UGA President Michael AdamsThe University of Georgia has inched closer to providing soft benefits to the unmarried domestic partners of its employees, the school’s top administrator said Wednesday.

Acting on a measure unanimously approved by the university’s executive committee in September, UGA President Michael Adams said at his monthly press conference today that he has asked the school’s managing authority for permission to equitably confer benefits using non-state funds and to extend full eligibility for non-married spouses in accessory employee-paid plans.

“We believe we have the flexibility to initiate the voluntary benefits,” he said at his Wednesday press conference. “I would like to have that initiated by the end of the fiscal year. I have asked about the health car portion of the benefits, and I expect to hear a response in the not-too-distant future.”

While Adams sought permission in his letter to extend full health benefits, he said he believed he already had the authority to allow enrollment in the university’s “voluntary employee-paid only benefits” plan, which include supplemental coverage like dental and vision.

“The costs of these plans are paid entirely by the employee and involve no employer dollars,” he wrote in a Nov. 7 letter.

“We have learned that several USG institutions, specifically Georgia Tech, Kennesaw State University, Georgia Perimeter College, Georgia State University, and Georgia Health Sciences University, are allowing domestic partners to participate in their VEPOB plans,” Adams said. “Unless otherwise directed, UGA intends to extend this eligibility to employees with domestic partners in the same fashion as the aforementioned institutions.”

Janet Frick, a professor of development psychology at the university and chair of the Human Resources Committee, told Tipsheet she was hopeful the Board of Regents would allow Adams’ request even as it nixed three previous efforts by the university to extend benefits.

This time is different, she said: previous proposals relied on state funds to cover the broadened eligibility, whereas this measure relies entirely on private contributions. It also doesn’t hurt that Adams has forcefully advocated for its adoption.

Allowing enrollment in the employee-paid accessory plans would put UGA in league with other, lesser state institutions, but it would still trail an estimated 75 percent of its peer and aspirational institutions in health insurance benefits, according to a statistic by the University Council.

– James Richardson