Trustees to Consider Domestic Partner Proposal

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

University officials say the program would make UI the first Illinois public university to offer such a benefit if it's approved at a trustees meeting in Urbana tomorrow.

They estimate that 80 to 100 people employed at the three UI campuses would take advantage of the benefit. They also estimate it will cost $320,000 to $400,000, with the money to come from within the university's operating budget.

The proposal calls for the university to reimburse the employee the difference between the cost of medical coverage for the employee's domestic partner and what the employee would pay for dependent coverage under the State of Illinois' medical plan, a proposal that officials say would make UI the first public university in the state to offer such a benefit.

The request, originally made last November, will be made Thursday during the trustees' summer meeting in Urbana. The board also will be asked to approve $16 million in construction contracts to begin moving the historic South Farms at Urbana-Champaign, a process that could take several years.

Seven other Big Ten universities, including Northwestern, offer a same-sex domestic partner health benefit program, but Illinois would be the first public university in the state to do so, said university spokesman Tom Hardy.

Northwestern is one of seven private colleges and universities in Illinois that offer the benefit, according to the Human Rights Campaign, an organization that tracks gay and lesbian issues.

University officials estimate that 80 to 100 people employed at the campuses in Chicago, Springfield and Urbana-Champaign will take advantage of the benefit if it's offered. They estimate it will cost $320,000 to $400,000 a year, with the money to come from within the university's operating budget, and it could be in place by September.

The proposal calls for the university to reimburse an employee the difference between the cost of medical coverage for their same-sex domestic partner and what the employee would pay for dependent coverage under the state medical plan.

The proposal originated within the faculty at the Chicago campus and was endorsed by faculty senates at the other two campuses, said Robert K. Todd, the university's associate vice president for administration and human resources.

"I think when you look at universities in the Big Ten and around the country, this kind of program is becoming pretty standard stuff,'' Todd said. "I think it's something you need to do in a sense of fairness and you need to do it in terms of competitiveness with other universities.''

The proposal was tabled last November because board members wanted to see if the Legislature would enact a same-sex domestic partner plan within the state's benefit system this spring, Todd said.

The century-old South Farms will be moved to land farther south of the Urbana-Champaign campus to make way for an expanded university research park and other uses.

The first phase has a total budget of $25 million and could begin as soon as next month and will involve moving the beef and sheep complex now located just south of Assembly Hall, said Steve Schomberg, the vice chancellor for public engagement and institutional relations.

New beef and sheep barns, offices and waste-handling tanks will be built on the new site, about two miles south of the current location, and the old buildings will be demolished, Schomberg said.

The work is expected to be finished by September 2004, but is only part of a relocation project for the whole farm that could take several years, he said.

``We don't have a hard timeline,'' Schomberg said. "These are major moves, because you're moving science. It takes time and it has to be done on a schedule that fits in with the science of the college.''

Money for the relocation comes from the sale of bonds.


23 WIFR 2523 North Meridian Road Rockford, IL. 61101 Business: 815-987-5300 Fax: 815-965-0981 News: 815-987-5330 Fax: 815-987-5333
Gray Television, Inc. - Copyright © 2002-2014 - Designed by Gray Digital Media - Powered by Clickability 393062 - wifr.com/a?a=393062