University of Victoria Grad Student Society

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Grad Council Orientation Manual



2016 Grad Rep Orientation Manual


Welcome to Grad Council!

This is a brief orientation package intended to help you prepare for your role on Grad Council this year.

We strive to make grad council a rewarding experience with short, productive meetings, and campaign results that improve the lot of UVIC grad students.

We look forward to meeting with you in person!


Grad Council orientation contents

Meeting schedule
How do I work with other council members?
Submitting Agenda items (see also Appendix 1: sample agenda item)
Missing a meeting
Who can attend/vote
What is the role of Grad Reps?
Decision making proces (see also Appendix 2 on Roberts Rules)
What impact does Grad Council have
Does the GSS have a Strategic Plan?
Is there free food at the meeting?
Is there a GSS mascot?
I love governance and want more info (Bylaws, Policies, minutes)
Sample agenda submissionDetails on Robert's Rules


Grad Council meetings


General Meeting Schedule

Grad Reps are expected to attend GSS general meetings, which are open to all GSS members:

Tuesday, October 25, 2016 @ 5:00 PM Annual General Meeting in the Grad House– main items: Approve audit, hear reports from executive.

Tuesday, March 28,2016 @ 5:00 PM  Semi-Annual General Meeting in the Grad House – Main items: Approve budget, ratify elections, elect any executive seats that remain vacant, report from the Stipend Review Committee, report from executive.




How do I work with other council members?

Committee work

Grad Reps each serve on one committee of the Council. most work is done in the committees.

The Grad Council and each committee has a sharepoint site for building agendas and circulating documents between meetings.

Join the sharepoint site by requesting access (with your UVIC netlink only) here

List serve for communiction between meetings

Grad reps can also reach your fellow councillors by writing to the grad council list:

Plain text and grad student business only, please! (Grad student business includes: requests for info about how your department deals with a particular problem, updates on GSS business, invitations to conferences organized by grad students in your field).


Submitting agenda items

Agendas for Grad Council will be circulated the week before the meeting. As such, agenda items must be submitted 10 days in advance of the meeting to be included. Agenda items can be submitted within the sharepoint system. If you expect the item to require lengthy discussion contact the Chair when submitting the item.

Missing a meeting

If you cannot make it to a meeting, simple send your regrets to the Chair at gsschair[at] and cc the GSS Executive Director, Stacy Chappel gssmgr[at]

If another grad student from your department can attend, you may also send notice with your email that this person will be voting for your department.

If a representative fails to attend three consecutive meetings without sending an alternate, she or he shall be deemed to have resigned from the Council.


Who can attend/vote

Each Academic unit has one vote. If the representative is unable to attend a meeting, an alternate may attend in her/his place.

The GSS uses the Faculty of Graduate Studies' list of Academic Units to determine who has a vote. Each of these units has a representative on the GSS Graduate Representative Council.

Any graduate student may attend as a guest to observe. Students representing graduate students on university committees are also invited as guests. Guests may speak but not vote. Committee representatives are invited to submit reports on meetings they attend with any information relevant to grad council, and this is circulated with the agenda.


What is the Grad Rep role at the meeting?

Grad Reps exchange informal reports on what is happening in their department during the dinner portion of the meeting. This period is intended as a time when grad reps can exchange updates, compare notes, and get ideas from other departments.

Grad reps bring formal reports, motions, or proposed actions from their departments by submitting a motion for the meeting agenda.

Grad Council also discusses major campaign ideas for issues facing graduate students, elects students to senior committees, and elects an electoral office to manage our Executive Board elections in the spring.

Finally, Grad Reps report back to the students in their department about what is happening at the GSS. If a major issue has arisen, grad reps will often poll their department for input, and bring this back to inform the campaign. If the GSS is circulating a petition, or asking members to attend an important meeting, the grad rep will make sure their department knows.

Approve Executive Board reports, which means you agree they are doing their job and have earned their stipend.


What else Do Grad Reps do?

Approve Department Grant submissions from their department.

Participate in GSS committees and university committees on behalf of graduate students.

Participate in GSS campaigns and volunteer with GSS social activities.

Host a meeting of graduate students in their department once per term (or attend their department Grad Council meetings).

Encourage students in their department to run for grad rep when their term is up/they are graduating.

Make presentations about the GSS at their department orientation.


Decision making process

Meetings are run using Roberts Rules of Order, but informally.

Robert’s rules essentially means all decisions are made by passing motions. Motions must be moved and seconded before they are discussed, and this ensures at least two members of the group are willing to consider an idea before it is discussed.

Most motions are carried or failed by a simple majority vote, with members voting in favour, against or abstaining. Abstentions do not count as either for or against.

