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Parlimentary Procedures


The parliamentary authority for the Eastern Washington University Academic Senate is the current edition of Robert's Rules of Order, Newly Revised (RONR), which applies in all cases where it does not conflict with the Senate bylaws or special rules of order. Senate members should familiarize themselves with the bylaws and special rules of order. For the finer points of parliamentary law, Senate members may consult RONR or the Senate Parliamentarian.

For a handy table of motions and their uses, see below


Members of an assembly have the following rights: to attend meetings; to make motions and nominate; to debate; to vote; to hold office, if qualified; to have the agenda followed; and to have the rules enforced. Any motion that abridges or denies any of these rights requires a two-thirds vote.


By custom, the Academic Senate adheres to the following order of business:

  • Approval of Minutes
  • Report of the Senate Chair/Faculty Organization President
  • Report of the Administration
  • Report of the ASEWU
  • Reports of Standing Committees
  • Reports of Special, or Ad Hoc, Committees
  • Special Orders (Special orders are items of business that according to the bylaws must be taken up at a specified meeting or items that were postponed from the previous meeting and made a special order-i.e., given priority in the order of business-by a two-thirds vote.)
  • Unfinished Business and General Orders (Unfinished business is business that was on the agenda for the previous meeting but was not reached before adjournment. General orders are items postponed from the previous meeting by a majority vote.)
  • New Business
  • Adjournment


Except by consent of the assembly, members may debate only when a motion is pending, and debate must always be germane to the pending question.

A member may speak only twice to the same motion. If, however, the motions goes over to another day--if, for example, it is postponed to the next meeting--the member may speak twice again. A member who has spoken to a particular motion may not speak again until everyone who wishes to speak the first time has done so.

A member who wishes to speak waits until the previous speaker has concluded, then raises his/her hand and waits to be recognized. Members are recognized in the order in which they seek recognition except that, insofar as practicable, the chair alternates between members who wish to speak for and against a measure.

All remarks in debate are addressed to the chair, never to another member. No speaker may attack the motives or the character of another member. Past actions of the assembly may not be criticized except in debate on a motion to amend or rescind the past action.


Main Motions

Main motions may be made only when nothing is pending. Main motions require a second, are debatable, and require a majority vote.

Ranking Motions

Certain motions have rank; that is, a motion with lower rank cannot be made while a motion of higher rank is pending. The ranking motions, from lowest to highest, are listed below with an S if they require a second, with D or U to indicate whether they are debatable or undebatable, and with an M or 2/3 to indicate the vote required.

  • Postpone Indefinitely (S,D,M)
  • Amend (S,D,M)
  • Refer to a Committee (S,D,M)
  • Postpone to a Definite Time (S,D,M)
  • Limit or Extend the Limits of Debate (S,U,2/3)
  • Previous Question (Close Debate) (S,U,2/3)
  • Lay on the Table (S,U,M)
  • Call for the Order of the Day (ruled on by the chair)
  • Question of Privilege (ruled on by the chair)
  • Recess (S,U,M)
  • Adjourn (S,U,M)
  • Fix the Time to which to Adjourn

Important exceptions: (a) motions to amend may be made while any motion is pending that has a legitimate variable and (b) certain motions with high rank (raise a question of privilege, recess, and fix the time to which to adjourn) are privileged only if they are made while business is pending. A motion to recess, for example, if made when nothing is pending, is a main motion and is therefore debatable.

Incidental Motions

Certain motions arise incidentally as other motions are being considered. These motions, by and large, are disposed of as they arise. Like the ranking motions, incidental motions may be amended if they have a legitimate variable. Some of the most commonly used incidental motions are as follows:

  • Point of Order (ruled on by the chair, subject to appeal)
  • Appeal (S,M, debatable unless (a) a nondebatable motion is pending or (b) it has to do with decorum in debate)
  • Point of Information (answered, or referred to a knowledgeable member, by the chair)
  • Parliamentary Inquiry (answered by the chair, not subject to appeal)
  • Suspend the Rules (S,U,2/3)
  • Objection to the Consideration of the Question (MUST be made before debate begins on the motion in question, S,U,2/3)
  • Withdraw a Motion (S,U,M, but often handled by general consent)
  • Request (S,U,M, except that a request to be excused from a duty is debatable)
  • Division of a Question (S,U,M)
  • Consider by Paragraph or Seriatim (S,U,M)

Bring Back, or Restorative Motions

Certain motions are used to bring back before the assembly motions previously disposed of: The voting requirements for these motions vary depending on the circumstances. Consult Robert's Rules of Order, Newly Revised.

  • Take from the table (S,U,M)
  • Rescind/Amend Something Previously Adopted (S,D, See RONR)
  • Discharge a Committee (S,D, See RONR)
  • Reconsider/Reconsider and Enter on the Minutes (S, D or U, depending on whether the motion it is proposed to reconsider is debatable; M)


A voice vote is taken whenever a majority is required for adoption. If, after the chair declares the result, a member is in doubt, the member may demand that the vote be retaken as a standing vote. (Without rising or seeking recognition, the member calls out "Division!") The chair who is in doubt of the result of a voice vote may ask for a standing vote and may have the vote counted. A member who wishes the vote to be counted must make a motion to that effect.

A standing vote is taken whenever a 2/3 vote is required for adoption.

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