Behold! The Constitution of the Literary and Scientific Society! If you would like a PDF version, you can find one here. Otherwise, continue reading to learn about the laws of the Society. PLEASE NOTE! The version of the Constitution given below is an old one, and will be updated soon. Please view the linked PDF for the most recent version of the Constitution. Thank you.
168th SESSION LAWS
THE LITERARY & SCIENTIFIC SOCIETY THE QUEEN’S UNIVERSITY OF BELFAST
History: The Queen’s University of Belfast Literary and Scientific Society shall hereafter be known as “the Society”. The aims of the Society are to promote oratory, rhetoric and general inquiry throughout the University and beyond. The Society was founded in 1850, with the first president E.L. Godkin, whose contribution to the Society can be seen immortalised in the entrance hall of Queen’s. It was the first Society at Queen’s College and pre-dates the Students’ Union itself by 47 years. By all accounts the Society went from strength to strength for over a century, transforming during that time from a paper-reading society into a more focused debating society, and changing its structure from a paid membership society to one where all students of the University were automatically considered members. After 1897 when the new Students’ Union was built, most debates took place in the McMordie Hall (now part of the School of Music) which was named after Hans McMordie, a president of the Society in the 1860s. The turn of the century saw the Literific hosting inter-varsity debates with societies from all over Great Britain and Ireland. After 119 sessions, with a political climate becoming less conducive to open debate and the Society falling into disarray, the Society adjourned in 1969. Much of the material, including minutes of the society from 1863 – 1963 (the earlier minutes having been lost before 1900) are held in the University Archives, now in the McClay Library. After the Literific ceased to function the baton of debating in Queen’s was taken up by the Union Debating Society, which appeared in several guises throughout the next 40 years, including most recently and successfully by the Debating & Mooting Society, members of whose committee were instrumental in re-founding the Literific. This year, 2016/17, is the 168th Session of the Society.
ONE – THE SOCIETY & LAWS
1) The name of the Society shall be the “Literary and Scientific Society” (hereafter known as “the Society”) and the “University” shall mean The Queen’s University of Belfast. Any references made to the “Union” in the laws of the Society shall refer to the Queen’s University Belfast Students’ Union.
2) The main purposes of the Society are to encourage debating, oratory and rhetoric throughout the student body of the university and beyond, and to provide an opportunity for the students of the University to engage in debate.
3) The Society shall be governed by the rules which are included here, and through the Standing Orders. This document which is the Constitution of the Society, hereafter known as “the Articles” shall be the governing force of the Society and the Standing Orders shall contain the rules for the conducting of business within the Society. Collectively these two documents shall be referred to as “the Laws” of the Society:
4) The Articles should be made available such people to from time to time may have cause to need them.
i) The contents of the Articles shall be known to the Council, who should have full awareness of the rules and codes held within.
ii) The Articles should be made available, without delay, to the University Union or any other University body or other University Club or Society which requests them.
iii) The University Union should be presented with the Articles immediately when any change is made to them.
iv) Any other university debating society in another university in Great Britain or Ireland shall be granted the Articles of the society on request.
i) Amendments to the Articles may be introduced to the Society in any one of three ways:
a) By a member of the council at any council meeting.
b) By any ordinary member of the society at the Annual General Meeting.
c) By any ordinary member of the society giving notification in writing to the council.
ii) If made by a member of the council the motion is required to be supported by two other members. If there are no objections by other members then the amendment may be passed immediately. If there are objections then the council may vote on the issue no sooner than two weeks from the introduction of the amendment. A simple majority shall be required for the amendment to be put to the whole House. If there is a simple majority of the whole House at an ordinary meeting, with notice given to the members of the proposal no less than three working days in advance then the amendment is carried.
iii) If made by an ordinary member at the Annual General Meeting then the amendment must be seconded by one other ordinary member and also by a member of council. If this is forthcoming then the House shall seek objections. Where there are no objections the amendment may be carried. If objections are forthcoming then the proposer shall be allowed no more than 15 minutes to put forward the amendment followed by objections. A vote may then be taken of the members assembled, and a simple majority required for the amendment to be passed.
