Support Partnership Benefits

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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.

Sincerely,

Angela Adkins
Assistant Professor of Sociology
President, Stark AAUP

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14 thoughts on “Support Partnership Benefits

  1. Tyler

    I’m trying to get behind you guys but really, partner benefits is the biggest issue you can think of to bring people to your side? So if someone lives with another person the college should buy them benefits? If my boyfriend moves out and a couple months down the road another ones in, then he gets the benefit? You have any idea what that would cost, what the future impact would be to hiring and salaries? Where would the money come from to pay for it? Raise tuition, hire less people, maybe degrade the benefits we currently have? We did surveys and three people thought partner benefits was an important issue. When the State of Ohio law changes, then the policy will probably change. Why don’t you talk about how students and faculty aren’t going to have a lunch break when these new schedule blocks kick in for spring semester?

    • Angela

      It’s not about “bringing people to [our] side”…there should be no “sides.” We’ve invited Faculty Association to join efforts in support of this, and also there are already other faculty working with us on this issue who are not members of AAUP. And that is most welcome! Domestic partnership benefits is an important issue of equality and diversity for all of us as a community, Tyler. We are an educational institution that asserts a commitment to non-discriminatory practices. We promise it to our students, our employees, and our community. If spouse/family benefits are available a standard part of the compensation offered to full-time employees, then they should be made available to *all* full-time employees without discrimination. Period. And actually, no – the straw man scenario you describe with a boyfriend/girlfriend moving out and then another moving rapidly into the picture would not qualify for benefits unless the policy were specifically structured to allow it (and I can’t imagine anyone agreeing to that context). Most institutions’ domestic benefits policies require a notarized affidavit and documentation of partnership based on a strict list of criteria, and most policies that I’ve researched thus far carry a stipulation that once a partnership affidavit is revoked by an employee, another one cannot be filed until at least 9-12 months later. Also, the cost issue is certainly a concern that would have to be investigated with specifics for our institution, yet it is also the case that the studies and evaluations done so far indicate no substantial increase in overall health care costs for companies/organizations that have instituted domestic partnership benefits. It’s in the area of 1% if even that, so clearly doable. Yes, the law will change at some point and personally I say that can’t come soon enough because it is WAY overdue. But regardless of the eventual law change, it’s a sad reflection that the college would wait to be legally compelled to do the right thing.

      As for other issues such as scheduling and blocks, some of those issues are already on our agenda. Multi-tasking is a good thing. 🙂 Feel free to stop by a meeting for discussion and raise any other issues you feel are important and pertinent. We’d love to have your input!

  2. Tyler,

    According to interdisciplinary research, LGBT marriages are actually LESS likely than cis-gendered (heterosexual) marriages to end in divorce. To see a thinly veiled stereotype of LGBT people as promiscuous offered as a rationale for denial of earned benefits is quite disconcerting.

    You’re right – there ARE many issues that we would like to bring to the table! Better still, we would like to hear – collectively – faculty ideas regarding exactly which issues are important to us all, and therefore should be brought to the discussion! Please feel free to come to our meeting on Friday! We’d love to see you and have your voice included!!!

    Best,
    m

    • Joe

      I would agree what if same sex couples are married they should get benefits, but if not married they should not. There has to be a defining line as to where to give the benefits. Married? Living together? dating 1 year? dating one month? Somewhere you have to draw the line and I think marriage is the obvious choice.

      I also agree though that there are many more problems than this to bring up. For example all the harassment and people’s schedules getting changed and overload removed if you do not agree with everything that is said.

      • Angela

        Thanks for your comments, Joe – we so appreciate everyone’s contributions to the broader conversation. I agree that there would need to be some sort of criteria for determining eligibility, and the other colleges/universities which have extended domestic partnership benefits have all established such guidelines which could be useful for us in creating similar criteria. The unfortunate part about using marriage as the determinant is that, for the time being, Ohio doesn’t recognize same-sex marriages even if the couple was legally married in another state – so unless SSC chooses to revise its own criteria to go beyond Ohio’s definition, we’re left in the same position of denying benefits on that basis.

        You bring up a very important issue regarding unfair scheduling and harassment, and while I don’t know the specific details of your reference, I am so sorry to hear that anyone in our SSC community is experiencing that. Such practices are unacceptable, particularly within an institution of higher learning. Those are *exactly* the kind of concerns we need to be addressing collectively as a faculty. I would invite you to please come to a meeting and raise those issues – we would love to discuss them further.

