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Guest Rachel

Major help needed with student government and Robert's Rules

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Guest Rachel

I am posting in here because we need major help with the way our meetings are run. I believe that nothing voted on in this meeting was valid, and then there's the whole other issue of administration chiming in when they should not have. The issues begin toward the end of the video. Please give your opinions

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9 minutes ago, Guest Rachel said:

I am posting in here because we need major help with the way our meetings are run. I believe that nothing voted on in this meeting was valid, and then there's the whole other issue of administration chiming in when they should not have. The issues begin toward the end of the video. Please give your opinions

That's almost certainly not going to be the case if it was a properly called meeting, so what's the problem?  (for those of us who can watch the video but don't want to waste 24 minutes doing so - I got bored with the shouting match)

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I haven't watched the video, since I am at school and it would be rude to play with sound, and rather pointless without.  Why do you believe the business is not valid?

As for the administration, the general rule in RONR is that non-members have no rights at meetings, but if permitted by a majority they may speak.  Some here think they can make motions, others do not.  They certainly cannot vote.  However, without more information, it is not clear what relationship administrators have to the organization, i.e. whether or not they are non-members.

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Guest Rachel

There's a lot to describe, but basically the main issue is that 1. the meeting was not run properly. There was a motion on the table to approve the constitution, that motion never got voted on, and then the same motion was made for a second time and voted on. When someone tried to make an amendment, they were screamed over by a non-voting administrator at the university and silenced. The vote was to use Robert's Rules as a "guide" instead of following it as our explicit parliamentary procedure. Legally, administration cannot influence decisions at these meetings because they are student-run and funded by student activity dollars, and since we are the governing body that allocates these dollars, administration can have no say. The vote to keep it "as a guide" is to silence others, like the gentleman that spoke in opposition to the change.

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 "I believe that nothing voted on in this meeting was valid "

While I disagree with your statement, I certainly agree with the title of the thread.  I'd suggest the assembly get a few lessons in parliamentary procedure but it doesn't sound like they'd be too receptive to that, sadly.

 

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7 hours ago, Guest Rachel said:

There's a lot to describe, but basically the main issue is that 1. the meeting was not run properly. There was a motion on the table to approve the constitution, that motion never got voted on, and then the same motion was made for a second time and voted on. When someone tried to make an amendment, they were screamed over by a non-voting administrator at the university and silenced. The vote was to use Robert's Rules as a "guide" instead of following it as our explicit parliamentary procedure. Legally, administration cannot influence decisions at these meetings because they are student-run and funded by student activity dollars, and since we are the governing body that allocates these dollars, administration can have no say. The vote to keep it "as a guide" is to silence others, like the gentleman that spoke in opposition to the change.

It certainly sounds like there were errors, but nothing you have said supports your belief that "nothing voted on in the meeting was valid." Errors which are severe enough to invalidate a motion (let alone an entire meeting) are few and far between. It may very well be necessary, however, to educate the presiding officer (and the other members). If the presiding officer is not willing to learn, it may be necessary to remove him from office.

Regarding the specific issues you raised...

  • The motion to approve the Constitution (which I assume was, in fact, a motion to amend the Constitution - you presumably already have a Constitution) should have been voted on or disposed of in some other fashion.
  • No one, especially a non-member, may scream over and silence a member who has the floor.
  • The motion to use RONR "as a guide" rather than as the parliamentary authority was ill-advised.
  • As a parliamentary matter, non-members have no right to speak and may do so only with the assembly's permission, which requires a 2/3 vote if a motion is pending.
  • Legal issues are beyond the scope of RONR and this forum.

As you say, your organization is in need of major help. If your organization is up for it, I would advise hiring a professional parliamentarian to teach your organization about parliamentary procedure. The National Institute of Parliamentarians and the American Institute of Parliamentarians provide referrals.

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3 minutes ago, Godelfan said:

Somehow, though, I feel uncertain that school administrators will listen when told by the presiding officer to be quiet or be removed as disruptive non-members.

I agree.  :).  I would also add that there might be school or university rules of some type that grant faculty and administration advisors the right to attend and / or participate in meetings of student organizations. Any such rules would trump the provisions of RONR.

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18 hours ago, Richard Brown said:

I agree.  :).  I would also add that there might be school or university rules of some type that grant faculty and administration advisors the right to attend and / or participate in meetings of student organizations. Any such rules would trump the provisions of RONR.

I'm not sure about that. So far as RONR is concerned, the only rules which take precedence over RONR are the society's own rules, clearly requisite points in the rules of the parent organization, and applicable rules in the nature of rules of order in federal, state, or local law. Since this is a public university, it may be that state law provides something on this matter, or authorizes the university to adopt its own rules on this subject. It also may be the case that the relationship between the university and the student government is such that the university is the "parent organization" of the student government, but this is by no means certain.

