Friday, March 13, 2015

Robert's rules and the digital age (or my one day as chair of the curriuculum committee)

Oregon Medical School Admission and Advanced Standing Committee1950's
Sometimes things happen to you without much thought or planning.  In February, I was sitting in what I thought was an inconspicuous corner of the room during the monthly curriculum committee.  Paul Gorman, the committee chair was paged, and somehow found me even though I was behind him, and motioned for me to take over the meeting.  I've been chair of the clerkship directors subcommittee for over a year now, so chairing is not completely foreign to me.  However, the curriculum committee is bigger and sometimes contentious, so my pulse quickened just a tad.  My reign ended approximately 3 minutes / 2 comments later.  I thought I was done, and slunk back into my usual spot against the wall, only to be re-jolted as Paul said he would be gone for the next meeting, and Robert's rules required that he could not appoint an alternate chair, but the committee must appoint an alternate chair.  A voice said, "Well, he did a good job."  Moments later, I was voted curriculum committee chair for a day.
 I was impressed that Paul knew there was a Robert's rule pertaining to the absence of the chair, and as the newly-appointed curriculum committee chair of-the-day, I thought I should review Robert's rules myself.  The OHSU school of medicine website on committees led me to this document.  It's on the one hand a very tedious set of rules.  On the other hand, it represents a time-tested means for a group to come to a decision on matters important to an organization.  However, there are a few areas that I noticed where this document may need some updating.

First, it mentions specifically a lot of papers, here are three examples:

This language should probably be cleaned up to say "document" at the least.  Also, what's the deal with not being able to write on the papers?  Should we extend this rule to pdf marking apps like Notability?  It seems a titch silly to me to have this laid out, but perhaps this is for maintaining the integrity of the first draft.

Next, there is this bit about everybody needing to sign the document physically:

Can we amend this to say we can 'sign' by a form of electronic signature - in many cases now a reply from a personal email account with a signature block is what is required.

The last bit I found that needs updating pertains to remotely logging into a meeting (I found this on FAQ about parlimentary procedure):

I'm thinking that as time goes along, remote log in to meetings via web or phone will become more the norm than the exception.  I haven't been to a curriculum committee meeting in over a year where someone wasn't logging in remotely.  I think this one should be changed so the default is that remote login of any sort in real-time should be considered present and able to vote.  Being absent and voting only by email, is probably along the lines of mail-in votes, and probably should be prohibited.  As the rules don't mention video login or VOIP logins at all, I think this rule needs updating as well.

As I'm not a parlimentary expert, I'm not sure if these issues have already been addressed, I'm just going by what my school of medicine references as the rules we abide by.  It's overall a good system, it just needs a bit of a nudge into the twenty first century.   Please leave your thoughts or any updated parliamentary rules links you are aware of below.