Stark AAUP recently sent the following letter to SSC Human Resources requesting the implementation of domestic partnership benefits and an end to college policies that deny earned employment benefits to same-sex couples. We would encourage all SSC faculty and staff to support this important issue. Discriminatory practices harm our entire community.
On behalf of the Stark AAUP chapter, I write to you with grave concerns about Stark State College’s lack of domestic partnership benefits for full-time employees. Healthcare, life insurance, and other fringe benefits are afforded to full-time staff and faculty as part of the standard compensation package, yet some employees are routinely denied these benefits because the College does not recognize domestic partnerships or same-sex couples. This approach not only lacks respect for the humanity of all employees but also seems to violate Stark State College’s own policies.
The College non-discrimination policy explicitly states: “Stark State College is committed to equal opportunity for all and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, gender, national origin, military status, pregnancy, disability, age, genetic information, or sexual orientation.” Every posted employment opening includes a similar statement ensuring the provision of equal opportunity, as do the printed signs hanging on billboards throughout the campus. The College also regularly partners with community organizations to provide programs and exhibits which demonstrate and celebrate the importance of diversity. Thus, in every possible venue from our publications to our handbooks to our website, Stark State College continues to affirm a commitment to diversity and to non-discriminatory operations. However, in practice it is clear that some employees do indeed face discrimination when their partners and dependents are not fully recognized as families by the College.
As faculty, we are quite proud of our institution. Yet the present situation which discriminates against employees on the basis of sexual orientation and marital status is not one worthy of pride. Treating employees respectfully, ethically, and equitably is a matter of social justice, and the continued denial of partnership benefits completely undermines Stark State College’s stated commitment to value all people.
One of our greatest concerns as educators is that the reputation of Stark State College as a discriminatory institution will negatively impact our students, their awareness and respect for all persons, and their ability to compete for positions in corporations that value diversity. Discriminatory practices and non-equitable policies may also impact our ability to garner external resources through restrictions on federal funds, withholding of private donations, and limits on funding from corporate partners. Similarly, the lack of domestic partnership benefits has already impacted the hiring of talented faculty and staff who are persuaded to go elsewhere in search of inclusive family-friendly policies.
Every one of us works hard to fulfill the goal of providing a diverse, inclusive, and welcoming environment to our students. The time has come for Stark State College to ensure that the very same environment exists for its faculty and staff. In this regard, our College is in the minority when compared to other area institutions including Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland State University, Cuyahoga Community College, Kent State University, Sinclair Community College, and the University of Akron, all of which have already instituted policies ensuring equitable access to earned benefits for all employees.
Discriminatory laws and restrictions regarding same-sex marriage are rightfully, rapidly being struck down across the nation – it is no longer a matter of if but rather a matter of when Ohio state laws will follow suit. It would be a severe disappointment if Stark State College waits to be legally compelled to offer domestic partnership benefits, rather than taking the initiative now to do what is right for its faculty, staff, students, and community. As faculty, we urge the College to be on the right side of history in this issue and live up to its stated core values and mission of being a community leader.
We respectfully request that you and the Committee on Human Resources give serious consideration to this important matter without delay, and recommend adopting a policy of offering domestic partnership benefits to full-time employees without restriction. We would be happy to provide additional resources, commentary, and research on this issue at any time.
Thank you in advance for your consideration. Please feel free to contact Stark AAUP with any questions, concerns, or further discussion.
Assistant Professor of Sociology
President, Stark AAUP