Domestic Partners May Be Headed Back to Board of Administrators

January 1, 1998

Nick Marinello

Saying, "I'm a great believer in third-time lucky," Graeme Forbes, professor of philosophy, introduced a resolution to the University Senate during its Dec. 1 meeting that called for the Senate Committee on Affirmative Action to analyze the costs of granting tuition waivers to domestic partners.

The ultimate intention of the resolution, said Forbes, was to send the issue of domestic-partner benefits to the Tulane Board of Administrators for the third time since a measure to do so was initially adopted by the Senate in December 1993.

"The Senate would like to be able to present the board with more information on the costs of providing benefits to domestic partners," said Forbes, who is also chair of the Senate Budget Review Committee.

During its meeting last November, the board rejected the measure by a narrow 10/9 margin. Five members of the board did not vote. In a statement released after the board's decision, John Giffen Weinmann, chairman of the Tulane Board of Administrators, noted that there were "so many unknowns relative to the cost of extending all university benefits to domestic partners." According to Forbes, one of the greatest "unknowns" is the cost of tuition waivers.

"You may be able to get a handle on the number of additional tuition waivers generated by this plan," he said, "but how do you estimate the cost? Are you talking about the sticker price of tuition for each student or the marginal cost?"

Marginal costs would include additional instructors and demands on the infrastructure to support the additional students and, said Forbes, would be considerably less than the sticker price of full tuition. "We want to ask the Tulane Board of Administrators to reconsider the recommendation of its own ad hoc subcommittee," said Forbes.

That subcommittee approved granting benefits to registered domestic partners, providing the university extend those benefits to both same-sex and opposite-sex domestic partners. The Senate, by a narrow vote, had previously excluded opposite-sex domestic partners from receiving benefits.

According to John Koerner, the member of the board of administrators who chaired the subcommittee, Tulane would be "pioneering" such a plan.

"I believe Morehouse College is the only other school that has recognized all domestic relations," he said. "You can't find any empirical information."

He said, however, that the lowest estimate for the additional cost of health insurance was approximately $200,000 a year.

"The tuition waiver was an unknown," he added. "The board has raised issues in terms of expense that the Senate wants to answer," said Hugh Lester, vice-chair of the Senate. Beyond that, suggested Lester, "If the Senate keeps saying that this issue is something that the Tulane community feels is important, perhaps the board will eventually agree."

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000