Chair-Elect, Cathy Middlecamp, Fall 2015

Cathy MiddlecampA Parliamentarian.  Never leave home without one.

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Really? A parliamentarian?

Yes.  I believe we in DivCHED would benefit from the expertise of a parliamentarian.  I’ve come to this conclusion for several reasons, including:

  1. A parliamentarian knows Robert’s Rules of Order. 
  2. I don’t know Robert’s Rules of Order.  I suppose I could fake it, though.
  3. DivCHED shouldn’t have a chair who is faking their way through parliamentary procedure.  Dare I say, we newbie chairs have enough other things to fake our way through.

Oops.  There, I said it.  As your incoming chair, I have some holes in my knowledge    My hunch is I’m not the only incoming chair who could make such an admission.

In my first six months as your chair-elect, current chair Marcy Towns, past chair Don Wink, and current secretary Resa Kelly have been filling my In Box and chatting with me over conference lines.  They have won my admiration in multiple ways.  One is their good cheer and hard work on behalf of our Division.  Another is the thoughtful, consistent ways they have been working with other members of the Division to increase our professional know-how.  They – in concert with other officers and those serving on our committees – continue to champion upgrades in our finances, record-keeping, and policies.

As the newbie, I have several learning curves to climb, thanks to their hard work.  An additional learning curve is how to chair our Executive Committee meeting.  Here’s where the parliamentarian comes in. 

OK, what is a parliamentarian?  This person advises those leading a meeting on matters of parliamentary procedure.  The goal is to ensure a productive, efficient, and legal meetings. 

And what is parliamentary procure?  It is a set of rules for conduct at meetings in order to allow everyone to be heard and to make decisions without confusion. It is time-tested.  Also somewhat flexible.

How about Robert’s Rules of Order, newly revised?  Actually his name was Henry, and please allow me to provide a bit of history:
“Henry Martyn Robert was an engineering officer in the regular Army. Without warning he was asked to preside over a public meeting being held in a church in his community and realized that he did not know how. He tried anyway and his embarrassment was supreme. This event, which may seem familiar to many readers, left him determined never to attend another meeting until he knew something of parliamentary law.” (

I identify with Henry.  Today, the rules he drafted are in their eleventh edition with over 5 million copies in print.  Marcy purchased a copy and so will I.

When Marcy hands me the reins at the end of 2015, I feel confident in my ability to shepherd the “fixed order of business” that accompanies Robert’s Rules.  It goes something like this:
Call to order
Roll call of members present
Reviewing of minutes of last meeting
Committee reports
Old (unfinished) business
New business

But am I versed in lore such as the four basic types of motions?  What individual members of the group can and cannot do? Who gets to speak first when a motion is made?  Which ways are allowable to vote on a motion?  How people obtain the floor?  See below for answers that start a conversation rather than end one.

So with this, my first column in our CHED newsletter, I’m making a plea for adding yet another bit of expertise to our Division.  I’ve added this as a discussion item under new business.  In the meantime, if any of you reading this happen to be or know a parliamentarian, I’d love to hear from you.

I agree – parliamentary procedure is a fine way for us to get things done at our meetings.  We’ve used it well in the past. Can we use it even better in the future?  Let’s find out together.

As Rudy Baum would say, thank you for reading!

ANSWERS: There are four basic types of motions:  Main, Subsidiary, Privileged and Incidental. One thing individuals can do is to make motions; they have a longer list of abilities as well.  The person who made the motion is always allowed to speak first. Lots of voting methods are possible and depend both on the situation and on our by-laws.  Methods include voice, roll call, general consent and ballot. But two other things relate to motions – tabling and postponing indefinitely.  Here the procedure gets tricky!  Likewise, getting the floor can be tricky, especially in the heat of a discussion.

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