LSAT test prep instructors request compensation from CSG for alleged contract breach, administrative failures

Friday, July 10, 2020 - 4:11pm

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Design by Hibah Chughtai

On April 27, the student instructors hired to teach the Central Student Government-sponsored LSAT test program sent a letter to CSG alleging a contract breach and administrative failures. On May 20, CSG held a special meeting where they discussed this letter but failed to pass a motion resolving the LSAT instructors’ concerns.

On Dec. 10, 2019, CSG passed a resolution authorizing a CSG-funded LSAT test prep program. The resolution was sponsored by LSA sophomore Sam Braden, current CSG speaker, who said the program was extremely popular among students.

“We have over 130 students who want to take it and 140 who want to teach it,” Braden said to The Daily in January.

The letter stated CSG had failed to make on-time payments to the instructors and alleges instructors who taught classes in February did not receive compensation for their work until April 9 or later.

The letter also said after the payments were made on April 9, CSG allegedly failed to communicate how the payments would be disbursed. This led to unexpected direct deposits made into the instructors’ accounts, including a deposit to an inactive account of one of the instructors.

“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.”

The letter further said prior to their hire, the instructors were promised lesson plans and teaching materials from the Law School Admission Council and were explicitly told by Braden they would not be required to create teaching plans. After repeated correspondence, the instructors were told they would receive the guides on Feb. 18, 15 days after their first appointment, the letter said. The delivery date was then pushed out to Feb. 21. According to the letter, the instructors also did not receive the LSAC teaching plans on that date.

“We instructors have unexpectedly had to create full lesson plans and design materials on our own throughout the semester at great time and cost to ourselves,” the letter said. “Instructors have reported having to spend between 1 and 4 hours preparing for each class, or the equivalent of up to 8 additional hours per week.”

The letter demanded compensatory payment from CSG amounting to 50 percent of their pay for their total hours worked.

At the special meeting, Braden sponsored a motion to allocate $3,360 from CSG’s Legislative Directory Fund to compensate LSAT instructors for the work they had completed while they were not being paid.

A CSG member, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation from CSG, said it was unusual for Braden to not have shared the letter to the entire CSG assembly prior to the meeting. The CSG member will be referred to as “Jane” for the remainder of the article. 

“(The letter) was addressed to CSG at large so (the members) felt we had a right to see it. But Sam would not share the letter with the members. We all found that a bit weird,” Janesaid.

Jane also said that a little later into the meeting Braden shared a redacted copy of the letter, which did not include the second page, with the assembly. After a member realized the copy of the letter shared by Braden was incomplete, the assembly acquired the original letter from the LSAT instructors.

“The page that was missing was kind of the page that talked about what Sam Braden had done wrong,” Jane said. “So it seems to the members of CSG that he was trying to cover something up. But Sam assured (the members) that the page was only removed because it was all lies. But the more (the members) talk to LSAT instructors, the more it seems that that is not true.”

The assembly unanimously consented to amend the motion to include an investigation conducted by Rackham student Hayden Jackson regarding this matter.

At the meeting, LSA junior Taylor Lansey, treasurer of CSG’s ninth assembly and now head chair of CSG’s Student Organization Funding Committee, shared a timeline of payments made to LSAT instructors, clarifying the cause for delayed payments and unexpected direct deposits.  

In an interview with The Daily, Lansey explained that, due to the program being in its pilot phase, the LSAT test prep program directors Braden and Law School student Savannah Major were responsible for giving approvals for payments coming out of the LSAT program account. She said after the instructors submitted their invoices, which were then approved by the directors, she submitted them to the Students Organization Accounts Service. 

Lansey said SOAS reached out to her during spring break with tax-related questions and put a hold on all submitted invoices. During the weeks after spring break, when the University was transitioning to online instruction in response to COVID-19, Lansey and fellow CSG members noticed many of the invoices that were submitted and approved were in violation of the CSG resolution. Instructors who had covered additional lessons were told they would get time-and-a-half pay, but the resolution did not specifically authorize that arrangement.

“The way that the resolution was worded, which I believe was an oversight on the part of the authors of the resolution, basically said if an instructor teaches two courses they will get $200 per week,” Lansey said. “The interpretation of (CSG’s) student general counsel determined if you taught one class you would get zero dollars. If you taught three classes you would still get $200 dollars. Most of the instructors (would have needed) to resubmit new invoices and not be paid as much as they had submitted to be paid for or there (needed) to be some changes to the resolution.”

The resolution was then amended in a CSG meeting on March 24 to state that instructors would be paid $80 for each class taught — including substituting other instructors’ courses — and $40 for attending the weekly meeting. The instructors were then requested to submit new invoices, which were then submitted to SOAS by Lansey.

Lansey further explained the cause of unexpected direct deposits being made to certain instructors’ accounts. While submitting invoices, Lansey said she was only authorized to give the instructors two payment options — mail or pickup of a check. For instructors who were registered employees of the University, information that Lansey was not privy to, SOAS automatically added the pay for the instructors’ services rendered to the direct deposit account listed on their files. 

“This happened to a handful of (instructors),” Lansey said. “I offered (to the instructors) that each time I submitted the invoices I could go in and say this student explicitly does not want their payment to be included in their direct deposit but would instead like it to be mailed to this address. Each student who I asked this of declined and said they were okay with it being direct deposited.”

Lansey also emphasized all the LSAT instructors had been compensated for every hour they had worked. 

The Daily interviewed Braden, who explained the delay in payments was caused because the original invoices submitted by the instructors were put on hold due to a violation of the original LSAT test prep program resolution and the need for it to be altered in order for payments to be disbursed to instructors.

“We had to go back and amend the resolution so that we could pay (the instructors),” Braden said. “I get frustrated with the people in CSG who stick exactly to the letter of the wording.”

Braden also clarified that the general teaching plan for the program was each week, the students would take a test and the instructors would go over the test in class. The LSAC had provided sample tests and schedules which he had passed on to the instructors. He mentioned that he had been working with LSAC to access a program that helped in identifying a students’ weakness but had been unable to acquire it as the software wasn’t ready yet.

The assembly failed to rule on the proposed motion due to a loss of quorum. In an email obtained by The Daily, Braden told the LSAT instructors that as the assembly had failed to pass the resolution, nothing more could be done regarding the matter at this time. The assembly plans to meet again on July 13 to discuss this resolution.

The LSAT instructors declined to comment on their letter to CSG.

Correction: A previous version of the article mentioned Hayden Jackson conducted an ethics investigation, however the Assembly never ammended for an ethics intestigation. Jackson only coducted a normal investiagtion. A clarification has been added to note nothing could be done regarding the failed resoultion at this time.  

Daily Staff Reporter Navya Gupta can be reached at itznavya@umich.edu.