Please enable JavaScript.

Amendment Process

The amendment process is currently (May 2020) as follows:

  1. Proposed changes considered by Constitutional Committee
  2. Proposed changes presented to a JCR Meeting
  3. Proposed changes subject to a referendum

The full details are in section 3 of the Permanent Standing Orders.

Writing

The Permanent Standing Orders should set out only the important overriding principles. The Operational Standing Orders and Committees and Job Descriptions then add more detail to this.

Avoid using the word "shall" as it is ambiguous.

It may be useful to refer Office of the Parliamentary Counsel drafting guidance which is pretty comprehensive.

LaTeX (typesetting)

TeX (prounced Tekh, because something about Greek letters...) is a typesetting (or formatting) system that aims to make writing documents easier. LaTeX (pronounced Lay Tekh) is a set of macros built on TeX. Documents are written in plaintext and compiled, commonly to PDF.

The website Overleaf is a good choice for a quick start as this avoids having to install any software, provides a useful interface and automatically compiles the table of contents correctly.

Free software is available to both write and compile. The code itself can be written in any text editor.

LaTeX is not new and there is plenty written about it online. Remember: Google (or your favourite alternative) is your friend. There is no point in explaining how to use LaTeX here.

Tips and Resources

The Overleaf knowledge base has fairly comprehensive documentation for LaTeX and a good introductory guide.

The Wikibooks LaTeX book is another comprehensive and useful reference

The Tables Generator website makes editing tables much easier.

LaTeX cheat sheet by Winston Chang.

LaTeX compilers often need to be run twice to correctly generate tables of contents, process references etc.. Applications like Latexmk can automate this.

Reasoning for using LaTeX

Previously, the constitution was written using Microsoft Word. This caused several issues, including that numbering the sections, clauses etc. was very troublesome; that it was difficult, if not practically impossible, to maintain consistent formatting; that the table of contents generation was not always helpful; and that collaborative working has syncing issues.

LaTeX was chosen as it was found to be easier. The initial setup is more complicated than Word; however, after that it's much simpler. The user can concentrate on content rather than be distracted with formatting. In particular, all numbering is handled much better and much easier than with Word and formatting is consistent. Furthermore, LaTeX is widely used for academic writing so many students will already have experience writing with it or will benefit from learning to write with it.

There are, of course, several disadvantages to using LaTeX. Word is simpler to use. Arguably Word gives easier control over formatting; however, this is at the expense of being unable to maintain consistent formatting. Making tables in Word is easy, whereas it can be somewhat messy with LaTeX and not very intuitive. The greatest disadvantage is that LaTeX requires some learning to use and so can be intimidating to users who are generally not used to writing in plaintext. Despite these disadvantages, it is felt that overall LaTeX is the better option.

GitHub

The LaTeX sources for the Standing Orders are now being kept on GitHub. This allows all members to access the source and makes changes transparent and accountable.

Git is version control software commonly used by programmers to track and manage changes. GitHub hosts Git 'respoitories'. GitHub can be used purely through the web interface and thus removing any need for much technical knowledge.

Using Word

Previously, Microsoft Word was used to write the constitution. This section gives guidance on doing this.

Using styles correctly (Normal, Heading 1, Heading 2 etc.) can be used to automatically generate a table of contents (updating this needs to be triggered manually) and PDF bookmarks.

Multilevel lists can be made by using the button next to the ordinary number list button. Section headings should be numbered using a normal list (this can be a bit tricky). List numbers will likely need to be set manually at various points. List indents will need to be changed from the defaults as they are not big enough. Nesting lettered lists can be tricky.

Be sure to set the title property to ensure the PDF title is correct.