February/March 2017 Parliamentarian’s Corner: The Committee of the Whole

Purpose: As we discussed previously, a huge advantage to utilizing Robert’s Rules is that it provides structure to our meetings and designates methods for achieving various goals. Occasionally, a very important but non-specific or ill-defined question/idea is brought up for discussion. When this happens, it is generally a good idea to refer such a question/idea to a committee of Brothers in which the thought can be discussed in greater detail but without the constraints set on discussion outlined by the House Rules and Robert’s Rules (such as those regarding time limits for discussion, the number of times an individual Brother can speak, etc.). However, an issue may be so important that it warrants discussion and input from every Brother attending the meeting and/or cannot be delayed until a committee can discuss the question/idea in detail. When a situation such as those described above arises, Brothers can utilize the Committee of the Whole. Discussion: There are several different ways in which the Committee of the Whole may be used. The procedure is dependent upon the needs of the group and the level of formality required within the discussion. Each of the three options will be outlined below with the key similarities and differences highlighted. 1. Committee of the Whole 2. As if in (or Quasi) Committee of the Whole 3. Informal Consideration 1. Committee of the Whole – most formal, most flexible discussion: a. A Brother must make a motion to commit or refer in order to start the process. For example, “I motion that a Committee of the Whole be formed to discuss X” (X being the topic of discussion). In this case, there is no specified time limit included in the motion. Should you wish to limit debate in the Committee of the Whole, you should state the length of time in the motion, such as – “…Committee of the Whole be formed to discuss X for 10 minutes.” However, note that if a time limit is approved, discussion time while in the Committee of the Whole CANNOT be extended. If the motion to refer to the Committee of the Whole passes, continue to the next step below. b. As the formal chairperson of the group, the presiding Officer (Regent/Satrap/Grand Regent) will then appoint a “Chairperson” for the committee who will lead the discussion (and later provide the “report” of the committee). c. At this point, discussion is open to Brothers and only motions to adopt (creating a main motion), motions to amend a main motion, and a motion to “rise and report” are allowed (the motion to “rise and report” ends discussion within the Committee of the Whole). Brothers are allowed to speak as many times as they may like, provided each Brother is given an opportunity to speak at least once before a Brother speaks a second time. Limits regarding the length of each individual speech included in the House Rules are observed while in the Committee of the Whole (the Committee of the Whole removes limits to the total length of time a Brother can speak and the number of speeches an individual Brother can make if these are limited in the House Rules). d. The motion to “rise and report” is equivalent to a privileged motion to adjourn (it requires a majority affirmative vote, cannot be amended, and is undebatable). When the time limit set during the motion to refer to the Committee of the Whole has been reached, or a motion to rise and report has passed, the presiding Officer will call upon the appointed Committee of the Whole chairperson to provide their report of the committee’s discussion. The report should contain a brief summary of the main ideas discussed by the Committee of the Whole and also include any recommendations (main motion(s) which the committee voted to approve while in the Committee of the Whole). i. Should the Committee of the Whole create a main motion, the group will need to vote as to whether the motion should be adopted. This second vote is needed because the vote to adopt while within the Committee of the Whole is actually a vote to recommend the motion to the main group (the Chapter, Province, Fraternity as a whole depending on the situation) and not a motion to simply approve and adopt the motion as it would be considered while outside of the Committee of the Whole. ii. If a main motion is created and amended, vote(s) should be taken by the main group to determine if amendments recommended by the Committee will be accepted by the main group. A member may ask that each amendment proposed by the Committee be voted on separately; otherwise, it is in order to simply vote on whether or not to adopt all amendments to the main motion and then subsequently vote on whether the main group will adopt the main motion (with or without the proposed amendments). iii. If no main motion is recommended by the Committee of the Whole, the report will simply conclude with a brief summary of the proceedings of the Committee – note that the report of the chairperson (and not the discussions while in the Committee of the Whole) should be included in the meeting minutes. 