Robert's Rules of Order, Newly Revised

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Robert's Rules of Order, Newly Revised is a methodology that maintains parliamentary procedure-- a set of rules by which a group agrees to conduct meetings so that they are fair, orderly, and efficient. These rules are meant to uphold the will of the majority, to protect the rights of the minority, and to protect the interests of those who can’t be there. While in smaller groups it may be possible to do that without too much attention to procedure, it becomes more and more necessary with bigger groups and more controversial debate.

Basic Principles

  • All members have equal rights, privileges, and obligations; rules must be administered impartially.
  • The minority has rights which must be protected as much as those of the majority.
  • Full and free discussion of all business is a right of all members.
  • In doing business, the simplest and most direct procedure should be used.
  • In voting, members have the right to know at all times what motion is before the group, and what positive and negative votes mean.
  • Members are obligated to be familiar with, and uphold procedure, to make sure their own rights are protected, as well as to respect the rights of others.

Getting Started

  • Introduce rules, terms, and phrases, and don’t leave initiates out. Initiation is the best time to learn!
  • Practice & Review: Review the basics of procedure, and run a mock debate at the first meeting of each semester, just to get everyone back in the swing of things.
  • Offer a cheat sheet of the basics (just try to introduce it AFTER the rules have been taught, so it can be a reference instead of a script).

Important Rules of Procedure

  • Keep It Simple - Don’t let the details of procedure hamper the purpose of the debate. If you let the process get too complicated, it can actually defeat the purpose of using procedure in the first place.
  • Be Fair - Give everyone the same opportunity to speak, the same amount of time, the same amount of attention, the same respect.
  • Don’t do business without quorum - To have quorum you must have a simple majority (>50%) of ALL active members present.
  • Allow Only One - Only one item of business should be discussed at a time. Each item of business should only be considered once during the same meeting. Only one member should speak at a time.
  • Explain what you’re doing - Before taking a vote, the meaning and effect of a passed or failed motion should be explained so that all members can understand.
  • Discourage Abstentions (choosing not to vote) - To abstain is a right of being a member, but to vote is an obligation of being an active one.

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