Perhaps there's a side of Aggieland that we've never experienced, but Texas A&M, along with the entire College Station area, has never struck us as a place that accepts alternative lifestyles.
But that could be changing, because the school's Faculty Senate took a step to attract more gay professors. The senators, in an almost unanimous vote, passed a resolution that urges the university to provide insurance to domestic partners.
"I do know personally that we have lost opportunities to recruit very good faculty members because they were gay or lesbian and would be unable to obtain health care benefits for their partners here," Ramona Paetzold, an A&M professor on the faculty senate, told Hair Balls in an e-mail.
Paetzold said that providing the benefits is important to attract the best professors to A&M and accomplish the goals of Vision 2020, a plan to turn the university into an "pre-eminent academic institution."
Furthermore, she said, it's a "matter of fairness that encompasses a diverse view of what it means to be a family."
"The coverage could help many 'family' arrangements and not just same-sex couples," Paetzold said.
The one dissenting vote in the Faculty Senate came from Walter Daugherity, a computer science professor.
We haven't heard back from Daugherity, but he told the Bryan-College Station Eagle, "I think it's unwise for the faculty senate to expand the influence that it has on an issue that System counsel has said would probably be illegal."
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Daugherity's argument is similar to what the university has said for the reason it doesn't already provide insurance for the partners of gay professors. A&M officials have said that Texas insurance code allows a "spouse and/or child" to be a dependent.
So the resolution doesn't do much to actually change the situation at A&M, but it certainly is a strong voice for the type of professors it wants to attract.
Update: Daugherity, the one professor who voted against the resolution, got back to us and said the change wouldn't bother him if the A&M System counsel was okay with it, but he added, "If the definition of 'dependent' for health insurance purposes is expanded by the legislature, the state contribution would have to be increased, and our budget for this biennium was just cut."
Daugherity also said his vote represents the opinion of other A&M professors.