quite so seriously.
“We’re a lot more low-key,” Connolly said. “If we can’t sketch something on a piece of cardboard, we don’t usually do it.”
Even at the height of competition, the team tries to keep a sense of humor.
“Last year at national competition one of our members showed up to the last round of competition drunk,” coach Paul Kaufman LAW ’03 said. “And he did very well.”
The Yale International Relations Association hosts a competition of its own each year– one presumably less drenched in alcohol.
The Model U.N. competition gives high schoolers the chance to respond at a moment’s notice to a “crisis” — but adds the fun of sleep deprivation. At its annual conference for high school students, held this weekend, club members sometimes wake up students in the middle of the night to deal with imaginary international incidents, said Jonah Schulhofer-Wohl ’03, a member of the Yale International Relations Association. Last year, weary students discussed a conflict between India and Pakistan until the wee hours of the morning.
Every year, the conference attracts high school students from all over the United States. Like the real United Nations, foreign delegations let the Americans pretend they care about what other countries think — several teams from England crossed the Atlantic to attend this year’s tournament, Schulhofer-Wolf said.
“The goal is to come to a better understanding of international affairs,” Schulhofer-Wolf said.
And the Yale Model Congress hosts several hundred high school students every year at a four-day conference in November. The students are divided into committees to debate bills they wrote. Yale students act as committee chairs.
As in Model U.N., the junior Ted Kennedy’s ability to think on their toes is put to the test when a crisis forces the Congress into an “emergency session.”
“The president of Model Congress talks about the crisis,” Muscat said. “The president urges the members of Congress to come up with solutions.”
Not all the students take the Congress sessions seriously, said Melissa Muscat ’03, who served as Model Congress attorney general and treasurer her sophomore and junior year.
“In every committee there’s always that person who wants the gavel [the award for the best speaker],” Muscat said. “[And] there are always the kids who come just for a weekend away from home.”
The bills the Congress debate run the gamut. Many involve terrorism and the economy. However, by the end of the weekend, thoughts turn to war with a dangerous and arrogant nation. As the Congress session closes, Muscat said, bored students mostly just want to invade Canada.