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I’m sitting in downtown Ypsilanti, in the newly opened B-24’s Espresso Bar, in the space that used to be Bombadill’s Neighborhood Coffee House. The previous owner decided he needed to sell, unable to make the coffee shop successful while dedicating the physical and emotional presence he thought needed to his family. I like Peter a lot, and it takes a lot of self-awareness to make the kind of decision he made. His assistant manager, though, worked out a deal with him and the landlord to rework the place and re-open it. Today, B-24’s opened, and it is FABULOUS. I’m currently drinking a pour over of Mighty Good Coffee Company’s Black Diamond coffee.

In other news, I’ve a job! I am now a full-time employee of Zingerman’s Mail Order! I worked as one of the temporary holiday Service Stars, starting in October, and wonderfully, amazingly, I was able to get a full time job there for the REST of the year. I am truly excited by this, not only because it’s a health care and paid-time-off providing company, but ALSO because I truly love the work. Yes, it’s largely customer service, but as I told one of the managing partners, it’s a job that has all the things I liked about my job at the ISP, without the drug dealing boss, mom-and-pop-shop drama, and it’s not Tech Support. I’m no longer slave to AT&T being idiots. Added bonus: My profession is now something I’m actively interested in. I’d long ago lost desire to work in the IT industry in any environment where I’m working with the general public. I’m quite content to be a geek at home, and to apply my geekery to things at work, without such work encompassing EVERYTHING I do. I’m far more interested in food, and sustainable living, than I am computer security and connectivity.

But, it’s back home for me. I’ve a pantry to finish building!

I have a few thoughts I’d send along to the folk at GA about some of todays bylaw amendments.

First, is the amendment that would allow the UUA Board of Trustees to remove another Board member or a member of a Committee of the Association “with cause”. Four years ago, at GA in St. Louis, as a GA Planning Committee member, I allowed some underaged young adults, including my fiancee, to consume alcohol in my hotel room. When the GAPC found out about this, they asked me to resign, and told me that if I refused, they would ask the Board to remove me. In reading the bylaws, it became apparent that the Board didn’t have that power, unless my actions showed that I was morally incompetent to continue my service. In the end, I did resign, but had I not, the Board had little they could do.

The Board and our Association are going through many changes right now, shifting to Policy Governance, discussing massive reorganisations of services and districts. One of the big discussions the Board is having, is if GA is a Board function, or an Administration function, as Policy Governance requires these delineations. I believe that GA is the responsibility of NEITHER, but is in fact a function and the responsibility of our Congregations, and thus Equal To the Board of Trustees, and allowing the Board oversight of the committee is a bad idea.  If we need to make bylaw changes allowing committees or the Board to remove people, give the Board and the Committees of the Association the same power and restrictions as the Board of Review, the only Committee of the Association that CAN remove it’s members.

Next, is the amendment to allow the Board, not the GA Planning Committee, to set the GA agenda. This I also would ask our delegates to decline. I believe over the last decade or so, the GAPC has been a bit negligent in its duties, allowing the Board and Moderator to largely set the agenda and just rubber stamping it. At least that’s how it happened when I was on the GAPC.  Similar to my reasoning above, it is essential that in this time of massive change, that we require the elected servants of our faith to do their duty. The GAPC needs to take back their responsibility, and set the agenda. This means the GAPC will need to be in more and better contact with our congregations and Association leaders to determine WHAT business is needed.

Why did the Commission on Appraisal review the Principles? Because they were asked to by the President.

Why did the President ask for the review? Because the people setting the Agenda hadn’t done their due diligence and had them reviewed on the timeline the bylaws call for. That is the fault of the GAPC, and its own issues in having little long term vision, being caught in the minutia of one GA after another. Call on the GAPC to due its duty, and work with the Moderator to set the agenda, but to do it itself. They are supposed to be the check and balance against the Board of Trustees, working for the congregations.

So please, consider that giving the Board powers and oversight over other sections of those committees that belong to US as the GA and the Congregations, is not wise or prudent at this time.

There have been two updates to the ConCentric business, which I previously reviewed on this blog.

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
acknowledge that as the site is a means of communication within that
same community, and that extensive maintenance of this site is required
in order to make and keep it easy and accessible for all to use.
Therefore we approve wholeheartedly of this Resolution, and welcome the
opportunity to use our resources to foster a connected ConnectUU.

