Gratitude for Second Chances

Dear SUUSI Community,

This year’s SUUSI theme, “Gratitude,” is aptly chosen - we’re so grateful for the chance to meet together face to face once more, after two difficult pandemic years. We are also profoundly grateful that Western Carolina University has agreed to host us again this summer. However, the SUUSI community needs to know that our future in Cullowhee is at risk.

WCU has informed us that SUUSI will not be invited back after 2022 unless we make significant changes to our behavior. The pattern of behavior they have seen from SUUSI-goers of all ages includes:

  • Rudeness to WCU staff
  • Excessive demands
  • Trashing dorms
  • Breaking North Carolina laws about substance use

Because the SUUSI staff tries to be a cushion between our participants and our hosts, many of you are hearing about these problems for the first time. We know this is hard to hear. We don’t like to think of ourselves this way! But our two previous homes, Radford University and Virginia Tech, cited similar SUUSI behavior. Both eventually chose not to renew our contract. WCU has given us the gift of telling us honestly how we are perceived, and the gift of a second chance to improve. We owe them - and each other - the gift of self-reflection and behavior change.

Come to us, rather than WCU personnel, when you’re feeling frustrated, disappointed, or annoyed. SUUSI will have a 24/7 Helpline for your questions, concerns, and requests. Do not express these to WCU staff, even if you feel you are able to do so politely. If you see someone else behaving rudely or breaking substance-use laws, please call or text the SUUSI Helpline. If you’re also comfortable approaching that person kindly and inviting them back into covenant, we encourage you to do so.

What kind of behavior changes are we talking about? Here are some examples:

Past: You see WCU staff doing something that doesn’t seem environmentally responsible, so you stop to explain to them why they should do it a different way.

Future: You go on your way, deciding that you’ll send an email to Core Staff later with your concern.

Past: The dining hall runs out of coffee, so you tell the nearest WCU worker how badly we UUs need our coffee and ask them to make sure they never run out.

Future: You call the Helpline, and a SUUSI staffer works with dining staff to address our caffeine needs. Meanwhile, you get a cup of coffee at the Common Ground Cafe.

Past: You (and everyone you know) think that marijuana laws are wrong. You bring marijuana to SUUSI and smoke it in your dorm room or outside.

Future: You don’t smoke marijuana at SUUSI at all. It’s illegal in North Carolina, and our hosts care about that.

SUUSI 2022 will be a simpler SUUSI with a smaller footprint. Like most places that serve the public, this year WCU is working with a much-reduced staff. SUUSI may require extra patience and have a reduced capacity to meet every individual request. But we know that what we’ve missed most in the past two years is being together, and that’s the part of SUUSI we need to center. We must act with patience, understanding, and respect towards each other, SUUSI staff, and our hosts. It is not an exaggeration to say that the future of SUUSI is at stake. The Core Staff and Board will be ready to intervene if people act in ways that jeopardize our relationship with our host campus - even, if necessary, to send people home - just as we hold that option in reserve for actions that cause harm to other SUUSI participants. 

You might be asking, “Can’t we go somewhere else?” While we are on the lookout for alternative campuses, none of them meet our needs as well as WCU does. Furthermore, we have heard this from three host universities in a row. We need to accept this feedback and bring our behavior into line with our UU values.

After two years apart, we have the opportunity to reimagine how we want SUUSI to be, and recommit to creating a beloved community together. We also have a much needed opportunity to reset our relationship with our host university. We hope you are ready to join us in this work - we can’t wait to see you.

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