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I was just curious if anyone had followed the drama around the vote of no confidence in the university President. The only customized rule I've seen quoted specified that the motion needed more than 50% of all voting (I'm not sure if that's the actual language or a newspaper summary). The motion received more votes for than against, but the presiding officer ruled that it was lost because the number of votes for were not greater than, as he put it, half the total number of votes, including abstentions(!). Note that he didn't turn it into a majority of the entire membership, or a majority of those present, because he distinguished those who expressly abstained from those who didn't vote (a contradiction in terms). So the effect of saying nothing was nothing, but the effect of expressly abstaining was to vote no. It seems the idea was that an abstention may not be a vote, but a person who abstains is still a person voting - a pretzel I cannot begin to untangle.

It seems there was a lot of discussion, but no appeal. The bylaws specify "Robert's Rules" as the parliamentary authority. This led to further controversy (although pointless because it doesn't impact this case) as to which edition to refer to, which suggests they don't do so very often. For some reason, someone in some position of authority decided that the proper book was the 10th edition. 😞

The board then said they were looking into it and may well change their minds and consider the motion as having passed, which seems like more misunderstandings and mistakes on multiple levels. 

 

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I have not heard anything about this, but I do find it interesting to see how many university/college boards/senates need the aid of a parliamentarian. 

45 minutes ago, Joshua Katz said:

It seems the idea was that an abstention may not be a vote, but a person who abstains is still a person voting - a pretzel I cannot begin to untangle.

I have seen this before! Here follows a quote from the procedural bylaw of my local municipality up here in Ontario, Canada: "if any Member present refuses to vote or fails to vote, the Member shall be deemed to vote against the question unless prohibited by statute or this By-law."

Maybe a more experienced member of the forum from Canada could shed light on if this is more common up here than in the US. 

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1 minute ago, JustinPappano said:

I have seen this before! Here follows a quote from the procedural bylaw of my local municipality up here in Ontario, Canada: "if any Member present refuses to vote or fails to vote, the Member shall be deemed to vote against the question unless prohibited by statute or this By-law."

 

Interesting! Thanks. (Note that this is slightly different, though - if someone is present and does not vote, it's counted as a no, whereas UM only counted as a no a person who expressly abstained. I can understand that bylaw far better than I could understand what UM did.) Of course, the big difference is that you have a bylaw to that effect. If UM wanted to adopt such a bylaw, I would have no complaint. Well, I might complain that it's a bad idea, but who cares what I think? The problem here is the lack of a rule justifying it, and the reference to, for some reason, the 10th edition of RONR.

I, too wonder if voting thresholds based on number present are more common in Canada than here. As I recall, we've seen a few things that are commonly done differently in Canada, so it wouldn't shock me.

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I will reluctantly venture that this kind of provision reflects a misunderstanding of what it means to reject a motion.  See RONR (12th ed.) 4:3.

Many people erroneously think that a negative result of a vote means that the assembly has not decided to do what the motion proposes.  This is significantly different in meaning than what the Right Book says.  It says that the negative result of a vote means that "...the assembly expressly decides against doing what the motion proposes".

Several years ago, the old forum members went through an extended and conflicted discussion of this difference in meaning.  If I remember correctly, it had to do with the purchase of a new bus.

Organizations should make a deliberate effort to explain the difference to its members.  I suspect better education would do away with provisions like the one given by the original poster.

 

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11 minutes ago, Rob Elsman said:

Many people erroneously think that a negative result of a vote means that the assembly has not decided to do what the motion proposes.  This is significantly different in meaning than what the Right Book says.  It says that the negative result of a vote means that "...the assembly expressly decides against doing what the motion proposes".

 

I agree with both statements, but I also think the common, erroneous interpretation makes more sense. The fundamental rule, we're told, is that a majority acts. Yet the understanding in RONR of what a negative result means allows fewer than a majority (i.e. exactly half) to expressly decide something.

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3 hours ago, JustinPappano said:

I have seen this before! Here follows a quote from the procedural bylaw of my local municipality up here in Ontario, Canada: "if any Member present refuses to vote or fails to vote, the Member shall be deemed to vote against the question unless prohibited by statute or this By-law."

Maybe a more experienced member of the forum from Canada could shed light on if this is more common up here than in the US. 

This procedural bylaw copies a provision of the provincial Municipal Act. I believe, but cannot quickly find, that there is a similar requirement in our Education Act, which governs school boards.

As I understand it, the principle here is that the job of the municipal councillors is to make decisions, and to do so by voting at council meetings. This way a councillor has to make a decision or is deemed to have made a decision. There's no wriggling out by saying, "I didn't take a position," on a controversial topic.

This only applies to recorded votes and there are exceptions for absences and any disqualifications from voting (e.g., pecuniary interest). Any member can demand a recorded vote if they want to ensure their colleagues go on the record.

3 hours ago, Joshua Katz said:

If UM wanted to adopt such a bylaw, I would have no complaint. Well, I might complain that it's a bad idea, but who cares what I think? . . . .

I, too wonder if voting thresholds based on number present are more common in Canada than here.

Other than in the case of elected representatives, I don't believe that it is more common up here in ordinary societies.

Edited by Atul Kapur
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4 hours ago, Joshua Katz said:

I was just curious if anyone had followed the drama around the vote of no confidence in the university President. The only customized rule I've seen quoted specified that the motion needed more than 50% of all voting (I'm not sure if that's the actual language or a newspaper summary). The motion received more votes for than against, but the presiding officer ruled that it was lost because the number of votes for were not greater than, as he put it, half the total number of votes, including abstentions(!). Note that he didn't turn it into a majority of the entire membership, or a majority of those present, because he distinguished those who expressly abstained from those who didn't vote (a contradiction in terms). So the effect of saying nothing was nothing, but the effect of expressly abstaining was to vote no. It seems the idea was that an abstention may not be a vote, but a person who abstains is still a person voting - a pretzel I cannot begin to untangle.

It seems there was a lot of discussion, but no appeal. The bylaws specify "Robert's Rules" as the parliamentary authority. This led to further controversy (although pointless because it doesn't impact this case) as to which edition to refer to, which suggests they don't do so very often. For some reason, someone in some position of authority decided that the proper book was the 10th edition. 😞

The board then said they were looking into it and may well change their minds and consider the motion as having passed, which seems like more misunderstandings and mistakes on multiple levels. 

 

This looks like a complete mess on many levels. This article has done some good research on parliamentary procedure and the bylaws of the Senate and Regents of U of M and even shows the relevant passage from the 10th edition.

I am also disappointed to read the reports that the interim secretary "announced that the vote had failed to pass" but the chair "did not call the vote one way or another." It seems she is seeking legal advice.

Following the links from the first article to the bylaws, it appears clear that abstentions should have been ignored.

 

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