Use and Misuse of a Consent Agenda

February 23, 2018


The AU administration uses a “consent agenda” at various of their meetings which involve representatives of CUPE 3911. A consent agenda is a meeting practice that groups routinely use to combine certain routine and non-controversial business and reports into a single agenda item. The consent agenda can be approved in one motion instead of filing motions on each item separately. Boards use consent agendas to save time.  The consent items are moved along with little delay so the board has more time to discuss other more substantial issues. 


The items that appear on a consent agenda are supposed to be routine or non-controversial.  They can also be items that have been previously discussed and where there is already group consensus. Typical items include previous minutes, normal financial reports, committee reports, committee appointments, and correspondence requiring no action. It cannot be overemphasized that it is highly inappropriate to try to use a consent agenda to “sneak through” items known to be controversial in order to get them adopted without discussion.


The meeting chair is in charge of using a consent agenda. The chair prepares an agenda package that includes all of the consent agenda items.  Members are supposed to get the package in advance so they can review it before the meeting. At the start of the meeting the chair asks if any consent agenda items need to be moved to the regular discussion items.  If a member asks for an item to be moved it must be moved.  If no one asks for items to be moved the consent agenda items are read out and the chair can move adoption.  If there are no objections they are adopted.


If a member disagrees with a consent agenda item or wants to move it to the regular agenda, the member requests at the start of the meeting that the item be pulled from the consent agenda. The chair then asks if members are in favor of approving the consent agenda without the pulled item, pauses for objections, and then, if there are none, adopts the amended consent agenda.  The removed item is then dealt with as a regular agenda item.


Problems in using a consent agenda may occur when members approve consent agendas without first reviewing documents. The result is that items may be hastily approved when they should not be. All meeting members are responsible to ensure that consent agenda items are distributed in enough time to review them prior to the meeting. Each member is also responsible to carefully read and review consent agenda items and address any concerns prior to the meeting.

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