Cancellation of Yale MUN Conference Due to the Flu Virus

Hundreds of students were sent away from the Yale MUN conference by the university officials on the morning of Sunday, January 26 after there was an alert of a foreign student having the flu and possibly the coronavirus.

This year’s Yale Model UN conference was to be held from Friday, January 24 to Sunday, January 26 at the university’s campus in New Haven, Connecticut. 1,622 students from 110 different delegations attended the conference, including 9 visiting schools from Brazil and 7 from China, according to Yale MUN organizers. UNIS was also one of the schools invited to attend. Unfortunately, on Saturday night, a visiting Chinese student tested positive for influenza (the flu). Due to the contagiousness of this virus and the possibility that it could be the renowned 2019 coronavirus that emerged in China, the conference was canceled as “an effort to be abundantly cautious,” stated by Dr. Paul Genecin, the Director of Yale Health.

The student had “exhibited cough and fever and was taken to Yale New Haven Hospital” where they tested positive for the flu, also stated in Dr. Paul Genecin’s letter to the conference attendees. In an interview with Mr. Staccone, a UNISMUN club advisor that went to the conference, he mentioned, “From my own research it seems that the flu symptoms and the nCoV symptoms are similar. Cough and fever are both on the list.” For this reason the student was first kept in quarantine and has been isolated this last week until the nCoV test results arrive. They were supposed to arrive on Wednesday or Thursday, but haven’t been shared yet. More information on the subject is not available since, as stated by Mr. Staccone, “The organizer of the conference has been told by Yale not to speak on this.”

On Sunday, January 26, at 6:30 AM, Mr. Staccone and Ms. Tatel, the other advisors, and students at the conference read the notification that was sent to them at 2:30 AM announcing in bold letters, “Because of unforeseen circumstances, all Yale Model United Nations events are canceled for today, Sunday, January 26th.” This email was written on behalf of the Yale Model United Nations XLVI Secretariat and included sincere apologies that stated that the cancellation was considered a “force majeure”. Ms. Tatel explained that this was “a legal term which meant that it was out of their control.” In this notification, they also offered meeting points at 5 hotel lobbies to see Yale Secretariat and ask questions, but they did not state the exact reason why the conference was canceled. UNISMUN club advisors took an earlier train with their students, and discovered the reason on their way back, as they explained. Students were unsure of the circumstances, and at first were “kind of sad that we left earlier,” as Zakiyah, a T1 student that attended the conference, mentioned. Once they learnt the reason why, their reactions to the news differed. A T1 student said, “It would’ve been better if the student with the flu was isolated and the conference had continued.” She considered that the canceling caused “unnecessary panic.” Zakiyah provided a similar opinion: “I wanted to speak on the last day because I felt more comfortable and prepared.” Others, such as Rokhaya Ndiaye, a T2 student who is the assistant head of Public Relations at UNISMUN and was also a head delegate at this conference, were in favor of the canceling of the conference. She said, “I’m a very hygienic person and I think it was a smart decision that the doctors took action and canceled the event.” The canceling didn’t impede her and a T3 student from receiving “Outstanding Delegate Awards.” For this reason she said that the canceling didn’t have such a big impact on her and affirmed that the virtual closing ceremony was good, as well as the digital certificate that she won.

In the end, refunds were not given to the students and there will be no makeup for the missed day, but the closing ceremonies were recorded by Yale MUN club members and sent to the conference participants. Awards have also been received. In fact, it was “the first time that UNIS has ever had students win awards at YMUN,” as stated by Mr. Delaitre in last weeks’ newsletter.