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FAQs for Chairs of Formal Committees

Learn how to chair formal committees

Explore answers to commonly asked questions from chairs and vice chairs of formal committees, such as Senate and Board standing committees. 

Participation, attendance & quorum

The chair is the point of contact for the committee’s work, and ensures the committee meets in accordance with the meeting requirements. The chair is responsible to conduct meetings, to ensure the objectives of the meeting are met, and the agenda is followed. The chair also reviews draft minutes.

Additionally, the expectations of Senate committee chairs include:

  • Submit an annual report to Senate that outlines the committee’s work over the previous year. The Committee’s assistant can usually assist with this.
  • Chairs of the Senate Faculty Standards, Teaching & Learning, and Research committees, by virtue of their position, are required to chair their respective faculty excellence award selection committees. This involves meeting 2-3 times to review nominations and select award recipients. The chairs are responsible to conduct the award selection committee meetings, and present their committees’ recommendations to the Senate Awards & Honours Committee.

    The chair is the point of contact for the committee’s work, and ensures the committee meets in accordance with the meeting requirements. The chair is responsible to conduct meetings, to ensure the objectives of the meeting are met, and the agenda is followed. The chair also reviews draft minutes.


Members are expected to attend meetings regularly. If a member misses two consecutive meetings per year, without prior arrangement with the chair, the chair sends them a written notice. If members miss three consecutive regular meetings per year, without prior arrangement with the chair, and who has received written notice, their membership will be reviewed by the Senate Governance Committee. The committee assistant tracks attendance and provides support on this. Guidelines for members participation are outlined here.


You may ask the vice chair to chair in your absence, or if the vice chair will be absent, ask a committee member to chair the meeting.


Guests are permitted to attend all open sessions. As chair, you can inform the committee in advance, letting them know of guest/s who will be in attendance. Technically, guests are only permitted to speak if approved. Typically, UFV practices an informal approach which simply asks the committee if it is willing to hear from a non-member of the committee who is in attendance.


The chair can declare a meeting or portion of a meeting “in camera” and close the meeting to the public. Meetings may be closed when the agenda concerns personnel matters, confidential discussions, or confidential correspondence.


  • Quorum for meeting requires a 50% minimum of voting members. Vacant positions and leaves of absences are excluded from this count.
  • If a quorum does not exist at a meeting, any action taken, such as to adopt the minutes or agenda, is invalid. You may choose to have some discussion, but no formal business can be completed.
  • Once quorum is declared, the meeting continues, even if a member needs to leave early.


Yes, unless the bylaws or committee rules of order states otherwise.



Motions, adjournment & amendments

Anyone who is a member of the committee (voting or non-voting) can make a motion. Others who may be in attendance are not permitted to make a motion.


A motion is required to:

  • Introduce a new piece of business for approval, as indicated on the agenda. Depending on the matter, you may wish to hold some discussion first, particularly if the item is complicated or you don’t have a good read on how committee members might feel about the topic/issue.
  • Propose a decision or action to be taken that wasn’t originally expected when the agenda was approved.

Main motions:

  • A main motion is presented for debate, is amendable, and can be reconsidered. There can only be one main motion on the floor at a time, and they cannot be applied to any other motions.

Subsidiary motions:

  • A subsidiary motion is required if you want to change how the main motion is handled, such as, if you want to amend, postpone, table, withdraw, clarify, or assign a motion.
  • At UFV, although the rules technically require a motion to amend, typical practice is to allow for “friendly amendments”. This means if someone believes the motion should be amended, the Chair can ask the movers/seconders if they agree with the proposed change, and if so, the motion is changed to the new wording. 
  • A motion to amend takes first priority in the meeting. A motion to amend is a vote on whether to accept the proposed changes to wording of the main motion, and does not end discussion and debate, and does not mean the main motion is yet approved. 


Before the chair officially states the motion, the maker of the motion can withdraw or amend it without permission from the group. Once the chair officially states the motion, ownership of the motion shifts to the group. At this point, the maker of the motion can withdraw or amend it by obtaining permission from the assembly. The chair announces the request to withdraw or amend, and asks for unanimous consent. If a member objects, the chair can put the question to a vote.

At UFV, although the rules technically require a motion to amend, typical practice is to allow for “friendly amendments”. This means if someone believes the motion should be amended, the chair can ask the movers/seconders if they agree with the proposed change, and if so, the motion is changed to the new wording.  


For non-contentious amendments, such as the correction of a name or grammar, if acceptable to the mover and the seconder of the original motion, it may be incorporated without a vote.

