Faculty Benefits Committee Meeting Minutes

February 2, 2007, 1:30 – 3:00 PM

 

Present: Jean Hudgins, Dale Atkins, Leanne West, Chuck Donbaugh, Leanne West, John Grovenstein, and Michael Chang

Administration

Minutes from the 12/13/2006 Committee Meeting were reviewed and approved.

Old Business

·        Postdoc eligibility for ORP vs. TRS

o       Donbaugh reported that the Executive Committee approved the proposal to include postdocs in the General Faculty and will submit a resolution at the next meeting of the General Faculty (2/6/07)  requesting that the Statutes Committee draft the requisite changes. (Note: such a resolution was introduced and passed by the General Faculty / Academic Senate on 2/6/07; also passed at that time was a similar resolution for the Statutes Committee to draft changes that would make certain athletic association employees members of the General Faculty. In both these cases, the purpose is to allow these members to gain access to the ORP.)

·        Maternity and Family matters

o       West will continue to follow-up with Mary Brown of Brown-Richards Consulting, a family wellness consultant, to obtain a list of maternity benefits elsewhere.

·        Benefits for faculty deployed or traveling internationally

o       Donbaugh and Grovenstein reported that many of the concerns that this committee has regarding international deployment is apt to be addressed as Georgia Tech assembles a team and program around the theme of “Global Tech.” The Committee offered its assistance as needed, and requested that it be kept briefed on the progress of Global Tech.

o       Atkins commented that Global Tech can’t happen soon enough as the demand for international work is forging ahead, with or without administrative and HR support.   

New Business

·        Domestic Partner Benefits

o       The Committee entertained a candid discussion on the topic of providing health benefits to unmarried partners of employees. This discussion was prompted by the request of faculty at Georgia State University for the Committee to consider endorsing and forwarding to the General Faculty / Academic Senate a “Report On Amendment To Insurance Providers” to be sent to Chancellor Davis and the Georgia Board of Regents. The draft to be considered was dated January 29, 2007 and is included here as an appendix to these minutes.

o       At the outset of the discussion, it was noted that sexual orientation is a “protected” employment category at Tech similar to race and religion. It was further noted that the partners of all Tech employees are eligible for any and all non-State funded benefits that the Institute offers. These include CRC priviledges, voluntary benefits like MetLife, Dental Plan, and Buzzcard (and the inherent access and benefits granted thereby).

o       The Committee was generally receptive to the report and willing to continue to consider the issues, topics, and questions raised by it. The Committee found value in the intent of the report. The Committee, however, found the report to be loose in its definitions of benefits and costs, and somewhat speculative in regards to many of the assumed relationships between pay and benefits (or lack thereof) and the ability of the university(-ies) to remain competitive. The Committee felt that it could not consider forwarding the report on to the General Faculty Assembly / Academic Senate for a resolution vote given, what the Committee considers to be, the shortcomings in the report. Rather than this be the end, however, the Committee reported back to the GSU authors that it is willing to write a constructive "peer review" of the report that describes where the Committee found the report to be strong, and where the report was weak and ways in which it could be made stronger. The intent is to complete this review in the next two or three weeks. The Committee made no further commitments to consider future action at this time, but we will continue to hear comments from GSU and others and are certainly open to re-evaluating future plans.

o       The report aside, the Committee did discuss some issues related generally to "strategy" -- political and otherwise -- regarding how to approach this topic of benefits for domestic partners. It seemed evident that a change in partner eligibility for benefits could be done only by an act of the state legislature, and it was equally clear that the legislature is not "ripe" to pass such legislation on the bases of moral or equity grounds alone. The corollary is that the business argument, the tact taken in the GSU report, could have sway -- but it has to be a tight and sound argument. Even with such a resolution, would the Chancellor consider bringing the request? The Committee could not speculate. It was likewise not clear if forcing a vote by the legislature would move the cause in a positive direction or set it back at this point in time. The Committee was also cognizant of the fact that Georgia Tech is in the midst of launching a highly ambitious $1 billion capital campaign. Whereas, the Committee did not fear that the topic of domestic partner benefits would substantially affect the campaign, or that the campaign would be averse to the Institute offering domestic partner benefits, it did recognize that there would be some additional discussions that would have to occur with some potential sponsors and that the Committee or others would have to work closely with the administration and with the development office to help them construct those conversations. Lastly, there seems to be word circulating that the legislature may be considering ways in which it can scale back some benefits to retirees and active employees in an attempt to conserve escalating costs for health care.  This raised the issue that if the legislature is cutting benefits for some, is it good timing to be trying to raise benefits for others? 

·        Kaiser Offices

o       It was reported to the Committee that Kaiser is opening new offices in the Atlanta metropolitan area to better serve its customers.

·        Regents Plan Design Committee

o       Grovenstein reported that he has been invited to serve on a Plan Design Committee that will make recommendations as to what (but not who) will be covered in the various plans that the USG and its units make available to employees.

·        Mandatory Background Checks

o       The Committee was told that the Chancellor has introduced a new policy that requires that all new staff and faculty hires will be subject to background checks. Further, any employee charged with a crime is required to report the incident to their supervisor within 72 hours. The Committee, it should be noted, did not respond favorably to this policy.

·        Long term care

o       Atkins requested that this Committee revisit the topic of long term care – last discussed in the 2004-2005 period. The Committee agreed that this is an “evolving insurance product” and concurred that the Committee should re-examine the possibility of offering it.

Next Meeting

·        February 28, 2007, 3:00-4:30 PM.