On this week’s episode of the Healthy, Wealthy and Smart Podcast, Jenna Kantor guests hosts and interviews Lynn Rivers on Robert’s Rules. Dr. Rivers is currently the Speaker of the Assembly for the New York Physical Therapy Association (NYPTA) and sits on the Board of Directors for the NYPTA. She strives to facilitate the active engagement of the students in becoming advocates for the patients/clients they will serve and their profession.
In this episode, we discuss:
-What are Robert’s Rules and how debate is conducted at the House of Delegates
-Different ways to collect votes from the delegates
-Point of Order, Point of Inquiry and Point of Information
-Can a guest speak during a meeting?
-And so much more!
For more information on Lynn:
Dr. Lynn Rivers has 25 years experience as a clinician and 20 years as an educator in higher education. Her clinical experience has focused on adults with neurological disorders and traumatic injuries such as head injury and spinal cord injury while working in a Level I Trauma Center. Before becoming chairperson of the department in 2001, Dr. Rivers was Director of Clinical Education for the physical therapy program. Dr. Rivers is currently the Speaker of the Assembly for the New York Physical Therapy Association (NYPTA)and sits on the Board of Directors for the NYPTA. She strives to facilitate the active engagement of the students in becoming advocates for the patients/clients they will serve and their profession.
For more information on Jenna:
Jenna Kantor (co-founder) is a bubbly and energetic girl who was born and raised in Petaluma, California. Growing up, she trained and performed ballet throughout the United States. After earning a BA in Dance and Drama at the University of California, Irvine, she worked professionally in musical theatre for 15+ years with tours, regional theatres, & overseas (www.jennakantor.com) until she found herself ready to move onto a new chapter in her life – a career in Physical Therapy. Jenna is currently in her 3rd year at Columbia University’s Physical Therapy Program. She is also a co-founder of the podcast, “Physiotherapy Performance Perspectives,” has an evidence-based monthly youtube series titled “Injury Prevention for Dancers,” is a NY SSIG Co-Founder, NYPTA Student Conclave 2017 Development Team, works with the NYPTA Greater New York Legislative Task Force and is the NYPTA Public Policy Committee Student Liaison. Jenna aspires to be a physical therapist for amateur and professional performers to help ensure long, healthy careers. To learn more, please check out her website: www.jennafkantor.wixsite.com/jkpt
Read the full transcript below:
Jenna Kantor: 00:00 Hello and good morning. This is Jenna Kantor. I’m here with healthy, wealthy and smart and I get to interview Lynn Rivers who knows so much about Roberts rules. Okay. Robert’s rules. You know I’m going to actually hand over the mic because I can already imagine me describing it and Lynn going, well not exactly. So would you mind first just defining what Robert’s rules is and where it is in applied within the APTA?
Lynn Rivers: 00:26 Sure. Well Good Morning Jen. Thanks for the opportunity. Thank you for the opportunity to be able to share just about 28 years that I have sort of gotten myself involved and love Robert’s rules of order. So what is Robert’s rules of order? It goes back hundreds and hundreds of years. It is the philosophy and the construct of how do organizations, any organization, whether it’s a small church board or it’s Congress or its parliament in England, how does a civil society with lots of divergent opinions, how do we conduct our business so that there are two principles that are met and the two principles are that the will of the majority will rule, but we must protect the rights of the minority. So it is for the voices of everyone in whatever society, whatever group, whatever meeting that every opinion gets heard and heard with respect. And that there is civility so that when very strong, strong opinions can equally be heard, both sides of the debate can be heard.
Lynn Rivers: 01:41 But there is civility and respect. And then when the decision is reached that the minority will agree that the will of the majority will rule. So that those are the two principles. So then the rules, holy smokes, there’s, you know, I’m sure if people have looked into it, the 11th edition is 800 pages long and there are so many minutia rules. But the bottom line is that the rules guide how people make decisions about what gets heard and how we make choices. So there are just the word motions is a tenant of Robert’s rules of orders. So what is a motion? A motion is just an ask. It is an idea that someone has, that they want the society, the group, the organization to do. I want to ask that we pursue buying a piece of property or I want my APTA to look into this or work on this legislation, create a document for us to help us write.
