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I'd appreciate some feedback on this - I think I know the answers, but I'd love to have confirmation.

We have an assembly with standing committees established in the Bylaws. The Bylaws do not give the standing committees power to act independently. The assembly has the authority to make policy.

1) Can a standing committee vote to approve an exception to a policy that has been passed by the assembly?

2) Can the assembly vote to approve an exception to its own policy? 

I believe the answers are:

1) No, because it must abide by the policy set by the assembly (and this would be the case even if the committee had the power to operate independently); and

2) No, because an assembly cannot approve a motion that conflicts with other motions. So the assembly can rescind or amend the original policy to eliminate or incorporate the exception, but it cannot approve an exception that conflicts with its existing policy.

Any feedback is appreciated - thanks in advance. 

 

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"Policies" can often be suspended in a specific circumstance, which I take it is what you mean by "approve an exception." but it does depend on what the policy is. 

You are correct that a committee cannot do so if has not been granted that authority. But in a meeting of an assembly, anyone can move "to suspend the rules and do X" with "X" being something that a policy would otherwise not allow.

RONR on pages 263 - 265, however, lists rules that cannot be suspended. The list includes rules that are in the bylaws (unless such rules are in the nature of rules of order), rules that violate state, federal or other civil laws, and rules that protect some basic right of membership. But then there is this statement that might very well apply to your situation:

"Rules that have their application outside of the session which is in progress cannot be suspended. For example, a policy prohibiting total contributions to any one charitable organization in excess of $500.00 in any one calendar year is a rule which has its application outside of a meeting context, and thus cannot be suspended so as to permit the adoption of a motion to make a contribution in excess of the specified amount. (Such a rule can, however, be rescinded or amended) (RONR pg. 264, ln. 29 - pg. 265, ln. 7).

If that guidance is not sufficient, we will need to know what exactly the "exception" is.

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Sorry, I realize I wasn't clear about what "policy" means. Also I signed in - this is the original poster.

The assembly has the ability to create academic policy at a university, such as "A student cannot take more than 15 credits each semester."

If that policy is in force, the committee or the assembly itself cannot then approve a proposal to create a program where a student is allowed to take more than 15 credits in a semester.

The committee cannot approve the motion to approve the proposal since it conflicts with the assembly's policy, and the assembly cannot approve it either, without changing or rescinding the original policy. And if by chance either does so (in ignorance of the original policy, for example), the motion to approve the proposal is null and void.

Is that correct?

Edited by Victoria H.
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8 minutes ago, Victoria H. said:

Sorry, I realize I wasn't clear about what "policy" means. Also I signed in - this is the original poster.

The assembly has the ability to create academic policy at a university, such as "A student cannot take more than 15 credits each semester."

If that policy is in force, the committee or the assembly itself cannot then approve a proposal to create a program where a student is allowed to take more than 15 credits in a semester.

The committee cannot approve the motion to approve the proposal since it conflicts with the assembly's policy, and the assembly cannot approve it either, without changing or rescinding the original policy. And if by chance either does so (in ignorance of the original policy, for example), the motion to approve the proposal is null and void.

Is that correct?

In my opinion, your analysis is correct. 

The assembly can do a couple of things, though:  First, it can create a rule or policy giving some person or some committee (or the society itself) the authority to make exceptions to a particular rule or policy.  Second, it can, as you alluded to, amend the rule (policy) to make the exception or to create a procedure for making exceptions.

Edited by Richard Brown
Added the underlined portion of the last sentence
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A committee cannot ordinarily vote to violate a policy passed by the assembly, but circumstances matter.  It depends on what the committee is charged with.  For example, if  the committee is charged with reviewing a policy and recommending changes, it obviously must be able to make a recommendation that is different from the current policy. 

The decision to adopt it or not is, of course, up to the assembly, which would use the motion to Rescind or Amend Something Previously Adopted if appropriate.

Whether an adopted proposal is null and void or not depends on the details.  If, for example, a conflicting policy was adopted by a vote that would have been sufficient to pass a motion to Amend, it could be argued that the will of the assembly, though clumsily implemented, was nevertheless achieved, and the policy is effectively amended.  Care is called for, because it's possible to get into illogical situations that take time and effort to untangle.

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Gary - I think you are saying that the committee has the right to recommend to the assembly a revision to the policy, which I have no argument with. My question is - if the assembly has a policy in place, can the committee approve a proposal that conflicts with that policy WITHOUT recommending a change to that policy (see my clarification above). 

In my opinion, that is giving the subordinate committee the power to overrule the decision of the assembly.

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No, any recommendation would have to be approved by the assembly. A committee not specifically authorized with power to act independently is limited to making recommendations.  Presumably, as part of its recommendation it will research and recommend the proper parliamentary method of handling it.  It cannot approve anything on its own, and if it does recommend any action that would simply violate current policy outright, the chair should rule that the motion is not in order for that reason.

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4 minutes ago, Victoria H. said:

Gary - I think you are saying that the committee has the right to recommend to the assembly a revision to the policy, which I have no argument with. My question is - if the assembly has a policy in place, can the committee approve a proposal that conflicts with that policy WITHOUT recommending a change to that policy (see my clarification above). 

In my opinion, that is giving the subordinate committee the power to overrule the decision of the assembly.

No, the committee cannot do that, unless the committee has been granted that authority. And I concur with my colleagues' responses. The question is, does the organization want to have some means by which exceptions can be made? If so, such a rule could be adopted. It could say something like, "exceptions to this paragraph may be granted by the XYZ committee by a vote of two thirds." Nothing in RONR would prevent the adoption of such a policy.

