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Student Council Decision not to Sponsor Blood Drive Sparks Controversy

Conor Shea '13, Contributor

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On Tuesday, January 29th, the Student Council decided to cancel the Red Cross Blood Drive for this scholastic year.  After an 18-12 vote in favor of removing the Blood Drive from their agenda, representatives prepared to explain the polemic decision to the rest of the student body, who, just like the Council itself, was divided almost down the middle with regards to the issue.

The main problem that caused some students to raise the debate was the allegation that the Red Cross discriminated against members of the homosexual community by denying them the opportunity to donate blood.  In order to ensure the safety of the blood samples, the Red Cross issues a survey which all donors are required to complete before donating blood which asks questions about their medical, travel, and personal history.  The topic in question deals with sexual identity.  According to the eligibility requirements posted on the American Red Cross website, a person should not donate blood if “[they] have done something that puts [them] at risk for becoming infected with HIV.”  As listed on the website, one of the ways a person might be at risk is if they “are a male who has had sexual contact with another male, even once, since 1977.”  For a heterosexual, they too are ineligible for donation if they have had sex with a man who has had sex with a man, abbreviated MSM in many Red Cross public statements.

As a result, many feel that the Red Cross is discriminating against homosexuals for preventing them from helping their fellow man on account of something beyond their control, citing that homosexuals should have the right to donate blood regardless of their practice of their God-given, pre-determined sexuality.  Though there were cases in which AIDS-infected blood samples were given to patients, who in turn contracted HIV as a result of said donation, not all practicing homosexuals have HIV, and to prevent the many on account of the few is discriminatory.  If so many need blood, it would be morally unjust to refuse viable blood samples as they present themselves.

On the other side of the debate, others believe that donating blood is either not a right or that the right to give blood is less important with the right of patients to receive clean blood samples.  While HIV tests are almost 100% effective, it is the exceptions, the infected blood samples which have passed through screenings, which concern the American Red Cross and federal agencies like the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the American Association of Blood Banks (AABB).  It should here be noted that the Red Cross itself does not support the requirement put in place by the FDA which defers all MSM from donating blood for life and are working with the HHS to review and possibly repeal this policy.  Additionally, these people argue that this action unfairly hurts the Red Cross’s mission by preventing those students from donating blood who could not reach a blood donation center on their own.

Tangent to this debate revolves the discussion of whether or not it was within the Student Council’s bounds to make this highly controversial decision without consulting the opinions of those whom the Council represents, the student body.  Students like Patrick Crane ’13 believe that it is necessary for citizens of a community to participate in their government and that it was wrong to not allow students to argue either in favor or against the movement at the Student Council meetings.  As a response, people argue that the Student Council is modeled after the governing body of the United States and is a representative democracy, in which citizens elect officials to vote in governing bodies and represent them in their stead.  The problem of course arises when the supporters of a candidate are divided on an issue, so that whatever decision the official makes will not technically represent the views of everyone which he or she represents.  This system, however, is the system that our community has decided to adopt, without previous complaint, and as such people cannot criticize the current system when it does not suit their purposes yet support it in others.

The controversial debate has split our community almost in two, not only interesting students but also teachers, faculty, and the administration.  In order to further explain the reasons why this course of action was decided upon, the Student Council decided to hold a panel meeting in Bulger Auditorium January 31st. Once the council had heard the voice of the students they decided it just to hold a revote to reflect the opinions of those represented. At said revote the decision was overturned to be replaced by an awareness drive on the controversial issue.

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Student Council Decision not to Sponsor Blood Drive Sparks Controversy