CSG speaker says he will not resign after letter calling for his removal

Monday, September 21, 2020 - 5:50pm

Then-CSG Representative Sam Braden (center) speaks at a Central Student Government meeting in 2019.

Then-CSG Representative Sam Braden (center) speaks at a Central Student Government meeting in 2019. Buy this photo
Kelsey Pease/Daily

Sam Braden, speaker of the assembly of the University of Michigan’s Central Student Government, said he will not resign from his position after receiving a letter calling for his resignation from CSG members.

Twelve members of the current CSG Assembly signed onto the letter calling for Braden’s resignation. The letter, which is dated Friday, asked for a response by 5 p.m. Monday evening, at which point Braden replied saying he would not resign.

In an email to the CSG members who signed onto the letter, Braden said he has felt “increased hostility and personal aggressions” as speaker, adding that the letter calling for him to resign was a personal attack and not the result of legitimate professional concerns.

“In all honesty, performing this role has been really difficult for me, and I will acknowledge that I have had my shortcomings,” Braden wrote. “However, I am choosing not to resign at this moment because I believe that your evaluation fundamentally mischaracterizes both the causes, extent and correct solution to the problems you have brought up. I look forward to our continued discussion on the Assembly floor.”

The letter highlights complaints about Braden’s conduct, concluding that a “series of errors, small and large, have demonstrated a pattern of negligence on your part that leads us to believe that the 10th Assembly would be best served by your immediate resignation as Speaker,” according to a copy of the document obtained by The Michigan Daily. 

Among the grievances listed are “Repeated instances of improper and unbefitting behavior during Assembly meetings,” including a lack of knowledge regarding CSG's rules and operating procedures, as well as a “Perpetual desire to end discussion and meetings regardless of whether members have had opportunity to acquaint themselves with what is under consideration.”

Members wrote in the letter that there would be a recall motion seeking his removal from the speaker role if he did not resign.

When a member is recalled, the Assembly votes on whether they should lose their seat on CSG. Representatives need a simple majority vote to be recalled, but officials need two-thirds of Assembly members to vote to remove them from their position. Because Braden did not resign from the speaker position, if he is recalled, he will lose his speakership but not his seat as a representative for LSA.

Braden was first elected to CSG in fall 2018 as a representative for LSA before winning reelection to his seat for an entire year in the winter 2019 election. After being elected again as a representative and creator of the Represent Michigan party in the winter 2020 election, Braden won the speaker position over Rackham student Austin Glass, a former Rackham representative who held the role two years prior.

The speaker, who runs the weekly meetings, is elected annually by members of the Assembly.

In an interview with The Daily Monday afternoon, Braden said he has taken the complaints listed within the notice seriously, though he found some to be “absurd.” Braden said he wished the members who had valid concerns would have spoken with him so they could agree on how to best proceed.

In his response to the letter seeking his resignation, Braden thanked the people who signed it for voicing their concern.

“I would like to thank you for taking the time to address your concerns to me formally,” Braden wrote. “However, I am deeply disappointed by the manner in which you have brought up your concerns, as well as your implication that I am unfit for this role.”

Braden said some of the complaints, like the claim he is not well-acquainted with the rules and another that calls his use of marijuana during virtual meetings unprofessional, are valid critiques he has not previously heard. He said he did not realize people had issues with it and he will adapt his behavior. 

In response to concerns over his use of marijuana, for example, Braden said he has legal permission to use marijuana because it helps him sleep. But now knowing that it is seen as unprofessional, Braden said he will refrain from using the medicinal drug during meetings.

In asking for Braden’s resignation, the CSG representatives also emphasized missteps while administering a CSG-sponsored LSAT test prep program. In April, the student instructors hired to teach the program sent a letter to CSG alleging a breach of contract and administrative failures. 

“Instructors received unclear and contradictory statements, or no response at all, from CSG over the course of February, March and early April regarding the missing payments,” the instructors wrote in the letter. “After waiting more than two months for any payment, instructors still had to put in great effort to chase after their first payment as a result of CSG’s administrative failures.”

