On Robert’s Rule of Order

Robert’s Rule of Order is the most widely used manual of parliamentary procedure in the United States. Generally, Robert’s Rules of Order is a guide for conducting meetings and making decisions as a group. The purpose of the book is “to enable assemblies of any size, with due regard for every member’s opinion, to arrive at the general will on the maximum number of questions of varying complexity in a minimum amount of time and under all kinds of internal climate ranging from total harmony to hardened or impassioned division of opinion.”

Members of UFT Solidarity have noticed that since UFT Town Halls, Executive Board Meetings, and Delegate Assemblies have gone remote, the UFT leadership has not been following basic protocols to ensure that a “general will” of the membership is heard. Members are muted, time runs out before proposals can be voted upon, and questions are prescreened. We wrote to Leroy Barr, UFT secretary, about our concerns.

Dear Mr. Barr:

Recently we have been reviewing Robert’s Rule of Order as it pertains to remote meetings. We are thrilled that the UFT is hosting Delegate Assembly, Town Hall and Executive Board in these tough times. But we are alarmed at how these sessions are carried out. Members are muted, unable to freely ask questions, they cannot engage easily in Delegate Assembly for motions and someone screens questions ahead of time (so people known to be vocal or problematic will not be called on).

Additionally, the rules for remote DAs eliminated the ability of participants to raise a point or order,  a point of information, a point of personal privilege or any other motion that interrupts debate. The body is ultimately responsible for enforcing its rules, not the president or even the parliamentarian.

We read Robert’s Rules of Order on electronic meetings after a UFT Solidarity motion against Remote Danielson was ignored. We believe the way the UFT does them is not exactly proper. For an electronic meeting a group using Robert’s Rules of Order must have “conditions of opportunity for simultaneous aural communication among all participating members equivalent to those held in one room or area.”

Having someone screen questions and not being able to make a motion would not meet that definition. Elminating the ability of participants to raise a point or order or a point of information does not meet this definition as well. Pressing 0 should be all a member needs to do to get the floor.

We want you to change the way you do meetings, assembly’s and town halls. Let us engage in democratic discourse and not a watered down version meant to stifle dissent.

FYI, here is a link to the sample electronic rules that do not include limits on member rights.

Please let us know when you receive this and when you plan to make these changes.

Sincerely yours,
Lydia Howrilka, James Eterno, John Lawhead and Quinn Zannoni

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