Re: Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised
From: Tom Smyth (
Date: Mon, 14 Dec 2020 14:09:08 -0800 (PST)
Aren't Robert's Rules bad at drawing out the voices of marginalized people?
They assume everyone feels comfortable speaking up and speaking eloquently,
and that everyone has a strong command of the rules themselves. Those are
some pretty hefty assumptions. But yes, there is some real beauty in them,
I agree.

On Mon, Dec 14, 2020 at 4:57 PM Sharon Villines via Cohousing-L <
cohousing-l [at]> wrote:

> For the first time I have been reading the full text of Robert’s Rules of
> Order Newly Revised. I have usually read a shortened Cliff Notes version
> that stressed more than anything else the tedious process of ruling on
> which motion supersedes the other and causes discussion to stop, or when
> deliberations can resume, or how votes can be taken in what order and time
> frame. Who has to stand and who doesn’t. All the tricks legislative bodies
> use to fake out a newcomer. Or declare an objection to be out of order
> because the maker didn’t wait to be recognized by the chair.
> The newly revised version just came out and we are in the middle of
> revising our Bylaws. I needed to read certain sections to clarify them but
> found the discussion so helpful that I’ve ended up reading most of it.
> The Rules are very clear on the following points:
> 1. The process of decision making is one of deliberation. Participating in
> the deliberative process is the important part of the process and one that
> makes it better than other processes that only require a vote.
> 2. The use of preference ranking/voting is more representative of the will
> of the body than majority voting. But since many constitutions and bylaws
> still specify majority vote it usually can’t be used officially.
> 3. They make distinctions between large assemblies and small groups. Many
> formalities are not generally used in smaller groups like boards,
> committees, etc. Others are dropped altogether.
> 4. There are large sections of discussion about what a rule means and why
> it is important, and often what it does not mean. This includes discussion
> of how it can be used inaccurately to unfairly to limit discussion or
> participation. Or even to rescind otherwise valid decisions.
> 5. I find this very helpful in groups like cohousing which have a
> governance organization organized on a wing and prayer based on the
> abilities and interests of those in residence at the time. Robert's defines
> the roles of the officers and the board in terms of function, address
> alternatives, suggest other combinations of tasks, and give examples of
> additional officers and assistants in large organizations. The result is a
> clear sense of what records and functions an organization needs to maintain
> in order to meet its responsibilities of facilitating the objectives of the
> organization, representing its members, and protecting its fiscal and legal
> responsibilities. And also protecting the rights of the individuals in the
> organization's work—not just controlling them.
> In the end I’m finding that we have unfairly thrown the baby out with the
> bathwater in rejecting the whole body of advice because we reject majority
> vote. Robert’s is often said to be designed to protect and promote the
> dominance of the majority. If you read the whole text, its real emphasis is
> on ensuring equal and orderly deliberation and responsible record keeping.
> Long way around to enticing everyone interested in governance to read it.
> It’s a Bestseller on Amazon with a 5-star ranking. What better
> recommendation could you have?
> Sharon
> ———
> Sharon Villines
> affordablecohousing [at]
> To subscribe:
> affordablecohousing+subscribe [at]
> _________________________________________________________________
> Cohousing-L mailing list -- Unsubscribe, archives and other info at:

Tom Smyth

Worker-Owner, Sassafras Tech Collective
Specializing in innovative, usable tech for social change · @sassafrastech
Pronouns: he/him

Results generated by Tiger Technologies Web hosting using MHonArc.