May 15, 2012
Last month, we discussed the student government leadership retreat during a meeting. The venue has been chosen, so it was time to brainstorm workshops and sessions. Some sessions always seem to appear: Robert’s Rules/meeting management/parliamentary procedure (not that they are identical) is an example of a “must have” topic.
Colonel Robert codified meeting rules for a meeting to run smoothly and fairly. Without agreement on how a meeting should proceed, we can make a mess of meetings.
- Making a Motion: The motion and its second begin the discussion. Try not to hold a discussion without a motion as the focus of the discussion. Without a second to your motion, there is no discussion. Once there is a second, the person who made the motion states the reason for the motion.
- Discussing the Motion: According to Robert's Rules, everyone gets two opportunities to speak to the motion on the floor. Those who haven’t spoken at all get first preference. Each opportunity can be as long as 10 minutes. Most people don’t know this. I limit people to three minutes, and no one has ever gone beyond two minutes.
- Calling the Question: Robert calls it “moving the previous question." Either way, it is a motion to immediately close debate. The individual making this motion must wait to be recognized and cannot just yell out the phrase, thinking that will stop debate. This motion needs a second to move forward. There is no debate on this question which needs a two-thirds vote to pass. The vote is immediate. You can’t stop because someone who hasn’t spoken before wants to speak now. If the vote passes, you move immediately to a vote on the motion on the floor. This sounds cruel, but it prevents us from hearing the same argument numerous times. If there isn’t anything new being said, this may save some time and aggravation.
- Voting: You have two recordable choices: yea or nay. An abstention is a refusal to vote. When the chair calls for abstentions, s/he is asking you to do something you have decided you don’t want to—vote. Keep your hand down.
I can’t close without mentioning the so-called “friendly amendment." Once a motion has been made and seconded, it belongs to the body for discussion. The originator of the motion holds no special privileges or ownership of the motion and can’t allow or refuse amendments to it. If you want to propose a change to the motion on the floor, make a “subsequent motion," Subsequent motions to the original must be moved and seconded just like the original motion. The body will discuss and vote on that before the original.
Regardless of how you and your student organizations choose to run meetings, the take away is that rules should be used consistently and fairly to ensure a smooth meeting.
What practices do you use to ensure meetings run smoothly?
is the Assistant Director–Campus Life at New Jersey City University.
Sarah became active in ACUI with her first job in student activities of Rider then-College. After earning her MFA from the University of Texas, she relocated to New Jersey and just never left the state. Intrigued by how things work, she accepted an operations position at New Jersey City now-University where she has learned more about elevators, revolving doors, and roof leaks than most people should ever know. The real reason she has stayed in this field is the pure joy of watching students learn and grow.