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Thanks - The Bylaws give the Dean the right to give exceptions to any policy, so that is covered. The argument I am hearing is "since policy is made by the assembly, it should be able to grant exceptions."

As I've stated above, I disagree: only the Dean has the right the grant exceptions to policy, as stated in the Bylaws.

The Committee cannot recommend to approve anything that conflicts with the assembly's rules (but could recommend to change those rules).

The assembly can rescind or change its rules but cannot grant exceptions to them.

Edited by Victoria H.
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Gary - Even if the committee were authorized to act with power, wouldn't it still be unable to approve a motion that conflicts with an existing motion passed by the assembly? 

In Sections 49 and 56, it states that no action of a board can be in conflict with decision made by the assembly, and that a board cannot alter the decision of the assembly. Although this isn't stated outright, I assume that the same rules would apply to a committee authorized "with power" to act independently.

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Only a careful reading and interpretation of the bylaws can answer that question fully, and that must be done by your organization.

It is ordinarily possible for the assembly to Suspend the Rules on a case-by-case basis, unless specifically prohibited in the bylaws. And obviously the assembly can vote to rescind or amend old policies as appropriate.

This is not a parliamentary consideration, but merely unsolicited advice:  The best time to revise a policy is before it is necessary to apply it.  If the assembly is making a lot of exceptions, it is likely that it has a policy that should have been reviewed and wasn't.  This will create a lot of friction, bad feelings, and charges of favoritism if exceptions are granted to some and not others.  Craft your policies carefully and then adhere to them.

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3 minutes ago, Victoria H. said:

Gary - Even if the committee were authorized to act with power, wouldn't it still be unable to approve a motion that conflicts with an existing motion passed by the assembly? 

In Sections 49 and 56, it states that no action of a board can be in conflict with decision made by the assembly, and that a board cannot alter the decision of the assembly. Although this isn't stated outright, I assume that the same rules would apply to a committee authorized "with power" to act independently.

Not necessarily.  It depends on the wording of the motion itself.  It is possible for the assembly (but not a board) to delegate powers to a committee as long as it would have the power to make such a decision itself.  And your bylaws may affect the details of your situation.

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Thanks for the input! My updated conclusions are:

Only the Dean has the right the grant exceptions to policy, as stated in the Bylaws.

Since it is not authorized to act "with power," the Committee cannot recommend to approve anything that conflicts with the assembly's rules (but could recommend to change those rules).

The assembly can rescind or change its rules, and it can grant exceptions to its rules by Suspending the Rules on a case-by-case basis.

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1 minute ago, Victoria H. said:

Daniel - given that rule exists, could the assembly vote to suspend the rules in order to approve a proposal to create a program that states that students in that program may take more than 15 credits in a semester?

 

No. What it can do is adopt a motion to amend or rescind the adopted policy in accordance with the rules on pages 305-310 of RONR (11th ed.).

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1 minute ago, Victoria H. said:

Since it is not authorized to act "with power," the Committee cannot recommend to approve anything that conflicts with the assembly's rules (but could recommend to change those rules).

I think you have to be a little careful with your wording here. As stated above, the Committee can certainly  recommend things that conflict with the assembly's rules; they cannot approve those changes on their own, unless granted that power. Stating that they "cannot recommend to approve anything..." muddles the situation unnecessarily.

Likewise -

6 minutes ago, Victoria H. said:

The assembly can rescind or change its rules, and it can grant exceptions to its rules by Suspending the Rules on a case-by-case basis.

Yes, but if the assembly can rescind or amend its rules, it can therefore amend them to grant exceptions - unless the authority to do this is given in the bylaws to the dean exclusively, or unless what constitutes an 'exception' has a very narrow definition.

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29 minutes ago, Victoria H. said:

The assembly can rescind or change its rules, and it can grant exceptions to its rules by Suspending the Rules on a case-by-case basis.

 

15 minutes ago, Bruce Lages said:

Yes, but if the assembly can rescind or amend its rules, it can therefore amend them to grant exceptions - unless the authority to do this is given in the bylaws to the dean exclusively, or unless what constitutes an 'exception' has a very narrow definition.

Shouldn't that "Yes" be a  "No"?  :)

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56 minutes ago, Gary Novosielski said:

. . . . It is ordinarily possible for the assembly to Suspend the Rules on a case-by-case basis, unless specifically prohibited in the bylaws. .. .  (remainder of post omitted)

 

2

I think perhaps that depends on what the rule is that is sought to be suspended.  If it is a rule that has application outside of a meeting, it is my understanding that it cannot be suspended unless the rule itself (or some other applicable rule) grants that authority.

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I reviewed the Suspend the Rules section, and I think Daniel is correct:

Only the Dean has the right the grant exceptions to policy, as stated in the Bylaws.

Since it is not authorized to act "with power," the Committee cannot approve anything that conflicts with the assembly's rules (but could recommend to change those rules).

The assembly can rescind or change its rules (including changing the rule to incorporate a specific exception), but cannot approve a program proposal that conflicts with an existing rule.

Thanks for your feedback, everyone. This forum is very helpful for a new parliamentarian.

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6 hours ago, Victoria H. said:

Bruce - Point taken.

How about “Since it is not authorized to act ‘with power,’ the Committee cannot approve anything that conflicts with the assembly's rules (but could recommend to change those rules).”

Well, I think it may be a distinction without a difference. Without power, everything a committee approves is a recommendation.  

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