UF changes wording for benefits pledge


Published: Tuesday, January 24, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 23, 2006 at 11:29 p.m.
Citing news media-fueled "confusion" about its domestic partnership health care plan, the University of Florida will no longer ask enrollees to pledge that they're in a "non-platonic" relationship.
The five to 10 employees who have thus far enrolled in UF's plan have stated that they "have been in a non-platonic relationship for the preceding 12 months.
UF will remove the language from the affidavit, following a Friday article in The Gainesville Sun that reported on a faculty member's public complaints about the "offensive" requirement.
"I think there was ongoing confusion about what was intended," said Kyle Cavanaugh, UF's vice president of Human Resources. " . . . It seems logical to make an immediate change."
Cavanaugh attributed much of the confusion about the policy to The Sun's article, which characterized the "non-platonic" clause as a "pledge of sexual activity."
The Sun's headline read: "UF requirement for partner benefits: You must have sex."
Cavanaugh said he was disappointed with the headline, which he said was inaccurate.
"Non-platonic" was never meant to imply sex or physical intimacy, only a "long-standing, committed relationship," he said.
Regardless of UF's claims, there's no question that "non-platonic" describes a sexual relationship, said Judy Turner, a UF lecturer in Ancient Greek. "Non-platonic" would mean the opposite of "platonic," a term attributed to the Greek philosopher Plato describing a relationship without sex, Turner said.
"If you go out of your way to say it's non-platonic, then you're saying it's sexual," said Turner, who has a doctorate in ancient history from the University of California-Santa Barbara. " . . . They're trying to spin this and it can't be spun."
The first public complaint about the affidavit came from Marylou Behnke, a UF senator who addressed Cavanaugh at a Faculty Senate meeting Thursday.
When Behnke called the affidavit "offensive," Cavanaugh said others had also complained about the language and that the university was considering changes.
The phrase "non-platonic," increasingly used in domestic partner plans, is designed to ensure employers aren't obligated to cover employees' longtime roommates, Cavanaugh had said. Shands HealthCare uses the same phrase in its recently approved plan.
UF received numerous calls from national news media outlets about the affidavit Monday, said Steve Orlando, the university's director of news and public affairs. A link to The Sun's story was placed on www.drudgereport.com, a Web site frequently trolled by the news media for stories.
CNN, MSNBC's Scarborough Country and a Christian radio talk show based in Chicago all contacted The Sun about the story Monday.
Jack Stripling can be reached at 374-5064 or Jack.Stripling@ gvillesun.com.

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