iv) If made by an ordinary member in writing to the council then the member shall be presented to council no later than one month after the receipt of the proposal. If the proposal finds no favour with any member of the Council then it shall not be adopted. If the proposal is seconded by a member of Council then a simple majority of the Council must concur for the amendment to be put to the House. If there is a simple majority of the whole House at an ordinary meeting, with notice given to the members of the proposal no less than three working days in advance then the amendment is carried.
v) For all these the President shall act as the returning officer. The President shall be allowed to vote in matters arising in Council but not in Annual General Meetings or in meetings of the whole House, unless another is presiding.
vi) In the case of a tie in Annual General Meetings or meetings of the whole House the President shall cast a deciding vote. As such the President should vote against change to the substantive quality of the Articles as they currently stand. Other matters such as additions or clarifications to the Articles are to the conscience (such as it may be) of the President.
vii) The Council, shall have the power to issue Standing Orders. Standing Orders shall have the force of the Articles in so far as they are not inconsistent with it. Standing Orders shall be issued, deleted or amended after:
a) a resolution to that effect has been passed by a two-thirds majority at a meeting of the Council and
b) this resolution has been ratified by a simply majority at an Ordinary Meeting, within a period of four Ordinary Meetings of the amendment being passed.
vii) The Council, with the consent of a General Meeting, shall have the power to publish annexes to the Standing Orders. The Annexes shall set down the practice or tradition of the Society, but shall not be binding. The Annexes shall only be published, deleted or amended after a resolution of the Council has been ratified by a General Meeting.
TWO – THE COUNCIL
6) The Council
i) Positions : The council shall be made up of the following positions:
a) President of the Society
d) Internal Convenor
e) External Convenor
f) Outreach Officer
g) Technology Officer
h) First Year Representative
i) Second Year Representative
j) Open Representative
ii) The quorum for the Council to conduct its business shall be four.
7) Elections : The members of the general Council of the Society, with the exception of the Technology Officer, shall be elected by ballot of the ordinary members of the society who have been members for at least one calendar month prior to the election.
i) The election of the members of the council shall take place at the Annual General Meeting of the Society in the last week of Hilary Term (that is, the last week before the University holidays for Easter).
ii) For a nomination of candidature to be made a member must submit notice to the Secretary no later than three working days in advance of the Annual General Meeting.
iii) All nominations must be seconded by another member of the Society.
iv) Any member whose fees are outstanding may not vote in the elections of the Council.
v) Election of the council shall take place in the following order:
d) Internal Convenor
e) External Convenor
f) Outreach Officer
g) Second Year Representative
h) Open Representative
vi) The election will take place by means of a ballot. If there are more than two candidates then after the first ballot the candidate with the lowest votes will be removed and there will be a new vote. This will continue until one candidate holds more than fifty per cent of the vote.
vii) It shall be possible for candidates who have not been elected to one office to pursue election for another office on the day in question. The candidate must make it clear when they nominate their candidature for one position that they wish to make a secondary nomination in case of their primary nomination failing at election. Candidates may only supplement once, and can therefore only run for a maximum of two offices at one general meeting.
viii) If a by-election is required this may be done at any time during the session. The vacancy must be published to the ordinary members of the society no fewer than three days before the council meeting. Candidates must be seconded by a member of the council to stand for election. The office-holder will then be elected by the council members.
ix) The Technology Officer shall be appointed by the Council. The appointee must be approved by the outgoing Technology Officer and at least two-thirds of the remaining Council members.
x) The nomination for Technology Officer must be ratified by a simple majority of those present at any meeting of the Society membership.
xi) The Technology Officer must be appointed no later than the next Council meeting following the Annual General Meeting.
8) Duties: The Council shall be the highest decision-making body of the Society when they sit in Council meetings.
i) In any case where it is found that a member has broken the rules of the Society which leave the member liable to suspension or expulsion the Council shall be the body which decides upon the appropriate sanction, whatever it may be.
ii) Council business must be conducted at least twelve times a year for the council sitting to have fully discharged its duties for that Session.
iii) The Senior Officers shall ensure that the Society is in compliance with any regulations set down by the University or the Students’ Union, unless by means of a vote of the whole House it is decided that it would be contrary to the aims of the society to comply with such measures.
iv) All invitations to the Society and all awards which are made in the name of the Society shall be done so at the discretion of the Council.