Minus the unclear syntactical flow of the second sentence, I’m glad the Steering Committee is in favour of this, though I find it interesting that they don’t mention that they’d need to spend money on this.

YA Observer resolution: background information

The Young Adult Observer to the Board has been filled the past few
years by various young adults who could donate a few months to filling
the position. The UUA Board covers travel, and although food is not
covered, the Observer is invited to dine with the Board at any meals
on-site. Lodging is not covered, so homestays are encouraged.

This is good to know, though certainly not up to the standard I set in the previous review. I wonder if the SC has talked to the Board about having the other costs for the YA Observer partially paid for by the Board, and if this includes any costs for General Assembly. They could use the argument that it is appropriate, given the Sponsored status of the organization.

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.

Thank you for your inquiry and I’m sorry for the delay in replying to
you. The Board did not discuss your letter at its April meeting and will
not meet again until the days before GA, but I can try to provide you with
some information on your questions.

The Board votes to make YRUU and later CUUYAN “sponsored organizations”
were made years ago. When those decisions were made, it does not appear
that any definition of “sponsored organization” was created. Since then,
we’ve noted that lack of clarity but have never put together a detailed
policy on what exactly “sponsorship” means, criteria for that status,
relationship to the UUA, etc.

The best description I can give you is from June 2005, when we passed a set
of policies outlining the relationships of UU organizations to the
UUA. That text includes a passage on sponsored organizations that I’ve
pasted below:

Sponsored Organizations

  • There are currently two Sponsored Organizations: YRUU and CUUYAN.
  • Sponsored organizations are organizations with distinct identities
    functioning as programs of the Unitarian Universalist Association, and
    operating within the Association’s corporate structure, identity, budget,
    and 501(c)(3) status. A sponsored organization serves an
    extra-congregational constituency, offering interpretation, advocacy and
    programming for members of that constituency and for congregations wishing
    to serve and engage that constituency.
  • A sponsored organization may operate with its own governance structure,
    bylaws, staff, board, budget, and programs, as negotiated with the
    Association’s Board and administration.
  • Sponsored organizations have a covenantal relationship of accountability
    to the Association. This relationship may be embodied and implemented
    through a staff position related to the sponsored organization, but
    operating as part of a UUA staff group.
  • Recommendation to the Planning Committee: two workshop/program slots plus
    caucus space at General Assembly as is currently the case.
  • The Administration will provide a web link to these organizations.
  • The Administration will continue to list these organizations in the UUA
    Directory along with a description of them and contact information.

This passage provides some helpful information, but a more detailed policy
is probably needed to fully clarify the murky waters that you mention. The
Board would be very open to further discussion with representatives of YRUU
and CUUYAN on this.

In faith,
Paul Rickter, UUA Secretary

To the Moderator, President, and Board of Trustees of the UUA:

After much research through the materials the individuals of our group
have amassed over our years working in the UU world, several requests to
the Youth Office and Young Adult/Campus Ministry Office, and hours of
search through the contents of UUA.org, we have been unable to find
information documenting the relationship between the UUA and its Sponsored
Organizations YRUU and C*UUYAN. Over the course of many conferences put on
by portions of both groups, we have heard different ideas on what said
unseen rules permit and deny to the Sponsored Organizations. It is our
belief that to be able to truly understand what our roles are as members
of YRUU and C*UUYAN when it comes to events like General Assembly and
ConCentric, we must have a grounding in what it means to be a Sponsored
Organization.

In addition, at this years General Assembly the delegates will be asked to
vote on a bylaw change that would allow Sponsored Organizations to submit
Study Action Issues. How can we, the General Assembly, make an informed
decision on such a bylaw change, when there is no available record
describing these organizations?

Any information you can supply us that clears the murky waters of these
relationships would be gladly accepted.

Thank you,
Heartland District Young Adult & Campus Ministry Sustainability Corps
Theresa Ives, Co-Chair
UU Church of Flint/Church of the Younger Fellowship
Kelly Rauch, Co-Chair
Unitarian Universalist Church of Bloomington, IN
Donald Wilson, Convenor
Church of the Larger Fellowship/Church of the Younger Fellowship
Traci Griggs, YRUU Liason
UU Congregation of Grand Traverse, MI
Jonathan Schultz, At Large
First UU Church of Detroit, MI

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