Blood drives at Sonoma State University, threatened by a faculty resolution saying they discriminate against gay men, will continue, the school's president has said.
President Rubin Armi?na wrote in a letter to faculty and student leaders that there was no legal ruling that a federal policy banning blood donations from homosexual men violated anti-discrimination policies.
The ban, Armi?na wrote, "has not been determined unlawful by any court in this country."
On April 24, members of the Sonoma State Faculty Senate voted 21-13 to approve a resolution urging Armi?na's administration to rescind the authorization of blood banks to operate at the school.
The faculty was protesting the U.S. Food and Drug Administration policy prohibiting donations by men who have had sex with other men anytime since 1977. The policy was adopted to try to prevent the spread of HIV, which causes AIDS, through blood transfusions.
Critics say blood-screening techniques already in use would detect HIV, making the policy unnecessary.
Professor Rick Luttmann, lead author of the faculty resolution, said the decision diminished the school's nondiscrimination policy.
Luttmann also disagreed with Armi?na's reasoning.
The interpretation of the phrase "unlawful discrimination" by California State University's legal counsel is "so narrow that it essentially reduces our campus policy to a simple statement that we will obey court orders," Luttmann said.
Faculty Chairman Tim Wandling said that "most in our campus community believe the FDA must change its policy on this matter."
Armi?na declined to comment beyond the text of the letter.
In the same letter to faculty announcing his decision, Armi?na accepted a student resolution opposing the FDA's deferral of men who have sex with men but supporting continuing drives on campus.
Armi?na said he planned to send a letter to the FDA expressing campus concern with the blood donation policy. He invited members of the campus community to sign the letter with him.
Sonoma State students host monthly blood drives, contributing 5 percent of the blood supply for Sonoma, Lake and Mendocino counties.
In the spring semester, 306 units of blood were donated in on-campus blood drives.
Monthly blood drives are to continue on campus through the summer.
Campus debate of the topic did not cause any dips in donations, said Kent Corley, spokesman for Blood Bank of the Redwoods.
Instead, donations were slightly higher than anticipated, he said.
"I think we're off to a good start, whether or not the debate made any difference in the number of people coming out. We're happy to still be there and wanted," Corley said.
Student leaders cheered Armi?na's decision, but said debate of the issue had only just begun.
"This gives us a great opportunity to explore other options for activism," said outgoing student representative Jonathan White.
"There's a definite need for education on this topic," he said. "We will get a much more passionate response from students if we can get them up to speed. At that point, I would feel comfortable banning blood drives if we have exhausted all other options."
You can reach Staff Writer Laura Norton at 521-5220 or laura.norton@pressdemocrat