July 30th, 2015

Business Meeting

Meeting Rules: Instead of Complaining, Propose Something Workable

I'm going to surprise some people here with my opening statement: Robert's Rules of Order is too complicated.

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So if I dislike RONR that much, why am I such a champion for it? Because I tried once to introduce a simpler manual, and the members rejected it. Specifically, the book currently known as the Standard Code of Parliamentary Procedure. (Hereafter TSC.) This book, previously known as Sturgis' Code, is a simplified form of American parliamentary procedure. In my opinion, it's actually closer to what the members of WSFS and Westercon want, with one big exception: Objection to Consideration. A fair chunk of the Worldcon Business Meeting Standing Rules modifies RONR to be closer to TSC.

Some years ago (during the Spokane Westercon, as it happens), I pushed hard to get TSC adopted as the parliamentary manual for Westercon business meetings. The rules on amending the Westercon bylaws were easier then, and I managed to get my way, by a single vote. But the following year, I wasn't able to attend the Westercon in Hawaii, and the Meeting changed things back to RONR. I usually know when I'm defeated, and there are limits to how many times I'm prepared to invest effort in a losing cause. The people who show up and vote voted to stick with the older, more complicated rules, probably because they already know how they work, and they feared any change that might require them to learn anything new, even if it was easier. I understand that. Westercon and WSFS Business Meetings tend to be fundamentally conservative in the sense of "reluctant to change," not in the US political philosophy sense.

So change comes slowly and incrementally. Abuse of Objection to Consideration, and the unseemly behavior of people deploying it against every single proposal, led to the WSFS Business Meeting agreeing to make OTC a higher hurdle (3/4 vote instead of 2/3) and allowing the use of Postpone Indefinitely (previously banned under WSFS rules) as a motion with limited debate, allowing for a short debate about why something is worth discussing, but allowing 2/3 of the members to kill the proposal after that short debate.

WSFS rules are complicated because the people who attend the meetings have effectively voted for complexity, but also because some of the complexity is required to protect the rights of members, both individually and in groups, and including the members who aren't even at the meeting. If you have a better way for deciding how we should run things, the onus is on you to propose something. As long as you just complain that "it's too complicated," without proposing something both easier and workable, don't expect to be taken seriously.
Gavel of WSFS

WSFS Order of Business (Thursday)

Based on feedback I received today, not everyone realizes that there's substantive WSFS business scheduled for the Preliminary Business Meeting (Thursday 10 AM). It's not just an agenda-setting exercise. Proposals can be killed, and some things can get final approval on Thursday, just not constitutional amendments.

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Here are the general classes of objects you'll see at the Preliminary Business Meeting (PBM) on Thursday morning (10 AM, Room 300B) at this year's Worldcon in Spokane, but not necessarily in the order we're going to consider them.

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Getting everything done within a 3-hour program block can be challenging, particularly as I do intend to put in at least one ten-minute recess and maybe two depending on how things go, plus short "technical time outs" every 30 minutes to swap recording cartridges.