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Resolution Writing Guidelines

Legislation is one way of taking action on a particular issue. There are other ways to take action, including committees and non-legislative measures, but legislation is a common way of creating policy or enacting some decision on behalf of the Students’ Association.

Per the Students’ Association Bylaws, all legislation is categorized as either a resolution or an ordinance. (An amendment to the bylaws is another type, but the purpose of an amendment is self-explanatory. Voting requirements for an amendment follow that of an ordinance, explained below.) There are some key differences between an ordinance and a resolution:

Ordinance

Resolution

  • Creates or modifies an ongoing internal policy that affects internal operations of the Senate and/or Corporation
  • Binds both current and future legislative action (until/unless altered)
  • Requires 2 readings
  • Requires a two-thirds vote of approval
  • Recommends action by an outside organization or person(s)
  • Refers to or asks for temporary or one-time action by another entity
  • Requires 2 readings, unless the second reading is waived by a simple majority vote
  • Requires a simple majority vote of approval

Purposes of Resolutions

Since resolutions are the most common form of legislation encountered in the Students’ Association Senate, the remainder of these guidelines focus primarily on resolutions (though many of the guidelines about the structure and purpose of legislation are applicable to ordinances). There are a number of purposes for which a resolution may be written:

  1. To commemorate or honor a person, organization, or other entity
  2. To give support or convey the voice of the Students’ Association (all GAF-paying SDSU students) on some initiative or issue
  3. To recommend or request action by an external entity
  4. To start or to culminate a conversation about some initiative or issue (such a conversation may be had in committees or between the Students’ Association and other stakeholders or shared governance groups)

Resolution Structure

Heading

The basic structure of a resolution consists of three sections. The first section is the heading, which includes the bill number (e.g., 19-01-R for a resolution, 19-01-O for an ordinance, or 19-01-A for an amendment; bill numbers ascend chronologically over the course of the term), the sponsors and their respective colleges (with the primary author of the bill marked by an asterisk (*), and the title of the bill.

For example:

Resolution 19-01-R

Sponsors:

  1. *Weary Wil – Engineering
  2. Dirty Lil – Education & Human Sciences

Title of Resolution: SDSU Students’ Association Support for the Reduction of Single-Use Plastics at Campus Dining Locations

Pre-Ambulatory (WHEREAS) Clauses

The second section (the first part of the body of a resolution) is composed of a number of pre-ambulatory clauses (usually beginning with “WHEREAS”) that establish the context in which action is to be taken. The pre-ambulatory clauses state the problems that the resolution aims to resolve and may identify reasons why the Students’ Association is working on this issue. They may reference past action taken on the issue, current policy regarding the issue, statements made by other entities related to the issue, or other general background information or facts about the topic, its significance, and its impact. When writing pre-ambulatory clauses, start general and narrow to more specific information related to the issue.

For example:

WHEREAS plastic straws are distributed by a number of dining locations on the campus of South Dakota State University;

WHEREAS plastic straws cannot be recycled and the continued use of plastic straws is unsustainable; and

WHEREAS metal, bamboo, paper, or reusable straws are more sustainable alternatives to plastics straws; therefore...

The pre-ambulatory clauses above start with a general introduction of the issue, clearly identity the problem, and reference current possibilities that will make the problem better.

Notice how the pre-ambulatory clauses are linked with semicolons. The word “and” should come after the second-to-last pre-ambulatory clause, and the word “therefore” should come after the final pre-ambulatory clause. 

Operative (RESOLVED) Clauses

The final section of the resolution is comprised of a number of operative clauses (usually beginning with “BE IT RESOLVED”) that take action to address the problem at hand. The operative clauses should identify specific steps to take action to resolve the issue. Consider answering the “who, what, when, where, why, and how” of the action steps to solve the problem(s) identified in the pre-ambulatory clauses. There may also be clauses in this section (sometimes beginning with “UNDERSTANDING” or “NOTING”) that qualify the actions being taken or address other overarching policies which constrain the action of this resolution. 

It’s important to remember that the Students’ Association cannot require action by another entity of the university, so use language carefully in the operative clauses. A final trick for the last operative clause of a resolution is to “extend a hand,” acknowledging the continuing collaboration and partnership of the Students’ Association with other university entity(ies) to resolve the problem at hand. 

For example:

BE IT RESOLVED the South Dakota State University Students’ Association recommends the immediate prohibition and removal of all plastic straws from the campus of SDSU; further

BE IT RESOLVED the South Dakota State University Students’ Association encourages a campus partnership with Simply Straws to arrange an alternative straw solution; further

UNDERSTANDING a proposed ban on plastic straws may not apply to corporate dining companies that currently conduct business on the campus of SDSU based on the contractual obligations of each; further

BE IT RESOLVED the South Dakota State University Students’ Association asks that any new corporate dining services entering into agreement with SDSU be strongly urged to observe the plastic straw ban; and further

BE IT RESOLVED the South Dakota State University Students’ Association looks forward to continued partnership with campus dining services to explore sustainable solutions for food materials and containers.

The operative clauses above propose specific steps to solve the problem of plastic straws indicated in the pre-ambulatory clauses, identify an alternative solution, acknowledge constraints affecting the proposed ban (contractual obligations of corporate dining services), and “extend a hand” to campus dining services regarding our shared mission of sustainability relative to food service.

Equally as important as the structure of the resolution are the steps taken to carry out the resolution’s proposed action after its passage. Often the action recommended by a resolution can be taken by a Senate standing committee or shared governance committee most closely related to the topic. In most cases it is the responsibility of the prime sponsor of the resolution (or the team of Senators tackling the issue) to ensure the resolution’s action is carried out. (Of course, another Senator(s) or member of the executive board would be happy to assist at any stage.)

Updated June 2019