The Waterloo Undergraduate Student Association (WUSA) General Meetings are governed by Robert’s Rules to ensure meetings are held in an orderly fashion.
Robert’s Rules is essentially a guide of the rules, ethics, and customs that are followed during the meeting. We understand the rules aren’t always easy to follow along with so we’ve created this guide to help!
Have questions about the rules? Don’t hesitate to ask your Executive team, even if it’s during the meeting, they’re here to help you!
Robert’s Rule of Order
This is a very brief guideline for understanding and using Robert’s Rules of Order.
All WUSA meetings, both Board and General Meetings, are generally governed by Robert’s Rules of Order to facilitate decision-making amongst larger groups of people and to ensure the process is fair and equitable for all participants.
Robert’s Rules are a self-regulated system, and thus require cooperation from participants. Meetings are most effective when members are respectful to the meeting Chair and other meeting participants, and are clear in their objectives.
If you don’t understand what’s happening or aren’t sure how to accomplish your goal through Robert’s Rules please do not hesitate to ask the Chair, we’re here to help!
Quorum & Call to Order
Quorum refers to the minimum number of people that must be in attendance for the meeting to proceed. Once quorum is reached the meeting is ‘called to order’ by the Chair. If quorum cannot be met a new meeting time is scheduled.
For every discussion the Chair will keep a list of those individuals wishing to speak. Only those participants recognized by the Chair will have the turn to speak. If a new motion is made, a new speakers list is created. It is the Chair’s discretion to limit speaking turns, and to allow for those speakers who have not spoken on an item before those who have already spoken.
There must always be a ‘motion on the floor’, so that participants are clear on what is being debated. Except in some very specific cases, all motions must have a ‘mover’ and a ‘seconder’. This means that at least two members have agreed that they want to consider the item for further discussion. The mover and seconder have the opportunity to speak to the motion first, and then, depending on the nature of the motion is it open for debate amongst participants.
‘Main motions’ are submitted a head of time and brought forward for discussion. This usually happens through the agenda, which is distributed to participants prior to the meeting.
To make a motion, participants must be added to the speakers list, when called upon the mover stands and says “I would like to make a motion to…” The motion should be clear and structured so that all other meeting participants are clear on what they are voting on. Motions must be phrased as an action statement; you cannot move to not take an action. If that is what you want to accomplish, you should try to fail a motion that is phrased in action-oriented language.
A motion can be amended to change specifics to the motion on the floor, the goal is to change, modify or complete the motion so that it better accomplishes the goal of the assembly. Procedurally, and amendment is treated like a motion. If an amendment is minor and considered ‘friendly’ it does not require a mover and seconder, and debate on the amendment can simply continue.
The amendment is voted on in the same way that a full motion is debated on, and then the discussion goes back to the motion itself and back to the existing speakers list.
Order of Precedence
While there is a motion on the floor there are other motions that can be made. Members must wait for their turn on the speakers list, and must state their motion before entering into debate on the item.
The following are the most common motions that are made while the main motion is on the floor:
1. to Amendment
As outlined above
2. to Split the Question
If there are multiple issues addressed in a single motion (which there often are in main motions), a question can be divided so that the items contained within the motion are voted on separately. If a motion to split the question passes, each question must be decided upon with an independent vote.
3. to Table
A motion to table means that the motion will not be voted upon at that time. It is commonly used if the assembly feels that more information is required, or if the vote on that motion has the potential to be impacted by the outcome of another vote. This motion must be moved and seconded. The only part of the motion that is debatable is the amount of time that the motion will be tabled for.
4. to Refer
This motion is made when the assembly feels that another body is more appropriate to address the motion before it is voted on by the assembly. It requires a mover and seconder and simple majority (50%+1 of voting members).
5. to Call the Question
This motion is made when an individual feels there has been adequate debate on an item for the assembly to move to a vote. In practice, this motion should be reserved for instances where either sides of the debate have been fully presented, or there is consensus in the room. If there is no opposition to calling the question, the motion on the floor is voted on immediately.
6. to Reconsider
This motion is made when an individual wants to vote on a motion that has already been decided upon. This motion is usually used if new information has been presented. The mover of the motion must have voted on the prevailing side of the previous vote. Motions to reconsider can only be used on items for decision in the current meeting, and not past meetings. Motions to reconsider require a super majority (2/3 of votes).
7. to Recess
This motion is made to give participants a break during the course of a meeting. Quorum must be reached after each recess.
8. to Adjourn
This motion ends the meeting, and occurs at the end of the agenda when there is no further business to be discussed.
Points take precedence over whatever is on the floor, an individual stating a point does not have to join the speakers list. To make a ‘point’, raise your hand and state which point you are making (i.e. Point of Information), and wait to be recognized by the Chair.
1. Point of Order
A Point of Order is raised if an individual believes the meeting is proceeding incorrectly. The chair must either agree or disagree with the Point raised and address it accordingly.
2. Point of Information
A Point of Information is raised to ask a question of clarification of the comments of either the Chair or another speaker. It is a way of gathering information to make a more informed discussion. The individual who is asked to provide information is not required to respond.
3. Point of Personal Privilege
A Point of Personal Privilege is raised when an individual feels that their ability to participate is being compromised by something. Common examples include not being able to unable to hear the speaker, they are speaking too quickly, or conditions in the room that are not conducive to debate.
4. Challenges to the Chair
An individual may raise a challenge to the Chair, or appeal the chair, if they disagree with the ruling made by the Chair. They must be able to give clear reasons why they wish to have the ruling overturned. The Chair then has the right to provide rationale for why the ruling was made. The motion requires a mover and seconder, is a debatable motion, and is decided upon with a simple majority.
Using Robert’s Rules to Accomplish my Goals