Opus 2005 Report: Absolutely Smooth

Boone, IA wifi at camp.  135 young adults from USA, Canada, Transylvannia, U.K. and several recently back from time in France, Africa, Russia and Southeast Asia, are gathered here at Camp Hantesa in Boone Iowa.  This is the first time Opus has been back in the heartland since 1998 when Opus was at Camp America in Southern Ohio.  Nancy Digiovanni and Hafidha Acuay have been running a smooth and chill conference with their staff and participants dedication.  This was the first time I’ve experienced Opus without intense transportation or registration snafu’s (congrats to Dev and Millie who coordinated those areas!).  Opus ends tommorow, and ConCentric begins Friday!

The biggest complaints here thus far are the food, which we are not cooking for the first time, maybe ever (which contributes in part to the higher cost, $230-$330 sliding scale), and the anti-oppression/anti-racism programming.  The food is quite bland, hot sauce is beginning to popup everywhere, vegetables amazingly are almost all canned, ugh!  The AO/AR programming is raising a lot of conversations that folks report to be irrelevant on one hand, but light a fire under everyone nonetheless (particularly for those who argue that it is irrelevant/rocking the boat).  For me, the intensity of the discussions and personal and collective feelings that ripple after discussion of gender, class, intersecting oppressions, underlines the immense value and need for this work.


16 responses to “Opus 2005 Report: Absolutely Smooth

  1. Good to hear things are going well.
    Good luck for ConCentric! I’l talk to you on your return.

  2. Opus 2005, Absolutely Smooth

    From RadicalHapa 135 young adults from USA, Canada, Transylvannia, U.K. and several recently back from time in France, Africa, Russia and Southeast Asia, are gathered here at Camp Hantesa in Boone Iowa. I hope the discussions that START at Opus…

  3. Do the sexy FUUSE boys know their site is down?

  4. Hi Liz – yep, the Revoluution.org site was hacked and they are in the process of migrating all their sites to a new server. Scary!!

  5. Oh no! I seriously hope it wasn’t anyone who was joking about hacking the site on the chatterblock.

  6. Grumbling at young adult cons is important to listen to because of the overwhelming cultural ethic at young adult cons to be supportive no matter what. Fitting in becomes more important than challenging what is wrong.

    And, we need to listen to the grumbling not just about the food but also about the AR/AO programming. We shouldn’t just say that we should continue AR programming BECAUSE people are grumbling about it. That would be like saying that we should continue with canned vegetables because people are grumbling about it.

    But, noone is going to hold an organizational meeting to improve the quality of food at Opus, and noone is going to hold an organizational meeting to improve the programming at Opus.

    What bothers me most is the idea that the young adults themselves are not the ones who determine what kind of programming they will have at Opus. Conference planners are not asking what kind of programming the young adults want. They “KNOW” what is expected of them.

    Organizers are expected to force bad AR/AO programming down the throats of particiapants whether the participants want it or not. Here, have some shoddy AR programming plus some canned vegetables. Just shut up and eat it.

    It bothers me most that UUA staff are promoting this against the wishes of the Opus people in a faith that SAYS that it promotes democracy. Because, democracy is not what is happening here. I’ll leave it up to you if you think that this type of thing is more of a democratic type of style or more of a dictatorial type of organizing.

    But, if young adults don’t do something about the food, they will continue to eat the kind of food that they don’t want to eat, and the same thing goes for programming. At the very least, some effort should be made to ask the young adults what kind of programming they do want.

    Would you rather have more AR/AO programming or would you rather have more programming of a different type?
    We can do this for food. Why can’t we do this for programming?

    One way to do this would be to simply ask Opus attendees to evalute all Opus programming in a questionaire.
    Ask them what they liked, what they did not like, and what they would prefer instead.

    On the same questionaire, you could ask them how they liked the food and what, if anything, they would prefer.

    This would get past the overwhelming cultural ethic at young adult cons not to complain about what is politically correct.

    We should stop shoving AR/AO programming down the throats of young adults against their will. This goes against everthiing that UUism is about.

    Some folks say it is OK if it is for a good cause, but the ends do not justify the means. Eat your vegetables!

    In the distant past, being forced to eat only vegetarian food at Opus caused a lot of grumbling in the past. Ironically, when I started complaining about vegetarian-only fare at Opus (1993), there was a huge backlash against this, not just from vegetarians but most viciously from the
    non-vegetarians. What they said was that it was politically correct to eat vegetarian food so we should do it whether we wanted to or not.

    Luckily, cooler heads prevailed and a non-vegetarian option was included in later years, sometimes. The meat lovers option was always completely eaten – no left-overs.

    Similarly, options to the current type of AO/AR programming should be provided, because it is about appealing as canned vegetables. Plus options to AR/AO programming should be provided BECAUSE people are grumbling about it.
    We don’t just want to eat vegetables, we want to eat other types of food, like roast beef.