Members are encouraged to ask the chair for assistance with the process during the meeting as needed.

See Appendix 2 for lots more detail on Roberts Rules.

How long is the meeting?

We know you are busy! We try to start on time, 5 pm, and finish by 7 pm sharp. Dinner is served after the meeting.

If you have other commitments and need to leave a bit early or arrive a bit late, please do not worry, just sneak in or out quietly.


Does the GSS have a Strategic Plan …

The GSS develops an annual strategic plan to guide and focus our work. You can review our current strategic plan here.



I hear there is food at the meeting …

Yes, there is a light meal served after the meeting. If you have any dietary considerations (vegan, celiac, vegetarian, dairy free, hate red peppers) please let us know and we will make sure there is food for you.


Does GSS Grad Council have an impact?

Yes!  Here are some examples of successful campaigns and activities of the GSS:

- won a dedicated graduate student seat on the UVIC Board of Governors (2016)
- when Citizenship and Immgiration Canada made it illegal for non-lawyers to provide basic information on student visas to international students, the GSS pressured UVIC to create an alterante system for student support, and   hosted a legal day where international students could have a free meting with a lawyer  (2013)
- creation of the distance student travel grant (2013)
- protecting one year MA students right to personal leave (2011)
- increased funding from UVIC for travel grants (2011)
- defeated a $55 per term increase to the Athletics fee (2010) in a challenge to the fee under the BC Tuition Limit Policy. (Read about it on UBC Insiders)
- assisted a student in obtaining a $4500 fee reversal for incorrectly assessed fees (2010)
- obtained a refund of a $350 per term fee that violated the BC Tuition Limit Policy for students in second year Educational Psychology counselling program (2009)
- increased representation on Senate from one to three seats (2009)
- won a promise of an annual funding guarantee letter (2009)
- established representation on UVic department committees accepted as Faculty of Graduate Studies best practices (2008)
- creation of a thesis completion group for students using English as an additional language (2008)
- won reducing fee unit requirements for one year programs (2008)
- won the right for all grad students to pay tuition in monthly installments through automated payments without late fees –the result of the GSS’s three year campaign on UVic Fellowship and Bursary payments issues (2008)
- worked with graduate students at SFU, UBC and UNBC for three years advocating for–and winning–a BC Graduate Student Scholarship program (2007)
- won establishment of procedures to assist international students in appeal processes (2006)
- improved supervisory relationship protocols (2004)

and lobbying continues!


Does the GSS have an official unofficial mascot?

Why yes, we do! Funny you should ask! It is the GSS Bird.

 the bird



I love this Governance stuff and want more information!

Read the GSS bylaws, policies or audit or past meeting minutes!

Check out GSS Services and other information about us on our website:



Agenda submissions should include a motion.


From: Joanna Peters, rep for Studies in Something Cool (SISC)

Motion for GRC Meeting date: October 11, 2016

Issue: Our department has had a problem with losing office space. When we moved to the new building we had three offices shared by 20 students. Some of us worked at home, and one got a carral at the library. But this year there are 10 new students, and we lost one of our rooms.

SISC students would like the GRC to advocate to maintain and increase office space, and to take this issue to meetings with the President as it significantly decreases the quality of our educational experience.

We also want to know if this is happening in other departments.

Proposed Motion:

BIRT* the GSS formally protest loss of office space in SISC with a letter to President Cassels noting a motion passed at the Graduate Representative Council; and

BIFRT** the GSS collect data on grad student office space reductions since the expansion and note this in the letter; and

BIFRT each grad rep solicit support for this motion from faculty in their departments.

*BIRT = Be It Resolved That

**BIFRT = Be It Further Resolved That


Appendix 2 – Roberts Rules of Order

Robert’s Rules of Order exist to facilitate the decision-making process at meetings. They ensure that discussion is clear, and that the rights of both the majority and the minority are protected. Below are some of the basic rules within Bob’s Rules that help a meeting run smoothly and keep discussion on track. The rules are not meant to be used to disrupt or hold up a meeting.


Each meeting is facilitated by a chairperson. S/he is responsible for ensuring that the meeting runs smoothly and fairly. The chairperson remains impartial during the debate and should command the respect of all those in the room. The chairperson is not the final arbitrator of all decisions: the assembly ultimately has the authority and the responsibility to decide how the meeting should run.

Main Motion

The basis for discussion is a formal motion. The motion is introduced by being ‘moved’ by a voting member of the assembly. Each motion must be seconded to show that there is at least a minimum of support for the motion going to debate. Once a motion has been put ‘on the floor’ for discussion, debate must focus on the substance of the motion. All other discussion is out of order and not allowed. A main motion may not be introduced if there is already a motion on the floor. For clarity motions can be written out and handed to the chair.


