SSU faculty backs blood drive ban, says federal policy biased

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Sonoma State University faculty members split with students Thursday in an ongoing debate over campus blood drives, endorsing a ban unless federal donor policies are changed.

The Academic Senate vote came three weeks after the student government said campus blood drives were too important to stop, despite claims of discrimination.

Neither vote is binding on the university. Any decision to stop collecting blood on campus would be made by Sonoma State President Ruben Armi?na.

Armi?na hasn't taken a public stance and didn't respond to inquiries following the 22-13 vote Thursday by the Academic Senate.

Sonoma State accounts for 5 percent of the donated blood supply in Sonoma, Lake and Mendocino counties. The bid to prohibit campus blood drives stems from a federal policy prohibiting donations by men who have had sex with other men anytime since 1977.

The policy was adopted by the Food and Drug Administration 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.

Rick Luttmann, a Sonoma State math professor, said the FDA rules violate the university's anti-discrimination policy. He asked the student and faculty governments to adopt resolutions calling for a ban on campus blood drives unless the FDA policy is changed.

The Academic Senate resolution "urges the administration to rescind immediately the authorization of blood banks to operate on this campus."

The Associated Students Senate took a nearly opposite approach when it voted April 2, adopting a resolution acknowledging that some people feel discriminated against but finding that blood drives were too important to be halted.

Luttmann couldn't be reached for comment following the Academic Senate vote.

Blood Bank of the Redwoods held a blood drive on campus Thursday.

The anti-discrimination policy has been the subject of recent campus disputes involving the "don't ask, don't tell" policy for gays in the armed services.

Army signs in the gym were removed and its sponsorship of Sonoma State athletics and a winter basketball tournament canceled after the Academic Senate objected.

Some demonstrators at a career day in February were protesting the presence of military recruiters on campus.

Recruiters were banned for several years, but university officials rescinded that policy in 1996 after being threatened with the loss of federal funds, including money for student aid, if recruiters weren't allowed on campus.

You can reach Staff Writer Laura Norton at 521-5220 or laura.norton@pressdemocrat.com

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