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Guest Casimir

Dissenting Committee Member Presents Motion Conflicting with Committee Resolution

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Guest Casimir

I am a member of a faulty that has never had written bylaws or anything else, but has existed for decades.  A committee of three was chosen to reduce our unwritten practices to bylaws.  Two of the members put forward a resolution to the faculty that only tenure track faculty are entitled to vote on matters at faculty meetings.  This has been our unwritten practice for my 25 years on the faculty.

The one dissenter on the committee has put on the agenda for the same meeting a proposal that voting rights be extended to non tenure track instructors and faculty.  

What is the status of the dissenter's motion?  Is it an amendment to a committee proposal that requires 2/3 vote?  Is it somehow a proposal to amend an unwritten bylaw which requires the same vote?  Or, is it simply a motion requiring majority vote?

One of our unwritten customs is that we always follow Robert's Rules when it is invoked.

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32 minutes ago, Guest Casimir said:

I am a member of a faulty that has never had written bylaws or anything else, but has existed for decades.  A committee of three was chosen to reduce our unwritten practices to bylaws.  Two of the members put forward a resolution to the faculty that only tenure track faculty are entitled to vote on matters at faculty meetings.  This has been our unwritten practice for my 25 years on the faculty.

The one dissenter on the committee has put on the agenda for the same meeting a proposal that voting rights be extended to non tenure track instructors and faculty.  

What is the status of the dissenter's motion?  Is it an amendment to a committee proposal that requires 2/3 vote?  Is it somehow a proposal to amend an unwritten bylaw which requires the same vote?  Or, is it simply a motion requiring majority vote?

One of our unwritten customs is that we always follow Robert's Rules when it is invoked.

RONR does not really recognize the idea of an organization “that has never had written bylaws or anything else, but has existed for decades,” so I do not think it has a clear answer to this question. So far as RONR is concerned, an organization establishes its existence by adopting bylaws.

To the extent that the rules governing “mass meetings” and “temporary societies” may be of assistance here, although these rules were never intended to be used for decades, the text says the following:

“In any event, without adoption at a mass meeting and regardless of what rules the meeting may adopt, the provisions of the call, specifying the meeting's purpose and those invited to attend it, have a force equivalent to bylaws of an organized society; that is, they define the subject matter within which motions or resolutions are in order, and determine who have the right to participate as members (see also pp. 545, 548–49). This effect is a consequence of the sponsors' rights as explained in the first paragraph of this section.” (RONR, 11th ed., pg. 546)

If I understand this correctly, I think it means that the motion in question is not in order at all. If it has been the unwritten practice “that only tenure track faculty are entitled to vote on matters at faculty meetings,” then this presumably means that the original organizers of the mass meeting (and the resulting temporary society) provided in the call that only tenure track faculty are permitted to vote. The rule in question notes that, regardless of what rules the meeting may adopt, the provisions of the call have a force equivalent to bylaws, and I do not see any provision for amending the terms of the call.

In the long run, the solution is for the assembly to adopt bylaws, which will define, among other things, which persons are the voting members. A majority vote is required to adopt an initial set of bylaws.

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I see what they are doing as having a committee propose an initial set of bylaws, but for a society that already exists, rather than one that is being newly-formed. So I would not be as harsh regarding the dissenting opinion and would allow the dissenting member's idea as an amendment to the proposed bylaw article. The amendment would require a majority vote to be adopted. As your current custom is that only tenure-track faculty boat, those would be the people who would be entitled to vote on this amendment and on the resolution or bylaws (whether amended or not).

This isn't, as you have seen, a simple thing to do. I would recommend that you hire a professional parliamentarian to assist the Society in drafting and voting on these bylaws.

Edited by Atul Kapur
Cant leave well enough alone

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1 hour ago, Josh Martin said:

RONR does not really recognize the idea of an organization “that has never had written bylaws or anything else, but has existed for decades,”

I would think that this group has been operating using custom and following the principles of parliamentary law. Both of which are recognized, although not recommended as the only authorities to be used, by RONR.

