Faculty Senate to discuss same-sex benefits

Laura Kennedy

Extending health coverage benefits for same-sex domestic partners will be up for vote at the next ISU Faculty Senate meeting. During the Faculty Senate meeting last July, the State of Iowa Board of Regents gave Iowa State the option of extending health coverage to same sex-couples. While the university has been offering health insurance for employees and their families, insurance for employees with same-sex partners has been an issue. “The difference is, these employees have been paying for all of their health coverage entirely by themselves,” Faculty Senate President David Hopper said. “The university has not yet made a contribution for these employees.” The policy senate members will be voting on during the Oct. 10 meeting asks the university to allot equal health-coverage contributions to faculty with same-sex partners as faculty with traditional partners, Hopper said. The votes will be counted during the meeting at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 10 in the Scheman Building. Hopper said he would be very surprised if the vote doesn’t pass. “Most of the senate sees this as a simple issue of fairness and equity,” said Hopper, professor of veterinary medicine. “All it takes is a simple majority vote, and I expect it will be passed at the next meeting.” Same-sex domestic partner benefits were approved by the University of Iowa last June. UI Faculty Senate President Carolyn Colvin said same-sex partner insurance has also been a concern on the UI campus for several years. “We have looked at a number of different positive perspectives, and it’s been pretty unanimous,” Colvin said. “I was pleased to see the University of Iowa and Iowa State make a similar request to the Board of Regents. There’s been nothing but support.” Nancy Evans, advisory board member for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Ally Alliance, said she definitely is in favor of extending the benefits. “It’s not etiquette,” said Evans, associate professor of educational leadership and policy studies. “If they pass it, it sends a message to the university employees and potential employees that ISU is a university that treats and agrees with equality for all their employees.” Iowa State spends about $22 million every year on faculty and staff health coverage and benefits for employees. “There will be roughly between four and six employees at Iowa State taking advantage of these new benefits,” Hopper said. “Adding this very small group of people will only add on about $11,000. The estimated cost is trivial.” Jeanne Burkhart, another LGBTAA advisory board member, said such benefits will bring people to Iowa State. “I think it will definitely help recruit faculty and staff,” said Burkhart, staff psychologist at Student Counseling Service. “I think it will make Iowa State a more welcoming place.”