Make the most of your motions


The University of Regina Students' Union is having their annual general meeting on Feb. 10. Unfortunately, the deadline for motions is this Friday, Jan. 21, at midnight, and we don't have an issue on stands this week. So, while ordinarily we might publish something like a guide to submitting motions, we won't be able to get one on stands before the deadline.

But now that we're up and running on the Internet, we've got a little bit of a workaround.

The motion process can be a little confusing for people who aren't familiar with Robert's Rules of Order, the rules URSU uses to govern its meetings, including the AGM. It can be doubly so when there's no documentation provided to help you figure out how to put a motion together. But URSU probably believes you perfectly capable of figuring it out yourself, which is doable. If you aren't familiar with Robert's Rules, don't freak out – you don't really need a ton of knowledge about it to get by at something like the AGM, and this guide that the University of Calgary has online covers probably more than you'll see come up at this meeting. (The intro to Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised in Brief itself guesses that "80 percent of [Robert's Rules] will be needed less than 20 percent of the time.")

Motions are the way things happen – you have something you want done, and you ask the assembly to resolve to put that thing into practice. URSU are asking that motions be submitted in Robert's Rules format, which require the following:

-Title (a brief description of what the motion seeks to accomplish)
-Mover (the person putting the motion forward)
-Preamble (clauses explaining the rationale for the resolution)
-Body (clauses outlining the resolution in question)

The clauses in the preamble are prefaced with "WHEREAS", while the clauses in the body are prefaced with "BIRT" (Be It Resolved That) on the first clause and "BIFRT" (Be It Further Resolved That) on subsequent clauses. You use the preamble to lay out your reasoning for a given motion, and you use the body to outline exactly what the motion is.You want to be as specific as possible in both, so as to avoid confusion; otherwise, debate on your motions could get messy. But it's simple to fix for clarity – just have someone else give your motion a look before handing it in.

You want that second pair of eyes to look over your motion and make sure its language is not only clear but acceptable for a meeting where the governing rules of order demand that you act in a "courteous" fashion, as well. Motions can be deemed "hostile," and you don't want to give anyone a reason to do so.

A sample motion might look like this:

Break it down for me, fellas

Moved by: John Cameron

WHEREAS it's 7 p.m. on a Tuesday night, and
WHEREAS YouTube videos of Ricky Gervais at the Golden Globes have distracted me long enough, and
WHEREAS this is only the first part of a slightly bigger piece on the AGM, the second part of which I haven't even started yet;

BIRT I finish this quote and a concluding paragraph and post it to the website.
BIFRT I get something for supper, because I'm incredibly hungry.

Now, I mean, I'm going to ask that you not draft a motion to send me home from the meeting. But any motions you do draft, use that format; break your argument up into logical parts, and keep your resolutions to manageable and sensible chunks. And then send them to

Stay tuned to the website. The staff will be writing a piece on motions we'd like to see at the meeting, and if you've got the guts to draft them, we'd like to see them brought to the floor.

1 comment

  1. You like to move it, move it 19 January, 2011 at 15:34

    […] and that the deadline for submitting motions is this Friday, Jan. 21, at midnight. We also posted a quick guide to writing up motions in Robert's Rules format, for people who maybe aren't as familiar with how to do so. (If you haven't read that: […]

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