General Assembly (GA) Manual for the Members
What a GA is
From the Constitution:
A) The General Assembly of IVSA is the supreme decision making body of IVSA.
B) The General Assembly is assembled biannually, during Congress and Symposium.
C) The General Assembly elects the members of the Executive Committee.
D) Unless stated otherwise by the Constitution or Bylaws of IVSA, the General Assembly is run according to Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised.
What is done in a GA
The GA determines the policies which govern the activities of IVSA as stated in the Constitution and Bylaws. All decisions of the GA are reached by a simple majority vote of those present and voting unless stated otherwise in the Constitution or Bylaws (or Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised).
The roles of the GA include but are not limited to the following:
- The GA elects the members of the Executive Committee (ExCo), Secretariat and Trust (the governing and advisory entities of IVSA). The GA also decides on the elections of various other positions, e.g. Officials of the GA, Committee Chairs.
- The GA approves the reports of its governing and advisory entities, as well as other important official documents such as the annual budget of IVSA.
- The GA must approve any binding agreement between an external organization, institution or partner of IVSA lasting longer than 1 year.
- The GA decides on the awarding and revoking of membership of IVSA. All Members must abide by the Constitution and Bylaws of IVSA.
- The GA fixes the values of membership fees, the hosts of future Congresses and Symposia, and the maximum fees that Organising Committees (OCs) can charge for Congresses and Symposia.
- The GA decides on the approval of changes to the Constitution and Bylaws of IVSA.
- The GA is responsible for electing the Auditors for the Financial Report. It is important to keep in mind that they should not have conflicts of interest towards the Post-Treasurer responsible for the Financial Report or the ExCo responsible for the financial affairs being audited. Conflict of interest could happen for example if an auditor is a close friend of the Treasurer, spouse, from the same faculty (in the context of IVSA the bias would be to benefit a specific faculty or country) and so on. More about the issue of conflict of interest can be found for example from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conflict_of_interest.
Only IVSA members who are members of the General Assembly may make motions (including ex officio members, but not guests as they are not IVSA members so cannot be members of the General Assembly). Only full Member Organizations may vote on motions. A Member Organization which is represented solely by an ExCo member does not have the right to vote.
Main motions should be written down and sent to the SG in advance of the GA, preferably not less than 30 days before the first GA.
Changes to the Constitution need to be sent to the SG in advance of 60 days before the first GA session.
Changes to the Bylaws need to be sent to the SG in advance of 30 days before the first GA session.
In order to speak you normally must “have the floor” – stand up, wait for acknowledgement from the Chairman, then state your name and voting entity before anything else. For "interrupting" motions, you do not need to have the floor.
A main motion’s introduction brings business before an assembly – say “I move that…” and precisely word your motion.
Then the motion must be seconded to be considered by the group (the seconder does not have to agree with the motion).
Once a motion has been made and seconded, it is the property of the General Assembly and is open for discussion. The maker of the motion has first priority at the start of debate to speak to their motion.
Remarks must be relevant, and debate proposals, not personalities – no personal attacks!
Speak to the chair rather than to other people directly, and try to avoid using names
When no further debate, the chair asks the question and a vote is taken.
Secondary motions either interrupt or relate to (most commonly amend) the main motion.
The vote system used by IVSA is the two (2) vote system, in which all Member Organisations (MOs) from a single voting entity (country or supernational organization) must come to an agreement between themselves as to how they want to cast their two votes. It is left to the MOs of the voting entity to decide exactly how to do this, but each MO represented should have an equal say.
For each of a voting entity's two (2) votes they can either vote for, against or abstain, on a particular issue/motion. In the case of a voting to elect a person, they can either pick a person to vote for, or abstain. We do not allow voting against a person.
Voting can be by general consent if the chair thinks a motion unlikely to be opposed. When the chair says "Any objections?", if one member says "I object", the motion must be put to a vote.
The most commonly used type of voting in parliamentary assemblies is a simple voice vote, but IVSA does not use this as it cannot accurately represent our voting system.
Any member may call for a card raising vote, but can't order a count or call for a roll call vote without a second.
