By Lindsay Huffman
After more than a decade, university administration finally made the momentous decision to establish domestic partnership benefits for Eastern employees. What this means for faculty and staff members is that if their living partners are over 18 years old, not a relative, not employed by the homeowner and ineligible for Medicare, then they will receive extended benefits through the university. These benefits will also be offered to any dependent children living with an Eastern employee.
And unlike much of the legislation circulating in the nation today, Eastern does not differentiate between sexual orientations with this new policy. Whether unmarried or married, heterosexual or homosexual, all employees living with a partner will reap the rewards of working for Eastern.
But the advantages are more numerous than just extended benefits-Eastern can utilize this policy for its own gain, too. With all of the national recognition Eastern has garnered through various awards in the past few years, this is just one more way for Eastern to be recognized as a school worth noticing.
Especially because Eastern was recently placed on the “Great Colleges to Work For” list, which is compiled by The Chronicle of Higher Education annually, awarding domestic partner benefits has the potential to attract a wider variety of faculty and staff to the school. This will make Eastern a more marketable and competitive school on not only a statewide scale, but on a national scale.
But if such things are true, why has Eastern not adopted this policy before now? The policy could bring in a wider range of applicants for employment, and the implementation of this would guarantee a measure of fairness to current employees in terms of benefits. Moreover, the discussions for this legislation have been ongoing for more than a decade.
Should it really have taken 10 years to pass this notion?
Even though the university should certainly be proud of various awards it has won in the past few years, it’s important to note that all it would’ve taken to get domestic partner benefits several years earlier was a strong front to push the idea through to the Board of Regents.
That’s not to say there weren’t those who vociferously tried to get domestic partner benefits at Eastern-there was a select group of administrators, faculty, staff and students who fought for it. And there were extenuating circumstances as to why the proposal never made its way to the Board before, circumstances that couldn’t always be controlled.
But for such a significant decision to be passed, it has to have a firm support base behind it. Perhaps if more people at Eastern had taken up the cause, the policy would have been given more importance and would have been passed sooner.
How many employees has Eastern unknowingly turned away in the past 10 years due to the lack of domestic partnership benefits? How many times has the university professed to be diverse and fair to all of its workers, and yet simple benefits could not be given to these workers’ living partners or dependent children?
Hindsight may be 20/20 and Eastern administration should be commended for finally passing this policy. But it’s hard to ignore the snail-like pace the policy was forced to go at in order to cut through the mounds of red tape in university politics.
Regardless of these struggles, congratulations are in order for the supporters of this notion who had to remain patient during the past decade.
Hopefully, when Eastern faces a similar issue in the future, the time it takes for a proposal to be made to the Board of Regents will be considerably shortened.