  3. Tyler

    I see what you did there Martina. You took what I wrote and claimed it was discriminatory in order to discredit my position. Straw-man argument anyone? The comment was not a “thinly veiled stereotype of LGBT people”. Nor any references to divorce rates of LGBT marriages. Wow, I find it amazing that you choose to take it that way. Let me try again, what if my heterosexual partner moves out and another moves in. Well Angela says 9-12 months, so at least we have the answer to that. Also on common sense grounds, I disagree that when the college gives every cohabiting couple working here an expensive benefits package that the cost will be only 1% more.

    Why do the comments need to be moderated here before they are posted? I posted on the other thread and it says waiting moderation. Anyone working in an educational environment should welcome the free flowing expression of ideas and information. If someone posts some naughty thoughts or words I am sure you could delete them.

    Last point as my office hours are over and I am going home. By come to your side I mean it is time for AAUP to come out and declare what the real objective is. AAUP is about unionization. Or am I wrong?

    Let the discussion continue, as long as it passes through moderation.

    • mgretta67

      Tyler,

      Nice to hear from you again. No. My assertion that your premise was discriminatory was stated because it IS – not because I’m attempting to obfuscate, sidetrack, derail, or discredit an argument. My 24 years of social justice work (academic and non-academic) has focused on inequalities within the social realm, and it informs my standpoint. That being said, I stand by my statement – your impression that it was a Straw-man argument, aside.

      …Back to the issue at hand. By your argument, ANY couple who breaks up (married, civil union, or otherwise) would be at risk for causing the college to lose money. Should we not offer partner benefits at all? Would everyone be ok with that? The nature of marriages/partnerships is always volatile (our country’s divorce rates are astronomical) – should that be reason enough to not allow spousal/partner benefits? I think not, and I’m sure that most of our colleagues would agree. Framing this issue as strictly financial, and couching it on the “probability” of couples breaking up is counterproductive. After all, don’t insurance companies operate on “probability” as a general rule? That’s just what they do.

      Comments are never edited, deleted, or denied posting. Moderation simply means that someone has yet to look at it and push “send”. No clandestine or furtive motivations afoot. And no – naughty words are not deleted – I use enough of them myself *smile*.

      To speak to your last point – the goal of the Stark AAUP advocacy Chapter is simply to provide our colleagues access to an organization of faculty members that has both statewide and national reach. We are not attempting to unionize, derail Faculty Association, or dismantle our college. We simply feel that it is beneficial to have the support of a larger organization to whom we can refer for professional development, information, and support. Please feel free to come forward with any questions, concerns or lingering issues. I have material in my office, and I would be more than happy to share it with you. I’d also love to know with whom I am speaking.

      -M-

    • Angela

      In regard to the cost issue of providing domestic partnership benefits, “common sense grounds” say to look at the evidence: Multiple companies and institutions have found that any increase in cost from adding domestic partnership to existing benefits is minimal if that. Here are some resources to begin looking at that if you are interested. 60% of higher education institutions offer healthcare benefits to same sex domestic partners or spouses (http://www.cupahr.org/surveys/benefits.aspx and http://www.hrc.org/apps/cei/); States that provide domestic partnership benefits to their employees have not found the cost of doing so to be burdensome or prohibitive – costs are often less than 1% of the institution’s health care budget (https://www.aclu.org/lgbt-rights_hiv-aids/true-cost-providing-domestic-partner-health-care-benefits); Providing domestic partnership benefits does not substantially drive up overall benefits costs (http://www.ebri.org/publications/facts/)

      In the end, we do all know that Ohio will eventually legalize same-sex marriage. I would like to think that as an educational institution we would hold ourselves to a higher standard and fulfill our promise to not discriminate even if it is still (wrongfully) legally permissible to do so.

      We are an advocacy chapter, as stated. There are no active plans seeking unionization – if there were, faculty would surely know about it given that union formation is a legal process/designation and involves a moderated campus-wide faculty vote. Perhaps this prior post might be helpful on looking at what an advocacy chapter is or is not, and what the objectives are: “Why Join an Advocacy Chapter?” https://starkaaup.wordpress.com/2014/05/15/why-join-an-advocacy-chapter/ I’d also again invite you to join us anytime for a meeting if you are interested in discussing issues or asking specific questions about goals, directions, etc.

      If unionization and collective bargaining is something that the chapter membership *collectively* decides to pursue in the future, then that will certainly be discussed and announced. The tone of your comment sounds rather dismal to me, though (apologies if that is not the intent) and I am indeed curious why unionization–if that were the case–would be considered problematic. There are multiple documented benefits to unionization for both workers (members as well as non-members) and for companies/institutions, such as: lower turnover, higher job satisfaction, greater workplace diversity, etc. I would definitely invite you to be part of the broader conversation if it does arise. In any case, if such an election were ever in place and you didn’t support unionization, simply don’t vote for it.

