My Own Nuclear Option, or How I Learned About Unintended Consequences

As I watched another speaker drone on and on for his 3 minute block I looked at the clock. If I could just make it through this speaker, the first round of student congress would be over. I could enjoy a nice 30 minute break before starting round two. I was looking forward to that Coke and candy bar I was going to go have in the cafeteria. Speaking of Coke, I’d had a few too many. I needed to get out of that session ASAP.  As the speaker wound down I waited for my chance to stand and get recognized. If the chair recognized me I was going to move to end the round.

I launched out of my chair along with about 10 other people all hoping to get the chair’s attention. He didn’t call on me. He called on someone who wanted to give a speech. As the new speaker started walking up the front, I was confronted with another 3 minutes of mind-numbing boringness. Three more minutes before I could drink another Coke. Three more minutes before I could do anything besides sit in this auditorium. I had to act fast. I

It dawned on me, this kid had already spoke at least once this session. I stood up from the back of the room and said “I’d like to appeal the decision of the chair. The representative has already spoken this session AND this session was supposed to end 10 minutes ago. I’d like to make a motion for recess.”  I was corrected that I could not make two motions at once, but they did accept me appealing their decision.  The chair then recognized me and I made a motion for recess.  It passed with overwhelming success, apparently I wasn’t the only one who had a few too many Cokes.

After that decision, I was on cloud nine. I had pulled out a rule from Robert’s Rules that the Student Congress competitors in Kansas City hadn’t seen. At least not in the 3.5 years I’d been doing this. People came up and talked about it with me. They too were glad to get a break from listening to other kids blather on about some made up bill.

That feeling lasted about a week. At the next tournament, something weird started to happen. Anytime two people stood to give a speech, if the chair recognized the one who had more speeches, someone would inevitably “appeal the decision of the chair.” It literally changed the course of StuCo for the rest of the 1995-96 school year. We went from a competitive group trying to give as many speeches as possible at the chance of scoring as many points and winning the competition, to a system where if you gave a speech, you might as well sit back for a while because you weren’t giving another one anytime soon.

Ironically, that locked me into more situations where I was sitting there listening to someone blather on about something I didn’t care about. No point in working on a speech, because I wasn’t going to get called on. I couldn’t even call for a vote, because the chair wouldn’t recognize me since I’d already spoken.  In the end, trying to avoid listening to one more talk put me in a position where I could do next to nothing except for listen to another talk.


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