The Strawberry Patch

Enrichment and Inspiration for Beta Sigma Phi Sisters from Marilyn Ross


The study of Parliamentary law opens an interesting field for self-improvement and provides mental exercise that is excellent if we wish to enjoy the opportunities of organizational life to its fullest extent.

Q: One of the greatest problems that seems to arise is by-laws. May by-laws ever be suspended?

A: No. The purpose of by-laws is to protect the membership from hasty action on important issues. By-laws should not contain petty rules that need to be suspended, and should some of the laws be found to be useless or a hindrance, then the by-laws should be amended to strike out the objectionable features. But while they are a part of the laws of the organization they must be obeyed.

Q: Is it correct for the President, when minutes have been read, to ask, "Are there any corrections, omissions, or additions?"

A: No. The President should simply ask, "Are there any corrections?"

Q: What is done with the annual financial report of the Chapter Treasurer when the by-laws fail to provide for an auditor or an auditing committee?

A: The President may ask, "How shall the auditing committee be appointed? Or the President may say, "The financial report should be audited. A motion to appoint an auditing committee is in order." The treasurer should move that the committee be appointed, for the audit is a protection to her as well as to the organization.

Most organizations require a financial report from the treasurer every meeting; this is for the purpose of information and quite proper, but no action is taken on the unaudited financial report. The auditor's report or the report of the auditing committee should be adopted, however.

Q: When the President and Vice-President are absent and chairman pro tem is presiding, how is she addressed?

A: She is addressed as "Madam Chairman."

Q: How is the President addressed when she is presiding?

A: She is addressed as "Madam President."

Q: May a secretary make motions and debate?

A: Yes.

Q: May a presiding officer make motions and enter into discussions?

A: Not while she is in the chair. Should she wish to do so, she must call the vice-president to the chair, and after she has debated the question, she may not assume the chair until the question has been settled.

A wise presiding officer will enter into discussion seldom, for impartiality is a necessary virtue if confidence is to be her reward in the hearts of the members of the chapter. Information is not discussion, and the President should give information that will be helpful in expediting the business at hand.

Q: Should the secretary close her minutes with "Respectfully submitted?"

A: No. The minutes are not the secretary's report. They are the record of the business of the meeting and the secretary simply signs her legal name and gives the title of her office.

Q: Are lost motions recorded in the minutes?

A: All main motions are recorded in the minutes whether carried or lost.

Q: Is it your belief that a President should be chosen chiefly because she is a good parliamentarian?

A: No. There are many other virtues necessary if a chapter is to enjoy success and harmony. A person may not be well versed in parliamentary law, but if she is intelligent, sincere, and eager to succeed in her office, she will equip herself with knowledge of this science. A good president must be tactful and just, willing to work diligently herself, if she would have others work; courageous, too, because there always are problems that arise when she cannot please the entire group, and it will be necessary to choose the course that will result in the most good for the chapter. If she has all the other qualities, her members will love her and follow her, even when they are not able to agree with her on some points. This they will do because she has earned their respect and confidence.

If a worthy person is elected to the high office of president she soon will become an efficient parliamentarian because it is her duty to learn how to protect the chapter from unfairness, or thoughtlessness. She must set the example of orderliness of thought and action, kindliness, gratitude and tolerance. Parliamentary law helps to develop these virtues but the heart must be willing and the purpose sincere.

Q: Do you consider it necessary to follow certain strict rules in conducting a meeting?

A: Not entirely. The purpose of parliamentary law is to make meetings efficient, interesting and fair. Sometimes we are confronted with the type of person who has learned a little about this science and is so eager to display this knowledge that she continually will raise points of order and insist on reading excerpts from the parliamentary authority. We should remember always that parliamentary law is to serve the chapter and not the individual who seeks an easy road to recognition.

1. Basic principles of Parliamentary Law:
  • Justice and Courtesy to all
  • One thing at a time
  • The rights of the minority - that they be heard
  • The rule of the majority

2. We need parliamentary procedure to prevent chaos in our meetings.

3. BASIC RULE: Get a motion on the floor-"I move that..." Get a second to the motion, and then the discussion will have some reason for taking place.

4. A MOTION is made in the positive and voted down ... it is never made in the negative.

5. All meetings should begin and end on time. Business should be dealt with speedily but thoroughly. Presidents should be firm in holding all the excursions into side issues to a minimum.

6. The social hour should be just that . . . a social hour, not a rump session for the meeting; but a time to truly enjoy the friendships we have in Beta Sigma Phi.

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