As a local leader and possibly a delegate to an Academic Senate Plenary session, you may find yourself in the role of writing a resolution for consideration by the body. You may also be considering the use of the resolution process with your local senate. Here are some guidelines to help you craft a quality resolution.
While Robert's Rules don't actually provide for a resolution per se (Robert's Rules only details motions), for the purposes of the Academic Senate, we exclusively use the resolution form because we are often taking a position or an action where a stand-alone document, separate from the minutes, makes the motion more portable. It also permits contextualization of the motion and "enshrines" it a bit, which adds political clout when forwarding a position to external bodies.
I am often asked "Does this need a resolution?" The answer to that lies in deciding for what this particular main motion is going to be used. If it is to take a position or to request something of another body or individual then the use of a resolution is appropriate. But if you are just directing an internal item like "I move that we have our annual barbeque in November" then the use of the resolution form of a motion is a bit more then necessary. When this latter action is recorded in the minutes it is no less "legal" than if it had been presented in the form of a resolution.
When creating such a beast there are two diametrically opposed parameters between which the author should attempt some balance. These are accuracy vs. understandability.
In accuracy we are often not only seeking true statements but we are also seeking a high level of specificity, or something akin to the detail often found within legal codes where every important detail is laid out.
But it must be easily understandable for the delegates to more readily grasp the need and vote in favor of it. Most often briefer, simpler statements without a lot of detail tend to accomplish this. The resolution author must find a balance where it can be readily understood, but is accurate, containing enough detail to be in compliance with the intended goals.
Short and simple is always better, but not so much that it becomes too loose, non-specific and vague. If the issue is highly complex an attachment might help, but there's no guarantee that it will get read by the delegates. While issues can be broken into simpler elements, be cautious about putting the sub-elements into separate resolutions unless they truly stand well on their own.
While some positions need to be strong, absolutes are often difficult to accomplish. So avoid words like "always," "never," "must," etc. Qualify hard action verbs with something that will allow more opportunity for continued participation and deliberation, e.g. "Investigate making a change" instead of baldly stating "change."
For examples of resolutions that have violated these rules, just look at the "referred" resolutions from any given plenary session. Such resolutions were generally referred because they were overly vague, lacking in detail, excessively complicated, or too absolute in the action proscribed.
The Academic Senate Executive Committee is always willing to help authors craft resolutions. We encourage you to approach us as soon as possible so that we can give your prospective resolution the greatest consideration and input.
The articles published in the Rostrum do not necessarily represent the adopted positions of the academic senate. For adopted positions and recommendations, please browse this website.