Last week, the Columbia Daily Tribune published a report about the lack of benefits for domestic partners within the UM system. The report highlighted changing perceptions in recent years, with regard to laws throughout the country allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry or join through civil unions.
UM System Interim President Steve Owens issued a statement in response, hoping to defend the university’s position.
Owens’ statement highlighted the political ideology of residents in Missouri, who, in 2004, voted to define marriage as between a man and woman.
“While other public higher education institutions throughout the country have made domestic partner benefits available, public universities in Missouri and most of our surrounding states have not done so,” he said. “Like other public institutions, the UM System must consider this within our own institution as well as within our state and national context.”
Furthermore, Owens’ statement highlighted divisions among faculty and staff, regarding support for an expansion of benefits to same-sex couples.
A year ago, the UM System issued the Pay and Benefits Preference Study, a survey created to gather the opinions of employees about pay and benefits, to every faculty and staff member at the four UM campuses.
On the question concerning whether “domestic partner (same sex) benefits should receive a high priority if UM resources become available,” 34 percent of respondents agreed, while an equal 34 percent disagreed. The other respondents didn’t express strong opinions on the matter. Of the 7,000 survey respondents, 1,200 skipped the question altogether.
Concerns about funding allocations have also impacted the decision to forgo an expansion of employee health benefits.
“At the same time, there are economic realities facing the university that force us to carefully prioritize, given declining state financial support,” Owens said.
For now, the issue is under review by the Board of Curators.