      Lastly, comments are moderated largely because built-in spam catchers on a free site don’t always catch everything. I learned that lesson the hard way within 3 days of making the site live, thus I turned on the moderate function. Admittedly this means that comments may not post immediately, and especially not if we happen to have busy times within our schedules and take a bit longer to check the site (I apologize that it took me a few days to see this one), but it does give a measure of control over the ridiculous amount of spam and irrelevant tagbacks that crop up. Seeing those appear on a page irritates the heck out of me, especially when I personally put a lot of time and effort into formatting things for this blog…it feels a bit like having someone track mud all in my freshly-washed car, lol. No one is interested in censoring valuable dialogue, even that which voices dissent or disagreement (or contains vivid language), otherwise we’d just have turned off the comment function entirely. 🙂

  4. Tyler

    Angela, I’ve been too busy to reply myself. Thank you for the explanation on the moderation, fully accepted. I believe that the discussion activity is probably good for your site as people will check back to see what is said, and hopefully add to it.

    Martina, we shall commence our joust on the other thread when I have more time. These discussions are not two-three sentence replies in nature.

    But I will comment that you both seem to see negatives that aren’t there, or intended. My unionization comment was “dismal.” I reread it and fail to see that tone. That is a question that needs to be asked, because many people do associate AAUP with unionization, and you can bet that the administration does. I have not weighed in either way yet as to how I feel about a union, but it is fair to ask what the end game might be. Martina thought my comments were “thinly veiled stereotype of LGBT people”. I obviously disagree, that wasn’t the intent. It just gets too difficult to have a discussion when you have to tiptoe around trying to make a discussion point. Maybe you two are just a bit overly sensitive, seeing a goblin as soon as a different point of view or a tough question is presented on issues that you care deeply about? This is why many people simply avoid even having these discussions about social issues because the advocates are so sensitive, and enforce politically correct speech codes.

    I respect what you are doing, and your points of view, even if we won’t always agree.

  5. Angela

    “…it is time for AAUP to come out and declare what the real objective is. AAUP is about unionization.” Your statement/assertion about unionization – or other references to the “end game” – seemed to me dismal in tone because it implies that there is some sort of information being hidden or withheld. That is simply not the case. I feel we’ve been quite open about objectives and purposes, and we’re always happy to discuss it further. And yes, by inference it did seem to me in that context that unionization was being posited as something negative (which is not an uncommon occurrence), so I wanted to clarify. I am very glad to hear that was not the intent. Thank you.

    I’m disappointed to see the age-old derailing technique of “You’re too sensitive” arise in the conversation. That dictates what topics are even worth talking about while also effectively silencing others by trivializing and diminishing their concerns. Is it “too sensitive” to be concerned about fairness and equality, or to call out embedded stereotypes where they exist? Who gets to decide that, and why? Often people may avoid discussion about social issues not because advocates are unreasonable or because there are differing views, but because such discussions often compel people to examine the source of their discomfort. I think it is one thing to disagree (and a healthy thing at that), but it is another to dismiss.

    • Joe

      Stark State College needs a union. With a union harassment will end. Everyone needs to be treated fairly. Overload, schedules and training are not being done fairly.

      • Stop Workplace Bullying

        Ditto on Joe.

        I have always been torn by unions. At a dinner recently, a friend shared that unions do not protect the people when protection is most needed. When she approached her K-12 organization, they encouraged her to hire an attorney, and as a result of repeatedly hearing this from instructors in academia, I am frequently conflicted with union ideation. I find it disheartening that you invest time and money in a group, and the one, and possibly only, time that might necessitate representation, you are dismissed.

        That said, with everything that occurs at the college, some fearless representation is needed for global concerns (as we are all aware that Faculty Association is made up of members who never challenge administration and fearfully comply and submit to their every demand). I tend to subscribe to Tyler’s suggestions and encourage the current AAUP membership to pursue discrimination on a larger scale as the college is going to be forced to eventually subscribe to partnership benefits in accordance with state law – probably not before then. 

        In the meantime, possibly broaden the focus. Investigate Tyler’s concerns in the other forum of: [It would take a bit of work but request hire dates for employees from HR, then compare the salaries of faculty members hired just before, and just after the salary redistribution. Those of us hired just after find ourselves making thousands less than a colleague for the same work. However, we still have to pay the same percentage STRS and medical from that lower salary.]

        The only reason the masses fear attending the scheduled AAUP functions is that they rightfully fear retaliation. Perhaps creating online surveys where everyone could share their fears and concerns would help. I have even heard colleagues state that they will not post on this forum in fear that the college will attempt to track IP addresses of individuals who post (don’t laugh; there have been crazier pursuits).

