Robert's Rules of Order

Robert's Rules of Order

Basic assumptions:

  • Role of the Chair.
    • Facilitates the flow of business.  The chair applies the rules unless the assembly challenges the action.
    • Normally does not engage in debate while serving as chair.
    • Votes when the vote makes a difference; i.e., to break a tie or to cause a tie.
  • Business done with motions.
    • All business is to be introduced in the form of a motion.
    • Debate follows and must be germane to the current motion.
    • Once made, motions belong to the body.
  • Majority rules, while minority needs to be protected.

Basic rules:

  • Agenda
    • UAS by-laws require the circulation of the agenda at least 5 class days before the meeting.
    • Should contain the wording of the motions to come as business items.
  • Quorum
    • UAS by-laws set this at a simple majority [50% +1].  However, the chair declares a “quorum”.  This ruling may always be challenged.
  • Main motion
    • Statement of the business to be acted on.  Must be introduced before debate on the item.
    • May be amended by addition, deletion, or substitution.
      • Discussion only on the amendment.
    • If an amendment is approved, the “amended” motion now becomes the motion before the body.
    • Motions need a second, and they are approved by simple majority.
    • Note that a “friendly amendment” must be acted on as a regular motion.
  • Actions dealing with a motion
    • “Table” - Purpose is to postpone debate of a motion.  Requires a second, is not debatable, and requires simple majority and cannot be taken from the “table” unless a majority supports that action.
    • Refer – Purpose is to have another group deal with the motion.  Requires a second, can be debated, can be amended, and requires simple majority.
    • Reconsider – Purpose is to have another say about a motion on that day that was already dealt with.   Mover must have voted with prevailing side, requires a second, and requires a simple majority. 
    • “Call the question” – Purpose is to close debate on the item before the house, requires a second, and requires 2/3 this motion is not debatable.
  • Voting
    • UAS rules allow voice vote, show of hands, or secret ballot at the discretion of the chair.
    • Secret ballot if requested by 10% of the members present.
    • Proxy votes are not allowed.
    • Robert’s Rules treats abstentions as non-votes. [Our current practice is to count abstentions, thus treating these positions as “another type of vote”.  Which raises the question of whether it is possible to abstain from voting - can you abstain when an abstention is counted as a vote just the same as voting yes or no??]
  • Ex-officio membership
    • Purpose is to make someone a member because of the “office” held.  Robert’s Rules count these members as any other member; e.g, right to debate, right to vote, and right to hold office.  Under GVSU’s Faculty Handbook voting rights of ex officio members have been removed in many settings.