WMU News

Students take on Arab issues at national summit

April 1, 2002

KALAMAZOO -- The Palestinians may have walked out and other key players didn't show up for a recent Arab summit in Beirut, but representatives from all 22 Arab nations will be on hand in Washington, D.C., April 3-6 for a mock summit conducted by college students, including a delegation from Western Michigan University.

Seven WMU students will be among dozens of other college and university students in the nation's capital to participate in the 20th Model Arab League, sponsored by the National Council on U.S-Arab Relations. The Model Arab League provides a simulation of an Arab League summit, where students engage in role-playing as representatives of member states and hash out issues of concern and conflict in the Arab world.

This is the sixth year that WMU has had an MAL delegation and the fifth year it has participated in the national simulation. Universities are selected to participate at the national level based on their performance in simulations the previous year.

"We have a good record and our students are quite serious," says the delegation's advisor, Dr. James Butterfield, professor of political science and associate director of WMU's Diether H. Haenicke Institute of International and Area Studies.

Each delegation participating in the simulation is assigned a country to represent. WMU will represent Jordan, one of only two Arab nations possessing a peace treaty with Israel. During the simulation, the countries' representatives discuss such issues as fighting terrorism, water supplies, human and drug trafficking, and the plight of Palestinian refugees. Butterfield says the continuing bloody violence and upheaval in Israel and Palestine will certainly be a prominent issue at this year's simulation.

"Our students have been monitoring the news and evaluating the proposed Saudi peace plan," he says. "They are looking at the positions of the countries based on news sources from Jordan and are following the stories very closely on a daily basis."

When the students arrive in Washington, D.C., one of their first stops will be the Jordanian Embassy, where they will receive a briefing from Jordanian officials.

The WMU delegation members already have practiced their roles as Jordanian representatives, participating in the Michigan Model Arab League held in February at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, Mich. WMU garnered the Outstanding Delegation award there, besting 14 other delegations from Michigan colleges and universities. Four of WMU's delegates came home with Outstanding Delegate awards and two received honorable mentions. Those receiving the Outstanding Delegate awards were Nate Goding, Mary Swarthout, Shanna Dietz and Andrea Lofquist. Cara Mroczek and Isaac Hines both received Honorable Mention Outstanding Delegate awards.

"Outstanding delegates are selected by their peers and chosen because they were the most effective in representing their countries' positions. Your peers make the selections based on how true you are to your country's position, how well you know your background and present your case, and how well you know the rules," Butterfield explains.

"To come home with a list of awards like that was just overwhelming," he notes.

WMU students participate in the MAL as an extracurricular activity, but with weekly meetings and heaps of required research, their effort is equivalent to that of taking an additional class, says Butterfield.

"This is truly active learning," he says. "The students get a realistic picture of how things are for Arab nations, and their participation allows them to cross multicultural borders in a very educational way."

For more information about the MAL, contact Butterfield at (616) 387-3959 or visit the WMU Model Arab Leagues Web site at <www.wmich.edu/politics/mal>.

Media contact: Marie Lee, 269 387-8400, marie.lee@wmich.edu

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