Lynn Rivers: 02:56 It’s an ask and then there’s a way to make the ask. And so they give guidelines on how you make the ask. And then there are rules of then how do people debate. So you have to write out your ask. It becomes a motion. And then it’s agreed during the meeting. It will be, they call it lay it on the table, but it just means say it right. Make the ask for the whole body to hear. And then there is the leader of the meeting who is neutral and just trying to facilitate the discussion and they have different titles. Then everyone respectfully just raises their hand or makes a motion. They have to be recognized to speak. And then when you speak to the motion there are just rules of civility meeting respect that you aren’t shouting that you are just speaking to the facilitator of the meeting and you are making your case but you tend not to speak only about the motion, not who made the motion and don’t speak ill of any other opinion. You just state your own opinion and the debate goes back and forth and then there’s a vote.
Jenna Kantor: 04:16 Actually could we go on this a little bit more with the ask, cause there’s some things in this that I think is so fantastic with the civility that you are discussing and you guys, anybody listening, all you new grads, anybody who hasn’t done house of delegates or been to any of these type of meetings before. You know how easy it is for things to get heated when it should, when it’s a touchy subject. And of course within physical therapy we’re extremely passionate about what we do. So those issues can get personal very easily. So would you mind going into the process of who is actually getting the eye contact, when you are standing up to speak about something and say it might be something you are quite passionate about, you have a written out exactly what you want to say. Who do you make eye contact with? And how do you address or refer to somebody who may have spoken before? Would you mind giving an example of that so people can get a better idea of how important and valuable it is to keep this going?
Lynn Rivers: 05:18 Be Glad to Jenna. So I’m just going to think back to the most recent house. The American Physical Therapy Association taking a stance against firearm violence. And there are some very passionate opinions in the room. So what will happen is in order to not hurt feelings or offend anyone, what happens is that the individual who wants to now speak passionately against the APTA taking any kind of social stance, they make direct eye contact, the room is full of 400 people, face forward. You’re looking directly at the speaker of the house, which is the title of the individual who’s standing up in the front, who has recognized you to speak and you say, Madam Speaker, I would like to speak vehemently against this. I respectfully disagree with the previous speaker from Oregon who made this claim.
Lynn Rivers: 06:22 And I disagree with that. So you don’t say, I think Henry is an idiot. You say, I respectfully disagree and you speak about people in the third person and it’s amazing how that sort of takes the emotion out. You can be emotional, you can feel passionate about your stance and you could be angry about the thought of an action being taken, but you are looking at the neutral speaker of the assembly and you are referring only in the third person to previous speakers or to a speaker from another state. And it is amazing how that can really deescalate the emotion.
Jenna Kantor: 07:08 And then for such a very important debate and which I’d like to say that, you know, it’s nice that there’s an opportunity for every single motion to be debated on. So whether or not you think it’s important, it still doesn’t obliterate the opportunity for other people to debate on that, which I think is wonderful as well. But of course these things can go on forever. So how is it handled to end, you know, as a group cause you have a group of 400 people you know, for us at the house of delegates. So how is it handled, you know, to rightfully decide when it’s appropriate to stop the discussion and move on to a vote?
Lynn Rivers: 07:48 Yes. So again, what happens is, you know, people have raised their hand or we do it electronically now in the house of delegates with a blackberry, you can put yourself what they call in the queue. So you’re in line to speak. And so the speaker will monitor and you must indicate to the speaker whether you’re speaking for or against it. So they try to balance debate. And at times after a bit of discussion, the speaker will say, at this time there appears to be no one who is in line or in the queue to speak. Are you ready for the vote? Other times, the speaker that we do have an opportunity and in Robert’s rules there is a motion it to what is called call the previous question. And all that means is that person has put a motion to say, I think I’ve heard enough.
Lynn Rivers: 08:38 I have heard both sides of the debate. I am ready to vote. And so then if the speaker of the house, the leader of the meeting, observes that there are many people who think it’s time to vote, then he or she will ask the body, that group at the meeting, are you ready for the vote? And if there’s no objection, then you move to the vote. So it can either be everyone has stopped talking or there has been a lot of balanced debate hearing both sides of the story and enough people have spoken that the group feels they can make a vote.
