Model Organization of American States members debate at annual conference

Members of Baylor MOAS compete in the 26th annual Eugene Scassa Mock Organization of American States. Photo courtesy of Baylor MOAS.

By Lily Nussbaum | Staff Writer

Baylor University hosted the 26th annual Eugene Scassa Mock Organization of American States, allowing students in the Model Organization of American States to compete internationally with other schools.

MOAS is a model program built to help students understand the Organization of American States. Through the model, students research, develop resolutions and debate complex issues that the Western Hemisphere is facing, such as food insecurity and energy innovation.

Evansville, Ill., senior Logan Butler said he is no stranger to the conference. He joined MOAS his freshman year after spotting the organization at Late Night. This year, during his seventh semester with MOAS, Butler headed the organization as president.

“It was very rewarding, especially with being able to host a lot of schools from Mexico and able to work with them as well,” Butler said. “The stress was there, but it was worth it.”

During the Nov. 3 to Nov. 5 convention, students from various schools were split into teams, and each was given a member state from the Organization of American States. They then had to research and adopt the views of their state before presenting and defending resolutions in accordance with their country’s position. This year, Baylor had two teams: Argentina and Chile.

“When you’re having to see people argue that are not communists but having to argue from the position of socialist countries, you’re like, ‘This is like a deeply personal thing,’” Butler said. “It kind of teaches you a lot more empathy from other people.”

Rockwall junior and MOAS member Vanessa Cham said she led the Chilean team as head delegate. In this position, she said she was responsible for embodying the president of Chile.

After getting assigned their state, students are given the semester to thoroughly research the economic, social and political views and standards of their chosen countries. With a new Chilean president whose views contrast widely with the previous one, Cham said she had to research thoroughly.

“You no longer become yourself,” Cham said. “I kind of have to look at the position of Chile, look at the president as a person and see what kind of thing would he want.”

Within the two teams were four committees. Cham said her position placed her on the general committee, which tackled how to strengthen and modernize the Organization of American States. The topic debated by each committee ranges from year to year, but students in their respective committees must come up with resolutions based on the selected topic.

Butler said students can be on committees that are tailored to their interests. For example, business students may be placed on a committee for economic development across the hemisphere.

“You don’t have to be like a history person or a political science person to join,” Butler said. “You can do it and be in other majors, and it’s just as valuable and just as crucial.”

Cham, as a neuroscience major, said her involvement in MOAS has changed her plans for her future. Originally, she said she planned on attending medical school right after college, but a new passion for public health opened up the possibility of an alternative route.

“This program has basically helped me get out of the bubble I was in and really learn about health care as a whole,” Cham said. “How are other countries doing it, and how are we working together to make sure everybody is getting the health care that is their right?”

Since Butler has attended the convention for so long, he said he has made friends he still keeps in contact with. Various schools attend the convention, ranging from Texas A&M University-Commerce to Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, and Butler said he gets to learn from and know a diverse group of students.

“I’ve been able to see some friends back from like freshman and sophomore year that have come back, and they’d be from different schools, and you know, those connections don’t necessarily need to go away,” Butler said. “Character, personality and stuff can transcend a language barrier.”

At the end of the two and a half days of intensive debate and diplomacy, an awards ceremony and dinner were held in the Barfield Drawing Room. Both the Chilean team and Argentinian team received multiple awards, such as Outstanding Head Delegate, which was awarded to Mari Benavides.