Review of the Opus/ConCentric PrePacket

The ConCentric agenda has been released in the Opus/ConCentric pre-conference information packet. PREPACKET ME!

The packet is electronic only this year, and once again merely 2 weeks before the event itself. Scant time for review by those bodies like the Heartland Young Adult and Campus Ministry Sustainability Corps to review the material and come to our own consensus, or at least a general idea, on how we want our voices presented to the ConCentric body by our Representatives. To those that attended the Central Radius Conference, this was not a surprise, as we found that the agenda was delayed for our group to send any business we came up with to ConCentric. The Steering Committee representatives to that body didn’t have a preliminary agenda either, neither for the Radius constituency nor published for the wider C*UUYAN community, which would have relieved some of the problem caused by such a delay in the process.

Such a process of releasing a preliminary agenda, and a final before ConCentric, was brought up at the Central Radius. My proposal for a publishing schedule would be the following:

  • April 15th: Preliminary Agenda for YA Caucus @ General Assembly
  • May 15th: Preliminary ConCentric Agenda
  • June 1st: Final Agenda for YA Caucus @ GA, including discussion/action items added from preliminary ConCentric Agenda
  • July 15th: Final Agenda for ConCentric, including addition of items from YA Caucus @ GA

This is of course assuming the approximate same time of the events and meetings in question.

I will note that there are issues other than those I mentioned above that have delayed the released of the prepacket and agenda, and that the staff of ConCentric has been working tirelessly and deserve more than our thanks for that work. Institutionally, we do not have the processes and standards in place to do our Work appropriately, which allows other issues to exacerbate this one.

Now we get to the resolutions. There are four being presented, but I am disappointed in the presentation of them in the packet. From the Overview of Process of business at ConCentric:

The Steering Committee considers each resolution and issues a one or two sentence opinion as to whether the resolution is appropriate business for plenary. If the Steering Committee feels a resolution would be better addressed through a different venue, the young adult sponsors have the option of withdrawing the resolution, but they are not under any obligation to do so.

Linked source unavailable at this time.

The packet does not contain the opinions of the Steering Committee, even on the one resolution (number three) that was not created by them. So we start with…

Resolution to specify age range for CUUYAN-elected positions

Summary

Persons running for CUUYAN elected positions are to be representatives of the CUUYAN Community, which, as stated in CUUYAN
bylaws, is 18-35 [inclusive]. Therefore, candidates for any elected position must be of age 18-35 for the duration of the position’s
term.

Background

“The culture of any group, organisation, or church is created by its most numerous, active, and vocal participants. We create spaces in
which we feel comfortable and safe, and in which our needs are met. When our needs and interests change, the culture of our
communities changes to reflect our new interests and needs. I have found this to be especially true of young adult groups and
communities that become flexible about the upper end of the age range. The character of the group changes to accommodate and serve
their new needs, usually in such a way that the group is no longer relevant or welcoming to the younger end of the young adult age
range. There comes a time for older members of a young adult group or community to step back and allow the community to change
away from what they need; to allow the community to become what it needs to be for younger young adults.”
~Petra Aldrich

Resolution

The ConCentric plenary amends C*UUYAN’s bylaws as follows:
Section 5 (Polity, Quorum & Decision-Making), part C (Decision-Making): add, after part 1:
“2. Candidates for any elected position must remain within the young adult age range for the entire duration of the position’s term.”

This is a simple housekeeping amendment, but is by far the most well-written of the four proposals. The quote from Petra Aldrich is from her “Young Adult Reflection” during the GA Bridging Ceremony, and is the most eloquent and spiritually based description of this issue I have heard.

Resolution to creation of a YA observer to the UUA Board of Trustees

As the governing body of the Unitarian Universalist Association, the UUA Board of Trustees makes many important decisions about
the responsibilities, finances, and goals of American Unitarian Universalists. Unitarian Universalist young adults have a stake in the
UUA as represented by the Association and the Board of Trustees.

The Continental Unitarian Universalist Young Adult Network (C*UUYAN) is the continental (Canada and the United States) body
that represents the interests of young adults as young adults to the UUA and partner organisations, and provides resources to young
adult groups. As the continental organisation of young adults, C*UUYAN is has an opportunity to be accountable to its constituents
by initiating and maintaining a right working relationship with UUA leadership, including the Board of Trustees.

Therefore, let the ConCentric plenary resolve to create a two-year position entitled “Young Adult Observer to the UUA Board of
Trustees.” The Observer will be appointed by the C*UUYAN Steering Committee and must be within the 18 to 35 young adult age
range for the entire time of tenure. The Observer will speak to the needs, concerns, and abilities of young adults to matters of the
Board of Trustees. The Observer will attend the four meetings of the Board of Trustees annually and report back to the Steering
Committee after each meeting. The Observer will represent the interests of the UU young adult community at all appropriate
opportunities during the UUA Board meetings and will present Board of Trustees decisions and priorities to the continental young
adult community

Initially, I thought this resolution was fluff, and merely creating a position that already exists, which in part it is. However, on reflection and review of both this resolution and other C*UUYAN defining documents, this resolution frames the duties of this position rather well, and brings clarity to what I know have been murky waters surrounding this position.

