Plenary and Commissions
Navigating through the ins and out of the policy work that will happen during the national conference can be difficult for newcomers. With that in mind we've put together this quick and easy guide to help you get involved at the conference.
PLENARY: is . . . the Annual General Meeting of CUP. If your paper is a member, you have one vote (just like every other paper) on everything that happens in CUP.
Before we can continue however, I need to let you in on a little secret: everyone's scared at their first plenary. Sure, the person next to you seems completely confident, completely sure of themselves and of what's going on. They seem like they've been through it a million times. In reality though, they're just as scared, or were just as scared their first time.
Since CUP has been going for more than 70 years at this point and no one's been around the student press for that entire time, people are always joining a conversation in the middle. Understandably this is more than a little alienating, frustrating and may turn you off of CUP policy and plenary for the rest of your time in the student press. Don't let it though.
Opening plenary . . . is the general assembly that occurs after registration on the first day of the conference. Papers are divided into three groups based on the size of their budget (small, medium and large) to elect representatives onto the various commissions that work throughout the week.
Midweek plenary. . . is the session on Saturday and meant to deal with housekeeping items (like approving of the chair, of a base budget, and speaking rights) and to provide an opportunity for membership to respond to items proposed by the commissions. All papers should ensure that they have at least one representative to debate issues and vote. Midweek plenary is also where the Question Period for candidates for President and National Bureau Chief occurs. So come out to ask them questions and hear their responses!
Final plenary. . . is the day-long session where ideas and proposals from membership (ie: your paper and others) and the commissions (which were elected at the opening plenary) are presented formally and debated. Once again, all papers should be represented to debate and present motions. This plenary is where the course for CUP is set and you get to help determine what the organization should be and where it should be going.
COMMISSIONS are quite simply the main way that CUP members can get involved with decision-making about CUP. Dealing with hiring, finance, and any and every other aspect of CUP, commissions are important.
Commission facilitators are the CUP staff members (bureau chiefs or regional directors) who organize and "chair" commissions. Their jobs are to focus the discussion and direction of the commission and to help commission members develop and draft motions to be introduced at plenary.
CAUCUSES are . . .opportunities for like-individuals and their supporters to gather to discuss issues facing them in the student press and CUP. Be they regional, gender, or diversity based, all provide important opportunities to talk about issues with others, seek solutions and even propose motions for plenary sessions if they feel CUP needs to address issues.
MOTIONS are . . . the documents that plenary uses to frame debates and are the binding orders to CUP and CUP staff. Typically motions will include one or more WHEREAS clauses and then a BIRT (be it resolved that) and anywhere from zero to as many as you need BIFRT (be it further resolved that) clauses. WHEREAS clauses themselves aren't binding and typically provide background or some basic reasoning behind the motion while the BIRT (and BIFRT) clauses are what membership are actually voting on. Below is an example from the past:
BIRT that Minuteman be approved as the virtual secretary for plenary.
ROBERT'S RULES are a way of managing big meetings. They may seem like a little bit of an inconvenience but they truly help. The chair of plenary is in charge of keeping a speaker's list, and members speak in the order that they stand at a microphone. After a motion is presented, the mover will "motivate" (speak to) a motion stating how their paper feels about it (supports, opposes, thinks it needs work, etc.) and why. When speaking, a member can say pretty much anything about the motion (within the bounds of good taste) and all members are encouraged to debate and speak on motions since they're about what CUP should do or become. Important stuff.
Other terms worth remembering are:
These are just a handful of useful Roberts Rules to remember. Others do exist, but if at any point during plenary you're not sure of the exact wording of what you want to do, just say "point of parliamentary inquiry" or "I have a question" to ask the chair for help. The Chair is there to facilitate things and if you need something answered or help with something, they are there to help as best they can.
Hiring and Conference Selection at Plenary
One of the most important parts of the Plenary sessions is the hiring process by which CUP members elect their President and National Bureau Chief for the next year and select the host of the next National Conference.
