Helpful Hints from the Senate Parliamentarian
- The Senate works from a fixed agenda that is distributed at least one week in advance of the Senate meeting. If it is not on the agenda, we can’t vote on it, unless there is an overwhelming sentiment to suspend the rules and address the issue (3/4 vote required). This is done for your protection so that there are no surprises at the meeting.
- The Senate has five types of reports/actions:
- Legislative − Senate has complete authority (i.e., curricular matters)
- Advisory/Consultative − Board of Trustees requires that the President consult with the faculty (i.e., calendar, HR-23)
- Informational − no action taken; committee/group/official presents information
- Forensic − an issue that is presented to elicit discussion and obtain Senate opinion. This type of report precedes a Legislative or Advisory/Consultative Report.
- Recognition/Courtesy − recognition of someone or an accomplishment
- Only Senators vote and make motions. Non-senators must have prior approval from the Chair to participate in Senate discussions.
- You must be recognized to speak. When recognized by the Chair, stand, identify yourself, and give your voting unit.
- Generally, there must be a motion on the floor for the Senate to conduct any business and it takes two Senators to accomplish this. One makes the motion and one seconds the motion. This means that at least two Senators are interested in the topic and one individual cannot delay or impede the operation of the Senate. It is assumed that reports coming from Senate committees have been moved and seconded.
- Amendments: Motions can be amended any number of times, however, there can only be one amendment to an amendment.
- Ending debate: Generally, debate is ended when the Chair senses that the discussion has progressed as far as it is going to go or when the points being raised are repetitive. The Chair usually says something like, “unless there are additional comments, we will move to a vote on this motion.” However, if Senators are getting tired of the discussion and want to end debate and vote, they can be recognized and then say “I call the question” or “I move the previous question.” If seconded, this effectively ends the discussion and the Chair then takes a vote to determine whether the Senate wants to end discussion or continue the discussion. If a majority of the Senate votes in the affirmative, all discussion ends and the vote is taken on the motion before the Senate.
- Delaying a vote: If the Senate decides that a topic before the body is not ready for a vote or that additional information needs to be provided, the usual motion is “I move to return this report to the committee….” and then it is specified what needs to be done to the report before it comes back to the Senate. Making a motion “to table” a report is a motion to “kill the report” and make it very difficult for it to come back to the Senate for consideration. This is hardly ever done.
- Point of Order/Information: Whenever a senator is confused about what is taking place, especially if a vote is about to be taken, if he/she shouts “point of order” or “ point of information,” action stops, and the Chair will ask about the point of order, clear up the confusion, and then proceed.
- Editorial/Spelling Corrections: A Senator may suggest minor editorial changes for clarification without changing the meaning or intent of the original statement of the motion. After being recognized by the Chair, a Senator can rise and “suggest a minor editorial change/correction.”
- Voting: Voting is carried out in one of two ways: by voice or by the use of a Personal Response System (clicker). If clickers are to be used, instruction for voting aye or nay will be given prior to each vote.
George Franz 2005; Jean Landa Pytel 2008; updated 2010