On February 20, the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Judicial Board (J-Board) released a set of recommendations regarding rules of procedure at General Assemblies (GAs). These specified that SSMU is required to adopt and publicize a simplified version of standing rules for the GA, but that a special two-thirds majority rule instead of a simple majority for a “motion to postpone indefinitely” was not a valid standing rule.
The J-Board was mandated to investigate the matter on January 17 as a result of a mediation session to resolve a J-Board case against the SSMU president and speaker filed by Nadir Khan and Zain Ali Syed. They had sought a special GA to discuss the Palestine solidarity motion that had been postponed indefinitely at the Fall SSMU GA.
The J-Board ruled that article 5.2 of By-law Book I requires SSMU to adopt simplified standing rules and to publicize these rules to its members at least five days in advance of the GA.
However, the J-Board recommendation makes a distinction between “standing rules” and “special rules of procedure.” It notes that “standing rules” – which are meant to regulate the administration of SSMU – “do not interfere with the freedom of a meeting, and they may not conflict with the constitution, bylaws, rules of order, or other standing rules,” and can be changed without prior notice by a majority vote at any meeting.
However, “rules of procedure” are in place to facilitate the meetings, and cannot be changed as easily.
The two-thirds majority rule for the motion to postpone indefinitely is a change to rules of procedure. Thus, in its recommendation, the J-Board stated that it is not under the authority of Council to include a revision to the motion to postpone indefinitely.
However, the recommendation did note that the rule could be changed if the Board of Directors was to adopt a change, or if members at the GA voted to amend or suspend the rules of order. According to the ruling, both Robert’s Rules of Order and article 13.2 of the SSMU constitution support this.