The Daily Texan has an update on the push to add domestic partner benefits for employees at the University of Texas at Austin. University President William Powers Jr. has established a working group to look at implementing soft benefits, which include sick, bereavement and parental leave for faculty and staff, as well as housing for hall coordinators and graduate students:
“The fact that we don’t have domestic partner benefits puts us at a competitive disadvantage in recruiting students and staff, and that’s an issue that we need to get solved,” Powers said. “It’s still a work in progress, and there are a lot of players involved. The University would be better if we make substantial progress in treating people equally, regardless of sexual orientation.”
But right now, the University has little in its official policy to account for the needs of GLBT employees and their partners, and the resources they receive are not comparable to heterosexual staff members. Last week, a Pride and Equity Faculty Staff Association board member’s partner died of pancreatic cancer, said Lindsey Schell, the chair of the Domestic Partner Benefits committee for PEFSA. Not only could the staff member not insure her partner while she was alive, UT’s current bereavement leave policy prevented the staff member from taking paid leave to mourn. The incident was “an affront to human dignity,” Schell said.
She said PEFSA and other stakeholders are working with the president’s office and human resources to determine the most effective way to incorporate soft benefits into existing UT policy without violating state codes and laws. All Ivy League universities offer benefits, as do peer institutions such as the University of Michigan and Ohio State University. Many of these institutions are in states with insurance codes and Defense of Marriage Act laws similar to those in Texas.
For more on DP benefits at UT, including what you can do to help, check out the Pride and Equity Faculty Staff Association’s website.