Friday, November 20, 2009

Reimagining GA

A popular UU blogger asked recently on Facebook what we think of this preliminary and much-changed GA schedule. Some of the reasons for the changes are explained by the fact that they are working towards some goals outlined in this document from the Fifth Principle Task Force. Here's my response, which I posted on Facebook.

I think the advantages of this schedule are outweighed by the disadvantages. The main advantages I see is that people who are not delegates can leave early and people who are only focused on business can arrive late if they have no pre-GA events to attend. Also, if you're primarily focused on either workshops or plenaries you have big blocks you're not focused on where you can skip out to go sight-seeing.

Disadvantages: ***People really do start leaving early by the droves on Sunday. They have to get to work on Monday, and their flight leaves early, etc. You're going to lose huge amounts of involvement in the plenary Sunday afternoon. Also, I think this model really invites burnout. That Sunday plenary schedule is going to leave people burned out in their interest levels and dropping like flies. The break schedule is also not adequate. If people go to the Sunday morning worship, they have to have breakfasted around eight, and then they don't get to break for lunch until 1. It needs to be around noon. I also worry that the drop we've seen in the Living Tradition Fund and the drop in attendance after moving the Service of the Living Tradition to Friday will be made worse if a substantial percentage don't arrive until the business part of GA starts.

I like the goals of moving to an every-other-year GA, making GA smaller (and thereby more affordable), and making it more possible for people to vote electronically from far distances. If this gets us there, then I'll willingly (and hopefully cheerfully) go through the awkward interim stages towards that goal. If it doesn't, however, I think this has more problems than solutions.

6 comments:

Joel Monka said...

I agree with your objections, and have a couple more. I don't know the facilities in Minnesota, but in Salt Lake the building was large enough that those of us with some mobility issues were never on time, and if you need a potty break (which is likely during that long morning stretch) missing something by being late to the session is virtually guaranteed.

I think Sunday should be reserved for worship and social events only, with all actual business being finished by Saturday night. The reason I say this is that some people can't afford to fly, and will be taking a long drive to GA (as we did to Salt Lake) Those who are driving must leave fairly early on Sunday if they want to work on Monday.

Many, many times I have asked why we can't have GA in second-tier cities. Any college town would have adequate hotel and meeting facilities and be much cheaper. Lexington KY, Bloomington IN- Heck, even little Yellow Springs OH, which will shortly be celebrating the re-birth of the much beloved Antioch are the types of places I'm speaking of. After all, if the purpose of GA is GA, then these places are fine; if the purpose of GA is tourism, let's go somewhere more scenic instead of just a bigger city.

Cynthia Landrum said...

I agree, Joel, it would be good if GA was made more affordable by being in cities where more affordable lodging is possible. It's my understanding that our GA has outgrown the college campus-type options, but perhaps this scaling back of GA will make those things options again. Let's hope.

Philocrites said...

If one of the goals of the Fifth Principle Task Force really is to scale back GA to serve strictly as a governance meeting and limits the number of delegates to 2,000, it's quite likely that the convention center requirements will change significantly. It would be a convention half the size of what the UUA has been sponsoring in the last decade.

Cynthia Landrum said...

Thanks for elaborating, Chris. Does that 2000 more than cover all delegates, if all were to attend? To put it in an affirmative way, I will be so happy WHEN we can vote electronically while watching plenary on live feed, as I did a lot this year.

Philocrites said...

The slides the task force presented in 2009 don't envision off-site voting on regular GA business, but they do mention "off-site voting technology" for electing officers (something more sophisticated than absentee ballots, I presume).

See http://www.uua.org/documents/boardtrustees/5thprinciple/0906_presentation.pdf

Cynthia Landrum said...

yeah, that was a bit of a non sequitur on my part.