Not since the Treaty of Versailles had France been such a power, but the city of Philadelphia turned out to be a Waterloo of sorts.
The University of Calgary Model UN team placed fourth for representing France at the University of Pennsylvania's Model United Nations Conference last week.
"We're really excited about the number of awards we won," said team President Pierre Polievre. "It's the highest percentage of team members who have ever won an award at a single conference."
Twelve of the 13 delegates won distinctions, including Outstanding Delegate, Honourable Mentions and Verbal Commendations. Of those, about half did not have experience in intercollegiate model UN.
"We are probably one of the least experienced rosters that have ever been sent from the U of C," said Polievre. "In light of these challenges, we still managed to pull off record-breaking success and I'm very proud of the team."
The team, which consisted of undergraduates from a variety of academic backgrounds, did not earn a spot in the top three despite their performance.
"We had some major concerns in how we were judged in individual committees and also with how the entire team awards were tabulated," said Polievre. "For instance, you might notice that we had a lot of verbal commendations this year [but] they did not give teams any points at all for verbal commendations."
U of C Model UN Team member Oliver Bladek also expressed concerns about the judging process.
"The way that the University of Pennsylvania calculated their awards is a very mathematical, scientific process," said Bladek. "Fellow delegates felt that they should look at it subjectively to see who is being talked about at the conference and who is making the moves instead of looking at it scientifically."
Bladek, who won an honourable mention for representing France in NATO, found rewards other than placement at the conference.
"Just having the ability to debate against schools from the Ivy League and realizing that the U of C, in terms of our debate, is on par or better than most of the Ivy League schools is a personal satisfaction," said Bladek. "[To] say 'I spoke better than a delegate from George-town or George Washington or Harvard' makes me excited."
While the team evaluates their recent performance, they are preparing for their next conference in January.
"You can go up to 40 to 50 hours of research for it," said Bladek. "I know people who have exceeded that enormously."
The team placed third last year and first the year before at the McGill Model UN conference.
"We are now ready to return to Montréal where we are going to take back our rightful place as the best delegation," said Polievre.