The 85th Students’ Association Congress cannot perform to its potential because of the rules of order used during meetings.
SA meetings run much longer than needed because of tradition and the rules of order. Because of this hang-up, members of SA are looking at ways to help meetings run more smoothly.
A great example of rules getting in the way came two weeks ago when a motion was made and seconded to extend discussion time by 10 minutes. The congresswoman changed her mind, just after she said “10 minutes,” to a shorter time of seven minutes.
To go through the motions by the book to change the amount of time would have taken several minutes. Instead, Congress ignored the seconded 10-minute motion and voted on her intended motion of a time of seven minutes.
Matt Greenberg, chief development officer, and other members of Congress don’t want to throw out all order. They merely want to let meetings move along more quickly by not getting caught on all the small details.
“If we have to follow it to the letter like that, then it takes forever,” Greenberg said. “It’s not like there’s no order.”
As of last week, Congress created an internal affairs committee to examine procedural and internal issues in the hopes of diverting distractive procedural issues from the general meeting. The move marks a necessary first step in shifting focus from Congress to the student body.
And Congress offered more hope of change Wednesday, when a group of 12 congresspersons led by spokespeople Ryan Stephen and Brandon Smith challenged representatives to do legislative preparatory work outside of meetings, and to focus in meetings on productivity more than procedure.
Greenberg pointed out how changing the wording of a motion to reduce a few minutes of debate is different from leniency on an important bill that warrants order.
He must remain unyielding on rules of order pertaining to important motions. He must be able to lead the meeting with his decision-making and use his judgment on what rules he can and cannot bend.
“It’s tougher to convince those who are used to doing a certain way of things. Often change is needed, and I think now is one of those times,” Greenberg said. “When you perceive a problem, then you look at ways to fix it.”
To change the current rules of order would take congressional amendments. Greenberg said another small, informal group of five is forming to address the issue and will research possibilities before presenting ideas to the SA Congress.
Although most students can’t see the effects of the inner workings of the meeting of Congress, a close examination of procedure could help Congress better serve the student body.