    In Unitarian Universalism, a CHOICE is an important thing to provide, not something “we may get around to someday”.

    If we care about increasing democracy at Con Con in terms of its transparency at elections, then we should also try to maximize democracy in terms of programming at Opus as well as Con Con in terms of the transparency of how we go about determining what kind of programming happens at Opus and Con Con.


    Jim Sechrest

  7. Jim,
    I was co-dean at this year’s Opus and I am not sure if your comment here pertains to it at all, but it does mention food and AR/AO programming, which were both present at this year’s Opus. I know that the AR/AO coordinators took into consideration much of the discussion about AR/AO work within UU conferences. The food was also worked on prior to the conference, but what was available to us when we first got there was not what we promised. Fortunately, some changes were made after we arrived there and Nancy and I persisted in communicating with the wonderful site staff.

    Also, the evaluation for this year’s Opus will definitely solicit feedback on the programming, just like it did last year.

  8. Hafidha-

    Thanks for your info. What I was getting at was that when people grumbled about vegetarian-only fare at Opus, it took a few years to get equal opportunity food, but later meat was made available for meat lovers.

    In 1992, we didn’t have “identity” groups, we had rap groups. Boy rap groups and girl rap groups. People had been grumbling about this for years, but at Opus 1992, a group of YAs took it into their own hands to form an alternative rap group. At first it was called “mixed’ rap group, but later it became a more general Opus dialogue and evaluation group.

    When folks grumble about “canned vegetables” and “AO/AR”, I strongly believe that an ALTERNATIVE should be given for each, not just “canned vegetables”. What would an ALTERNATIVE to AR/AO programming be? Folks should be allowed a democratic choice to have NON AR/AO programming that meets at the same time as AR/AO programming. You know, if you’re gonna grumble, try this, it’s different. You can have not only different kinds of food but a variety of programming when AR/AO programming is going on.


    Jim Sechrest

  9. Jim,

    You are operating on a lot of false assumptions here.

    First, you have no idea what the grumbling has been about at this past Opus and Concentric beacause you weren’t there. Some of the grumbling was about logistics, some of it was about not having enough time to process or share, some of it was about how to make it better. There was also some grumbling about the need for it too, I’m sure. But you weren’t there, and I doubt that reading one person’s perspective on a blog is enough for you to start making credible summary judgements on the programming at this year’s Opus and Concentric.

    Second, you are assuming that all of the programming that has been happening these past few years has been put together without any community feedback. That couldn’t be further from the truth. You seem to be stuck complaining about an AR/AO model that existed years ago and isn’t used in our communities anymore. Not a very productive thing to complain about.

    Third, you seem to assume that nobody in the community is allowed to grumble about AR/AO programming. Again, this is completely false. It is precisely because of concerns that people have been raising that our AR/AO programming has been evolving into something that educates and builds community.

    Tell me, exactly what model was used this year at Opus and Concentric? What are your concerns over that model? Do you even know?

    Lastly, I’d like to point out that you seem to feel entitled to speak on behalf of a group that you perceive as having no voice when in actuality, there are plenty of people who have been voicing concerns and plenty of leadership working to make those concerns heard.

    How about letting those of us who actually work on and go to the conferences be the ones who decide how we would like the conferences run? If you come across YA’s who have concerns about programming, instead of speaking for them, be an ally and encourage them to speak for themselves.

    You imagine that there is some unwritten rule against speaking out in our community. As a member of the community, I can say without a doubt, that this is not true.

  10. Jim,

    1992 is a long time ago. Perhaps it’s time you found something else in your life to move on to.

  11. Jim,
    Thank you for your suggestion, but in 2002 and 2003 the Conferences Planning Committee added a section on Anti-Oppression training. I believe this was in response to commitments made by the community previously to support AntiOppression work within the UUA. At any rate, the CPC states that there should be 1 hour of unopposed Anti-Oppression work for every full day of a CUUYAN conference.

    This is why there is no structured alternative to AO workshops at Opus or ConCentric. The planners of these conferences want to encourage participation in these events. This is not true only of AO work. For example, this year, my co-dean and I did not plan any alternative activities to worship, meal times, or the nightly follies (coffeehouse) events. I also did not schedule any alternative programming during swim hours.

    No one was forced to attend any of the programming at Opus or ConCentric this year. People skipped meals, workshops, worships, and so on – for a variety of reasons. No one was keeping track. If someone doesn’t attend structured programming they simply find some other way to occupy their time.

  12. Jen,

    Man. Check out the comments that kick off this thread. Two problems with Opus are listed. One is grumbling over canned vegetables. The other is grumbling by some Opus goers that the AR/AO programming from Opus 2005 was “irrelevant”, etc.

