Saturday, February 5, 2011

Guest Post - Censorship at the UUA

This is a guest posting from a concerned UU. Ms. Skagerberg has been a member of the her congregation for 31 years, is a past president of their Board, was a member of their most recent Search committee, and is currently chair of the Financial Stewardship council.

From: Ellen Skagerberg
Sent: Saturday, February 05, 2011 12:09 PM

When I received notice on February 2 that Cilla Raughley's employment as District Executive of the PCD had been terminated, I posted something along the lines of this to the UUA Facebook site:

Please comment on the removal of Cilla Raughley as District Executive of the Pacific Central District, against the wishes of the PCD Board. Cilla has served for 8 years and writes "PCD Currents," a model of district communication. How about offering a pay cut, or another job in the denomination? This is outrageous. (Hint: Try working with the PCD Board.) 
I'm quoting from memory, since my post was deleted from the UUA Facebook site. I received the following private message in reply:
Subject: Responding to Your Facebook Post
Date: Thu, 3 Feb 2011 12:13:27 -0500
From: "Shelby Meyerhoff"
To: Ellen Skagerberg

Hi Ellen,

I’m writing about your post on the UUA’s Facebook Page this morning about Cilla. After careful thought, I removed the post out of concern for Cilla’s privacy. I’ve also shared the text of your post with the appropriate personnel here.

Best wishes,

Shelby Meyerhoff
Public Witness Specialist
Unitarian Universalist Association
25 Beacon St.
Boston, MA 02108
Still waiting ... for any response. Shelby Meyerhoff says my Facebook post was forwarded to "the appropriate personnel" but does not say who that is, and so far there has been a truly resounding silence (although there's plenty of offline buzz). Naturally we shouldn't jump to conclusions without knowing "the full situation" (as the Rev. Chris Bell put it), but how exactly are we supposed to know? That no one with organizational power will commit to a written explanation leads me to conclude that someone who should not be crossed had a personality conflict and the clout to follow through, with the repercussions falling on Cilla.

Since the PCD Board has been satisfied with Cilla's performance, I'm assuming no actionable misconduct on Cilla's part. I'm most shocked that a new UUA supervisor could override the Pacific Central District as a co-employer, which bodes poorly for our principle of upholding the democratic process. If this "leadership change" is part of district restructuring, SAY SO, and stop making it sound like Cilla was fired for dreadful, secret reasons that can't be shared because they would make her look bad.

Now that my Facebook post has been summarily removed with a comment about it being a privacy matter (the go-to response when one wants to shut down discussion about a firing, whether justified or not), I'm questioning whether I have organizational permission to challenge the actions of the Unitarian Universalist Association in open and honest discussion. If I were to further pursue this on the UUA Facebook page, would I be blocked? Am I becoming a "disruptive person" because I require an explanation about a precipitous firing, one that, astonishingly, overrides our elected PCD Board? Are we even allowed to discuss this on my congregation's email discussion list? The new UUA appears to be a culture of cohesion that works by silencing dissent in its public face.

It's disingenuous to call a controversial firing "a personnel matter" so as not to explain the reasons behind it. That leads to firing with impunity, which is, now that I think about it, what's happening here. I had believed our religion to be more participatory and less dictatorial than that.

If nothing else, perhaps the Unitarian Universalist Association can take a lesson from this public relations fiasco about open communication, the democratic process, and inclusive decision-making. I understand that it's faster and more organizationally efficient to take action and reassure the membership that the UUA knows what's best for us, but that too is unfaithful to our religious values.

~~ Ellen Skagerberg
UU Congregation, Santa Rosa


  1. As an active, 4th year member of UUCSR (Santa Rosa, CA,) friends have been urging me to become more involved with the PCD and the UUA. The peremptory dismissal of a well-respected leader without a farewell or full explanation does not breed confidence in the organization.
    AnnaLisa Wiley

  2. The next posting on this subject is my item titled "The Recent Unpleasantness"

  3. Am I the only one to find extreme irony in Rev. Morales's recent letter in UU World being entitled, "We must get better at communicating"?