If you’ve attended a CFES or ESSCO conference before, it’s likely that your head delegate vanished on the Sunday during a time cryptically blocked off on your schedule as “plenary”. Looking up the definition of the word probably won’t help; the dictionary definition of plenary is “A meeting attended by all participants at a conference or assembly.”
But if you, as a conference delegate, aren’t at this session, then surely it can’t be a “plenary”?
Well, yes and no. Instead of being a meeting attended by all delegates, a conference plenary is a meeting attended by all of ESSCO or CFES council. Conference plenaries are times for council to get stuff done.
OK, so who’s on council? Every member society has a vote, which is held by a representative who is allowed to speak to the rest of council. That representative can be anyone, but it’s usually the VP External, or that school’s equivalent to a VPX (at Waterloo, it’s the VP Communications). The ESSCO and CFES executive may also vote and speak at their respective plenaries.
These rules don’t mean that the meeting is closed to everyone else! If you’re a delegate and are interested in finding out what’s happening during plenary, speak to your representative about sitting in. There are usually a lot of attendees there just to observe. You technically aren’t allowed to speak during the meeting, but if you have something to contribute your representative is free to pass their right to speak over to you.
Any council member may submit, or “move” a motion at plenary. In practice, that means that sometime between midnight and 2 AM on the last night of the conference, a small huddle of representatives gather in their rooms, collaborating to get their motions in before the plenary agenda is finalized. To keep things from getting dry, it’s pretty common to inject a bit of humour into the title (for instance, B-Soc submitted a motion to ESSCO titled “We didn’t know we had to do that and now we are like ahhhh!!!”), but the focus is on making changes to policies and rules to improve the experience of engineering students (B-Soc’s motion had to do with warning schools ahead of time if it’s their turn to place a bid to host a conference).
For instance, at the most recent plenary, ESSCO Annual General Meeting in June 2017, there were a lot of motions about the Ontario Engineering Competition (OEC), since historically it’s been confusing to figure out who is responsible for running and enforcing some of the rules around OEC, sometimes negatively affecting participants (for instance, if fees suddenly rise without warning). There’s still a ways to go on that problem, but the AGM plenary got us started.
The ESSCO Council debates motions and policy at plenary
If you’re interested in this aspect of being a delegate, reach out to your head delegate. We usually welcome participation by anyone in the delegation, whether you just want to observe or if you’d like to move and speak to a motion.
VP Communications 'A'