Please welcome guest bloggers from the Ferry Beach EcoAdventures workshop….
Based on observations by long time attendees and staff, it is clear that Ferry Beach Conference Center is an exclusive community and lacks diversity by race, age and wealth. While concrete numbers are not available for citation, a glance around confirms what the interviewees suggested: a majority of attendees are white and generally young children or middle aged or older. The cost of attending, in excess of $700 per person per week, is de facto evidence of the wealth of conferees. Members of the Eco-adventure workshop who have attended Ferry Beach conferences for years, cite lack of financial means as a deterrent to coming annually. This same group said that the lack of young adult programming was also a factor in keeping them away. In fact, the eco-adventure group that combines high-school students with adults (all of which have their own young children) has an eleven-year age gap. This exclusivity is clearly unintentional. Not only do the UU principles center around the inherent dignity and worth of all people, but also anecdotal evidence abounds of the openness and friendliness of the Ferry Beach community. So what can be done to remedy the situation?
One area in which UUâ€™s and Ferry Beachers â€œwalk the walkâ€ is sexual diversity. Conferencees are open in their sexuality. The Gayla week provides scholarships up to 5,000 dollars for expanded attendance for those who may not be able to experience Ferry Beach on their own. Initiative should be taken from this conference to create a Ferry Beach scholarship fund to promote a more economically diverse community. Individual conferences should be open to creating and/or continuing their own funds. Taking the lead of attendees is the â€œIn the Company of Womenâ€ week, who have successfully held annual craft auctions to create scholarships for their conference. These women mostly likely work on their crafts all year, a mentality which should be adopted by more Ferry Beachers in order to work toward a year long funding program.
Another way to combat exclusivity at Ferry Beach would be to reach out and advertise to more racially and economically diverse communities. Through publications in currently not targeted areas, we would hope to expand the diversity of Ferry Beach attendees. A Ferry Beach crew member identified the lack of diversity as possibly stemming from advertising only to ourselves, resulting in specific demographics. More research needs to be done to explore the interest of the groups targeted, in order to move from an unintentionally exclusive conference to an intentionally inclusive one.