UT Rejects Same-Sex Benefits; Faculty Protests

Members of the University of Tennessee Faculty Senate called a letter Monday from the campus chancellors regarding benefits for same-sex partners “appalling,” reports the News Sentinel.
The letter sent by Chancellors Larry Arrington and Jimmy Cheek, followed a request for a response by the faculty after it drafted a resolution in April supporting education, leave and health benefits for same-sex couples that mirror what is offered to married couples.
…”We hope you understand that in our positions as leaders of an agency of the State of Tennessee, it is incumbent upon us to act consistently with the public policy of our state,” the letter reads.
The chancellors wrote that the three faculty proposals — offering education credits, leave to care for partners and their children, and family health care coverage that is consistent with what the university provides married spouses — are “inconsistent with the public policy of our state outlined in constitutional and statutory provisions.”
Faculty senators, however, expressed frustration that the three-paragraph letter left no room for dialogue, did not explain which laws such benefits would violate and did not offer alternative solutions.
“This seemed to be a three-sentence response, and it’s a very sensitive issue, and I’d like to know more in-depth some background on this,” Wanda Costen, an associate professor in the Department of Retail, Hospitality, and Tourism Management, said during the meeting. “This is not one I’m willing to let go lightly.”
Tina Shepardson, an associate professor of religious studies, agreed that the letter was too brief. The resolution passed in April specifically asked for a plan for progress and a response to a list of 33 benefit items, she pointed out.

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