[Worldcon] The WSFS Business Meeting: How the F*** Does It Work? 1

Normally I don’t bother putting my notes online until after the convention because I’d rather be going to more panels and taking more notes, but I wanted to put this up immediately because I consider it important and there weren’t a whole lot of people at the panel. And while I’m sure a lot of vets already know this stuff, I didn’t. Hell, I didn’t even know I could go to the WSFS meeting last year! (If you are at Worldcon, GO TO IT.)

First off, let me explain why you really really should care about the WSFS meeting. This is the place where amendments to the constitution of the WSFS are decided. Which means, in a very practical sense, this is how we decide how the Hugo Awards will work. (Among other things, obviously, but to me the Hugos are what has my attention.) Never forget that the Hugo Awards are ours. They belong to everyone who attends Worldcon or has a supporting membership.

There are a few items I personally consider important this year:

1) The YA Hugo

2) The “No Cheap Voting” motion

3) Trying to kill the fan category Hugos

So yes, I think this thing is important. I think you should consider it important too. And here’s what I learned from just going to this panel. I feel more prepared for the preliminary meeting tomorrow morning. (Hope I’ll see some of you there.)

* * *


Martin Easterbrook, Mark L. Olson, Kevin Standlee (K)

The preliminary meeting doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it’s where the agenda is set and THAT IS HUGE.

One of the items is object and consideration which is special motion. If 2/3 of the people in the room say “this is stupid, we shouldn’t discuss it” then the motion is killed. The person who made the motion isn’t even allowed to explain when this comes up. This means “we don’t even want to discuss this.” This is generally just supposed to be to kill turkeys; people will vote to keep motions even if they disagree with them as long as they seem like they should be debated.

One year they killed four motions in five minutes because someone kept throwing in censures for individuals they didn’t like.

This is not going to be a good meeting for frivolous motions. (There is a lot on the table.) Apparently in a past year there was a motion objecting to Pluto’s demotion.

This is a democracy where there are no elected representatives. If you want something to happen, you need to get out there and convince people to vote. Also need people who know the business meeting process well.

Mark: The single most important thing you can do in submitting new business (after just being substantive) is doing a good write-up of it. Express it in good, clear writing!

Audience: People familiar with the business meeting will help you write your motion often even if they disagree with it.

Audience: Is it required that the person who proposed the motion be there at the meeting?

K: No, but if you aren’t there, others will be able to interpret it as they like. The proposer gets to make the opening argument but that’s it. Once you submit a motion you lose complete control of it.

K: There is no point in debating constitutional issues on motions at the preliminary meeting. But you can propose to fiddle with them at the prelim meeting because that is the place where it can be killed or sent to the next meeting. Motions can be amended at the preliminary meeting and those are given five minutes of debate. (So people can take a proposal and really just rewrite/change/regroove it if they’re good at this.)

The motion is not yours any more. The only way to change a motion once it’s hit the meeting is with these amendments.

Mark: You can get into amendment wars if you think a stupid amendment is proposed. You cannot amend an amendment while it is under discussion.

K: Amendments are a pretty low ranking motion. You can stack up motions of different primacy.

Objection to consideration can only be done IMMEDIATELY. It has to be the first thing that gets done.

You are supposed to stand and be recognized; if you are physically unable you can call out. You can’t get in line by standing and waiting. You have to be recognized by the chair.

You don’t have to know all the rules. The chairman is supposed to know them and will help you. You can make parliamentary inquiries.

Objection to consideration is only for a constitutional amendment. You cannot object to consideration of an amendment. You have to just vote it down.

Things that are not constitutional amendments will be decided at the preliminary meeting.

Martin: “Tabling” a motion means two different things in American vs. British English. American = not going to come back to it, British = take it up immediately.

K: Use of “Table” as a verb is thus discouraged.

Moving on to Saturday. The agenda is set, the frivolous amendments have been killed, all non-amendments have been dealt with.

Mark: Committees are normally for incoherent motions. Happen maybe one out of three years.

K: First person recognized gets to speak. There is set debate time, divided between the two sides. There is a time keeper. Once you have finished giving your statement you sit down. The sides take turns until no one else wants to speak, you run out of time, or the meeting approves by 2/3 to end debate. A 2/3 vote can also extend the time. Normally time extensions are done by unanimous consent.

Don’t object just for the sake of form. It wastes everyone time.

Closing the debate and calling the question are the same thing.

[They use Roberts Rules of Order]

“I move to call the question on the stack” – that means getting them all over with.

Note: Debate does not have to be factual. You cannot interrupt people to correct them.

Mark: WSFS does allow the point of irrelevant interjection.

K: Sometimes amendments/procedure will eat up all the debate time and you have to ask more time to actually debate the motion itself.

Martin: If you have limited time, you really need to get your best speakers lined up and ready to go. Sometimes your supporters can be your worst enemies if they are incoherent ramblers.

Amendments are allowed that day. They are move to amend motions.

K: You can’t bring up amendments that were dealt with on the previous day unless there are weird circumstances.

If the chair rules on any procedural motion and you don’t like it, you move to “appeal the ruling of the chair.” Then the chair has to explain what they did and why, then you say why you didn’t like it, and debate ensues. “Those who wish to sustain the ruling of the chair…” It takes a majority opposed to the ruling of the chair to overrule; a tie means the chair’s ruling remains.

Unanimous consent

Aye and nay are rarely used: people started shouting

A lot is done by uncounted shows of hands rather than counted shows. If the vote is close enough, they do serpentine, where all one side will stand, then count off one by one.

Almost everything requires a majority vote. The chairman only votes if his vote will actually have an effect on the outcome.

If something is voted on this year, it DOES NOT take effect next year. It has to go to the next Worldcon, get approved there as well, THEN it goes into effect the year after.

Sunday is for site selection questions.

Mark: The formality is there so we can find out what people at the meeting actually want, not just what the loudest people want.

K: The WSFS is a LARP with Roberts Rules as the rulebook. There are people who go just for the entertainment.

Mark: I encourage you to come. If you speak, do your best to speak clearly.

Martin: Because of the restricted time, it can look like a cross between a magician and a sumo wrestling match if you don’t understand the rules.

One comment on “[Worldcon] The WSFS Business Meeting: How the F*** Does It Work?

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