For other amendments:

  1. State the amendment.
  2. Ask for a mover and seconder. These should not be the same as those of the original motion.
  3. Allow for discussion.
  4. Conduct a vote to decide if the amendment is to be accepted.
  5. If the amendment is carried, it is incorporated into the main motion.
  6. Return to the main motion with the amendment, if carried; or, without it, if the amendment is not carried.
  7. Allow for discussion and conduct the vote.


A mover and seconder are required to introduce a motion for discussion and debate. Movers are presumed to be in favour of the motion at the time of making the motion, but entitled to change their mind and vote against the motion. Seconders do so only to get the motion debated, and should not be assumed to be in favour of the motion. Discussion on a matter can happen without a motion made, but at some point, to get a motion approved, it must be formally introduced, and members must be given a subsequent opportunity once introduced to discuss and debate.


  1. Clearly state the motion.
  2. Ask for a mover and a seconder. The names of the mover and seconder are recorded by the minute-taker.
  3. Allow discussion. If needed, make a subsidiary motion to postpone, amend, refer, table, or withdraw the motion. For amending a motion, see How do I amend a motion?
  4. Members may call the question, which means they ask the chair for a vote.
  5. Conduct a vote to pass the main motion.

Sometimes, challenges happen in getting wording right for a motion, such as when a motion wasn’t already anticipated and included in the agenda, or when the committee wants to amend a proposed motion. It’s helpful to ensure everyone is clear on the wording of a motion.


Before voting takes place, a motion must first be moved and seconded for discussion and debate. See the previous question. Then, to pass a motion, conduct a vote:

1. Clearly state the motion to be voted on.

2. Ask for a show of a hands or a voice response to the following questions:

  •  Do any oppose? The chair acknowledges all in opposition, e.g. One opposed.
  • Do any abstain? The chair acknowledges all abstentions, e.g. One abstained.
  • All in favour? The chair confirms the motion is passed, e.g. All in favour. Motion passed.

 If there are abstentions and oppositions, the minute-taker records the numbers for each.

 


Motions require approval by a majority of all voting members present: more than 50% of the votes cast. Some motions, such as motions to limit or end debate, or suspend the rules, require two-thirds of the votes cast. In tallying the votes, abstentions do not count towards the in-favour votes. If a vote fails as a result of abstentions, then the discussion reopens and the vote is called again on the majority of those present and voting (this time excluding abstentions).

 


Technically, Roberts Rules of Order require a motion to adjourn with a mover, seconder, and approval of voting members. However, UFV’s historical practice (especially at the committee level), has been to entertain a motion to adjourn, but not require a seconder or vote to approve. Chairs may choose freely which approach to take.



Voting methods & abstentions

In this case, abstain from voting, and ask the vice chair to conduct the vote. Another option is to ask the committee if they are amenable with a secret ballot, and proceed that way.


Members should abstain when they have a direct personal interest in the matter that amounts to a real or perceived conflict of interest. For more details, see Appendix E of the Senate’s Bylaws (p. 15).


Typically, voting is conducted by a show of hands, but may also be verbal. Ballots are used to conduct voting, if requested by a voting member, or when there a decision requires a choice of two or more options, such as when electing a chair. In certain circumstances, a vote may be conducted via email.


You can conduct an email vote in the following circumstances:

  • When the committee has already discussed the subject of the motion and resolves that the final motion may be approved prior to the next scheduled meeting by email; or,
  • When the chair and vice chair unanimously agree that exceptional and extenuating circumstances exist require an approved resolution prior to the next scheduled meeting:
    • The rationale for the e-mail vote and its urgency must be communicated to members.
    • Two business days must be set aside for reply-all e-mail comments and questions, before e-mail voting is conducted, and then at least three days set aside for voting.

The motion is passed if the number of voters meet the quorum requirement, and if the resolution is approved by a vote of 75% or greater. Results of e-mail voting must be reported at the next meeting of and entered into the minutes.



Minutes, chair terms & resignations

Generally, the minutes reflect the outcome of the meeting, not the discussion. The meeting minutes need to include the actions and decisions of the committee. That said, committees do tend to include some elements of discussion in their minutes. If the issue is big or complicated enough, we advise creating a document that elaborates on a discussion, position, or recommendation and have the document approved so that it is part of the official record via agenda and minutes.

 


The chairs of standing committees in which the chair is nominated by the committee and approved by Senate ends on July 31st.


Some committees schedule monthly or bi-monthly meetings in advance, but may cancel when there is no business to address, while other committees meet as required. Senate committees are required to a meet a minimum of three times per year. If needed, the chair may call a meeting with at least seven days' notice.


In this case, inform the Secretariat office so that the vacancy can be filled according to the Procedures for Membership on Standing Committees.


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