Nathan’s Rules of Order

Maybe this year’s CCSC will have less procedural headaches. During the first general body meeting of Columbia College Student Council, president Nathan Rosin introduced the council’s new Rules of Order. Throughout the meeting, members clearly alluded to the procedural disasters that made the new Rules of Order necessary, including a now-closed loophole that allowed discussions on motions to end discussion.

For non-elected members of CCSC, the most important part of the new rules came from questions and not the written presentation. Abstention from a vote must be justified by a conflict of interest or absence from a conversation. There is not, however, any mechanism that requires elected members to explain their extension beyond trust. Furthermore, abstentions are effectively no votes for the purposes of determining a majority, which requires a majority of yes votes.

For the sake of record, all non-procedural votes that are not unanimous are counted by roll call. Non-procedural votes are votes on the content on a proposal, to approve or disapprove, rather than votes on what to do with a proposal, whether to end or extend discussion on the proposal.  Roll-call voting means that the votes of each member is recorded in the minutes of the general body meeting. However, elected members can request that a procedural vote be determined by roll-call. This theoretically could be countered by a motion to move to secret ballot, which requires a two-thirds vote by elected members and means that the way individual members voted would not be recorded.

Abstentions and roll-call votes are not normally part of CCSC proceedings, especially when most votes in the council are unanimous. However, for parliamentary tacticians like Fernardo Wood and Mitch McConnell, these rules are invaluable when controversial proposals come to the floor. This was very much the case when Columbia University Apartheid Divest tried to pass a ballot resolution in support of their cause last semester, when some members felt pressured to vote a certain way based on the public nature of the voting. Though with last year’s seniors gone, no one knows if CCSC would have to face anything like that again.

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