9) The President
i) The President of the Society shall be ultimately responsible for the day to day running of the Society, they shall have the task of ensuring that the Council performs its duties and that the Articles of Constitution are upheld.
ii) The President shall be the de facto chair of all meetings of the House, whether held in public or in private. The President may appoint or invite any other member of the Society or a guest to perform these duties.
10) The Secretary
i) The Secretary is the most senior administrative officer of the Society and is as such responsible for the daily functions of the Society so as to ensure that meetings may take place and that communications directly to the Society are responded to.
ii) The Secretary shall be the Chair of meetings of the Society in the absence of the President or special Chairperson.
iii) The Secretary shall be responsible for the minutes of the meetings of the Society, both public meetings and private meetings of the Council.
iv) The Secretary shall keep all records of the list of members of the Society and for the lists of members who attend each meeting of the Society.
11) The Treasurer
i) The Treasurer shall bear the ultimate responsibility for all monetary connexions with the Society. Therefore they shall be responsible for:
ii) Collection of such monies as may be appropriate for the payment of Annual or Life membership of the Society or of money from members or non-members at the attendance of certain events held by the Society.
iii) The Treasurer shall be responsible for the payment of all debts for which the Society is liable.
iv) The Treasurer shall have the responsibility to liaise with the University and with any other organisation or person which may grant the Society fiscal benefit.
12) The External Convenor
i) The External Convenor shall be the member with the primary responsibility within the Society for the organisation of debates which are not organised primarily by the Society. This includes organising teams from the Society for:
a) Inter-varsity debates run by other Societies.
b) National debating competitions (UK/Ireland/IONA)
c) International debating competitions.
ii) It shall be the role of the External Convenor to ensure that the Society is adequately represented at each of these levels of competition and to give as much assistance as is possible to the teams from the Society which are competing in them.
iii) The External Convenor shall additionally be responsible for the organisation of non-competitive debates with Societies from outside the University, as and when it may be opportune to do so.
13) The Internal Convenor
i) The Internal Convenor shall be the member of Council with the primary responsibility for the organisation of debates and competitions within the University.
ii) The Internal Convenor shall have the responsibility for convening at least one internal debating competition during each Session, open to all members of the Society which shall culminate in the awarding of the Dufferin Medal.
iii) The Internal Convenor shall also be the member responsible for ensuring that the Society may from time to time work with other Societies within the University in order to present debates which may be of specific interest to those Societies.
14) Outreach Officer
i) The Outreach Officer shall have general responsibility for the promotion of the Society both within and without the University, and shall have responsibility for the Society’s promotion, including but not limited to: poster advertising, social media and press releases.
ii) The Outreach Officer shall also co-ordinate the Society’s annual Schools’ Debating Competition, and will be responsible for any other matters of general promotion deemed necessary by Council.
15) The Technology Officer
i) The Technology Officer shall be responsible for the safekeeping of the Society’s recording device(s) (which are, as of the 167th Session, as follows: one Zoom H2n Handy Recorder) and for using any aforementioned recording devices to produce, at least, an audio recording of each Ordinary Meeting of the Society that occurs during the academic year.
ii) The Technology Officer shall be responsible for the maintenance of any and all websites and non-social-media accounts that are under the control of the Society. This should include, but not be limited to: the official Society website, the unofficial Society website which acts as the audio streaming server, the Society’s archive.org account and the Society’s Blogger account.
a) Specific attention shall be drawn here to the responsibility of the Technology Officer to ensure that any and all web-domains and accounts which require renewal, particularly when there exists a fee for renewal, shall be addressed in a timely manner.
iii) The Technology Officer shall be responsible for ensuring that any recordings of Society events are edited and released to public in a timely manner, ideally within 72 hours of their creation.
iv) The Technology Officer shall be responsible for live-streaming the Ordinary Meetings of the Society that occur during the academic year. Whilst it will be the responsibility of the Technology Officer to do this, whether or not they actually do it will left up to their discretion, unless two-thirds of the rest of the Council decide that they want it to happen.