Jenna Kantor: 09:16 I also saw in the meeting, and we’re not gonna hit all 800 pages of the book, but I’m just pointing out some interesting things. Sometimes the voting switched between standing between saying Aye and then also the electronic vote via the device. So how does, in this case, the speaker of the house who was running the meeting, how does the speaker of the house decide which way to do the vote?
Lynn Rivers: 09:43 Yeah, so certainly, what happens is each organization has also something that’s called the standing rules. So we use set rules at the beginning of the meeting. And one of the key rules you decide is how much agreement does there have to be in order to pass that motion to say it’s going to go. So for normal business, the actions of the house, we agree in the house of delegates, a simple majority, so just over 50%, 51% of the group. So the default or easiest for 404 was our voting strength yesterday, that the speaker starts with a voice vote. All those in favor say Aye. So she listens to the volume of the ayes compared to the volume of the no’s. And many times it’s very clear if 300 people say Aye and 100 say no, then it’s pretty clear by voice.
Lynn Rivers: 10:42 And that’s the simplest and quickest. If it’s still a vote for simple majority and she couldn’t tell by the voices, then we have to use the electronic voting. Within that everybody has their clicker and they vote Yay or nay and it comes up. The standing vote is typically done when there is a vote that is more precious than just a normal business action. It’s any vote that is going to hurt the rights of members. And I’ll give the example then if you need to know, if two thirds of the people agree, many times the speaker will do a standing vote because that is much easier to see two thirds clear by standing. And that is when there is an objection to calling the question, meaning stopping debate. And because that is a right of the minority to continue to be heard, that is when the speaker calls for a standing vote. And then there was one time, even in the standing vote, she was not 100% sure it was two thirds. So she had us sit back down and do the clickers.
Jenna Kantor: 12:05 This is great. So, you know, it’s so funny, earlier you mentioned the word Henry and now I’m thinking of the Henry Bar, the candy. And I’m like, oh my gosh, what do these conferences do to me? I’m like, I need sugar all the time to like stay awake. Can we get into some of the language, just the intro that people say when they say parliamentary inquiry, like why do we say that instead of something else? Does it make it more efficient?
Lynn Rivers: 12:35 So again, there is a protocol to how one introduces a motion. And one of the first again for civility is whenever you are recognized to speak, you start by introducing yourself so speakers know who you are. We also ask them to state what component they are from, component or state. So I’m Lynn Rivers from New York would be how I would start. And you must be recognized in order to speak. There are three instances, and someone can shout out and not wait to be recognized. Point of order, point of inquiry and point of information, point of order. They there is shouted out and you are allowed to shout it out if you believe what is happening right now is not following Robert’s rules of order. We are not doing it correctly and we believe that we have to ask the speaker that.
Lynn Rivers: 13:45 So if someone shouts out point of order, all debate stops immediately and the speaker says state your point and that person comes up to the mic and says speaker, I believe it is not in order for this motion to be heard. And there is a reason why we did not have due notice before this motion came. I don’t think it’s right that we are hearing it and then they would confer and decide whether that member is correct or the speaker rules. No, I do believe it’s in order point and I’m sorry I misspoke. Point of inquiry or point of information are very similar. There is no real difference between that. A point of inquiry is sometimes said because people are really wanting data and facts, point of information. People tend to say they just have a question. They don’t really understand why the makers of the motion wrote it this way. They don’t really understand the intent of the motion. So they are asking a question to better understand the motion point of is just a little more precise if they want to. If someone wants to ask someone else other than the maker of the motions, they understand the motion but their point of inquiry is we’d like to hear from legal counsel is what the maker of the motion asking us to do. Is that legal in all 50 states? So then the speaker will say, is there an objection? Does anyone object to legal counsel addressing the body and answering this person’s inquiry?
Jenna Kantor: 15:16 Yes. That honestly makes more sense for me. Now listening to that because there was a motion on creating a virtual historical museum and there was a lot of point of inquiries to the board to find out how much work would this be putting on them. Would this be possible for them to take on? And also what would the game plan, where would the financial resources come from? What would we be taking away from? So that makes even more sense. And it’s also respectful way to be like, it’s just clarification. It’s not going to be an attack. We just have a question to like know what this means. And of course, it’s pointed in a very professional way of just saying, we really just need to know to get the full picture on if this is a good thing to vote on. So, I’m getting some massive light bulbs here right now. And then I think I want to finish with one more or the Lord knows we could go on forever with Robert’s rules. And, honestly, if I really do recommend, yes, it’s an 800 page book, but if you’re interested in it, read it. Why not?