I would offer two changes. First, I would change the opening to say instead:

>As the governing body of the Unitarian Universalist Association, the UUA Board of Trustees makes many important decisions about
the responsibilities, finances, and goals of Unitarian Universalist member congregations.

This is due to two simple facts: not all UUs in the United States would claim that they are American, and not all member congregations of the UUA are in the United States. There are a number of Canadian congregations that claim both CUC and UUA membership, and send delegates to both General Assemblies. There are also member congregations in the Philippines, Mexico, France, Australia, New Zealand, and elsewhere.

Also, I would explicitly add that this Observer be expected to attend General Assembly, attend the plenary sessions (as is expected of all UUA Board Members), that their expenses for doing so will be covered by the C*UUYAN budget, and that they are expected to report to both the GA Young Adult Caucus and the ConCentric assembly, and to the C*UUYAN membership in the monthly newsletters following the quarterly Board meetings.

Resolution to Repair Connect UU and YACM Web site from Central Radius

Whereas the web sites for Connect UU and the YACM site are vital outreach tools, and, as their current condition stands, are a barrier
to participation by members of C*UUYAN, our co-operation with district offices, district representatives, local young adult leaders,
YA event planners, and newcomers, we want to see these websites become more accessible, simpler, easier to navigate, and engaging
for all users.

Whereas the current database and websites have the potential to be remark
able tools for all young adults to communicate, outreach, register for conferences, assist in event planning, help the growth of YACM
groups, cultivate leadership development, and apply for scholarships, it is key that the interface be user-friendly and the information
contained within be safe and secure.

Therefore we resolve in the coming year that the C*UUYAN Steering Committee allot funds for making the necessary repairs, stated
above, to correct Connect UU and the YACM site accessibility and security issues.

I’ve not included the list of signatories to this resolution, but I am one of them, along with the majority of the attendees of the Central Radius Conference. Upon reading this again, I’m amused to remember what Larry Ladd reminds us of in the film “Wilderness Journey”, that the General Assembly does not have fiscal authority over the UUA budget. Similarly, ConCentric has none over the C*UUYAN budget, but ConCentric (like the General Assembly) can make suggestions, and in the case of C*UUYAN, I think it would be a dangerous day when the SC not to take the suggestions of ConCentric to heart.

Resolution for an Affordable General Assembly

General Assembly is the UUA’s annual business meeting and the largest gathering of UUs in the world. It is prohibitively expensive
for many people, including many young adults. We estimate that the bare minimum cost to attend from out of town is $625, including
registration, a full-occupancy hotel room, food, and travel.

This is not just a young adult issue, it is a matter of institutional identity. By systematically excluding those who cannot afford GA,
we reinforce our own stereotypes about who we are as a denomination, and we exclude a wide range of viewpoints from our decision
making process. At last year’s GA (2005), fewer than 4% of registrants identified themselves as young adults. While we recognize
the difficulty of finding affordable venues for large gatherings, our faith demands loving diversity and action which leads to justice.

We must foster broad support among congregations and UU attendees, rather than only working with the GA Planning Committee,
because success may require a radical disruption of the status quo. To succeed, UUs from all walks of life must see change not as a
sacrifice but as a moral imperative.

THEREFORE we, the members of C*UUYAN, direct the Steering Committee to build a coalition with related organizations to make
GA reflect the diversity of UUism by making it accessible to a wider range of incomes. Among the other organizations we could
reach out to are: the GA Planning Committee, DRUUMM, YRUU, UUA Districts, the Women’s Federation, Interweave, CLF/CYF,
and the UUA’s Congregations Come First Taskforce.

As temporary relief, the Steering Committee should continue to advocate a reduced rate for young adults, while recognizing that a
laundry list of discounts is no replacement for structural change.

This is certainly the least well written of the resolutions in the packet. There is no background provided on where the conclusions stated derive from. Interestingly enough, the figure of $625 given as an estimate is within the range of attending Opus and ConCentric, e.g. ~$200 Travel, $225-$300 Opus Registration, $105-$140 ConCentric Registration = ~$530~$640. Make of that what you like, but it doesn’t paint Opus and ConCentric as much more accessible than General Assembly.

I have three concerns not addressed in the text of this resolution.

  • Is this resolution brought to ConCentric under the advice and consent of the elected General Assembly staff of C*UUYAN?
  • Was this resolution in this final or any of its draft forms presented to the Young Adult Caucus of General Assembly, as it directly affects the Caucus and its relationship with other groups involved in the production of General Assembly?
  • Has the C*UUYAN leadership opened a dialogue with the GA Planning Committee on the subject of GA Affordability, to understand their individual and collective opinions, and what actions are already being taken and planned to address the concerns that C*UUYAN has?

In the end, there is nothing too surprising or striking about this years business for anyone who has been following the committees of C*UUYAN for the past year. Many of the same issues in regards to accessibility and openness were brought up last year at this time, and have yet to see redress. I have hopes that this year, the ConCentric body will rise to their station and take a hard look at the way we disservice our mission and vision by continuing in practice that is so desperately and obviously wanting.

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1 comment
  1. Updates on ConCentric Business

    The statement from the Steering Committee on the ConnectUU resolution from the Central Radius Conference: “We recognize the numerous expressions of frustration from those within our community who have attempted to navigate the ConnectUU website. We ac…

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