It's past time to offer domestic partnership benefits.
That was the consensus reached Tuesday at a meeting of Kansas University's University Senate Executive Committee. But more than domestic partnership benefits, the committee concluded that KU's entire benefits system needs to be revised to give faculty, staff and even students more options.
"We want to have a 21st century benefit plan," University Senate President William Crowe said. "We want people to be able to choose their benefits from a basket of benefits available."
Crowe said that when he was at Ohio State University, the university offered legal insurance and financial planning, all of which could be choices for faculty and staff to choose from. He said, for example, a person could choose to receive less vacation to receive financial planning or health insurance for a domestic partner.
The issue, Crowe said, has been considered by the Faculty Senate's committee on compensation for about two years and has taken on greater interest among members of the unclassified staff senate.
Diana Robertson, KU's Student Housing director, approached the unclassified staff senate because her partner will be retiring soon, and Robertson would like to add her partner to her benefit plan. Current policy - and state law - prohibits that.
"I can go to another institution in another state and get these benefits, but we don't want to leave," Robertson said. "We want to keep Kansas as our home."
The committee concluded that this was an issue of fairness that is key to recruiting and retaining faculty and staff. Several committee members had personal anecdotes of friends or colleagues who had left the university - or chosen not to join the school - because they couldn't get the benefits their family needed.
"I think the time has come to take this forward," Robertson said.
The committee decided to form a task force to evaluate what is done at other universities and in the private sector and how those lessons could be applied to KU. It expects to receive a report sometime next month.
Committee members acknowledged that potential changes - which would require a policy change by the Board of Regents and statutory changes by the Legislature - would not come easily. But student body President Hannah Love said it was a challenge the university could handle.
"We're the research university in the state," she said. "We're supposed to take difficult issues and move them forward and be on the cutting edge."