Lynn Rivers: 16:30 Well, and I’m going to say the caveat. Please don’t start with that book because you will run away screaming, but please know, and you can just Google it. Robert’s rules for dummies is one version. There are about four levels of books. There’s Robert’s rules simplified, right? So Google Robert’s rules and look at the different books and start with the first one and then move up to the next one. That gets a little deeper into it. If you really think you want to fully understand it, you want to join be a member of the national parliamentarian society. That’s when you buy the 11th edition of Robert’s rules. Nearly revised. Yes.
Jenna Kantor: 17:17 Awesome. Thank you so much. And See, this is a perfect example. Why bring the expert on to help? Correct me as I’m going, why don’t we just do this? You’re like, Whoa, whoa, Whoa, whoa, Whoa, whoa. Well, thank you for helping prevent people from walking away and pulling their hair out. Trying to read it going, oh, I give up. So that’s good. I love those dummy books. Those are amazing,
Lynn Rivers: 17:36 I guess. But I just want to say the dummy books are not always helpful. Right. But I can assure you for Roberts rules, that book is a great start. If you just want to be able to be a voice at a meeting, not necessarily run one yet. You know, you just want, you want to write a motion, you want to get up and state your opinion and don’t want to look foolish. Start with Robert’s rules of order for dummies.
Jenna Kantor: 18:03 Love it. Love it. Oh, I’ve been forgetting what my last, Oh yes. So for those who don’t know, so at the house of delegates, I’m not sure if this is elsewhere, so you can definitely clarify this, Lynn. So at that house, all the people who are elected delegates sit in, I want to say an organized clump with their states and everything. But then there can be guests attending the event and they are sitting in the gallery in the back. And these are, it’s separated in the back of the room. Is it true that they can come up and say point of order or speak to a motion or ask a question and so on and following Robert’s rules and when or how, if that is appropriate? Is it appropriate?
Lynn Rivers: 18:49 Yeah, no, that’s a good question. And the short answer is no. A guest in the gallery does not have the right to state point of order. Point of inquiry, they cannot shut out. But with the permission of the group permission has to be asked, can a guest speak? So guests can be invited to speak. A guest in the gallery can ask a member of the group to request permission for them to speak. So, so there’s two things. There may be a member in the audience that knows there’s a lawyer in the audience or in the gallery and they may initiate the request, but the lawyer may be sitting there antsy thinking, I have something to contribute. There are guests in the gallery. They are allowed to walk up to a member and say, would you ask the speaker of the House to request permission for me to speak? Because I have something to say. And almost always the body would say yes. If someone really wants to speak. I’ve never seen a guest be denied, but there must be permission given.
Jenna Kantor: 20:07 Thank you. That’s very helpful. Well, me as a performer first I see this mic sitting in front of us that’s clearly not pointing to the people. You know, anybody sitting in amongst the delegates. And I remember staring and going, I mean, do they want us to sing? What is this opportunity? This mic Beholdeth on us? So no, they give them one for clarifying. But thank you Lynn, thank you so much for coming on and clarifying. Just even giving people a little glimpse of what Robert’s rules is and just really learning how valuable it is. I think this will be such a good thing for so many, even experienced physical therapists to really know more of and understand what goes on behind the scenes and why we are following such rules. I’m new to this, but honestly, I really do believe in them because it is not easy to have these hard discussions in a nice manner.
Jenna Kantor: 21:01 You don’t want to leave pissed off. You want to leave like, okay, that was fair. That was a discussion. I can see why we might be moving a little slowly on this matter or why we might move quickly on this matter. It was eye opening in a very positive way. So I was wondering, Lynn, if people wanted to reach out to you or find you to learn more or maybe even get more guidance if they start finding themselves passionate about getting much more involved in this whole parliamentary process, how could they find you?
Lynn Rivers: 21:31 Thanks Jenna. Well, I’m in Buffalo, New York at D’Youville College and I am happy to share my email. It is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jenna Kantor: 21:48 Thank you so much for coming on.
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