At a special meeting in May, CSG discussed this letter but failed to pass a motion resolving the LSAT instructors’ concerns.

Braden authored the resolution that authorized the test prep program, and CSG passed it in winter 2020. The program ran into issues as instructors had difficulty obtaining course materials, followed by further complications for participants amid campus shutting down at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The program instructors argued that CSG had failed to complete its payments to the instructors on time and claimed instructors who taught classes in February were not compensated for their work until April 9 at the earliest.

The Assembly accused Braden of having “Knowingly misled students into believing that they would receive a 50% discount for the program's Fall 2020 iteration, despite the fact that the program in question had yet to be approved by the 10th Assembly.” The letter also claims Braden tried to cover up “wrongdoing” by redacting portions of a letter sent to CSG from the program’s instructors, who had not received the level of compensation they had been promised.

However, Braden said concerns relating to his execution of the LSAT training courses are not a valid reason for a recall because he has already addressed what went wrong. Braden said that the program was difficult to see through as a sophomore in 18 credits and working two jobs, and that it runs more smoothly now because there are multiple people tasked with overseeing it.

The letter seeking his resignation also takes issue with what the authors described as Braden’s “Troubling unwillingness to uphold neutrality of Office of the Speaker,” claiming that Braden authored a resolution that would increase the power of his role.

It also criticizes Braden for “having openly mocked members’ arguments, muttered sarcastically and rolled eyes on camera.”

“In conclusion, it is our view that you have had ample opportunity to address the offenses outlined above and ameliorate your performance as Speaker,” the letter reads. “It is regrettable, then, that we have yet to observe the willingness and humility needed to enact change on your part. Consequently, we hope that you will tender your resignation forthwith.”

LSA representative Ruby Yearling, who signed the letter, said in a message to The Daily that Braden’s behavior warranted attention.

“We have a number of complaints that, barring resignation, the wider Assembly will need to consider,” Yearling wrote. “We don’t feel it is right to litigate these matters in the court of public opinion instead of first discussing them with our Assembly colleagues.”

Braden said concerns regarding his efforts to expand his role are invalid because the motion he offered was a copy of one proposed by former CSG Speaker Whit Froehlich. In an email to The Daily Monday night, Froehlich clarified the motion was authored and proposed by Braden, not him.

Braden also said worry over him trying to take more control does not accurately reflect the contents of the resolution, which mainly gives more authority to the vice speaker.

Braden is not the first member of CSG to face the threat of a recall. In November 2019, the Assembly voted to recall Max Jones, then an LSA junior and the vice chair of the Student Organization Funding Committee for showing bias in the member admissions process. Jones had written a comment saying that he feared an applicant’s role as a current Assembly member would allow them to act as an “informant” and possibly “injure the SOFC dynamic.” The applicant was Braden, who at the time was a CSG Assembly member and an LSA sophomore.

The chair of SOFC, Crede Strauser, then a Business senior, was also subject to a recall vote for showing bias in the committee application process and for a lack of transparency. After apologizing and accepting responsibility for denying requests to share SOFC documents with the chair of another committee, Strauser survived the recall effort, with 15 votes against removing him, five in favor and three abstentions.

Prior to sending the email announcing that he will not resign, Braden said in his interview with The Daily he had considered leaving his post because some members had created an environment that is difficult to work in. He said he was hesitant, however, because he did not want to come off as agreeing with everything listed within the letter. 

“In total disclosure, I do not enjoy this job at all,” Braden said. “Whatever I do, people get upset. If I give people extra time to ask questions, people get upset because I'm helping the members too much. If I give people not enough time, the same people are upset because I’m restricting their time. So this job has been really difficult to do just because of some of the people who’ve made it really toxic.”

Correction: A previous version of this story indicated that Braden would lose both his speakership and his seat as a representative from LSA if the recall motion passes. It has been updated to clarify that he would only lose his speakership if the vote succeeds.

Daily News Editor Alex Harring can be reached at harring@umich.edu

 


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