        Freedom from Workplace Bullying Week begins this coming Monday. Several of us (which include staff members) are establishing an email address – which we are assuring everyone 100% confidentiality, but note that anonymous submissions are also accepted – where you can share your concerns of administrative punitive measures taken as a result of a complaint submission – scheduling, AIR/overload denials, reorganization, etcetera. We are considering the pursuance of collective action for both faculty and staff as a result of such activity. We will attempt to answer in a timely manner, but as many of you are well aware, this is a demanding time of the semester. Email: Stopworkplace_bullying@yahoo.com

        Good luck to AAUP. I am not too familiar with the College Staff Association, but support also goes to them in the possible establishment of a similar venue where vocal presence is encouraged and accepted on campus.

      • Wether #124

        Hear, hear. We needed unionized years ago. Membership in Faculty Association is reminiscent of selecting a fraternity because it’s the only gig on campus. The constant hazing, fear, harassment, and retaliation have to stop. We also need media attention, but for some reason, the Canton Rep and Beacon sweep negative things under the rug which sounds familiar. The nursing program being on probation should have been front page so that prospective students could make an informed decision.

  6. I want to start by saying thank you for your thoughtful response to the conversation. Reading through your post, so many of the things you brought up resonated with me as both a professional as well as an individual. I am a post-reallocation hire, and as you brought up in your comments, I fall in to that category of making thousands less than my colleagues while paying the same amount in STRS and medical benefits.

    When I first learned of the disparity, I was incredibly vocal in meetings and forums, especially two years ago when faculty and staff were first presented with the data, spotlighting salaries. As the presentation continued, I felt an overwhelming sense of defeat. I willingly chose to leave my professional field in order to return to academia as an instructor because I believe in the fundamental principles of higher education. I knew I was accepting a decrease in my personal income, but to see my salary compared to my colleagues was disheartening to say the least. The responses to my questions in those forums were not encouraging, and those alone left me questioning my decision to leave private industry. I attended one of the financial forums last year where it was when fellow faculty openly apologized for the financial status of those hired in under reallocation that I felt a renewed sense of hope. The support I felt from some of those individuals in the room, the support of my respected colleagues, made my personal situation a little less difficult to swallow.

    I agree that a culture of fear in any organization—educational institution or private organization—is a toxic one. I would like to believe that the dedication I bring to my students, my classroom, and my college is enough to prove my worth; however, this ideal is not always a reality. You are right to say that there are individuals who are afraid to come forward and voice their concerns and experiences. Attend any larger meeting on campus, and you will hear the same voices speak up. If you listen carefully, you will also hear so many people asking the same questions or voicing other concerns outside of the forum environment. In some regards, I was one of those people. I continued to champion for my students, but after too many sessions of getting the same unsatisfactory responses to my questions, I stopped championing for myself and my colleagues.

    I had to take a hard look at my professional choices as well as my personal decisions to become silent. Like any academic, I did my research. I talked to other academic colleagues around the nation. I read. Ultimately, I realized that I cannot be the educator I strive to be in my classroom and with my students if I could not practice what I preached. I finally came to a point where I had to ask myself if I was prepared to accept that I was unwilling to stand up for the things I believe make Stark State College an incredible institution for change in this community.

    I know how hard it is to take a public stand. I know what it is like to not sleep at night because you are worried about your job security. I was there far too many times. At first, the choice was not easy; however, I realized that in order to make things better for my colleagues, my students, and me, I had to choose to stand with my colleagues—here at SSC as well as my colleagues around the nation. There are times where I am still scared, but the day I was chosen by my colleagues—the people I admire and respect as professionals and as individuals—to sit on the executive board of Stark AAUP, I was honored.

    Please forgive the wall of text, but I wanted to relay to you and anyone else who is reading this that I understand where you are. I made choices that were right for me; they may not be the same choices for everyone. Please, know this: Stark AAUP cares about the faculty—both FT and PT—and staff at SSC. So many of the issues that have been raised in these threads are things we may not be privy to. We also know there are so many other individualized issues that we still don’t know about. Our doors are open, and we respect that fear because it is a place that we have experienced as well.

    We take your recommendations to heart, and know that we are listening. Like so many of the others on this thread, we feel the same frustrations. We want to be there as a resource for our peers. I have dedicated the last two years to learning about and working with the national AAUP. Having that lifeline to thousands of fellow faculty members and experts around the country has often been a lifeline for me professionally. At Stark AAUP, we hope to be that lifeline for you and anyone else who needs an ear, support, or resources.

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