USS supports benefits

Elise Franco

PRIDE pleased with decision on domestic partner benefits

Members of PRIDE!Kent were all smiles yesterday afternoon as they left the Undergraduate Student Senate meeting, where the motion for domestic partner benefits was passed.

“Last year we tried several times to get it passed,” said Shawn Szymecki, vice president of PRIDE. “USS kept pushing it back until it eventually got pushed all the way to this year.”

Bringing teachers and faculty back to campus was an important reason why PRIDE worked so hard to get the issue through, Szymecki said.

“Passing this is going to give a reason for non-married couples to teach and work at Kent State,” he said. “Right now they’re going to other universities because they are offered benefits.”

PRIDE member John Barham also said this is a good step forward.

“The gay/lesbian/bisexual community as a whole has been trying to get this passed here for at least three years,” he said.

Not all members are as sure of the decision however. Emily Costa, PRIDE member, said she is having some reservations and doesn’t want to get her hopes too high too soon.

“I am just wondering how President Lefton is going to react if USS is having trouble getting in touch with him about something as simple as having coffee,” she said. “I am just cautiously optimistic.”

In an interview earlier this week, Lefton said he will recommend to the board that they move ahead with providing domestic partner benefits if and when Ohio law allows it. Until then, he is against it.

“The state of Ohio has a law against domestic partner benefits. We are a public institution,” he said. “I’m not going to recommend to the Board of Trustees that we break the law.”

Despite this, Szymecki said he is optimistic and pleased that the senate was very much in favor of passing the issue without any debate.

He also said the Graduate Student Senate and the Faculty Senate have shown nothing but support, and the American Association of University Professors opened up a chapter specifically to take care of the issue.

“I am hoping the student support will put more pressure on President Lefton and the Board of Trustees,” he said.

A PRIDE rally was scheduled to take place in correlation with the USS meeting, but was canceled due to an exchange of wrong information between the executive director of the senate and the president of PRIDE.

After the senate voted, Ross Miltner, executive director of USS, apologized for the miscommunication.

“I talked to Amanda Boyd (President of PRIDE) and accidentally told her we were voting on the issue next week,” he said. “I’m sorry for the misunderstanding.”

Members of PRIDE were disappointed the rally was a no-go, but several members still showed up and sat in on the meeting, waiting patiently until the end to hear the vote.

“We reserved Risman Plaza and were going to have constituencies outside wearing T-shirts, passing out information about the issue and showing general support without protesting,” Szymecki said. “Basically they would have been saying, ‘We support USS passing partner benefits.'”

Before USS adjourned for the afternoon, Miltner ask if the public had any other comments or contributions. Barham raised his hand and said, “Thank you!”

Contact general assignment reporter Elise Franco at [email protected].