Reprinted from: Columbia University Record -- September 8, 1995 -- Vol. 21, No. 1

Same Sex Benefits Have Been Expanded

Additional benefits have been made available to same sex partners of full-time eligible officers and support staff effective Sept. 1, reports Jonathan R. Cole, Provost and dean of faculties.

They are: undergraduate and graduate tuition exemption, primary school scholarships, the University's dental plan and survivor rights to University apartments. Children of such couples are also eligible to participate in the tuition, scholarship and dental plans on the same terms as the dependents of officers and staff of the University. Also, officers and staff with same sex partners are now entitled to the leave privileges available under the Family Medical Leave Act to those who are married.

"Our University has had a longstanding commitment to treating individuals equally regardless of sexual orientation," said Cole. "In the spirit of that commitment, we have permitted full-time officers and staff who are eligible for benefits to enroll same-sex domestic partners in our health plans since January 1994."

"We were among the first universities in the nation to do this, and we have reason to believe our action has led others to do the same," he said.

Over the past year, there were extensive consultations with members of the University community, including the Trustees, the deans, the University Senate, and gay and lesbian officers and staff, about giving additional fringe benefits to same sex partners, Cole said. "The consultations revealed near unanimity on the desirability of providing them with the full range of fringe benefits currently available to the spouses of married officers."

Cole said that officers and staff must themselves be eligible for Columbia's fringe benefit plans, and that they will need to demonstrate that they have long-term relationship. Colleen Crooker, vice president for human resources, has distributed the administrative procedures her office is using to implement these additions to Columbia's benefit plans.

Cole also noted that the IRS does not consider such benefits to be exempt from taxes. The University is currently obliged to report such tuition exemption and primary school scholarships as taxable income.