Once a motion is introduced, the chairperson (or another member) maintains a speaker’s list to allow for discussion in an orderly manner. The mover is given the right to “motivate” (advocate for why the motions should be approved) and the seconder of the motion is given the right to speak immediately after the mover. To ensure that all members of the assembly have an equal opportunity to address and issue, the chairperson will allow members who have not yet spoken to speak before those that have. The chairperson will sometimes also call for an equal number of comments for an against the motion.


A person who has the floor can introduce an amendment to the main motion being debated. An amendment is a motion that alters the main motion. Once an amendment has been moved and seconded, debate must be on the substance of the amendment. An amendment can only be amended once. For an amendment to pass, it needs a simple majority. Once an amendment has been passed, defeated, or withdrawn, discussion reverts back to the main motion, taking into account whether or not the amendment passed. Complex or lengthy amendments should be written out for the chairperson to be able to read back to the assembly.

Point of Order

If a member feels that the rules of order are being broken, s/he can immediately raise a ‘point of order’, wait to be recognized by the chair, and then state what rule has been broken or not enforced by the chair. A point of order can interrupt a speaker, but should not be used as an opportunity to get around the speakers’ list; it can only be used to ask the chair to enforce the rules. The chair decides if the point is valid or not, and proceeds accordingly.

Point of Privilege

If a member feels that her/his right or privileges have been infringed on can raise a point of privilege. Privilege refers to anything regarding the comfort of accessibility of the member (i.e. too much smoke, too much noise, fuzzy photocopies, offensive behavior of another member, etc). Again, the chair decides if the point is valid or not and proceeds accordingly.

Challenge the Chair

If a member feels her/his point of order or privilege has been ruled on unfairly by the chair, s/he can appeal to the chair. The chair then asks for a motion to uphold the chair, and the vote is taken. The vote decides whether the action decided upon by the chair is valid, or whether the member is correct.

Point of Information

A point of information is a QUESTION. Although it is rare to do so, a member may interrupt the speaker to raise a point of information. The chair will ask the speaker if s/he wishes to entertain a question at that time, but the speaker who has the floor has the privilege to refuse the question. A point of information is not an opportunity to bring forward information, jump the speakers’ list, harass another speaker, or generally disrupt the proceedings - It can only be a question. (For example, I don’t know what “GRADFRAC” stands for, can someone tell me?”


If a member feels that a decision on a motion needs to be postponed for some reason, then s/he can move to ‘table’ the motion. A member may move to table a motion at the time they are recognized by the chair, not at the end of a speech.  A motion to table is not debatable except to the length of time of tabling. A specified time may be put on the tabling or the motion may be left indefinite. A motion to table requires a simple majority.

Calling the Question

If a member feels that further debate is unproductive, s/he may ‘call the question’, requesting the debate be ended. If there is no objection, the meeting proceeds to vote on the motion. If there is objection, then there is a vote on whether or not to end debate. This vote requires a two-thirds (2/3) majority to pass, and is non-debatable. If the ‘call’ passes, a vote on the motion is immediately taken, without any further debate.


A motion to reconsider is applicable to a motion that was passed at the same meeting. Such a motion must be moved by someone who voted with the prevailing majority on the previous vote. It requires a two-thirds (2/3) majority to pass.


A motion to rescind (revoke) a motion is in order if it refers to a motion passed at another meeting on another day. This cannot be applied to actions that cannot be reversed (i.e. things that have already been carried out). It requires a two-thirds (2/3) majority to pass.

Suspension of the Rules

A motion to suspend the rules of order (so that the assembly may do something not allowed in the rules) must receive a two-thirds (2/3) majority vote, is not debatable, cannot be amended and cannot be reconsidered at the same meeting. A member might do this so that informal discussion of “brainstorming” could occur before proceeding with debate or proposing an amendment.


A motion to adjourn takes precedence over all others, except to ‘fix the time to adjourn’, to which it yields. It is not debatable, it cannot be amended, nor can a vote on it be reconsidered. It cannot be made when there is already a motion on the floor.

Refer or Commit

A motion to refer is generally used to send a pending question (motion) to a committee so that the question may be carefully investigated. The motion must be seconded and is debatable, but the debate can only extend to the desirability of committing (referring) the main motion, not to the substance of the motion itself.

Committee of the Whole

At some point the assembly may wish to informally consider a motion or a group of motions before having to deal with them in a ‘one at a time’ debate fashion. Votes may be taken in committee but are not binding on the assembly unless ratified when the group re-enters the regular session. Motions are required to move in and out of committee of the whole.



The basics:


 The cheat sheet: