Respect code open to abuse

By Chris Long

I have lived in the neighborhood since 1996 and been a member of the East Village Association for most of that time. I am opposed to the proposed amendment allowing the chair of the meeting to expel members who fail to act in a respectful manner. I understand the president’s concern about maintaining a productive meeting environment but the amendment as proposed has several fatal flaws.

  1. It is unnecessary. We already have tools in place to maintain a respectful meeting environment.

    The EVA bylaws call for the use of Robert's Rules of Order to conduct our meetings. Robert's Rules or Order Revised Edition Section 43 already has a clause about decorum at general meetings, which would achieve the objectives of the amendment without unintended consequences.

    Robert’s rules were written to conduct orderly and respectful meetings. They have been tested and revised over more than a century and successfully used in organizations and governments large and small.

  2. It is vague. The amendment does not outline what conduct is not "respectful," making it difficult to apply in a consistent manner. For example the chair may consider interrupting another speaker to be disrespectful, but it is actually allowed under Robert's Rules of Order in certain circumstances.

  3. It could be abused. The amendment as leaves the decision on whom to eject from a meeting in the hands of a single person. It could be used to eject members from a meeting that disagree with the chair before an important vote.

    It could also be used to expel enough members from a meeting to reduce attendance enough that a valid vote could not be taken on an issue. I’m sure no one on the current board would use their power in that way, but the possibility for such abuse would be written into the bylaws of the organization.

  4. It could chill debate on important issues. In any healthy organization there's bound to be disagreement over issues that people feel passionately about. It's important that this debate take place in an open and spirited manner. This amendment could lead to some members not engaging fully in the debate for fear of being expelled from a meeting.

  5. It could create the very divisiveness it seeks to prevent. Expelling a member from a meeting during a debate over a controversial issues is likely to inflame passions, not reduce them. There is no faster way to create division than not allowing people to participate in meetings on issues that are important to them.

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