With all that said, it may also be that, as a practical matter, it is in the student government's best interest to permit administrators to speak at its meetings, but that is not a parliamentary issue.

18 hours ago, Godelfan said:

Somehow, though, I feel uncertain that school administrators will listen when told by the presiding officer to be quiet or be removed as disruptive non-members.

Quite possibly. If this becomes an issue, it may become necessary for the student government to hold its meetings outside of university property.

It could also be that it is merely individual administrators that are the problem, and the issue could be resolved by reporting the matter to their superiors.

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I seem to recall a chaotic student government meeting at a school in California where a school administrator not only insisted on speaking, but also insisted, in essence, that a vote be retaken until they got the "right" answer.  I agree that RONR might prohibit this sort of activity, but, again, I don't know how persuasive that is likely to be.  

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One suggestion for maintaining order:  don't let people speaking in debate stand in the place of the chair.  Doing this removes the chair from being able to officiate, gives undue influence to the speakers, and is overall, in my opinion, a bad idea.  Have a place for the chair, and have the chair remain there, able to rule, etc.  Here, the speaker starts acting as if he were the chair, talks about "turning it over" to a girl, people start saying nonsense, etc. - all without a ruling from the chair. 

Nothing about what I saw suggests that the administrators will go quietly into the night.  However, the assembly doesn't seem all that concerned about their violations and interference in the organization.

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On 12/2/2016 at 6:40 PM, Josh Martin said:

The National Institute of Parliamentarians and the American Institute of Parliamentarians provide referrals.

I think you meant the National Association of Parliamentarians. (Although NIP might be a snappier acronym that NAP.) :)

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On 12/3/2016 at 6:51 PM, Shmuel Gerber said:

I think you meant the National Association of Parliamentarians. (Although NIP might be a snappier acronym that NAP.) :)

"that" NAP?   ;)

 

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12 minutes ago, Daniel H. Honemann said:

I thought NAP stood for what one should do at its conventions.

Well, after  you have a few NIPs, you'll need a NAP.  

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On 12/2/2016 at 11:37 AM, George Mervosh said:

 "I believe that nothing voted on in this meeting was valid "

While I disagree with your statement, I certainly agree with the title of the thread.  I'd suggest the assembly get a few lessons in parliamentary procedure but it doesn't sound like they'd be too receptive to that, sadly.

 

Having watched the video, I disagree. Although it's a bit chaotic, the truth is, I've been in meetings that were much, much worse. And it appears to me that Administrator was just trying to rescue the body from a speaker who was going on much too long, in a setting where no one could do anything about it (he was allowed, as noted above, to occupy the only lecturn at the front of the room). The chair seemed pretty clueless, but at the same time, the gentleman with objections didn't actually attempt to move anything. He just announced that he "had some amendments" - at which time there was an audible groan in the hall.

These folks seem to be located in the Pittsburgh area. Maybe you should reach out to them!

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4 hours ago, Greg Goodwiller said:

Having watched the video, I disagree. ...

O Greg, alas, I agree with you here:  but O Greg, it is you with whom I disagree.  O tempora, o mores, Greg, our first quarrel.

4 hours ago, Greg Goodwiller said:

...  - at which time there was an audible groan in the hall.

Yeah, the guy, the dissenter, the contrarian, was impeding headlong progress by, um, wanting something resembling democracy to occur.  -- To recognize, unlike the clueless president, that subsidiary motions, like, say, amendments, which he was proposing to introduce, are proper.  Democracy takes effort.  Thinking takes work.  Mindlessness, like groaning in a hall, is a lot more comfortable.

4 hours ago, Greg Goodwiller said:

... These folks seem to be located in the Pittsburgh area. Maybe you should reach out to them!

I'd chip in for that, but I'm guessing that maybe George thinks, you can't pay me enough.

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I've also seen worse meetings.  That doesn't mean this one doesn't, as the title suggests, need major help.  The administrator might have the intent to do some sort of "rescue," but is actually shouting down a recognized speaker who is speaking against a pending motion.  I don't think the speaker has exceeded any time limits, but if they have, a point of order would be more appropriate than what was actually done.  Yes, as I mentioned, the speaker has the only lectern, and that's a problem - it's also why the speaker winds up yelling at the administrator.  

The speaker has not yet moved his amendments - so?  Debate is permitted, and he's debating.  You'll notice also that when he tries to move them, he is shouted down because there's already a pending motion, as if subsidiary motions were not "a thing" (it is important to try to fit in with the setting, and so I am using some millennial phrases).  

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