As already noted, at the midweek session on Saturday members will have the opportunity to pose questions to each of the candidates on an individual basis. At the Monday plenary members will have the opportunity to hear speeches from each of the candidates and then hear each of the President and NBC candidates answer questions proposed by the hiring commission. Be sure you stay in your seat once the session begins because once the hiring process begins you won't be allowed back in to the plenary room, no matter the reason.
One other important topic that is decided at the Monday plenary is which paper will host the national conference for the following year. All papers interested in bidding will have an opportunity to make detailed presentations to membership who will then select the host paper for the conference.
Joke motions are time-honoured traditions in CUP and take many forms (the dubbing of anyone attending their 5th Nash as a dinosaur and making them do a dinosaur walk in plenary, the crowning of the National Awesome Chief, or making the chair dance and sing). Joke motions help to keep plenary light-hearted and break up the more serious policy.
As Kathe Lemon writes in her excellent thesis paper on CUP, Agents of Social Change:
"Through the use of joke motions CUP members [are] able to ridicule hypocrisy and self-righteousness in the organization and pull over-reaching egos or political rhetoric back into line. Joke motions [give] members the opportunity to voice dissenting views about CUP's actions without the danger of being verbally attacked by the plenary. Many joke motions [point] to CUP and its members' seeming belief that it could do anything,"
Need some inspiration? One of the better joke motions in CUP history is as follows:
WHEREAS student unions are evil and should be eliminated from the galaxy (toasted like flaming marshmallows), and
WHEREAS we have serious engineers who support the idea and are willing to work pro bono on this project, and
WHEREAS late during plenary at CUP 66, some people put forward a motion to loot the Death Star Fund in order to build a houseboat, and
WHEREAS a houseboat seems silly and unrealistic, like much of what comes out of the Gateway, and
WHEREAS a Death Star would still totally rock!
BIRT CUP change the houseboat fund back into the Death Star Fund, and
BIFRT the fund continue to be contributed to at the rate of $Pi ($3.14) per year, until such time that funding is sufficient to research, design and build a full-scale Death Star to be used as a negotiating tool for CUP members with student associations and university administrations, and
BIFRT CASA and CFS are nerdy geeks, and
BIFRT the Death Star also be used to acquire revenge on student associations or other unpleasant groups of individuals who annoy anyone in CUP, for any reason, and
BIFRT the Death Star be used to extort money from large multinational corporations, where such activity is not against the law, and
BIFRT we acknowledge that the Death Star is very important to many members of CUP, and therefore not try to replace it with any other vessel or vehicle of destruction.
By Ross Prusakowski
Robert's Rules of Order were written by General Henry M. Robert in 1915. The rules are used all over the world to officiate meetings and control governing bodies. CUP uses an interpretation of Robert's Rules of Order to help plenary proceed in a smooth, orderly and democratic fashion. Although the rules outlined here may seem restrictive and foreign to some, they help ensure that everyone is treated fairly and that CUP business is conducted efficiently.
If you have questions about Robert's Rules of Order or anything to with plenary, don't hesitate to ask the plenary chair or any CUP staff member.
The agenda lists the items of business that will come before the plenary session. The bulk of the agenda consists of motions that will be brought before the plenary from commissions. Members of each commission will introduce their subject and recommend actions in the form of motions.
Other items on the agenda include approving the chairperson, approving the minute-taker and setting the rules for plenary.
When conducting CUP business at plenary, every member newspaper represents one vote. Although several people from one newspaper might be present at plenary, they all represent only one vote. Anyone authorized by his or her newspaper to speak at plenary may do so. In addition, plenary usually grants speaking rights to CUP staff, CUP and Campus Plus board reps and other people involved in CUP.
Quorum is the minimum number of members that must be present in order for business to begin at plenary. Quorum is two-thirds of the registered voting members at the conference.
Plenary can begin only once quorum has been met. If quorum is lost or if enough members leave the room that less than two-thirds of registered members are represented, plenary will continue unless someone "calls for quorum." Any member may do so if she or he doubts that there are enough members in the room to constitute a valid decision-making body. If a member challenges quorum and it is not met, proceedings are suspended until quorum is regained.
