Domestic partner rights at UGA

Moderated by Tom Sabulis

The University of Georgia still does not offer faculty members domestic-partner benefits such as health insurance coverage, despite repeated attempts by teachers to secure them. A UGA faculty member leading the charge explains that it’s the right thing to do and helps competitiveness through teacher recruitment. Last week we asked readers to comment on the request, a selection of which are printed in Friday’s printed paper. Commenting on Janet E. Frick’s column is open below.

By Janet E. Frick

Recently, I attended a banquet with a diverse group of accomplished University of Georgia faculty and administrators, all actively engaged in issues across campus. I mentioned that I was chairing a committee on University Council that was, once again, bringing a proposal to try to finally accomplish a long-sought goal: full health insurance benefits for domestic partners of UGA employees.

My colleagues stared at me in disbelief. “You mean we still don’t have those?” I stared back in even greater disbelief. “You mean you didn’t realize that?” Our mutual amazement reflects the rapidly changing reality behind domestic partner benefits: universities all over the country are providing them, and it is becoming harder to find ones that don’t. People expect that UGA already has these benefits because most leading public and private universities do. Of the U.S. News and World Report top 50 universities, 87 percent offer full domestic partner benefits.

Examples of universities offering domestic partner benefits include public institutions (the universities of Florida, Kentucky, Michigan, Arizona and Ohio State) as well as private, even religiously affiliated institutions (e.g., Southern Methodist and Mercer). Schools that do not offer such benefits find themselves at a competitive disadvantage in recruiting and retaining top faculty, staff and administrators. This trend is even more commonplace in the private sector, with partner benefits long offered at Georgia’s top Fortune 500 companies.

One might assume that UGA would offer benefits on par with other University System of Georgia institutions. On the contrary, several Georgia universities (including Georgia State, Georgia Tech and Kennesaw State) already allow domestic partners to participate in optional health insurance programs such as dental and vision coverage, but UGA does not. The effort to bring full domestic partner health benefits to UGA has been going on for over a decade, driven by faculty/staff proposals that have enjoyed widespread campus support, but which have not yet resulted in policy changes on the part of those in positions of authority. The current proposal (originated by the UGA GLOBES organization) includes several examples of best practices from other state universities, including Arizona, Florida, and Wyoming, which offer full domestic partner benefits without using state funds.

The fact that my husband is covered by my health insurance at the state’s expense, but the domestic partners of other employees are not, amounts to unequal pay for equal work.

The unfairness of this arrangement surprised my children; as my 7-year-old daughter said, “I’m glad you’re working on that committee, Mom. Whoever made that rule should have to lose insurance for their family!”

Instead of that solution, we need to join the rest of the higher-education community and make benefits coverage equal for all UGA employees and their families. It may be too late for the state’s flagship university to lead on this issue, but it’s not too late for us to catch up.

Dr. Janet E. Frick is the Chair of the Human Resources Committee of the University Council at UGA and the Associate Department Head of the Department of Psychology.

36 comments Add your comment

JLMB

September 15th, 2012
4:34 pm

@skipper 11:17: You’re right. Perhaps colleges should stop paying for all spousal benefits. Every man and woman for themselves! “ramming an alternative lifestyle down folks throats”…what exactly does that mean? Classic rhetoric people use to try to vilify others and justify their homophobia without any kind of specific example of what the “ulterior motives” are. “would you let a male in the pup-tent with your 11 year-old daughter??”…does that mean I should assume that all straight men are pedophiles? …and how exactly do these things equate to an agenda? Grasping at straws like all of the other unenlightened, contently ignorant social conservatives who are doing anything they can to stay in a position of power and privilege. It has been shown that our discomfort with others often is rooted in a discomfort with ourself. Might want to take a look in the mirror…

skipper

September 15th, 2012
11:17 am

Insurance/benefits for gay “partners” when all colleges are crying about expenses? Good night! And FYI, the gay agenda is, for a few things, ramming an alternative lifestyle down folks throats and wanting the state, etc. to take fiscal responsibility. Hatin’ on the Scouts ‘coz they don’t want gays in the tent with their little boys…..would you let a male in the pup-tent with your 11 year old daughter?? Unfortunately, a clip of a “gay pride” (there’s an oxy for ya) parade came on the tube during the news. If this is what y’all are fighting for, no wonder the states keep voting you out! And a “kiss-in”……boy, there’s the way to make people luv ya….guys kissin’ in a parking lot! More sickining than road kill.

Eric

September 14th, 2012
8:52 pm

Janet Frick: “Their standard answer was that because Georgia state law didn’t recognize domestic partners, they could not do so. So for years we have been told by UGA administrators that this “can’t be done” because Georgia law doesn’t recognize domestic partners and thus state funds can’t be used to offer full health benefits.”

The citizens of this state should turn this right around and say, “We will therefore no longer pay the state any taxes since you do not recognize domestic partners.”

JLMB

September 14th, 2012
5:12 pm

@skipper 3:57:…and the rest of it would be??

Valerie Fahey

September 14th, 2012
4:05 pm

What is the “straight agenda,” skippy?

skipper

September 14th, 2012
3:57 pm

JLMB,
Nope…..thats just part of it.