L&S Tips: Quorum and Parliamentary Procedural Rules for Department/Program Governance

Though not specific to the College of Letters & Science, this document explains parliamentary procedure in departmental governance, offers advice about the definition of a quorum for certain departmental and executive committee activities, and encourages the faculty to consider delegation of authority in certain matters to the executive committee or chair.

CONTACT INFORMATION: questions about quorum and parliamentary procedure for governance operations within L&S may be referred to Elaine M. Klein, Associate Dean for Academic Planning. 

By custom, the Parliamentarian of the campus Faculty Senate has relied on Robert's Rules of Order, probably the most widely used manual of parliamentary procedure. The faculty legislation establishing the L&S Faculty Senate specifies that Robert's Rules shall govern its operation.  If a faculty governing body, including the L&S Senate and departmental Executive Committees, has not adopted legislation governing some facet of its operation, then the operative procedures of the campus Faculty Senate are presumed to apply. An example is the definition of a quorum.

At the same time, by adopting Chapter 5 of the Faculty Policies and Procedures, the campus Faculty Senate has authorized a certain measure of home rule in the governance of academic departments, allowing that in cases where there is a conflict between Robert's  and locally adopted rules, the latter take precedence.  For example, in the definition of a quorum for departmental meetings, some departments require a two-thirds majority vote of a departmental executive committee for certain kinds of personnel actions. In the absence of specific departmental legislation; unless departments specify local rules, Robert's Rules (which hold that a quorum is a majority of members) apply.  

It is important for the faculty to define a quorum for departmental governance and executive committees.

If a department has not already specified its rules for a quorum or other special voting requirements, it should do so if Robert's Rules does not meet its needs. For example, the faculty should give some thought to whether the department should follow the Robert's Rules requirement that a majority of all members of the departmental or executive committees is needed for a legal quorum of those bodies, regardless of whether or not some of the members are away on leave or research funding for the semester or year.

Conceivably, a quorum requirement that fails to take such absences into account might make it difficult or impossible to muster a quorum of an executive committee to transact necessary business legally. We suggest, therefore, that departments consider adopting a quorum requirement that does not include members who are on leave or research or other University assignment away from Madison, but which recognizes their continuing right to attend and participate in any departmental meetings when they are available while in such status. We also suggest that departments consider adopting a two-thirds majority voting rule, rather than a simple majority, for such important personnel decisions as faculty appointments, promotions, and tenure.

A vote is required to delegate authority to the Chair or to a committee.

We also encourage departments to remember the requirement in FPP 5.22 for a specific annual vote by a departmental executive committee if it wishes to delegate certain matters to a subcommittee or the chair.  These matters include the authority to make recommendations regarding any or all of the following matters:

  • salaries, including authority for merit salary recommendations; 
  • faculty recruitment;
  • nonfaculty personnel actions (such as salary recommendations for Classified Staff, Academic Staff Promotions and zero dollar appointments); and
  • equipment and supplies.

The departmental executive committee may also delegate authority for recommendations for promotion to the rank of professor to a committee of the full professors of the department.  As a matter of convenience, the chair should be included as a member of the delegated body.

In legislative years, when it is almost certain that action on the biennial budget will not be completed before the end of the academic year, it is especially important to have a departmental mechanism in place that can act for the executive committee in implementing departmental merit salary recommendations in the likely event that a quorum of the executive committee is unavailable for this purpose.

Another important consideration is the department's rules on the vote required for promotion to tenure. Some departments require a simple majority, while others require a higher majority, such as two-thirds. It is extremely important that the department be consistent in its rules, and that they be recorded in writing and announced to probationary faculty members in advance of tenure deliberations.  

KeywordsRobert's Rules, quorum, Robert's Rule, quorom   Doc ID21624
OwnerElaine K.GroupL&S KB
Created2011-12-06 15:40:50Updated2022-07-25 09:48:27
SitesL&S KB
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