Papers must make every effort to have at least one representative at plenary. If all delegates from a member newspaper must leave, they may transfer their vote to another member newspaper. This is called proxying a vote. When you proxy your vote, you should also leave instructions with the newspaper you are proxying to as to how you want them to vote on your behalf.
Papers can reclaim their proxy and vote on their own upon their return to plenary. Any member can hold a maximum of two proxies.
In order to proxy their vote, your newspaper must do so in writing directly to the chair. The president, NBC or other staff members may not accept your vote.
The chair of plenary or one the chair's assistants will keep a speaker's list of all the people who wish to speak during plenary. If you wish to say something, raise your hand and your name will be added to the speaker's list. When your turn comes, the chair will say the name of your newspaper and you will have the floor to speak. In most cases, you must be called on by the chair and given the floor before you can speak.
When you address plenary, always state your name and the newspaper you represent and always speak into a microphone.
A main motion is a motion that is presented to plenary for the members to consider. A main motion can be on any subject relating to CUP business. Main motions must be seconded by another member newspaper.
Once a motion is read out loud and is moved by a member newspaper, plenary can debate the motion and alter it.
Changing a motion once it is moved is known as making an amendment.
Amendments to a motion modify the original motion in some way. An amendment should be on the same subject as the main motion but it may contradict the main motion or change the meaning entirely. Any member newspaper that has obtained the floor can suggest amendments.
Once an amendment is suggested, the original mover of the motion must state whether the amendment is friendly or unfriendly. If the mover states that the amendment is friendly, that means that they approve of the change and the amendment immediately becomes part of the main motion. If the mover states that the amendment is unfriendly, that means that they do not approve of the amendment. In this case, debate begins on the amendment and plenary will vote on whether to adopt it (thereby changing the main motion) or defeat the amendment (thereby leaving the main motion they way it was originally worded).
Debate is how members of CUP express their opinions about motions that have come before plenary. During debate it is important for everyone to get a chance to speak and for all sides to be heard. In most cases, members will speak either in favour or in opposition to a motion.
During debate you may also ask questions about the motion on the floor or offer information to supplement the debate. It is very important to be courteous and calm when debating during plenary. Some issues become very controversial and it is easy to let personal feelings take over. If you do not agree with what someone has said, remember to criticize the idea and not the person. Avoid making personal accusations or attacks. If someone is rude or makes otherwise inappropriate remarks during plenary, the chair may rule that member out of order and ask him or her to stop speaking. If someone persists, plenary has the power to censure that person and ask them to leave plenary.
Debate on a motion is complete when there are no people waiting to speak on the speaker's list or when time for debate has expired. Once debate is complete, plenary votes on the motion on the floor. Most motions must have a majority vote in favour for them to be adopted. Some motions require two-thirds.
Voting is calculated by counting a show of hands or voting cards. The chair will ask who is in favour of the motion, then the chair will ask who is opposed and finally for abstentions.
You can abstain from a vote if you don't have an opinion on the subject or if you feel you are in a conflict of interest.
Special Motions and Other Stuff
While a motion is on the floor, no other motions can be moved except for these six special motions:
The following are special motions that may be raised while a motion is pending or at anytime during plenary:
Paper#1: The motion speaks for itself.
Chair: Is there any debate? The speaker's list is now open. The first speaker is Paper#3.
Paper#3: This is going to be a contentious issue, so we'd like to propose a motion to limit debate on this to no more than five minutes overall.
Chair: Seconded by?
Paper#4: We second.
Chair: This is a non-debatable motion, so we'll vote right away. It needs a two-thirds majority vote. All in favour? Against?
Passed. Next on the list is Paper#5.
Paper#5: We'd like to propose the following amendment: Be It Further Resolved That all profits from this must go towards the CUP collective beer-buying fund.
Chair: Is this friendly to everyone? See as there are objections, this has to become a formal amendment to continue. Is there a seconder?
Paper#4: We second.
Paper#6: Point of information.
Chair: State your point.
Paper#6: Is beer bought by this fund available to all members?
Chair: This amendment is open to debate and the speaker's list is open. First is Paper#1.