16) The Ordinary Members of Council
i) The Representatives on Council shall have no executive powers individually other than those specified by the senior office holders and those which are held for the reserve of Council. The Representatives should bring to Council any issues which may be specific to those years of which they are members.
ii) The First Year Representative shall be a First Year Undergraduate and shall be elected before the end of Michaelmas Term for the remainder of the Session.
iii) The Second Year Representative shall be a Second Year Undergraduate for the entirety of the Session and may be elected at the Annual General Meeting along with the Senior office-holders.
iv) The Open Representative shall be an Undergraduate who has matriculated more than two years, or a postgraduate student of the University. The Open Representative may be elected at the Annual General Meeting along with the Senior office-holders.
17) The Trust
i) The Council shall have the power to appoint trustees to advise on the running of the Society, known as The Literific Trust. Nominations will be sent to Council and must be passed by a two-thirds majority in Council and ratified by a simple majority of the House at the next Ordinary Meeting of the Society.
ii) The President shall be required to meet with the Trust at least once a year, where their advice shall be recorded and afterwards shared with all Council members for consideration.
iii) In the extraordinary circumstance that five positions of the Council are unfilled, the Trust shall have the power to call an Emergency General Meeting of the Society.
iv) Trust members may be removed with a two-thirds majority in Council and ratification by a simple majority of the House at the next Ordinary Meeting of the Society.
THREE – MEETINGS OF THE SOCIETY
18) Ordinary Meetings
i) Meetings shall be held regularly at a time and place to be fixed by the Council. As far as possible ordinary meetings of the Society shall take place on each Thursday evening during term.
ii) The usual procedure at meetings shall be :-
a) Reading and approval of minutes of the last meeting.
b) Private business (if any) and announcements. If possible the subject of the next meeting shall be announced.
c) Question Time (10 minutes maximum duration).
d) Main Business
iii) Any of the above may be omitted or their order altered at the discretion of the Chairman of the meeting.
iv) Meetings ought to be advertised at least two working days in advance of the meeting with the subject of the meeting and the time and location circulated to all members of the Society by such means as is adequate for all members to see it. Additionally a notice should be placed at least two days in advance in the Students’ Union building and in the Black and White Hall of the Lanyon Building of the University.
v) An Ordinary Meeting of the Society shall only proceed when there are at least ten members present.
19) Special Meetings Special Meetings of the Society may be agreed by the Council for several purposes.
i) In order that the Society may host an inter-varsity debate with another University institution.
ii) In order that the Society may have the benefit of having a guest speaker at its meetings.
iii) Any other reason for which the Council deems it would be appropriate to have a meeting outside that of the ordinary weekly term-time meetings.
20) Private Meetings Private meetings of the Society are where the Society meets without any admission being granted to those people who are not members. These meetings are restricted to the annual general meeting and meetings where the whole House is required to be in attendance for a matter of importance to the Society.
21) Meetings of Council There shall be at least one full meeting of the Council each week which shall be chaired by the President of the Society and for which the Secretary shall record the minutes. The minutes of these meetings ought to be made available to the other members of the Society at the next Ordinary Meeting.
FOUR – MEMBERSHIP
22) Life Membership
i) Any member of the University, whether undergraduate, graduate or staff member may apply to the secretary of the Society to become a Life Member of the Society. Life Membership of the Society requires the payment of a nominal fee which shall be set each year by the Council. A Life Member shall continue to be a member for the rest of their natural life unless they are expelled from the Society, in accordance with the Articles or unless they resign their membership.
23) Ordinary Membership
ii) Any member of the University who is a student, (undergraduate or graduate) may apply to the secretary of the Society to become an Ordinary Member of the Society. Those seeking to become Ordinary Members shall be required to pay a fee, set yearly by the Council. An Ordinary Member of the Society shall remain a member for one year unless they resign their membership of the Society or are expelled from the Society in accordance with the Articles.
24) All Ordinary Members and Life Members shall have at their disposal, the facilities which the Society grants. They shall have unrestricted access to all Ordinary Meetings freely. They shall have the first opportunity to purchase tickets for events which are run by the Society. They shall be eligible to vote in all meetings of the House and shall be entitled to vote in the election of the Council.
