Jordan Morelli, Notes on Faculty Board Restructuring and Quorum (3 April 2012)

In his motion concerning a restructuring of Faculty Board (FB), Associate Dean Lemieux has misrepresented Bourinot’s Rules on the matter of quorum. Of FB’s current practice, he states:  “Such a quorum, as a proportion of the membership, falls well short of a majority of the full membership, as recommended by Bourinot’s.”  But Bourinot does not suggest or recommend “a majority of the full membership.”

Even with reference to the House of Commons, Bourinot states that “twenty members [. . . .] constitutes a quorum” (p. 21).  Since there are currently 308 seats, this represents only 6.5%.  Later, Bourinot states: “In legislative bodies a quorum [. . .] is usually many less than the total number of members of such bodies” (p. 45).  Associate Dean Lemieux himself goes on to say that “in many academic legislative bodies across Canada (including Queen’s Senate), the quorum is one-third of the full membership.”

FB does not need to set quorum as high as one third for the very reason that it does not use proportional representation and thus does not routinely exclude the vast majority of those concerned.  The passage from Bourinot that Associate Dean Lemieux has cited explains why this is so:  “The importance of a quorum arises from the need to avoid any appearance of action by a minority which might commit the whole group without its assent or the opportunity to advance dissenting opinion” (p. 45). This “need” is fully satisfied by the current rule for quorum in FB, since any member who wishes to do so has “the opportunity to advance dissenting opinion.” They need only show up at the meeting.  The case would be different in a body represented by proportional representation.

It can also be shown that there is no need to restructure FB membership in order to protect against “unbalanced” motions by “minorities.”

According to Bourinot’s Rules, “Procedures are sometimes provided not only for rescinding a motion that has been adopted, but also for reconsidering a motion that failed. [. . .] The provision is a useful one, in that conclusions occasionally may be reached too hastily or on the basis of inadequate information, and a later review may well be in the general interest.  However, reconsideration should not be allowed except upon due notice and formal motion, and it is customary to insist on a two-thirds majority vote on a motion to reconsider” (p. 48).

Thus, rather than restructuring FB as proposed by Associate Dean Lemieux (which actually would do nothing to eliminate the possibility of concerned groups banding together to raise an important issue, except to suppress their participation in FB at all), FB should operate within its existing rules (or within rules slightly modified as has already been proposed by Mark Jones), which permit motions from the floor provided that their inclusion on the agenda is approved by a two-thirds majority, and which also permit FB members who feel strongly that an unwise decision was made at a previous FB meeting to move a reconsideration or rescinding of the motion that concerns them.

The reality is that the current rules of FB provide for the remedy that Steve Iscoe sees as needed.  FB need only follow its existing rules (as supplemented by Bourinot).  Therefore Associate Dean Lemieux’s proposal may be viewed as an attempt on the part of the Dean’s office to disenfranchise the majority of FB members and thereby make it more difficult for the FB to challenge the authority of the Deans.

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