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JIC Post:Associated Press LARAMIE - University of Wyoming officials want trustees and the Legislature to consider extending benefits not just to employees' spouses, but to domestic partners as well, a move they say is necessary to keep the university competitive in hiring and retaining employees. Interim President Thomas Buchanan told the trustees Friday benefits are becoming increasingly important in recruiting and retaining employees. Myron Allen, vice president of academic affairs, said many of the institutions the university competes with for employees - flagship universities in 21 states and nearly half of the Fortune 500 companies - extend health insurance and other benefits to domestic partners. "Domestic-partner coverage has become a competitive advantage for a lot of corporations and universities in the national marketplace," Allen said. "We compete with those folks directly." The trustees took no action Friday, and ultimately any decision would have to be made by the Legislature because university employees are part of the state's employee benefits program. It would also entail an additional cost at a time when benefits make up an increasing share of the university's budget. Beth Hardin, vice president for administration, said two-thirds of the university's budget goes toward salaries and benefits. Two trustees talked about domestic-partner benefits outside the trustees meeting - one open to the idea, the other rejecting it. Peggy Rounds, of Evanston, said it's something that should at least be discussed. "I think it needs to be looked at," she said. "We're losing talent because we haven't addressed it, and the state needs to address it as well." Taylor Haynes, of Cheyenne, disagreed, saying he couldn't support any domestic-partner benefits. "I don't think we need to take the lead on that, and I'd be dead-set against it," Haynes said. "I would be in favor of spouses, period." Trustees also were told the university was making do with fewer faculty members than in the past. Allen said there were 11 fewer full-time faculty members in 2003 in the liberal arts and sciences - the fields with the heaviest teaching loads - than there were in 1998.
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