Paper#1: We'd like to call this amendment to question.
Paper#4: We second that.
Chair: Now we'll vote on whether or not we should close this debate and call the question. This is a procedural motion, so it needs a two-thirds majority and proxy votes are not permitted. All in favour? Against? Passed. Now debate continues on the main motion.
Paper#4: We'd like to call this to question.
Paper#1: We second.
Chair: All in favour of calling this motion to question? Against? Passed? Now we'll vote on the main motion, which reads as follows: WHEREAS there is no 7-11 nearby and WHEREAS we want cigarettes and junk food BIRT the CUP president set up a snack bar in the lobby, and BIFRT all profits from this must go towards the CUP collective beer-buying fund. All in favour? Against? Passed.
Small Papers (Category A)
Medium Papers (Category 2)
Large Papers (Category 3)
1. What is a commission?
Since it is nearly impossible to review in detail all decisions with so many delegates present, smaller working committees, called commissions, are created to prepare recommendations to plenary. Each commission examines a facet of CUP operations. The task of the commissions is to save the large group time by gathering information and opinions so policies can be tested and polished before they reach the plenary floor.
The commissions meet throughout the conference.
2. What are the commissions?
For a brief run down of what the jobs of each commission are, please check out the individual section for each commission on this page.
3. How do I get on a commission? / Who are the commissioners?
Commissioners are elected by size caucuses, which are divided by each member paper's total operating budget:
Elections for commissions will take place after opening plenary. Each category caucus will elect people to commissions. Any member in good standing is eligible to run.
4. Who runs the commissions
Each commission is facilitated by at least one CUP staff or board member, and six member delegates sit on each commission.
The CUP staff selected to run each commission at NASH 71 are as follows:
Joint Commission Facilitator
Services and Finance Facilitators
Priorities and Planning Facilitators
Information Acquisition Facilitators
Hiring Sub-commission Facilitator
5. Why are commissions important?
CUP's commissions have spawned many a future awesome board member. More importantly, they're the way that CUP members can get involved with decision-making about CUP.
In the last couple of years, most of the directive policy-making has been done by the board in the months leading up to Nash and presented to members there. Commissions are an important part of our organization because they are the forum for member participation and feedback.
6. What should the commissions do?
According to the constitution:
Commissions are about educating members on CUP policy and operations; facilitating member feedback on the organization; and bringing new ideas forward from membership.
While each commission does work independently, they also must work together to exchange information on membership needs and desires. There is one person who acts as a joint commission facilitator to oversee the commissions. Think of the commissions as section editors, and the Joint Commission Facilitator as your EIC.
6. Joint Commission Facilitator (JFC)
The JCF is responsible for co-ordinating the initiatives of all commissions, facilitating teamwork and communication between commissions, and lending expertise to all as needed. This person is also responsible for communicating between delegates and commission facilitators.
The JCF position was created in CUP 68 to help commissioners better work together and implement ideas for CUP. Before then, the CUP president, national bureau chief, or chair of the board of directors was expected to keep abreast of what each commission was doing. Often, the president and NBC are often too busy with conference administration to do so.
Mandate: The priorities and planning commission shall be responsible for the following:
Time commitment: Heavy.
Mandate: The SerFin commission looks primarily at current services offered by CUP and CUP's finances (eg. how it is paying for those services). It shall be responsible
for reviewing all of the following:
Time commitment: Considerable. Can range from a large chunk of each day to every waking hour (and some that shouldn't be awake but are) of each day.
Mandate: The Membership and Services shall be responsible for the following:
Time commitment: Moderate. Follow up on temporary fee deferrals granted by the CUP board, review new ones and make recommendations to plenary.
Mandate: The Hiring Commission shall be headed by the CUP HR representative (Justin Bell) and
will be responsible for the following:
Time commitment: Moderate.
Mandate: To evaluate the performance of the CUP staff for the year thus far and make recommendations for improvement in the spring term or for improvement of the job descriptions.
Time commitment: Moderate. Involves some sitting in a room waiting for people to come fill out surveys.