February 16, 2009


B. Questions to the President.

From Professor Lisa L. Moore (English and women's and gender studies).

Representative Elliott Naishtat is sponsoring legislation in the House that would enable UT to offer an "adult plus one" insurance policy to UT employees. Do you think that this legislation would positively address the domestic partnership benefits issue at UT?

Would you be willing to appoint a task force similar to the Gender Equity Task Force to make recommendations to you regarding how to solve the domestic partnership benefits problem?

In response to Professor Moore’s first question, President Powers replied, “I think it would.” If the proposed legislation passed, he said it would change the law that has constrained the university’s policies regarding benefits and allow flexibility here on campus to decide what should be allowed. He said he had discussed the matter with Professor Moore and others and explained that UT System and UT Austin were not taking a position on the legislation. However, he said his discussions with Representative Naishtat about the proposed bill’s design convinced him that its passage would remove a legal prohibition that now exists against providing domestic partner benefits at UT Austin.

President Powers said he had talked with Professor Moore after the Gender Equity Task Force meeting, and she had made several constructive suggestions about where UT might look to see what had been done in other places where legal constraints had not existed. He said the purpose of this, according to Professor Moore, was to make progress on this issue while the legislative debate progresses. In response to her second question, President Powers said he thought there were other issues in addition to domestic partner benefits, such as graduate student housing, that a study group might consider. However, he said he did not think the range of issues would require the extensive data gathering and time commitment that had been required by the Gender Equity Task Force. He said he planned to work with Professor Moore and see if the issues she was concerned about could be studied in conjunction with the work underway from the Gender Equity Task Force’s findings and recommendations.

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