USS likely won’t talk benefits this spring

Bryan Wroten

Undergraduate Student Senate most likely will not hold a hearing on domestic partner benefits as decided last December.

USS Executive Director Bill Ross said USS probably won’t have the time to add domestic partner benefits to its agenda because of the duties of the senate this semester.

On Dec. 9, 2005, USS voted unanimously on a motion to hold a hearing to discuss domestic partner benefits. The hearing was supposed to take place Jan. 23 , but was later moved to sometime after the spring election.

PRIDE!Kent President Christopher Taylor said he was very upset by this news. He said USS has been pushing back the hearing date for months now. The decision to not hold a hearing surprised them all, he said.

“It’s so upsetting because PRIDE!Kent has worked so hard with so many groups (on this issue),” he said.

“They did not set a date. I was told it would be at the first of the semester.”

The decision to delay the hearing is not official, Ross said, and USS will discuss the delay at its next meeting, April 3. If a senator enters legislation for a hearing on domestic partner benefits, he said the senate will consider it.

The vote in December was a motion to hear arguments on the issue, Ross said, and no one entered legislation to structure the hearing or even ensure it would happen.

He said USS had several obligations to fulfill this semester, including writing an election bill, forming an election commission and overseeing the election itself.

Following the election, Ross said he realized USS probably would not have enough time to hold a hearing. He also said the senators have to go over allocations guidelines and much of his time is taken up by the Presidential Search Committee.

Taylor disagreed.

USS could make time for domestic partner benefits, as changing allocations guidelines should not take up an entire month, he said.

Preston Mitchum, senator for student advancement, said he brought domestic partner benefits to USS’s attention in December at Taylor’s request for help from USS.

Mitchum said he thinks it would be best for USS to wait until next year for the hearing. Having it next year would mean they would have more influence on the new president, and the process would be too rushed if they were to have it this year, he said.

Taylor said the issue directly affects students, adding that the Graduate Student Senate, the Faculty Senate, the American Association of University Professors and the AAUP-LGBT Faculty Concerns Committee all feel domestic partner benefits are important.

Another cause for confusion for Taylor is that Ross said in a Jan. 19 Daily Kent Stater article that domestic partner benefits were one of the key issues USS wanted to tackle for this semester.

Ross said he agrees the issue is important – there just wasn’t enough time to get to it. He noted other goals he also didn’t have time to work on, such as reorganizing the All Campus Programming Board.

“I want to make clear I do think domestic partner benefits should be a part of the benefits package,” he said.

Taylor said although he’s glad Ross supports domestic partner benefits, his opinion isn’t enough.

“Personal opinion means nothing if you’re not willing to put it before the student body,” he said.

Contact minority affairs reporter Bryan Wroten at [email protected].