Unmarried partners to receive benefits

Five months after graduate and professional school student leaders began lobbying the Yale administration to allow students’ committed heterosexual partners to receive the same benefits as married spouses or homosexual partners, Yale Provost Susan Hockfield sent a letter to student leaders Monday revealing several new services available to such partners.

Members of the Graduate and Professional Student Senate and Graduate Student Assembly have pushed since last semester for students’ unmarried heterosexual partners to receive Yale IDs, which grant students’ homosexual partners and spouses access to the shuttle service, gymnasium and libraries. GPSS President Jason Marshall SOM ’04 and GSA Chairman Christopher Mason GRD ’07 said unmarried heterosexual partners will be allowed to access these amenities but will not be given ID’s.

In addition to these benefits, Hockfield said in the letter to Marshall and Mason that any graduate or professional school student’s unmarried heterosexual partner can use the Yale College Council’s discount card, as well as the 10 percent discount at the Yale Bookstore that students, faculty and staff receive with a Yale ID. Since they will not have a Yale ID, unmarried heterosexual partners will have to show their shuttle bus guest pass and another form of identification to receive the 10 percent discount.

Marshall said he is pleased with this “cautious first step.”

“Overall, we’re pretty positive about it,” Marshall said. “The administration is willing to listen.”

Mason said he would like the University eventually to grant committed, unmarried heterosexual partners health benefits, which he said are currently extended to homosexual partners and married heterosexual partners.

“[This is] a first step,” Mason said. “It’s not the last step on the issue.”

Deputy Provost for Undergraduate and Graduate Programs Lloyd Suttle said the students did not request the health benefits for their partners, so Yale officials did not consider the matter.

Suttle said giving unmarried heterosexual partners ID’s would require too much administrative time and that ID’s are not required for them to receive services.

“The ID would require another whole level of administrative effort in creating records and so forth,” Suttle said.

Jonathon Swersey SOM ’05 said he was pleased with the changes, which will help his fiancee Julie. He said his fiancee has had to make several significant choices — including taking the Connecticut bar exam and commuting to New York each day — to stay with him at Yale.

“The least the University can do is let her go to the library on the weekend,” Swersey said.

But unmarried heterosexual partners do not have the same library privileges as homosexual and married heterosexual partners, Marshall said. While homosexual partners, like married spouses, will continue to have free library access and borrowing privileges, unmarried heterosexual partners will have to pay to use certain services. Hockfield said in her letter that borrowing privileges for unmarried heterosexual partners will cost $50 per semester.

Suttle said the University is trying to protect its libraries’ resources.

“We’re trying to cover the administrative cost of providing them access,” he said.

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