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Clarity of (Exceptions to) the Society's Object in Bylaws


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Dear General Board,

I am President of Student Council at my high school. I am in charge of writing the bylaws (for further presentation by our Executive Board) for our Student Council, which has for its entire history lacked a governing document or officers who wanted to draw up any governing documents.

Because my classmates are not familiar with Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised, they have little to no knowledge of parliamentary procedure, and the teachers overseeing Student Council don't seem to care. I am additionally faced with an Executive Board that is only interested in pie-in-the-sky events, fundraising to kingdom come, and self-promotion. To put it kindly, it would probably take them a year to effectively learn RONR. Notwithstanding, I have scoured Robert's Rules for Dummies and RONR for 3 years. Therefore, I have decided to bring order that the Student Council shall operate with a barebones system of procedure closely following RONR.

My question relates to writing down the Object of Student Council. Upon reading Sec. 56, page 571, ll. 7-9, it explained that "...a two-thirds vote being required to allow the introduction of a motion that falls outside of the society's object." Does this mean that with 2/3rds support, a group could talk about anything it wants? At what point of the processing of a motion would this occur (proposal, seconding, debate, etc.)? COuld it be ruled by the Chair to be a dilatory motion or otherwise inappropriate? I don't recall reading about this in Robert's Rules for Dummies!

I could really use some help. I think that, while it poses a possible risk to my group's fledgling organization, it should be included in the bylaws, because it could help Student Council avoid a dictatorial Chair in the future (I have 1 year left at my school). I have included a selection of the proposed bylaws where I think it would be appropriate.

Here's the excerpt of the Bylaws in question (the big paragraph isn't the problem):

2. Object

(1) The object of the Student Council shall be to provide a system of government that is representative and reflective of the students; to secure the inherent rights and dignity of students; to provide a means by which the will of students may become directives and goals for West Senior and the community; to establish justice for West Senior; to encourage the adoption of democratic values throughout West Senior; to support students’ endeavors that bolster the honor of West Senior; to ameliorate the social and physical character of West Senior; to demonstrate capable, responsible leadership for West Senior; and to be transparent, accountable, and respectful of the students of West Senior.

(2) By a two-thirds vote, the Student Council may proceed on a subject which is not pursuant to the provisions of Section (1).

Thanks for your help.

John C. Oshei

yixxxon@aol.com

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If you are asking whether or not you should include "(2) By a two-thirds vote, the Student Council may proceed on a subject which is not pursuant to the provisions of Section (1)" in your proposed bylaw revision, the answer is no, you shouldn't. Simply include a provision similar to the one found on page 588, lines 1-8.

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Point 1) Get a copy of RONR. The Dummies book is good as far as it goes, but isn't complete. Give a copy of RONRIB ("RONR In Brief") - see links elsewhere in this website - to your advisor/teacher.

2) Any topic? Sure, that is what the 2/3 vote is for, to cull out the wildly irrelevant topics. This rule is "Built in" to RONR - see p. 571, lines 7-9 -- so you don't need it in your bylaws.

3) Dillatory? The chair rules and, on appeal, the assembly decides (majority vote). No dictatorships allowed.

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Point 1) Get a copy of RONR. The Dummies book is good as far as it goes, but isn't complete. Give a copy of RONRIB ("RONR In Brief") - see links elsewhere in this website - to your advisor/teacher.

...

Since the original poster cites from RONR (11th edition), he's probably not in need of another copy. RONRIB for a faculty adviser may be helpful, of course.

...

My question relates to writing down the Object of Student Council. Upon reading Sec. 56, page 571, ll. 7-9, it explained that "...a two-thirds vote being required to allow the introduction of a motion that falls outside of the society's object." Does this mean that with 2/3rds support, a group could talk about anything it wants? At what point of the processing of a motion would this occur (proposal, seconding, debate, etc.)? COuld it be ruled by the Chair to be a dilatory motion or otherwise inappropriate?

...

Since the citation is about a two-thirds vote required for introduction, I assume this is somewhat akin to suspending the rules to allow the otherwise forbidden action (two-thirds vote required). If the chair simply ruled that the motion was inappropriate under the bylaws, and the assembly then appealed from the ruling of the chair, an appeal would only require majority vote to prevail. That wouldn't satisfy the two-thirds requirement. Read p. 343 l. 33 - p. 344 l. 1; also p. 113 ll. 10-13. It sounds as though someone basically has to make a motion to allow consideration of the (otherwise forbidden) motion. The phrase 'suspend the rules' isn't used, but it sounds like a similar process and with the same vote requirement.

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Since the original poster cites from RONR (11th edition), he's probably not in need of another copy. RONRIB for a faculty adviser may be helpful, of course.

Since the citation is about a two-thirds vote required for introduction, I assume this is somewhat akin to suspending the rules to allow the otherwise forbidden action (two-thirds vote required). If the chair simply ruled that the motion was inappropriate under the bylaws, and the assembly then appealed from the ruling of the chair, an appeal would only require majority vote to prevail. That wouldn't satisfy the two-thirds requirement. Read p. 343 l. 33 - p. 344 l. 1; also p. 113 ll. 10-13. It sounds as though someone basically has to make a motion to allow consideration of the (otherwise forbidden) motion. The phrase 'suspend the rules' isn't used, but it sounds like a similar process and with the same vote requirement.

Trina - if the chair rules the motion out of order, and it's appealed, it can be introduced, even though the 2/3 requirement is not achieved, because by overturning the chair's ruling the society has determined it is NOT outside of the object.

Edited by George Mervosh
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Trina - if the chair rules the motion out of order, and it's appealed, it can be introduced, even though the 2/3 requirement is not achieved, because by overturning the chair's ruling the society has determined it is NOT outside of the object.

Yup, that makes sense :mellow: ... not sure why I didn't see it that way in the first place.

It's that business of majority vote determining what is real -- even if any objective observer would say a motion is clearly outside the object, if the members overturn the chair's ruling on the matter, the motion is NOT outside the object.

If a member does want to introduce a motion that everyone agrees is outside the object of the society, is the process similar to suspending the rules? In other words, would the member say something like, "I would like to make a motion to donate $50 to the ASPCA. Since this motion is outside the objects of our tap dancing club, I hereby move that we allow the introduction of the described motion." ?

If the assembly votes (two-thirds vote) to allow the motion, is the motion itself immediately before the assembly at that point? Or does someone have to formally make the motion (the motion for the $50 donation), as a separate action, after permission to make it is given?

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Depends :)

If the maker of the motion believes it's outside of the object, he can simply move to "suspend the rules and move for the adoption of the following motion "That........."

If the maker believes it's within the object, he makes the motion as he normally would, and obviously takes his chances on the chair ruling it out of order, subject to appeal. If the chair rules it outside of the object, I think the chair would then state the question on whether the motion should be considered. If adopted (by a 2/3 vote) the motion becomes pending immediately since it was moved and seconded prior to his ruling.

I think the latter happens more often, and it need not be more complicated than that, in my opinion.

Edited by George Mervosh
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