Five questions for ISU's parliamentarian

Amanda Knief

Amanda Knief became Iowa State's parliamentarian on July 1. Photo by Christopher Gannon.

Amanda Knief has served as director of the lectures program since 2018, and this summer she also became the parliamentarian for the university. The position opened with Sheryl Rippke's retirement from Iowa State. Knief served Faculty Senate in that role for the first time at its September meeting. She recently spoke with Inside Iowa State about her new duties.

Name: Amanda Knief
Position: Lectures program director
Years at ISU: 3
Education: B.S., Journalism and mass communication, Iowa State; J.D., Drake University

What does the parliamentarian do at Iowa State?

Previous parliamentarians have served as advisors to the heads of P&S Council and Faculty Senate. It means understanding the governance documents for each body and knowing Robert's Rules of Order, which the university uses. I am impartial, which is a big part of being a parliamentarian -- not taking sides.

Why did you want to become the parliamentarian?

With my legal background I am familiar with a lot of rules, but as the director of lectures I am somewhat siloed. I don't have a strong connection to any particular college, so I thought it would be a great way to learn more about governance at the university and to meet more people. It is a little bit of a networking opportunity for lectures as well.

I like order in itself because I worked for the Iowa Legislature as legal counsel at the beginning of my career. We had to know legislative process and meeting rules if there was a dispute about process or order. I think governance in bodies like the Faculty Senate and P&S Council is really important. Because they are so complex and have amazing governance documents, having Robert's as the fallback ensures that the process is fair and equal for everybody.

How did you get the job?

I became parliamentarian on July 1. I took the membership test and joined the National Association of Parliamentarians. There are 100 possible questions and they give you 40 of them in a test. If you pass the test, you become a member. My next step is to become a registered parliamentarian, which is a more in-depth process.

Do you know all of Robert's Rules of Order?

I don't think that would be possible. There are over 700 pages of rules. I have been spending a lot of time with the senate's governance documents because before the rules, you go by the Faculty Senate constitution, the bylaws and governance. Those take precedence. It's really important to understand the body you are helping.

What's it like when all eyes are on you for an answer?

It is nerve-wracking and a little intimidating because I am not a member of Faculty Senate and don't know most of these folks. I can only fall back on what is in the governance documents and Robert's Rules of Order. Hopefully, people will understand if I mess something up, it is out of ignorance and not malice. The parliamentarian is not the final say. The parliamentarian is just an advisor who helps navigate when situations call for it.