The most commonly used type of voting in IVSA is the card raising vote (equivalent to the “rising vote” in RONR). In this type of vote, each voting entity shall appoint one person to show their votes. The Chairman asks those in favour to raise their voting cards, and then those opposed to raise their voting cards. The appointed person raises 1 card for 1 vote and 2 cards for 2 votes. Each voting entity may only cast a maximum of 2 votes. If they vote less than twice, they are abstaining from casting the remaining vote(s).
A more formal type of voting, which is significantly more time consuming, is a roll call vote. In this type of vote, the Secretary to the GA shall call out the names of all the voting entities present. Each voting entity shall appoint one person to call out their votes in response.
The most time consuming method of voting, which is used in situations when it is thought that a secret vote is appropriate (most commonly in IVSA for voting to elect a person), is a written ballot vote. In this type of vote, ballots shall be handed out and each country shall write down their vote, before folding the ballots so the vote cannot be seen, and handing them in for counting.
If any full MO can not be present at the GA they can delegate their right to vote to another full MO by either informing the ExCo in written or electronic form or providing the proxy MO with signed certification. One MO can only hold the proxy votes of up to 2 other MOs. This can only be done for matters in the preliminary GA agenda and cannot be done for voting in elections of any kind.
Guide to Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised (RONR)
Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised (RONR) are a set of rules for conduct at meetings. They are an orderly, efficient and fair way of running a meeting, and are used by more organizations than any other parliamentary manual. They balance the right of the majority to decide with the right of a minority to require the majority to properly consider the issues involved.
Under no circumstances should "undue strictness" be allowed to intimidate members or limit full participation. Don't be afraid to stand up, obtain the floor, and speak if you have a question, even if you don't know if it is a point of privilege, point of information, point of order or a parliamentary inquiry!
Before the motion is stated by the Chair (the question) members may suggest modification of the motion; the mover can modify as he pleases, or even withdraw the motion without consent of the seconder; if mover modifies, the seconder can withdraw the second. You must request for permission of the assembly to withdraw or modify a motion after it has been stated by the chair.
No member can speak twice to the same issue until everyone else wishing to speak has spoken to it once.
Commonly used Rules
- Main Motion: Brings new business (the next item on the agenda) before the assembly.
- Point of Privilege (or Question of Privilege): Relates to noise, personal comfort, etc. - can interrupt, no second, undebatable, normally dealt with informally, no vote (decision from chair).
- Parliamentary Inquiry: Inquire as to the correct motion - can interrupt, no second, undebatable, no vote.
- Point of Information: Inquire as to facts affecting the business at hand - can interrupt, no second, undebatable, no vote. Generally applies to information desired from the speaker: "I should like to ask the (speaker) a question."
- Point of Order: to call attention to a violation of the rules - can interrupt, no second, no vote. Must be raised immediately after the error is made.
- Amend: Should precisely state how to change the wording of the main motion (inserting, striking out or substituting words/paragraphs). A "friendly amendment" that does not change the meaning of the main motion may be passed by general consent. After the group has voted on an amendment, you cannot offer another amendment that raises the same question of content and effect.
- Withdraw/Modify Motion: After question is stated, permission of the assembly is required to do this; mover can accept an amendment without obtaining the floor.
- Previous Question: “I move the previous question” immediately closes debate and prevents further motions to amend, commit and postpone, is undebatable, needs seconding, requires a 2/3 majority, cannot interrupt but is entitled to preference to the floor.
- A single member can demand a hand raising vote (can interrupt, no second, undebatable, no vote) but can’t order a count (only the chair can do). A motion to count requires a second.
More rarely used Rules
- Orders of the Day (Agenda): A call to adhere to the agenda (a deviation from the agenda requires Suspending the Rules) .
- Extend or Limit Debate: Applies only to the immediately pending question; extends or limits until a certain time or for a certain period of time.
- Postpone to a Certain Time: State the time the motion or agenda item will be resumed, debatable. This is often referred to as "tabling" a motion until a certain time (although technically this is not accurate).
- Object to Consideration of the Question: Objection must be stated before discussion or another motion is stated - can interrupt, no second, undebatable, needs a 2/3 majority to suppress the main question.
