One of the biggest arguments in favor of the Union government restructuring proposal was that it would remove the difficult parliamentary procedure of the Senate.  The new Union Assembly would have been a smaller body, free from the obscure minutiae of Robert’s Rules of Order and easier for students to approach and work with.

Even if the amendment had passed, it’s uncertain that this would actually have happened.  The operating procedures for the Union governing bodies are found in the Bylaws, not the Constitution, and it would have been up to the Assembly members to decide to make the change. The five member Union Judiciary constantly chose to employ the most formal procedures possible; it’s entirely likely that the larger Assembly would have retained Robert’s Rules.

Still, the proposal had the support of at least 10 Senators, and I think that very few people would disagree that the devotion to Robert’s Rules is probably the biggest detriment to the Senate, both in student opinion and in quick and easy decision-making.  So how can the Union get rid of Robert’s Rules for good and replace it with a less formal, more appropriate debate format?

Actually, it would be very easy.  In fact, the Union Senate could do it at their next meeting, and we’d never have to worry about “points of order” or “motions to the previous question” again.  All it would take is a Bylaw amendment, which would need to be approved by a 2/3 vote of the Senate, and any Senator could submit the legislation.  I don’t know what procedure would replace it, but I’m sure it wouldn’t take much research to find a procedure more suited for smaller assemblies.  Alternatively, the Senate could just go without a formal procedure (as it does when it enters committee of the whole), which works surprisingly well as long as the chair is active in keeping the group focused.  Anything that allows the focus of the debate to be on the merits of the proposal rather than on the debate process itself would be an improvement.

There’s definitely a proper time and place for parliamentary procedure, but it’s not in a 20 person student assembly that focuses mainly on chartering clubs.  There’s nothing keeping the Senate from changing the way it operates, and no one likes the way it works now.  Why don’t they do something about it?

One comment on “Getting Rid of Robert’s Rules”

  1. Phil LaCombe Says:

    I would keep Robert’s Rules. I will admit I am biased–I did Model Congress in high school and those debates were governed by Robert’s Rules, but I think that sometimes they’re all that hold the Senate together. Americans have been using those rules for over 100 years in order to keep debate civil and organized. I also disagree that the rules are mismatched for the size of the Student Senate. Adam, you’d know better than me since you actually chaired the Senate, but it for the times I visited it looked like an overwhelming job to keep everyone in line.