2. As if in (or Quasi) the Committee of the Whole – less formal, less flexible. a. There are a few key differences between the Committee of the Whole and the Quasi Committee of the whole. They are outlined below: i. The motion to start the process would be something to the effect of “I motion to discuss X as if in the Committee of the Whole for 10 minutes”. You might also say “I motion to discuss X in the Quasi Committee of the Whole for 10 minutes”. Again, note the time limit, which may or may not be included. ii. The presiding Officer (Regent/Satrap/Grand Regent) retains the chair in this case, leads discussion, and provides the report of the Committee when discussion has concluded. iii. If a main motion is adopted (with or without amendments) while in the Quasi Committee of the Whole, the committee is automatically dissolved and the presiding officer presents the report of the Quasi Committee of the Whole. Additionally, all other possible subsidiary motions are allowed when in the Quasi Committee of the Whole. Any subsidiary motion accepted by the main group also automatically dissolves the Quasi Committee of the Whole. For example, motions to postpone, lay on the table, refer to committee, etc. are allowed and put an end to discussion within the Quasi Committee of the Whole. iv. When discussion within the Quasi Committee of the Whole has ended, the presiding Officer will provide the report of the Quasi Committee of the Whole, including any recommendations made by the committee. The main group will need to vote on the recommendations in the same way as if discussion was completed within the Committee of the Whole. Once again, the report of the Committee, not the discussion said within the Quasi Committee of the Whole, should be included in the meeting minutes. 3. Informal Discussion – least formal, least flexible: a. There are, again, several key differences. They are outlined below: i. The motion to start the process would be something to the effect of “I motion to discuss X informally for 10 minutes”. Again, note the time limit, which may or may not be included. ii. Because there is no committee involved, there is no report of committee discussion or committee recommendations. As such, all motions made during informal discussion carry the same weight and force as if not being discussed informally (a motion to adopt a main motion, for example, is voted on only once and adopted or rejected as it would be during normal discussion. iii. When discussing a question/idea informally, the only rules which are disposed of are those regarding the number of individual speeches and the length of individual speeches (as is the case in the Committee of the Whole and the Quasi Committee of the Whole). However, when using informal discussion, these exceptions only apply to discussions of main motions or amendments – any other debatable motions carry the normal limits to individual speeches described in the House Rules. iv. As when discussing an idea within a Quasi Committee of the Whole, any adoption of a main motion or subsidiary motion automatically ends informal discussion. Because there is no committee involved in informal discussion, any ideas discussed or motions made should be included in the meeting minutes. Example: A few Brothers at your Chapter have decided that they believe the Chapter should do a better job of recognizing the amazing contributions of the Chapter’s Brothers. However, they are unsure of where to start and would like to discuss their ideas with the Chapter. During the Chapter’s next general body meeting a Brother motions to “form a Committee of the Whole to discuss potential options for recognition of Brothers.” A number of Brothers second the motion and it passes easily with little discussion. As such, the Chapter Regent chooses the Brother making the motion to act as the chairperson of the Committee of the Whole. Discussion begins and Brothers make a number of points which help to form ideas for potential methods of recognition. Questions raised include: 1. What actions and/or qualities are worthy of recognition? 2. How will Brothers be chosen for recognition? 3. How many Brothers should be recognized in a given time period? 4. What form of recognition will be given? 5. Should multiple forms of recognition be used? Based on this discussion, Brothers create a number of ideas for recognition: 1. Brothers will be recognized weekly by nomination from another Brother for clearly demonstrating Industry, Sobriety, Fellowship or High Ideals. 2. Monthly, a Brother will be recognized for their outstanding leadership within the Chapter’s committees. The Chapter will vote on nominations submitted by committee chairpersons. These Brothers will have the privilege of being served first at all Chapter events in which food is served during the next academic year. 3. A single Brother will be recognized as the “Brother of the Year”. The Chapter’s Executive Committee will select the recipient after receiving nominations from the Chapter. Each recipient will have their name displayed on a plaque which will be hung in the Chapter’s College display case. 4. Dues will be increased by 10% to fund a small scholarship, to be given to two P4 Brothers yearly. The Executive Committee will work with the Chapter GCD to create the scholarship criteria. 5. The Brother who fundraises the most money for the Chapter will be given a refund for their yearly dues at the end of each academic year. Once these ideas were formed and each was adopted by the Committee of the Whole for recommendation through a majority affirmative vote, a Brother motions that the Committee “rise and report its conclusions”. Upon summarizing the discussion and the 5 recommendations devised by the Committee, the Chapter votes and adopts each recommendation. Conclusion: As you can see, the Committee of the Whole, as well as the other options for expanding discussion, provide a variety of interesting ways in which Brothers can lessen the normal constraints of discussion. While each option is slightly different, each method provides unique characteristics and provides differing advantages which may be utilized for the purpose of better meeting the needs of the Fraternity.

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