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Battle over blood

  • Melissa Minton, right, donates blood while phlebotomist Scott Godwin collects samples of her blood in vials, inside a Blood Bank of the Redwoods mobile unit at Community Market in Santa Rosa on Thursday, March 6, 2008.
    (Press Democrat/ Christopher Chung)

When nurses from Blood Bank of the Redwoods set up their needles, blood machines and cartons of high-fructose juice at Sonoma State University last week, 94 students, faculty and staff members donated blood.

Math professor Rick Luttmann was not one of them.

He was ineligible, he said, because of a federal Food and Drug Administration ban on blood donations from men who had had sex with men. A ban that he said amounts to unlawful discrimination.

Blood drives are the newest battleground for SSU faculty members who, led by Luttmann, are out to purge organizations on the 8,500-student campus they say discriminate against gays .

In a resolution to the school's Academic Senate, Luttmann has asked that SSU discontinue all campus blood drives because the FDA ban violates the school's anti-discrimination policy.

Blood bank officials say SSU accounts for about 5 percent of the regional blood supply.

SSU's administration has not taken a position on the proposed resolution, said Susan Kashack, university spokeswoman.

It is not the first time faculty members have argued against allowing an organization on campus because of similar concerns. In October, SSU canceled a $15,000 athletic sponsorship deal with the Army after faculty members complained that the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy for gay service members violated the campus policy.

If the blood bank resolution is approved by the faculty, as Luttmann predicts it will be, it will go the administration to decide whether blood drives can be continued on campus.

"The blood banks say if you are gay you are second-class, your blood isn't worthy," Luttmann said. "If the administration is really serious about the nondiscrimination policy, then we can't tolerate blood banks."

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