Faculty Petitions Fordham’s Failure to Provide Equal Benefits For All


Other Jesuit institutions like Georgetown and Boston College have granted equal benefits to all faculty. (Craig Calefate/The Observer)

Published: December 11, 2008

Fordham has refused to provide healthcare to legally domiciled adults residing with employees, including same-sex partners, despite a unanimous faculty senate vote in 2006 approving a resolution to do so.

Over 420 faculty and administration have signed a petition drafted and presented by the Committee for Equality asking the University to implement the resolution. The Committee holds that by refusing to acquiesce, Fordham is failing to uphold its own policies of non-discrimination in matters of employment on the basis of sexual orientation.

“[I] have been teaching at Fordham for 21 years,” said Arnaldo Cruz-Malavé, professor of Spanish and comparative literature and associate director of the Latin American and Latino Studies Institute at Fordham. Cruz-Malavé is a member of the Committee for Equality and said that he is directly impacted by the University’s non-compliance with the 2006 resolution.

“During those 21 years, I have been paying into our common faculty and administrators’ benefits, and yet my partner of 31 years, now my spouse (we were married in Massachusetts last spring), has not been able to receive any of these benefits. So for the past 21 years, we have had to either forego his health insurance or pay an exorbitant amount,” Cruz-Malavé said.

The term “legally domiciled adult” (LDA) includes same-sex partners and is broadly defined as “an adult who has a close personal relationship with the employee, lives with the employee and is financially interdependent with him or her.” According to the Committee for Equality, “every other leading Jesuit university has adopted the same or similar policies [to the one outlined in the resolution],” including Georgetown University, Boston College, University of San Francisco, Loyola University of Los Angeles, Loyola University of Chicago, Santa Clara University and Seattle University.

Jane Bolgatz, associate professor of social studies education in the Division of Curriculum and Teaching at the Graduate School of Education, has been refused benefits for her life partner from the University.

“Currently, my family spends an additional  $1,200 per month on health benefits for my partner, who is not covered under Fordham’s current policy,” said Bolgatz.

Bolgatz said that expenses for their son include day care, which totals $1,400 per month. “This is a burdensome expense,” she said, “Clearly the more than $14,000 dollars we would save per year if Fordham gave equitable benefits to all faculty would help our family.”

Sarah Zimmerman, associate professor of English at Fordham, said that she signed the Committee for Equality’s petition because she is “strongly in favor of all Fordham faculty members having equal access to benefits for their families.” Zimmerman referenced the fact that other leading Jesuit universities have embraced this policy and said, “Fordham is, at present, way behind the curve.”

In regard to the petition, Fordham issued the following statement: “Under Federal law, private employers in New York state are not required to extend health care coverage to same-sex spouses. Fordham continues to comply with the law as it applies to the University and will implement any changes the law dictates as they occur.”

In response to Fordham’s statement, Anne Hoffman, professor of English and comparative literature at Fordham, said “This is an issue whose time has come,” and that “enough precedents have been set around us in New York state for Fordham [to follow].”

The Committee has responded to Fordham’s statement and said, “We hope that the University will see compelling reasons to comply not only with Federal law but also with state and local law, as well as with the University’s own stated non-discrimination policy in matters of employment.”

Cruz-Malave referenced a bulletin issued on Nov. 21 by New York State Insurance Superintendent Eric Dinallo, in which he states, “Any employer [private as well as public] that fails to recognize the marriages of same-sex couples legally performed in other jurisdictions will be in violation of state laws prohibiting discrimination.”

Concluding its response, the Committee stated, “In addition, we hope that the University will comply with its own Faculty Senate’s unanimous resolution to extend benefits to the partners, same-sex spouses or LDAs of its employees, approved over two years ago, in spring 2006.  And we especially hope that the University will comply with its own long-standing tradition of social justice and equity for all.”

Faculty and students alike have expressed disappointment with Fordham’s lack of action regarding benefits for LDAs and same-sex couples.

“By failing to implement policies to grant LDAs benefits, Fordham is neglecting to care for the people within its own community; Fordham is neglecting to follow its own mission statement of cura personalis,” said Dan Drolet, FCLC ’12.

“We all like to think that our jobs are not only a source of personal recognition and self-worth, but that they also allow us to form solid familial bonds in order to protect those whom we love,” Cruz-Malave said. “What is most painful and damaging about Fordham’s refusal to extend benefits is to feel that one cannot do this; that one cannot protect one’s family, those to whom one is committed in bonds of love.”

Yet he said that he remains optimistic. “We are hopeful that this extraordinary and moving collegial support will resonate with the University administration, and that it will convince the administration to mandate Human Resources and all appropriate University offices to implement the Senate’s unanimously approved resolution in order to ensure that all our families are protected, especially during the current economic and health crisis.”