Photo: Keith Capstick

Survival guide to understanding Robert’s Rules in RSU meetings

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By Annie Arnone

Motions, abstentions, amendments — heck, even amending amendments to the amendment are terms that get thrown around at student group meetings, like the ones held by the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) and they all fall under something called “Robert’s Rules.” If you’re new to Ryerson or have been here forever, there’s an equal chance you don’t know what any of those terms mean, or who Robert is, so let’s break it down. Henry Martyn Robert, let’s call him Bob, established these rules in 1876 and they’ve since been adopted and made into a procedural manual — a set of rules student groups follow when making executive-level decisions.

Here are the most commonly heard terms under Bob’s Rules that you’ll hear at your next RSU meeting: 

Motions

Motions are the things that make up the agenda of any student group meeting, the beef to the burger, if you will. Motions are created to address new campus business by members of the RSU. A motion to recess can happen when people need to leave the room for religious purposes, or they’ve become grouchy and need a break.

Points of

If members find themselves confused in the crossfire of conversation, they can ask for a point of clarification, where the chairperson is required to explain to them what the hell is going on. A point of information is similar, and is used when a member needs more information about pretty much anything. Point of orders come up when the room gets rowdy. Or, if the inevitably inaudible microphone completely cuts out, members can call a point of privilege, and a new mic will be fetched for easier hearing.

Amendments

These will come up at almost every meeting. Amendments are minor changes to a motion made by either the member who created the original motion, or another board member who isn’t stoked on how it reads. If someone wishes to make an amendment, members must vote on it and two thirds must be for or against either side for it to pass. These can spiral into a dark pit of amendments to amendments to amendments, and then you’ll understand why these things can take hours.

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