Monday, October 16, 2006

A response to the Fairness Alliance on domestic partner benefits

Paul Brown of the Bluegrass Kentucky Fairness Alliance responded in the Lexington Herald-Leader today to my piece on UK's proposal to provide domestic partner benefits. Needless to say, he didn't like the piece.

This is a great load off of my mind.

Brown makes several criticisms of my original article. He says first that I failed to back up my arguments. "[H]e fails," says Brown of my piece, "to provide much evidence to back up his arguments..."


My argument was that the University of Kentucky would make better use of its time and resources by trying to solve real problems like classes that are too big and professors' salaries that are too low. I listed the size of several freshman classes, some of which boasted over 600 students, and I pointed out that faculty salaries were 89 percent of UK's benchmark schools.

What other evidence does Brown need? Does he think these things are less important than domestic parther benefits policies?

Brown says, "Unfortunately, those issues [class sizes and staff salaries] have zero to do with domestic partner benefits." Actually they have a whole lot to do with each other if you are trying to set your priorities as an institution. The whole point of my piece was that, while Todd other supporters of this policy somehow think this is going to gain them favor with organizations that rank schools (which they won't), there are other more pressing problems that are not being dealt with that rankings agencies really do care about.

He says, "Truthfully, we don't know to what school of thought either UK President Lee Todd or the staffs of school-ranking organizations subscribe." We don't? Todd has expressed himself several times on this issue. When he first came to UK he said his own company had such a policy and that he saw no reason UK shouldn't have one as well. And we certainly know where school rankings organizations stand in regard to the relative importance of benefits for live-in sexual partners and class sizes. In fact, the U.S. News and World Report criteria include nothing about domestic partner benefits policies. They do, however, include class size as a major factor in their rankings decisions.

Brown also takes issue with my terminology. "Suggesting that domestic partners are merely 'live-in sexual partners' is reprehensible," he says. It's not reprehensible, it's accurate--and honest. The single and only qualification for receiving domestic partner benefits is that you be having sex with the person you are claiming as a domestic partner. Period. If not, then we can all sign up our best friends who happen to be rooming with us.

Is Brown really denying this?

Brown goes through laundry list of things he says domestic partners do together: "These partners own houses together. They go to work in the morning and come home to each other at night. They cook dinner together, split the household chores, divide the bills, share the yard work, watch TV together and fall asleep together." The appropriate response to which is, "So what?" None of these things qualifies you for benefits under a domestic partner program.

So let's say this clearly one more time: you can't get benefits under domestic partner programs unless you are having sex with the person who wishes to qualify.

And Brown accused me of bring up extraneous issues?

Finally, Brown says that benefits for live-in sexual partners will help UK's students. His argument? That they will "attract a more diverse, talented faculty." Well let's take these two things in turn. Let's start with "diverse". Well, if by diverse you mean that UK's faculty will have more people who are living in non-married sexual relationships with each other, then, yes, the faculty will be more diverse. But how does this help students?

Does Brown think that if we surveyed UK parents, they would agree that having more faculty living in non-married sexual relationships helps their children learn? I seriously doubt it. In fact, a good portion of them would think that UK was a less attractive place, not a more attractive one, to send their kids.

And what about "talented"? Will benefits for live-in sexual partners help UK attract a more "talented" faculty? How? Brown claimed my editorial presented no evidence for my argument (which, in fact it did). What is Brown's evidence for this claim? What study has shown that these policies do what their advocates claim? Where is it?

It doesn't exist, and Brown knows it.

There is no proof that domestic partner benefit policies will attract more talented faculty. None. There is no study. No research. Not a single solitary piece of evidence.

Where is your evidence, Mr. Brown? Don't bother getting back to me until you can produce it.

Oh, and by the way, I'm not holding my breath.

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