Problems of Proceedure

gavel on white background

Hello folks,

So, last week, I was asked by The Varsity‘s Enxhi Kondi for some of my thoughts on “matters of procedure at the recent UTSU AGM”. Now, if you know me, you know I tend to write just a little bit more than what is published when newspapers come out. But, as I tend to, I like to also publish the raw form interview so you can get a sense of the full context of what I said for the piece. Speaking of, the piece, “UTSU AGM rife with “procedural showboating” was published today.

Interview

Kondi: What kind of amendments or changes are allowed to be made to the agenda from the floor and what aren’t? Why are motions from the floor not allowed?

Evoy: Motions, generally, for new items are not allowed as this would violate the notice requirements found in the UTSU Bylaws and the Canada Non-Profit Corporations Act (CNCA). Any motion which violates these provisions would not be binding upon the Board or Union generally, if passed.

As for amendments, the CNCA provides that amendments to motions generally can be made by members–and this would include the agenda. Primarily, amendments to the agenda could include correcting errors or typos, rearranging the order of items, adding items for discussion that do not contain a motion, or removing items (that are not legally required to be dealt with).

Kondi: You stated at one point in the meeting that the RRO should not be abused to prolong the meeting unnecessarily. In what way was the RRO misused at the meeting?

Brad: I’ll be saving any in depth remarks on this for the next SGM, but with the use of Robert’s Rules, there are always a tension between use of procedure and overreliance upon it. As H.M. Robert himself once stated “[a] business meeting is not a class in parliamentary law.”

As for the issue of prolonging the meeting, this was raised as a concern by members during the meeting and brought to my attention. I felt that should be made known to the assembly.

Kondi: Do you have any advice for students coming into the SGM regarding procedure?

Brad: Any advice I’d give comes in three categories:

Ask Questions: Parliamentary procedure is–by its nature and history–arcane and difficult to approach. It is not designed with every member in mind, but still serves an incredibly necessary function within the meeting space. The space might also feel intimidating for new members. The only way to fully engage is to ask questions (if you feel comfortable to do so) if something is unclear. Usually, if one person is lost, they are far from alone.

Check Your Experience: There is, always, in student organizations a disparity between those who follow the organization closely and those who want to newly engage. It is critical, then, that more experienced members keep this in mind and avoid the use of obscure terminology, esoteric motions, and acronyms. Being understanding of others’ growth in the use of procedure is the only way that part of the organization can grow.

Robert’s Isn’t Everything: When considering procedure, we have to look beyond ‘the Rules’ and into the spirit of what will ensure a meeting runs successfully and fairly. In my opinion, this includes enforcing the Union’s policies on equity, anti-harassment, and upholding the broad rights of members. If we conduct ourselves completely in accordance with the legalisms of ‘the Rules’ but have even one member marginalized in the meeting space, then we have still failed and still have much to learn.

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