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Tuesday, December 1, 2020

News

UH commission tackles insurance benefit issues


The University Commission on Women has released a report, “Domestic Partner Benefits at the University of Houston: Advancing Equity and Institutional Competitiveness,” that is a financial in-depth analysis of what it would cost to include domestic partner benefits at the University.

“Heterosexual faculty and staff members get insurance from the University. They get paid 100 percent and then 50 percent of the insurance is paid for their partner, if it’s an opposite sex partner,” said Beverly McPhail, director of the Women’s Resource Center and one of the co-authors of the report. “If we have a gay or lesbian faculty member, they can buy insurance for themselves, but they can’t buy it for their partner. We think that’s unfair.”

The report shows concrete numbers of the cost of adding domestic benefits for the University.

“We’ve never really had a number before, so nobody knew how much it would cost,” McPhail said. “We don’t know exactly how much it would cost. (We think the range depends) on how many employees, so we did our own financial analysis and those numbers are in the report.”

The report is 60 pages long, which includes personal stories of present and former faculty. The stories are about the emotional and financial hardships they experience for not having domestic partner benefits.

The Cougar Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Allies, lead by Maria Gonzales, sent out requests and a few individuals responded by sending in personal letters addressed to UH President Renu Khator.

One of the letters is from former UH English professor Mark Doty, who after being employed by UH for a decade, decided to leave for Rutgers University in New Jersey.

In the letter, Doty wrote how a deciding factor for his departure was the domestic partner benefits that Rutgers University offers to its faculty.

The report lists Rice University, Baylor College of Medicine, Southwestern University, Southern Methodist University and Trinity University as universities in Texas that offer domestic partner benefits.

“There are corporations, Fortune 500 companies, and most flagship universities that offer domestic partner benefits, but no public university in Texas offers it,” Gonzales said.

The authors of the report know there is an uphill battle to get domestic partner benefits, but are willing to take on the challenge.

“Anything takes time and many steps, and this is just the beginning,” said Cody Pelletier, Human Resource manager and co-author of the report. “I hope that it’s taken seriously. I think everyone who is involved in making it work feels very passionate about it and it’s something that should happen eventually. If not now, then definitely down the line.”

The three groups will hold a panel discussion from 10 to 11:30 a.m. today in the Big Bend Room of the University Center to discuss this issue in detail to take further action.


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