Common Ground 1

Return to Governance index | Return to Common Ground 1 TOC

The Rules of Behavior at Common Ground

At its January, 1980, meeting the Youth Assembly Planning Committee discussed its desire for a strong and clear statement of rules for behavior at the assembly. Such a statement was desirable for various reasons, among them our desire to inspire confidence in our intentions and our process among alienated segments of our denomination's youth/adult community. Our committee was in agreement on wording for rules in all but one area: sexual behavior. The wording we decided to use was: "overt sexual behavior (is) strictly forbidden." This statement, combined with an approach to room assignments that discouraged cohabitation, and that gave district delegations the responsibility for enforcing their own standards on room assignments, seemed appropriate to us at the time.

At the staff training weekend, the Planning Committee and staff went over the rules again, discussing their interpretation and enforcement. A broad diversity of opinion about appropriate rules in the area of sexual behavior at youth conferences was expressed. We began to realize that "overt sex" was a Rorschach, with people reading into it their own values about such rules.

A polarity of feelings about the policy of district responsibility for room assignments surfaced as the assembly itself began. The objections of some delegates to this approach were placed before our Conference Affairs Committee for their consideration. The ruling the CAC returned further polarized the conference.

The whole issue was brought back before the entire delegate body. Staff and delegates were given an opportunity to express their views, and a straw vote was taken. In response to that vote, the Planning Committee took the matter under advisement, and issued a final statement which was binding on the assembly for its duration.

Excerpts from the statement follow:

"We, the Youth Assembly Planning Committee, recognize and honor the profound differences in judgment around acceptable standards of behavior for youth and adults at Unitarian Universalist youth conferences. We recognize and honor our responsibility to the diversity of congregations and families that are represented here at the Common Ground Youth Assembly ...

The original statement of 'Rules of Behavior' agreed to by all delegates stands ...

Conferees have the right and are urged to object to circumstances or occurrences within their immediate environment that they find to be offensive or disruptive ...

The prohibition of 'overt sexual behavior' as specified within the rules means 'patently sexual, as contrasted with affectional, interchanges in public. . . .

Though we cherish our individual freedoms, privacies, and intimacies, we ask for temperance in all our doings in order to further our community ...

We affirm the responsibility of district delegations and individuals to make these decisions in a spirit of mutual respect, trust, and concern for the larger community."

By contrast, the Conference Affairs Committee handled a situation of admitted drug use later in the assembly much more smoothly. Here the conference rules were explicit and were followed. One of the three young people asked to leave the conference was put up in a motel nearby, because we were unable to contact the parents at the emergency numbers we had.

It is the belief of the Planning Committee that the issue around sexual behavior at Common Ground was a symptom of a larger dis/ease. Because we are a denomination that prizes the worth of the individual, we tolerate a broad spectrum of values among us. Consequently, our young people receive mixed and often conflicting messages from UU adults, particularly with regard to sexual behavior and drug and alcohol use at UU events.

We cannot expect consistent behavior from young adults if we do not give them consistent expectations around that behavior. It is unlikely that much will change until UU adults come to a consensus about these issues among themselves.


Translated from the original text document to HTML by Lorne Tyndale, YRUU Programmes Specialist September 1993 - August 1994. The document was on I have placed the document on this site as I've been notified that appears to be down.

Return to Governance index