    I think even someone who was not a UU could get something out of the post that I got. Grumbling about canned vegetables begs a change, but that grumbling about AR/AO programming begs more of the same. Now, I like ironies, and that is an irony.

    Jim Sechrest

  13. Hafidha,

    It is definately up to Opus planners what to schedule unopposed at Opus. My experience in a similar situation was that nothing was scheduled conflicting with Men’s and Women’s raps at Opus, in the ancient days of Opus 88, 89, 90, 91, and 92.

    Well, Women’s raps was great for most women, but men’s raps sucked for most men. I think that is because this type of support group programming appeals most to those who feel oppressed.

    Similarly, most “white” people do not identify as being “white”. The category of race simply drops out 98% of the time in their daily activities because it is not right in front of them in the same way that it is for African Americans, for instance.

    They are not walking around going “I’m white. I’m white. I’m white.” Whereas, African Americans might get this issue brought up repeatedly in a single day. This simply does not happen to “white” people, whatever “white” is.

    So, “white” ID groups are not very stimulating for most white people. This lack of interest by white youth in AR/AO programming at YRUU’s Con Con 2004 was actually listed as one of the reasons that Con Con 2004 was “shut down” by the Youth Office. AO/AR programming was listed as one of the things the Youth office would work on instead.

    So, some of us Unitarians are concerned that UUA staff are so interested in their own AO/AR efforts and showing some progress there that they are throwing out the worships and spirituality, that has been one of the main positive things at Con Con, right out the window, much too lightly.

    Similarly, Opus and Concentric, show problems with this same dynamic. Many attendees are just not interested in UUA staff AR/AO programming, any more than they are interested in canned vegetables.

    But, efforts to change AR/AO programming has still left Opus-goers grumbling that it is “irrevelant”, etc. at Opus 2005. I’m not making this up.

    Apparently, the idea that “everything is fine now because we have listened to complaints about AO/AR programming” is not the reality.

    I hope to encourage Opus and Concentric planners that the reality of continued grumbling over AR/AO programming at Opus 2005 be taken much more seriously.

    If we can find a solution to the problem of Men’s and Women’s raps at Opus having their own unopposed time slot by bringing in alternative programming for the “grumblers” during that time slot, then I would certainly encourage Opus and Concentric planners to consider challenging the concept that AR/AO programming remain unopposed for the sake of the grumblers and not dig in their heels against this so much to further their own desire to push the UUA staff’s AR/AO programming.

    Because, eventually, the grumblers will do it themselves.

    A lot could be gained instead by taking the grumbling about AR/AO programming at Opus 2005 much more seriously than it currently seems to be taken by Opus and Concentric planners.

    Alternative programming to the current AR/AO programming is needed in the future to specifically address the concerns of Opus 2005 attendees that AR/AO programming is “irrelevant”.

    Opus planners might simply ask Opus goers verbally what would make AR/AO programming more relevant for them and that type of programming could be as the alternative to current AR/AO programming, or a new questionaire to address this latest round of grumbling could be implemented.

    It would be important to distinguish grumblers from the “anything that happens is fine with me” folks in the responses.

    In my experience, grumbling at Opus will “out” sooner or later.
    Why wait until more Opus and Concentric attendees begin to feel oppressed by the AR/AO programming itself?

    Jim Sechrest

  14. Jim,

    The point that you seem to be missing throughout this whole thing is that there have been and continue to be changes to the AR/AO programming because of not only grumbling but because of members of the community who come to the table with concerns.

    And strangely enough, this continues to happen whether or not you wag your fingers at the conference planners or the leadership because we as a *young adult* community have been working through this.


  15. Jim, I think you must have overlooked what I wrote about AR/AO programming being unopposed – it is now a policy.

    Also, I am not sure that what you are talking about is relevant to the current time. For example, this year there was four days of AntiOppression programming. Only one day had to do with race. The others had to do with gender, multiple identities and classism. Does this mean that anyone who does not feel that classicism is not an issue for them should have alternative programming? And anyone who does not feel that gender is an issue for them should have alternative programming? And anyone who does not want to think about their identities should have alternative programming? Wow – that is a LOT of alternative programming! In fact, that is six hours of alternative programming for people who may not want to attend any programming in the first place!

    The deans and the anti oppression coordinators solicited feedback actively at the conference. In recent years and this year, feedback has been sought about anti oppression programming.

    You seem to be asking conference planners to do what they are already doing.

    You also seem to be overlooking the possibility that there will always be a few folks for whom no programming will be that compelling. They are at Opus to visit with friends and relax. At Opus there is a variety of options for folks to take part in. Not everything is going to be for everyone – I missed what apparently was the best worship of the conference because I was exhausted after a long day. I didn’t skip the worship because I didn’t like worships or because I didn’t find it relevant enough. I simply chose to rest and talk with a friend instead.

    Not the end of the world.

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