Robert’s Rules: Point of Order

I’m starting up a new feature, on a subject that I personally consider fascinating, though many of you probably don’t. Fear not, I’m not discontinuing my “In The News…” feature or my “Artist Spotlight” feature (hmm… need to do another of those soon). RAther, I’m just adding this to what I’ll occasionally post about.

Robert’s Rules of Order
The Rules of Order exist to help any deliberative body of persons (say, city councils, church councils, parliaments etc) function smoothly, cover all pertinent business in a fair and efficient manner, and most importantly: so that the will of the majority will be followed, with the absolutely necessary proviso that the minority be permitted sufficient opportunity to get a fair hearing and discussion of its views and thus have a chance to become the majority. I firmly believe in this, and got a lot of practice with it when I was a member (then Chair for about a year) of a 60-odd member parliamentary council and the chair and/or resident parliamentarian (IE expert on the Rules of Order) for numerous other councils and committees. Hence, I’ll present snippets from the Rules along with a brief explanation. In subsequent days I’ll go through the provisions that follow the core statement I’ve made, until Ifeel like moving to a different section.

From Robert’s Rules of Order, 10th edition, Chapter VIII: Incidental Motions

    When a member thinks that the rules of the assembly are being violated, he can make a Point of Order (or “raise a question of order,” as it is sometimes expressed), thereby calling upon the chair for a ruling and an eforcement of the regular rules.

It’s actually quite simple here. If you see something going on that you think is counter to the rules, you can interrupt the business at hand (as explained later on in the text itself) to point it out to the body of the council and to the chair in particular, who is then obligated to deal with this before continuing with business. If the Chair and/or assembly find this point of order to be correct, measures must be taken to rectify the situation, then business can resume as normal. IF the entire matter being discussed is determined to be “out of order” then that usually brings an end to that item of business.

Example from my tenure as a member (not chair) of the Judicial Selections Committee:
A vote was brought before the committee on the selection of one of three candidates to fill a suddenly-vacant position as a student justice. The committee had (due to an absence) an even number of members at this meeting. When the vote came up, the chair himself chose to vote rather than holding his vote as a tiebreaker as is customary (though not required in the text describing this specific committee;s Rules). As the numbers were even, The vote likewise came up tied. Note: I had voted for the same time as the committee chair. When the tie came up, he attempted to invoke the chair’s right to break ties with a vote and then voted again. I immediately called a point of order and indicated that Jeff was acting out of order. He was angry at me for pointing this out , but the rules were the rules and he, as the chair, had to abide by them. The first vote was nixed and a revote was called for. The candidate Jeff and I had voted for lost. Afterwards, Jeff expressed his annoyance to me and I informed him that I’d rather lose by the rules than violate them and win.


3 Responses to “Robert’s Rules: Point of Order”

  1. impish1 Says:

    You’re bringing back fond high school memories of Student Council for me.

  2. uhlrik Says:

    Oh, geez… HS Student Council. I did that one too, though admittedly only under protest. I was a club president (2 years in office) and our council rep gave up on doing the job, so I did it. I was active in the council from that point on, though for the most part I disdained its proceedings and only really lent my voice on items I actually considered worth my time, though when I did, what I said largely went.

    I was much more of a factor in college politics (my previous school, not my current one… I’ve made a point to stay out of them this time round).

  3. uhlrik Says:

    Yeah, blindly following orders just because they’re orders isn’t exactly good either.

    Following orders just because they came from me… well that’s downright praiseworthy.

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