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I concur with the opinion and advice of Dr. Kapur. I consider this organization to be an organized society that already exists and not a mass meeting for the purpose of creating one. 

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10 hours ago, Atul Kapur said:

I see what they are doing as having a committee propose an initial set of bylaws, but for a society that already exists, rather than one that is being newly-formed. So I would not be as harsh regarding the dissenting opinion and would allow the dissenting member's idea as an amendment to the proposed bylaw article.

I have no disagreement that an amendment to the proposed bylaws may be offered and that a majority vote is sufficient for adoption. My understanding was that there was an attempt to adopt the proposed rule before adopting bylaws.

10 hours ago, Atul Kapur said:

I would think that this group has been operating using custom and following the principles of parliamentary law. Both of which are recognized, although not recommended as the only authorities to be used, by RONR.

I think “not recommended” undersells the problem quite a bit. The question is regarding the adoption of a rule regarding which members may vote. RONR assumes that for an existing group, such rules are defined in the bylaws. RONR has no answer to how such s rule is defined in a group which has been operating using only custom and the common parliamentary law, except in the context of a mass meeting or temporary society.

9 hours ago, Richard Brown said:

I concur with the opinion and advice of Dr. Kapur. I consider this organization to be an organized society that already exists and not a mass meeting for the purpose of creating one. 

Okay then, in an “organized society that already exists,” but which has no rules defining its existence or membership, and is not a mass meeting, how (other than by finally adopting bylaws) may such an organization adopt a rule providing which members may vote (or even who the members are)?

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It has rules, they're unwritten (= custom).

"The established custom should be adhered to unless the assembly, by a majority vote, agrees in a particular instance to do otherwise." (RONR 11th ed., p.19, lines 5-9)

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2 hours ago, Atul Kapur said:

It has rules, they're unwritten (= custom).

"The established custom should be adhered to unless the assembly, by a majority vote, agrees in a particular instance to do otherwise." (RONR 11th ed., p.19, lines 5-9)

I suppose this is the most reasonable conclusion in this case.

”In some organizations, a particular practice may sometimes come to be followed as a matter of established custom so that it is treated practically as if it were prescribed by a rule. If there is no contrary provision in the parliamentary authority or written rules of the organization, the established custom should be adhered to unless the assembly, by a majority vote, agrees in a particular instance to do otherwise.” (RONR, 11th ed., pg. 19)

Since the organization apparently has no written rules whatsoever, the custom cannot possibly conflict with a written rule of the organization. There also does not seem to be a contrary provision (or any provision) in the parliamentary authority (if we conclude that the rules governing who is a member of a mass meeting or temporary society are inapplicable), and in any event, since the parliamentary authority is also adopted only by custom, it would only be persuasive, not binding.

What is less clear is what happens if the organization actually does adopt a rule on this matter. RONR assumes that such a rule is a part of the bylaws, and I think it is clear that such a rule is not in the nature of a special rule of order or standing rule. There seems to be a possibility that the organization will adopt a standalone rule governing who is a voting member of the society, and I don’t know what sort of rule that is or what the requirements for amendment are.

I would still urge the society to adopt complete bylaws as soon as possible, since I expect that questions such as this one will pester the society for some time otherwise. RONR does not establish a framework for how a permanent society without bylaws is supposed to operate.

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19 minutes ago, Josh Martin said:

There seems to be a possibility that the organization will adopt a standalone rule governing who is a voting member of the society, and I don’t know what sort of rule that is or what the requirements for amendment are.

I would say that such a resolution, once adopted, would be in the nature of a bylaw 😉

19 minutes ago, Josh Martin said:

I would still urge the society to adopt complete bylaws as soon as possible

Agreed. I had included such advice in my previous post but it became long and unwieldy because it got into the concept of adopting bylaws as a whole vs individually or in chunks, as they seem to be doing here.

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Guest Casimir

Just to follow up. The committee proposal that we adopt a written rule codifying our multi-decade practice to only allow tenure-track faculty a vote at faculty meetings was voted down. The chair sought a vote on the dissenting Committee member's proposal that non-tenure-track faculty get a vote.  The meeting was adjourned before any votes could be taken on that proposal.  

