Students “React to the Past” in Ethics of War Class

November 27, 2017
  • Press representatives take notes during the Press Conferences phase
  • Press representatives take notes during the Press Conferences phase
  • A delegate discussion during the United Nations Security Council debate phase
  • Press representatives take notes during the Press Conferences phase
Dr. Jennifer Mueller’s PHR 398 course took part in the elaborate game series  Reacting to the Past to explore and understand the actions and policies surrounding Rwanda’s 1994 genocide.

Between April and July of 1994, over 800,000 Tutsi were killed during an organized genocide by Rwanda’s Hutu political elite. International aid organizations and numerous nations were criticized for poor planning or lack of intervention. The tragic event has since had a profound impact on the country and its neighbors. Dr. Jennifer Mueller’s class spent six weeks taking part in the Reacting to the Past program as a way to delve into the peace negotiations and aid responses from the United Nations. 

MacArena Ramos, assigned the role of International Committee of the Red Cross representative, spoke about her experience during the games. “The debate as a whole was a very successful way of learning while engaging actively with the other students. It gave us motivation and I developed a passion for it…The game gave us a different perspective of what happened in Rwanda. I now have a more thorough understanding of the reasons behind international affairs, its priorities and interests. Hopefully we, as the new generation to come, can do something to change the way the system works.” 

Junior Sarah Shapiro wrote, “Reacting to the Past games are so much fun! I learn a lot from them both about whatever piece of history we’re focusing on, and how to negotiate with people that have very different agendas.”

Dr. Mueller explained that each class itself was split into two sections. The first was a UN Security Council debate in which 11 countries debated on the floor. As in the regular Security Council, there was a gallery where journalists, NGOs, and other states could listen in to what’s happening. In the second stage, a nominated member of the Security Council would inform the press what happened during the debates, while representatives from NGOs and states could host their own conferences. “I think it went really, really well. The students loved it, they were very excited. We have a couple going on to do other Reacting classes in the spring that aren’t [International Studies or PHR] majors, they just want to do this.”

For more information on the Reacting to the Past program, click here