- Postpone Indefinitely: Kills the question/resolution for this session - exception: the motion to reconsider can be made this session. Is debatable (so the question is open to debate until this is adopted, unless the previous question is immediately moved).
- Lay on the Table: Temporarily suspends further consideration/action on pending question; may be made after motion to close debate has carried or is pending.
- Take from the Table: Resumes consideration of item previously "laid on the table" - state the motion to take from the table.
- Suspend the Rules: Allows a violation of the assembly's own rules (not the Constitution, and only Bylaws that are in the nature of a rule of order); the object of the suspension must be specified - needs seconding, can’t amend or debate, needs a 2/3 majority.
- Reconsider: Can be made only by one on the prevailing side who has changed position or view, during the same GA or in the next one. Later, a motion can be made to rescind a previous motion, or to amend something previously adopted – in these cases, if previous notice is not given, a 2/3 majority vote is required (or, if smaller, a majority of the entire membership of the voting body). If previous notice is given, only a majority is required. After time to reconsider is passed, renewal of a defeated motion is simply allowed at the next GA.
- Informal Consideration: Move that the assembly go into "Committee of the Whole" - informal debate as if in committee; this committee may limit number or length of speeches or close debate by other means by a 2/3 vote. All votes, however, are formal.
- Appeal Decision of the Chair: Appeal for the assembly to decide - must be made before other business is resumed - can interrupt, requires a second, may be debated but each member can only speak once, the chair first and to close debate. Not debatable if relates to decorum, violation of rules or order of business, or if it is made while the immediately pending question is undebatable.
- Secondary amendments: You can amend amendments, but there are no tertiary amendments. Alternatively you can try and get people to vote down the pending amendment and offer an alternative.
- Divide the Question: Divides a motion into two or more separate motions (must be able to stand on their own).
- Consider by Paragraph: Adoption of paper is held until all paragraphs are debated and amended and entire paper is satisfactory; after all paragraphs are considered, the entire paper is then open to amendment, and paragraphs may be further amended. Any Preamble can not be considered until debate on the body of the paper has ceased.
- Commit/Refer/Recommit to Committee: State the committee to receive the question or resolution; if no committee exists include size of committee desired and method of selecting the members (election or appointment).
- Amending and adopting a proposed agenda requires a majority vote. Once adopted, the agenda can only be changed by a vote of 2/3 of those present and voting or a majority of all delegates registered, or by unanimous consent.
- Parliamentary inquiry answers are not rulings and are not subject to appeal. If you believe the answer is wrong, act contrary to the answer, be ruled out of order and then appeal.
- Question of privilege includes introduction of a confidential subject in the presence of guests.
- A member may request to be excused from a duty imposed on them by the Bylaws by virtue of a position they hold.
- A motion to discharge a committee can be made to a committee that has not yet made its final report.
- Take from the Table: Resumes consideration of item previously "laid on the table" - state the motion to take from the table.
Order of Precedence of Motions
- Fix the time to which to adjourn
- Adjourn (close meeting)
- Recess (short break in meeting)
- Raise a question of privilege
- Call for the orders of the day (call to stick to the agenda, can interrupt, no second, undebatable, no vote)
- Lay on the table (in order to deal with something urgent, rarely used)
- Previous question
- Limit or extend limits of debate (rarely used in IVSA, can’t interrupt, needs a second, can’t debate, can amend, 2/3 majority)
- Postpone to a certain time
- Commit (refer the matter to a committee, can’t interrupt, needs a second, debatable, amendable)
- Postpone indefinitely (drop without a vote)
- Main motion
Making Amendments to the Bylaws or the Constitution
Bylaws are substantially easier to change than the Constitution. However, they are made so that they should hopefully need to be amended only once every few years.
Only things that really need to be in the Bylaws should go there. No new titles should be added to the Bylaws, if in any way possible. For example all guidelines about local events, how specific ExCo work is done in detail, how to do group exchanges and so on should always stay in the Manuals. So should the actual figures of the Congress fees and membership fees.
Before making amendments to the Bylaws please read them through carefully and think whether or not the change you are going to be making could stay there for the next 5 years.
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