    My question is whether the dissenter's proposal can now be considered an amendment to the committee proposal that was voted down?  Is it possible to propose an amendment to a defeated Committee proposal and then adopt it by majority vote?  Or, once defeated, is there now no Committee proposal to amend, and the committee should go back to work and formulate a new proposal?

    Thanks so much for your wonderful insights. 

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9 hours ago, Guest Casimir said:

My question is whether the dissenter's proposal can now be considered an amendment to the committee proposal that was voted down?

No. If he intended to offer it as an amendment, he should have offered it at the time.

9 hours ago, Guest Casimir said:

Is it possible to propose an amendment to a defeated Committee proposal and then adopt it by majority vote?

It is no longer possible to propose it as an amendment to the committee proposal. The member may, however, submit it as a new main motion in New Business.

9 hours ago, Guest Casimir said:

Or, once defeated, is there now no Committee proposal to amend, and the committee should go back to work and formulate a new proposal?

The committee can do this if it wishes. In any event, however, the member can still make his proposal if he wishes.

I must reiterate again, however, that rather than adopt piecemeal rules of this nature, the assembly should direct the committee to develop a complete set of bylaws for the assembly’s consideration. This proposal will be subject to debate and amendment, will require a majority vote for adoption and, after adoption, will become the bylaws of the organization. The process for this, as well as what should be included in such a document, is discussed in RONR, 11th ed., pgs. 565-588.

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12 minutes ago, Josh Martin said:

the assembly should direct the committee to develop a complete set of bylaws for the assembly’s consideration.

I agree completely. I have been trying to explain the current situation in the posts above, but this is not a good way to run things.

As one example of the problems you get into: the assembly has defeated a motion to codify a custom but hasn't replaced the custom. This will likely lead to much uncertainty at future meetings as to who is allowed to vote. (I'd say custom still stands, but your assembly may not feel that way),

9 hours ago, Guest Casimir said:

The chair sought a vote on the dissenting Committee member's proposal that non-tenure-track faculty get a vote.  The meeting was adjourned before any votes could be taken on that proposal.  

    My question is whether the dissenter's proposal can now be considered an amendment to the committee proposal that was voted down? 

The way it was handled was irregular. Was the dissenter's proposal formally before the assembly and being debated when the meeting adjourned? If so, it sounds like you are dealing with it as a separate, original propsition and that it is properly "Unfinished Business" for the next meeting.

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14 minutes ago, Atul Kapur said:

The way it was handled was irregular. Was the dissenter's proposal formally before the assembly and being debated when the meeting adjourned? If so, it sounds like you are dealing with it as a separate, original propsition and that it is properly "Unfinished Business" for the next meeting.

I agree. 
 

Edited to add:  It sounds like someone may have moved to adjourn in order to avoid having to deal with the proposal. However, as Dr. Kapur  said, if the proposal was before the assembly and being debated when the meeting adjourned, it should come up automatically at the next meeting as unfinished business.

Edited by Richard Brown
Added last paragraph

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I sense the committee member intends to present a minority report with a recommendation that conflicts with that of the committee. See RONR (11th ed.), pp. 527-529.

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That may have been the intention, but we are told that the committee recommendation was defeated before the minority report was processed. That's what I meant by "irregular". So now we're trying to help Guest Casimir move forward, given the situation they are in now.

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Guest Setemu Guest
On 11/12/2019 at 8:53 PM, Guest Casimir said:

I am a member of a faulty that has never had written bylaws or anything else, but has existed for decades.  A committee of three was chosen to reduce our unwritten practices to bylaws.  Two of the members put forward a resolution to the faculty that only tenure track faculty are entitled to vote on matters at faculty meetings.  This has been our unwritten practice for my 25 years on the faculty.

One of our unwritten customs is that we always follow Robert's Rules when it is invoked.

Is there a document that lays out faculty committees, officers, or meetings? This document (or these documents) might very well be the bylaws and just not named such. Sometimes these documents are embedded in a faculty handbook. See RONR pp.12-13 for further guidance.

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