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Shack-Ups & Shakedowns on Campus

Tom Martin, a professor of philosophy at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, publishes The Examined Life, a monthly newsletter pondering “the purpose of a university.” Among the ponderables is this e-mail message sent campus-wide by the university’s administration: “The Dual Career Program will offer a wide range of career assistance services to help relocating partners of UNK employees plan and execute an effective job search…. The program was created because there have been problems in the recruitment of employees because the partners of 92 candidates were in need of appropriate employment.”

Prof. Martin says that the “Assistant to the Assistant Director of Newspeak” has informed him that “a partner means the person with whom the new hiree is currently having a relationship.” Martin was able to determine that wedded spouses do qualify as “partners,” but he still awaits clarification on how persons who are not spouses will satisfy the requirement of “currently having a relationship.” How much time, he asks, must the new employee spend with a “partner” for “their encounter to qualify as a partnership? Six months, three months, three days, three minutes? How many partners is a new hiree allowed? May the new hiree have a spouse as well as an additional partner? May the new hiree hook up with a student upon arrival, and would the student qualify as a partner? Is the program obligated to assist partners who are no longer actively engaged in the partnership?”

Martin expects that, as would be proper in a university setting, precision of language and clarity of definition will prevail. Toward that end he proposes that The Dual Career Program be renamed The Shack-Job Career Program, so as to clarify for the taxpayers of Nebraska exactly what they are funding.

On the national scene, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) has no doubt that taxpayers should be “providing benefits not only to the families of married faculty members, but also to the domestic partners of gay and lesbian professors.” In the AAUP magazine Academe (March-April 1999), attorney Donna R. Euben boasts that universities across the country have been sued successfully to get “family benefits” for people vaguely called by Euben “partners.” The basis for the suits is “discrimination based on marital status.” At Rutgers, says Euben, the university offered to settle a suit by authorizing the renegotiation of “health care coverage not currently provided…for bona fide same-sex domestic partners.” That little Latin phrase brings up again all of Prof. Martin’s questions, and more. How does one establish one’s bona fide “partner” status? First, one has to be the same sex as the employee, which on its face discriminates against the opposite sex, but let that pass. The more delicate question is: How will bona fide same-sex sexual activity be certified? Will a notarized affidavit from the “partner” suffice? Would video evidence be required? Or could one simply put one’s X in a box on a form?

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