Established good meeting practice in Finland is followed in the meetings of the bodies of the University. These precise meeting practices concern official, decision-making meetings and they are not always followed in unofficial or preparatory meetings. Good, commonly-known meeting practices make fair and equal treatment of everyone possible and also serve as a safeguard for the meeting organisers. Materials that are sent on time make familiarisation with the issues possible and the right order of handling the issues ensures that it is definitely possible to submit a differing opinion, for example. With good meeting practices, the realisation of the principles of good management is also ensured, because when carrying out an official task, the minutes, lists of participants and other details too have to be in order.
Each participant in the meeting can personally make sure that the meeting goes smoothly. Good preparation in advance is always helpful and facilitates discussion in the meeting. Proposal lists and their attachments are always sent beforehand, either electronically or by post. For this reason, it’s also important to give notification of a hindrance early enough, so that the deputy member gets the materials. Enough time should be set aside for meetings. It is customary in many meetings to rotate some roles. For example, the turn of the inspectors of the minutes can be rotated. As a student, it’s also quite possible to put one’s name forward for the chair or secretary of a meeting, but often some specific person has been appointed in the management regulations as the chair or some member of the staff of the university acts in the appointment and as secretary, who can do it in their work time.
Meeting practices are not always followed slavishly in meetings. However, it is useful to know them and following them can always be demanded. The task of the chair is to make sure that the meeting runs smoothly. The language centre of the University arranges good courses on meeting and negotiation skills. There is also a comprehensive range of material on the net.
A general meeting framework:
- The opening of the meeting
- Legality and decision-making authority
- The selection of the chair, secretary, minutes inspectors and vote counters
- Approval of the proposal list
- Checking the minutes of the last meeting
- Current issues, reviews and communications matters
- Matters to be decided on from the proposals
- Matters for discussion
- Other issues that arise
- The next meeting
- Concluding the meeting
At meetings, the proposal list as the agenda of the meeting is approved at the start. Everyone who takes part in the meeting can suggest issues to be dealt with for the proposal list. It should be done in good time, generally through the chair and secretary. Only in exceptional circumstances can a matter to be decided on be taken into the meeting from outside the proposal list. Communications and discussion issues can be brought more freely to meetings and it’s worth using the opportunity to bring news from the students to the knowledge of the staff. For example, at the beginning of the meeting, you can request whether you may tell in communications matters or other matters that come up, about, for example, the plans of a student association to arrange an annual party or some public statement issued by the Student Union. The main rule can be considered to be that if you also want discussion about a topic, it should already be put on the proposal list in advance.
During the meeting, you can use various opportunities to take the floor, such as proposal, discussion, comment and procedural speeches. The proposer presents the current matter in the proposal speech at the request of the chair. After that, opportunities to take the floor are generally allocated to those who requested them, in order. A person who has requested an opportunity to make a comment is given an opportunity to do so at once, and in that an issue relating to the preceding speech can be corrected or commented on very briefly. With a procedural speech, changes can be demanded to the agenda of the meeting, and that is also granted at once when it is requested. Through this, having an interval can be demanded, for example, or the action of the chair as the maintainer of the progress of the meeting can be criticised.
It is important that decisions are made so that no lack of clarity remains about the details of issues. In accordance with good handling practice, an issue is put on the table if one of the members, seconded by another, demands it. The tabled matter must be dealt with as soon as possible, i.e. usually at the next meeting. Tabling should be used if the issue is such that additional information is required to resolve it.
A person should give notification of their possible disqualification at the latest when the point of decision in question is arrived at. A person is disqualified when the matter to be decided on directly concerns their interest or that of their immediate circle, and their impartiality can be called into question. Disqualification usually relates to financial gain. It is worth talking beforehand about possible disqualification with the chair of the meeting. A disqualified person should exit the meeting for the duration of the handling of the matter. Disqualification does not concern situations where decisions are made relating to friends or your own subject, for example, but rather ones involving gain or detriment to yourself or a close relative.
A differing opinion should be submitted at once after a decision has been made, as a procedural speech. By submitting a differing opinion, the participant dissociates themselves from moral and legal responsibility, but the decision made must still be complied with. A differing opinion can be submitted orally and without justifications, but afterwards it must be delivered in written form with justifications to the secretary of the meeting. During the period when the decision is being made or after it, a motion can also be submitted, expressing a wish regarding how the decision should be carried out.
The handling order of issues:
- Presenting an issue
- Opening the discussion
- Discussing about the issue
- Concluding the discussion
- Checking and establishing proposals
- A vote or election (and deciding on the possible vote or election method)
- Making the decision
- Criticising the decision (i.e. possible differing opinions)
- Declaring the matter closed
After the meeting, it’s important to report on the decisions and also ensure that the decisions are put into practice. It’s important to tell your own background group what was decided in the meeting and it would be good for the student representatives in administration to make reporting on meetings a habit, for example in the meetings of their own background association and in mutually agreed media.
Many meetings at the University are, by nature, more unofficial preparatory or discussion meetings. Various kinds of workgroups and management groups operate less formally and meeting practices are only followed to a very slight extent. In that case, your own open communications become more important. You should dare to take part in the discussion and ask if you want more information about some issue.