Compiled by Michael Susi
GABLES-CU Domestic Partnership Task Force
As of September 1, 1995 Columbia University has become one of a growing
number of colleges and universities to offer the full array of its fringe
benefits to same-sex domestic partners of its faculty and nonunion employees.
Extension of benefits to "spousal-equivalents" began over a decade ago with
the extension of library, then gym, privileges. (For students, the University
Health Service was a pioneer in this area, extending use to partners of
students on the Morningside Campus.) Health benefits was the next major
breakthrough, offered here since January 1994. Benefits recently added to
this list are: tuition exemption for spouses and dependents in undergraduate
and graduate courses and degree programs, primary school tuition scholarships,
dental plan membership, and survivorship rights to University apartments.
Following is a comprehensive list of benefits with a short description
of the benefit, eligibility criteria, and a contact for further information.
The general rule is that all benefits will be offered to partners and
dependents on the same terms as those currently offered to opposite-sex
spouses. The only differences will be in verifying eligibility and in
the taxes accruing to the employee using the benefit(s) for his/her domestic
Please note: Every attempt has been made to verify the
information contained herein, but changes in policy may quickly outdate
this information. Please inform me of any changes or resistance you may
encounter in pursuing these benefits (via e-mail: email@example.com),
but do remember that many of these policies are new and will take an extra
bit of perseverance on your part since staff may not always be aware of
The University offers domestic partner and dependent coverage under
all its health plans (a first in New York State) -- Oxford Point-of-Service
(POS) Plan, Aetna plans, or any of the HMOs. Applicants need to fill
out the Benefits Selection Form and select either (a) Officer &
Partner, or (b) Family. A Dental Plan is also available.
Eligibility -- The following criteria need to be met
during the application procedure:
- Both individuals must be of the same gender.
- Partners must live together for at least six consecutive months
prior to coverage.
- Partners must anticipate living together in a personal relationship
in which there is "joint and reciprocal" financial responsibility.
- Employee will be required to provide any two pieces of documentation
that show shared responsibility.
Acceptable documentation includes:
- a joint lease or mortgage
- a joint bank account
- joint ownership of a motor vehicle
- designation of the partner as primary beneficiary in an employee's
- designation of the partner as beneficiary for life insurance
or retirement benefits.
- assignment of power of attorney to the partner or
- NYC Domestic Partnership Registration certificate (Call (212)
669-8190 for more information)
In addition, the following forms will be required for
dependents of the documented partners:
- Birth certificate, adoption papers, or guardianship papers.
Tax Liability -- Because of Internal Revenue Service
(IRS) regulations, the employee must pay monthly payroll contributions
for the partner's (and dependent's) portion of the coverage (difference
between new premium and the officer-only premium) on an after-tax,
not a pretax, basis. In addition, under law, the amount that Columbia
pays toward the partner's (and dependent's) coverage will count as
taxable income. This income is subject to federal income tax and FICA,
normally withheld through payroll deductions. This will add significantly
to the cost of coverage for your domestic partner and dependent(s).
Contact -- A benefits specialist can provide you with
more information on health insurance options (including the Dental
Plan), help you with the tax calculation, and provide you with an
enrollment form. 313 Dodge, x42360.
Undergraduate and Graduate Tuition Exemption for Domestic Partners
& Undergraduate and Primary School Tuition Scholarship for Dependents
The amount of tuition waived for the partner depends upon several
factors, including the year in which the employee was hired, and whether
the exemption is used for graduate or undergraduate courses or degrees.
The University will pay 100% of the tuition for dependents working
toward an undergraduate degree at a Columbia institution; 50% at another
undergraduate institution. There is also a pool of funds to be distributed
for primary school scholarships. Eligibility - The criteria for these
benefits is described above under Health Insurance. If you have provided
acceptable documentation for enrollment in that program, it is not
necessary to establish partnership again. Tax Liability - The IRS
does not consider tuition benefits given to same-sex domestic partners
and dependents as exempt from taxes. As long as it holds to that interpretation
of the IRS code, the University must report any tuition exemption
as taxable income to the employee and take the value of those benefits
into account when calculating the taxes withheld from the employee's
Contact -- For benefits available, tax implications,
and forms, contact Tuition Benefits Office, 401 Low Library, x43817.
Family Medical Leave Act
Columbia recognizes domestic partners as it is federally-mandated to
recognize spouses in enabling employees to take unpaid leave for personal
reasons involving their spouse/partner, children or parents. Above criteria
will be required.
Contact -- For more information, speak to a Benefits
Officer in 313 Dodge, x42360.
Up to three days of leave is allowed upon the death of a family member,
including domestic partner or child of a domestic partner. This is generally
worked out with the employee's supervisor.
Reading and borrowing privileges for domestic partners, and their
children, is available upon application in 234 Butler. Eligibility
criteria not required.
Contact -- Library Information Office, x 42271.
Survivorship rights are available to domestic partners of full-time
officers with tenure or who have been with the University for more
than 15 years.
Contact -- For more information, call the Office
of Institutional Real Estate, 400 W 119th St, x49410.
MORNINGSIDE CAMPUS BENEFITS
Dodge Physical Fitness Center
Family privileges are accorded to partners and families (children
to age 19). Application is taken (with appropriate payment) at the
Ticket Office (400 Level). Eligibility criteria not required.
Contact -- Rates and further information available,
Access to listing of short- and long-term accommodations, as well
as shares, in New York City apartments. For hours and access information
(a CU ID or letter of introduction is generally needed),
Contact -- 115 Hartley, x42773
HEALTH SCIENCES CAMPUS BENEFITS
Addendum: Student Benefits
Students may use the Dodge Hall Fitness Center and Bard Hall Athletic benefits
described above. In addition, there are the following student-specific benefits:
MORNINGSIDE CAMPUS BENEFITS
Student Health Service
Domestic partners (no dependents) of students are seen on a fee-for-service
basis. The visit includes all in-house procedures and tests. Any tests
sent out or done off-site are billed to the partner by the facility
used. Partners do not have access to the in-house dispensary. Primary-care
services only; specialty care is not offered.
Eligibility -- A student is asked to identify his/her
partner for record-keeping purposes and may change a designated partner
if he/she wishes.
Contact - University Health Services, 400 John Jay Hall,
Student Housing in Columbia-Owned Apartments
Applications require that you check either single, couple, and/or children.
Eligibility -- No documentation required.
Contact -- Office of Institutional Real Estate, 400 W 119th
HEALTH SCIENCE CAMPUS BENEFITS
Student Health Service
e Partner can be seen if he/she is enrolled as a dependent of the student.
However, the Blue Cross Hospitalization group policy does not accept
domestic partners as dependents in the Health Sciences. Therefore, domestic
partners must show proof of hospitalization coverage in order to enroll
as a dependent in the Health Service.
Married Student Housing
Couple and family housing. 50 Haven Avenue, 305-6853.
Michael Susi -- Last Updated: