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Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised (11th Edition)

Simplified and Modified for UK University Senate

Quick link to table of motions.

Guiding Principles:

  • Only one item (motion) can be discussed at a time.
  • Every member of the Senate has the right to participate in discussion if they wish, before anyone speaks a second time.
  • Only urgent matters may interrupt a speaker on floor.
  • Every senator has the right to know what is going on at all times.

Getting a Motion/Idea Considered:

If you want to bring something before the University Senate, the formal process is to present it to the Senate Council which sets the agenda for the University Senate Meetings. Details on this process are outlined in Senate Rules 1.2.3 ("Meetings"), including how to override a Senate Council decision not to add an item to the agenda.

The informal process is that the Senate Council considers items brought forward during Other Business as food for thought and these may become items for a future Senate Council and/or University Senate meeting, if appropriate.

To make things clear and stay on schedule, Senate Rules 1.2.3 suggest that motions be submitted in writing in advance so senators can both hear and read the motion when it is brought to the floor for debate.

Seconding a Motion

A second is generally sought for a motion to ensure at least one other senator in the meeting is interested in the topic being raised. The major exceptions to this are reports and/or recommendations from committees. Since committees by default are more than one person and have been tasked by the group, it is assumed that the body is interested. Therefore, motions that come from committee do not require a second.

To second a motion, a senator just needs to raise his hand and be recognized by the chair and state they second the motion. This does not mean that you agree with the motion, just that you are willing to have the group discuss the idea.

The senator stating the motion may opt to withdraw the motion up until the time that the Chair puts the motion on the floor for discussion, or in other words, states the question. After that the motion belongs to the Senate body.

Stating the Question:

The Chair restates the question before debate on the motion begins. Once the motion is stated by the Chair then only the assembly by vote can remove the motion from the floor.

Consideration of the Motion:

Senators debate the motion with each speaker being recognized by the Chair in turn. Usually the senator making the motion is the first speaker.

Debate should be confined to the merits of the motion before the assembly. (For example, when debating an amendment only the amendment (not the main motion) should be debated.) However, senators can ask for a Point of Information to seek clarification or a Point of Order if there is a procedural question. In general each senator would have at least 10 minutes. In practice the University Senate limits comments to 2-3 minutes each.

The Chair may suggest ceasing debate if there appears to be no more discussion desired or if a senator calls the question and the Senate agrees with calling the question by a 2/3 majority.

During Consideration the following motions may be offered:

  • Friendly Amendment - a senator offers a correction for a typo, grammatical error, minor clarification that does not change the intent of the motion and is accepted by the senators who made the motion and seconded it. This is a University Senate custom. Robert's Rules prefers only official amendments be used, but allows local custom to prevail. However, if even one senator objects to the friendly amendment, it will trigger the requirement that a formal amendment be made.
  • Motion to Amend - a senator is recognized and offers a change to the motion on the floor. It must be seconded and requires a majority vote to accept before the main motion is voted on. There can be one secondary amendment to the amendment. Order of vote is secondary amendment, primary amendment and then the motion.
  • Point of Order - a senator asks a question about the process or procedure. The Chair makes the determination in consultation with the Parliamentarian.
  • Point of Information - a senator asks a question about the motion seeking information and not stating points in favor or against the motion on the floor. Chair responds or asks the appropriate person to respond. Senators frequently raise points of information, but don't often preface such a comment with "point of information."
  • Motion to Table the motion - a senator can move that the motion be tabled or removed from discussion and brought back. The motion must be seconded but there is no discussion.
  • Motion to Refer to Committee - a senator can move that a motion be sent to or sent back to a committee for consideration and then the committee brings a report with recommendations back to the University Senate.
  • Motion to Call the Question - a senator feels the debate on a particular motion has gone on too long and wants a vote. The senator must be recognized by the Chair and this motion must be seconded. Then the call to end debate is immediately voted upon and must pass with a 2/3 majority. Then the vote on the motion is taken.

Vote on the Motion:

The Chair will restate the motion prior to a vote being taken to make it clear what the vote is on. The motion will appear on the screen. The University Senate is using clickers so the Chair will open and then close the voting after an appropriate time. The results then appear on the screen and Chair officially announces the results.


The Chair will ask for a motion to adjourn the Senate meeting. The usual procedure is for someone to move and have a second acknowledged. At that point, most people vote with their feet. If someone wanted the meeting to continue, they would probably need to indicate quickly they are against adjournment, so a more formal process could take place.