25) Associate Membership Any person currently in University education or associated with another university in the United Kingdom or Ireland may apply to become an Associate Member of the Society. Those seeking to become Associate Members shall be required to pay a fee, set yearly by the Council. An Associate Member of the Society shall remain a member for one year unless they resign their membership of the Society or are expelled from the Society in accordance with the Articles.
26) All Associate Members shall have at their disposal, the facilities which the Society grants. They shall have unrestricted access to all Ordinary Meetings freely. They shall have the first opportunity to purchase tickets for events which are run by the Society. They shall be eligible to vote in all meetings of the House and shall be entitled to vote in the election of the Council.
27) Honorary Life Membership It shall be possible that by a simple majority of the attendance at an Ordinary Meeting the Society shall be able to confer Honorary Life Membership of the Society upon any person who is deemed to have significantly contributed to the Society on one or more occasion.
28) All Honorary Life Members shall have at their disposal, the facilities which the Society grants. They shall have unrestricted access to all Ordinary Meetings freely. They shall have the first opportunity to purchase tickets for events which are run by the Society. They shall be eligible to vote in all meetings of the House and shall be entitled to vote in the election of the Council.
29) Resignation It shall be possible for any member of the Society to resign their membership by giving notice to the Secretary of the Society in writing. The Council should then decide as to the acceptance of the resignation.
30) Suspension Suspension of a member of the Society may take place in two circumstances. i) In any meeting of the Society, where the member acts in such a way as to break any of the rules of the Society set out in the Articles or Standing Orders or brings the Society into disrepute, then the President alone shall have the authority to immediately suspend a member for a period of no more than two weeks. ii) Where a member acts in such a way as to break any of the rules of the Society set out in the Articles or Standing Orders or brings the Society into disrepute whether within or without a meeting of the Society then the Council shall have the authority to suspend a member for a period of no more than three months.
31) Expulsion In order to expel any member of the Society it shall be required to show that the member has broken the rules of the Society as laid out in the Articles and the Standing Orders substantially and purposefully. It shall require a two-thirds majority of the House in an Ordinary Meeting in order to expel a member, who shall be notified no fewer than three working days in advance so that they may adequately defend themselves against any charge. Expulsion of a member shall only take place where the member has broken the rules so as to bring the Society into disrepute or has damaged the fabric of the Society.
1) These are the standing orders of the Literary and Scientific Society of the Queen’s University of Belfast, hereafter known as the “Society”.
i) The standing orders may only be derogated from in a meeting of the Society if a proposal to suspend standing orders is proposed by a member, seconded, and passed by a majority of the members present.
ii) The President shall have discretion over the content of the standing orders of the Society, and any points of ambiguity in these orders shall be clarified by the Chairman.
iii) The President shall have be the only source of authority on points of order during the proceedings of any meeting.
iv) The President may appoint any other member to act in lieu, where this is the case all references to the President in this document shall confer the same powers and responsibilities upon that member.
2) Party politics and religious polemics are expressly forbidden during meetings of the Society, except where:-
i) The motion is such that to avoid language of this sort would be detrimental to the entire purpose of the debate.
ii) The President alone waives the rule in the interests of moving the debate.
3) The President shall have the right to fine members of the Society, where they have undoubtedly broken the laws contained herein or in the Constitution.
i) The ordinary fine shall be one bottle of port wine, presented to the President in Private Members’ Business at the next meeting.
ii) Where a member is fined by the President, he shall not be subject to either suspension or expulsion from the Council for the same offence, unless a vote of the whole House declares that this is the course the membership would have the Council take.
iii) No member may be fined after the fact. A member who has broken the laws of the Society may only be fined during the meeting when the offence has taken place.
iv) No member may be suspended or expelled from the Society for an offence which has taken place more than three months after coming to the attention of any one of the members of Council.
4) Private Members’ Business shall be limited to those motions and discussions which expressly concern the Society.
i) Any member may propose a motion in Private Members’ Business, however formal notification must be given to the Council no less than 24 hours prior to the meeting.
ii) Motions in Private Members’ Business shall be declared passed if they achieve a simple majority of the members present.
iii) Motions in Private Members’ Business may be struck down by the President if the effect of passing such a motion would be to act against the laws of the Society or would bring the Society into disrepute.
