Writing a Motion
What are motions for?
Any member of the JCR can write a motion about most anything relating to what the JCR does, or how the JCR functions. This can be anything from passing money (for anything like JCR publications, schemes to benefit the JCR, charitable causes, new equipment, artistic enterprises, or indeed, anything that the JCR particularly cares about), to additions to Standing Policy (effectively the JCR’s opinion), or even to changes to the structure of the governance of the JCR (for example, the recent amendment to the constitution that the Sports Rep office is held by officers of different gender identities).
What does a motion look like?
A motion has three sections: “This JCR notes:”; “This JCR believes:”; and “This JCR resolves:”.
“This JCR notes:” should contain items of objective fact, things like
- The film Brave is available on DVD from Amazon for £6.99.
- The JCR has the capacity to play DVDs on the projector.
- A lot of the time, the projector is not being used.
“This JCR believes:” should contain items of opinion that will lead into what you would like the JCR to do. If it helps, you can sometimes think of your “Believes” items as answering the question “where are you going with this?” that’s asked of your “Notes” items. So, continuing the above example, we could have
- Brave is not only the best Disney film, but is in fact a cultural treasure.
- Everyone is happier when Brave is available on a large screen.
- The projector should be utilised more.
Finally, “This JCR resolves:” is perhaps the most important part of your motion, as it is what produces any change should the motion pass, be that by passing money, mandating an officer to perform a certain function, or anything of that ilk. Every item of your resolves should be supported by “Notes” and “Believes” items, and it should be easy to see when reading a motion why a person has resolved as they have done (even if you disagree). So the resolves of our example motion could be
- To purchase Brave on DVD using the Entz fund.
- To play Brave on the projector whenever the projector would otherwise not be in use.”
Here it is clear that we have resolved to purchase the DVD as we have noted that the DVD exists, and we have the capacity to play it, and because we believe that Brave is a cultural treasure, and it is clear that we have resolved to play it at all times the projector is not otherwise in use because we believe that people will be happier if Brave is available on a large screen, and because the projector should be utilised more.
How should you prepare a motion?
What researching a motion entails varies from motion to motion, and the JCR secretary will be able to provide advice on what exactly you should be doing for your specific motion, but there are some general things you can do.
First of all, you should find out if your motion needs to be a motion. The easiest way to do this is to just get in touch with relevant officers and other parties whose mandate may fall within the scope of what you’re asking. It might well turn out that the change you’d like to see can be enacted by the relevant officer without it needing to go through a GM.
Even if you’re certain that you will need to pass a motion because you’re a constitutional expert, you should still definitely get in touch with any relevant people. They will be invaluable in helping you assess the feasibility of your motion, and in suggesting ways that the problem you’ve identified can otherwise be addressed. More than that, people are going to be much more likely to be helpful if you don’t surprise them with a motion relevant to their mandate at a GM without prior discussion.
Most obviously, if your motion concerns the passing of money, find out how much money if required and why it is that amount that is required (i.e. where is the money going and what is it doing?). It is also very helpful if you can find out the best place for that money to come from, and – as before - the best way to do this is simply to get in touch with whichever JCR officer you think is most directly relevant to what you intend to do, so, with our example case, I would suppose that the Entz officers would know best where such money should come from, and they might tell me that the Entz fund makes most sense. It’s important that you do this for any motion asking for money from a particular fund; people in charge of whatever funds are going to find it incredibly rude should they be surprised with a motion asking for that money!
With regards to changes to changes in JCR governance, if, after discussion with the relevant officers and interested parties, you should consider setting up a working group to plan the motion beforehand, since this is likely to be something a lot of people would be interested in having some input. It is important to be aware of whether or not your motion will require constitutional change (although I’ll let you know when you come to me with your motion, and it’s hard to imagine that the relevant officers or some members in a working group wouldn’t be aware of constitutional implications).
How will I help?
Before you write a motion, you should absolute feel free to get in touch with me; if you don’t feel any need to, you’ll end up sending your motion to me anyway for inclusion in the agenda, at which point I’ll probably chat with you about it anyway.
In either instance, I’ll ask you who you’ve spoken to about your motion, and try my best to point you in the direction of other people who might be interested or who might be helpful to you.
There’s no need to worry about making sure your motion is perfectly drafted. If after doing the relevant research and speaking to the relevant parties, you have a concrete idea of what you’d like to do, but only a nebulous idea of how your motion should look, we can have a chat to decide what exactly you should be noting and resolving, and formatting is properly.
Having received a motion that’s correctly format, I’ll simply add it to the agenda (perhaps correcting any typos and other such slips; however I’ll always let you know about the smallest of changes) and it’ll be ready to be discussed in a GM!