We know that a Senate meeting can look intimidating, but you are an integral part in helping Senate have important conversations that include all aspects of student opinion. We hope that this sheet will help you feel more comfortable with some of the processes we use, so that you always know you are always welcome to participate in all aspects of our meetings.
What should you expect when you come to Senate?
Senate is held almost every Tuesday at 6:30 pm during the school year. Most senate meetings take between 1 ½ and 2 hours. Senate meetings take place in the David E. Johnson Boardroom, on the top floor of Buntrock Commons. You are welcome to come and go throughout the meeting, depending on which agenda items you are interested in. An agenda will be posted every Monday and the minutes, a recap, and link to a video archive will be posted by the end of each week here.
Senate is made up of about 40 students who were elected by the student body to represent subsections of students at St. Olaf. Examples of senators include: Hall Senators, Branch Coordinators, a Gender and Sexuality Senator, Environmental Senator, Curriculum Senator, and many more.
When you walk into the boardroom prior to the start of a meeting there will be name tags next to the door. If you are comfortable, we would love for you to record your name and wear one throughout the meeting. There will be seats on the far end of the room for all guests. We ask that electronics not be used in the boardroom.
We are so happy you are thinking about joining us!
What are Robert’s Rules?
Robert’s Rules, or Parliamentary Procedure, is the procedural system Senate operates under. Some of these procedures include a speakers list, methods for creating an efficient conversation and voting on agenda items, and a process for approving meetings and minutes. You can find more specific information on Robert’s Rules here.
Why do we use Robert’s Rules?
Robert’s Rules is crucial in helping us maintain a balanced, fair, and efficient student senate at St. Olaf College.
For example: the speakers list and speaking time limit allows us to ensure that a select number of students do not dominate the conversation, but that there is room to hear all perspectives and that shier senators and students feel encouraged to share their perspective. By addressing senators with their last names, we are able to maintain a professional environment that encourages dialogue and debate. With this procedure, we are able to create an environment where disagreements feel less personal. The ‘previous question’ and ‘straw poll’ features allow us to ensure we have an efficient senate body that is able to spend time on a multitude of student conversations and concerns.
What Robert’s Rules are you expected to follow?
The good news – not too many! We want you to enjoy your time in a Senate meeting and to feel comfortable to speak up. Because of this, we want to make Robert’s Rules as simple for both senators and guests as possible. Above all – we hope that you will not be nervous to speak up and share your opinion. Robert’s Rules are something that we are all learning to navigate and we all make mistakes.
The only procedure we ask you to pay close attention to is the speakers list. To follow this procedure: simply get the attention of Abbie Haug, chair of the senate, with a raised hand or eye contact, and she will add you to the list. She will then call on you, by name, when it is your turn to speak. A senator will yield their time to you, then you will be able to speak for 2 min per speaking turn.
If you would like, you can find a PDF of the Robert’s Rules we follow in Senate and their descriptions here.
What is a proposal?
We would LOVE for you to submit a proposal! This process is how ideas and conversations can be introduced to the Senate Floor, leading to discussion and action.
The proposal, simply put, is a document that outlines the idea or conversation you wish to bring to Senate’s attention. Proposals can be about almost anything – from General Education Requirements, to Student Government policies, to adding more recycling containers to campus. The sky’s the limit and we hope you will dream up big proposals and feel comfortable bringing them to our attention.
After completing your proposal document: you will need to meet with Abbie Haug, chair of Senate, and get the signature of two senators or 25 students. After these three steps – your proposal is ready for senate!
How to submit a proposal?
Download our template here. After filling out the proposal please come see Abbie Haug, chair of Senate, during her office hours or by scheduling a time via email (firstname.lastname@example.org). This short meeting will help you organize the proposal so it is ready for a Senate meeting (without changing the substance) and will be a chance for you to connect with Senators who can sign off on the proposal.
If you have any more questions do not hesitate to fill out the form on the Senate homepage or email Abbie Haug, chair of Senate (email@example.com) or Natasha Ndahiro, Executive Assistant (firstname.lastname@example.org).