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October 8, 2012   Columns Articles | Inside UGA | University Council passes domestic benefits resolution

University Council passes domestic benefits resolution

Aaron Hale

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By Aaron Hale | October 8, 2012
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University Council passed a resolution at its Sept. 28 meeting calling for health benefits to be offered to domestic partners of UGA employees without the use of state funds or student tuition and fees. 

It remains up to the university administration to determine how to move forward with the resolution.

The approved proposal, unlike previous efforts by the University Council to get equal benefits for domestic partners, aims to avoid conflict with an amendment in the Georgia constitution that prohibits state funds to go toward such benefits.

“It’s not expensive, we can do it locally and it’s the right thing to do,” said Janet Frick, who chairs University Council’s Human Resources Committee.

An associate professor of psychology in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Frick gave a presentation on the proposal and answered questions from faculty. 

The proposal includes a two-part plan for funding domestic partner benefits. It was first drafted by GLOBES, the university’s faculty and staff lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer advocacy group.

First, the plan calls for UGA benefits-eligible employees to receive either health insurance benefits or a cash allowance to be used toward private insurance for their registered domestic partner. Funding for health insurance would come from discretionary funds, Frick said, rather than state tax dollars and student tuition.

Based on its models, the Human Resources Committee estimated this plan could cost approximately $270,000 annually.

The second part of the proposal would allow domestic partners to participate in employee-funded optional benefits program that would include dental, accidental death and dismemberment, and option life insurance plans. Similar programs already are in place in some schools within the University System of Georgia, including Georgia Tech and Georgia Health Sciences University.

An overwhelming majority of University Council members supported the plan when a voice vote was taken. However, there were several ‘nay’ votes too.

After the meeting, UGA President Michael F. Adams said that he would take time to consider how to act upon the council’s resolution. First, there needs to an opportunity to consider the legalities and costs of the proposal, he said. The university administration will also consult with the board of regents. Adams indicated that a decision on how or whether to institute the proposal would likely come by the end of the academic year.

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