5) Question Time shall be a forum by which members of the Society may ask the President anything relating either to the Society, or to any other matter which may be of interest to the Society.
i) Question Time may not last any more than ten minutes.
ii) The President shall have the discretion not to answer any question put, on either personal grounds, or on the grounds that it would be against the best interests of the Society to do so.
iii) Questions from the floor may only be directed to the President during question time. Any enquiries to other members of the Council or the Council in general ought to be submitted to Private Members’ Business.
6) The Main Business of an Ordinary Meeting shall normally take the form of a single motion to be debated upon.
i) Motions may be submitted by any Ordinary Member to the Council. The Council shall have the final say on the nature and form of motions, on the advice of the Internal Convenor.
ii) It shall be a matter of Presidential prerogative to change the motion, up until the moment where the motion is debated upon. This prerogative shall not alter the subject of the debate but may change it only so as to give clarification.
iii) No motion may be brought which brings the Society into disrepute.
7) Speeches in Main Business of an Ordinary Meeting shall last no more than seven minutes unless the speaker requests that they be given more time to speak, up to a maximum of five minutes.
i) If the speaker requests an extension it shall be at the discretion of the President to allow a motion to be put to the House to that effect.
ii) The President shall not allow a motion of extension to be put to the House unless there is valid reason to do so.
iii) The motion to the House shall ordinarily be, “that this House grants Mr/Ms X an additional X minutes to speak”.
8) Interventions to the speaker may only be made after a period of one minute of the speech has elapsed, and may not be made after six minutes have elapsed.
i) A speaker may accept or decline any intervention which is made to them, other than one made by the President or acting Chairman.
ii) The President may only intervene where the House requires additional information or where there has been a mis-statement of fact.
iii) Interventions from the other speakers and from the floor shall take the form of the member proposing an intervention standing (unless it would be impossible for them to do so) and saying “On that point Sir/Miss”.
iv) No intervention shall be taken where the member is not standing (unless standing would be impossible for the member).
v) Interventions must address the House through the Chair in the usual fashion. vi) Interventions shall only be allowed to be put to the Speaker if they are relevant to an issue arising in the debate.
vii) Interventions shall be subject to the same rules against obscenity as speeches to the House.
9) In all speeches and interventions the speaker shall not be deemed to be speaking before the House unless they address it through the Chair. The usual form of address for the Chair shall be “Mr President, Sir/ Madam President”.
10) All speeches before the House shall be subject to a rule against obscenity. This rule includes the utterance any word or phrase which could bring the Society into disrepute.
i) The President shall enforce a rule against making attacks which call into question the good character or another speaker, member or person without or which would be deemed to be slanderous.
11) A procedural motion may be put to the House at any point during the business of an Ordinary or Special meeting, or at the Annual General Meeting.
i) Procedural Motions shall take precedence over all other business and are themselves listed below in order of precedence:
a) that a ruling of the Chair be overturned
b) that the meeting be adjourned for a given time
c) that the meeting move to a vote
d) that the question not be put
e) that the question be remitted to another place
f) that the question be adjourned
g) that the question be taken in parts.
ii) A Procedural Motion shall require a simple majority to pass, save for a motion to overturn the ruling of the Chair which shall require a two-thirds majority.
12) The Office Bearers of Council and the senior speakers for the proposition and opposition shall wear formal attire and shall wear, when possible, the appropriate academic dress.
13) The Society shall not make any resolution which supports specifically one political party or candidate for any election or position without the Society.
14) The Society shall have certain motions which its members may make use of in order to make general declarations or resolutions. These may be made with no notice to the Council, either in Private Members’ Business or after the Main Business of the meeting before the House is adjourned.
i) That this House offers its thanks to the guest speaker
ii) That this House offers its thanks to the guest chairman
iii) That this House confers upon X an Honorary Life Membership of this Society
iv) That this House shall send its condolences to X
v) That this House thanks X for his/her service to the Society
vi) That this House shall send its congratulations to X.