Blood Supply

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FROM THE EVANS SCHOOL OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS

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Science, Discrimination, and the Blood Supply: San José State University’s Blood Drive Ban San José State University Suspends Campus Blood Drives On January 29, 2008, Don W. Kassing, President of San José State University (SJSU), announced that he was suspending indefinitely all blood drives taking place on the SJSU campus, plus any drives taking place elsewhere that were arranged by employees representing the University or by official student organizations. In a letter to the campus community, Kassing explained that the ban was a result of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s lifetime blood donor deferral policy for homosexual men. The policy disallows men who have engaged in sexual activity with another man since 1977 from contributing to the blood supply. Following an investigation prompted by concerns about the fairness of the policy brought to the campus Office for Equal Opportunity by a University employee, Kassing and his administrative staff determined that holding campus blood drives that denied participation to men who engage in sexual activity with other men violated the public University’s non-discrimination policy, which explicitly prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation (see Exhibit A). In justifying the decision, Kassing’s letter to the campus community noted that the FDA’s policy was enacted in 1983 when the risks of AIDS transmission via blood transfusion were first recognized but argued that the policy had never been relaxed even as blood testing technology reduced current risks to levels so low that experts could no longer measure them directly. In fact, he pointed out that AABB (formerly known as the American Association of Blood Banks), America’s Blood Centers and the American Red Cross all had reviewed data on the risks and taken the position that the lifetime ban was unwarranted. Yet the FDA had made no move to undertake additional research nor disclosed when an FDA committee might vote again on the deferral policy. While acknowledging that a university the size of SJSU (32,000 students and 5,700 employees) constituted a potentially important supply of blood donations, Kassing felt a blood drive suspension was warranted. “Our purpose is to respect our policy of non-discrimination and the climate that the policy is intended to create on our campus,” the letter explained. “I have also asked the FDA to contact me so we can discuss this issue further. Specifically, I’d like to discuss timing for additional studies and the next FDA committee vote on the matter.”

This case was prepared by Jason A. Grissom, assistant professor of public affairs, and Jiaqi Liang, MPA student, both of the Harry S Truman School of Public Affairs at the University of Missouri. The case is intended solely as a vehicle for classroom discussion, and is not intended to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of the situation described. The Electronic Hallway is administered by the University of Washington's Daniel J. Evans School of Public Affairs. This material may not be altered or copied without written permission from The Electronic Hallway. For permission, email hallhelp@u.washington.edu, or phone (206) 616-8777. Electronic Hallway members are granted copy permission for educational purposes per Member’s Agreement (www.hallway.org). Copyright 2008 The Electronic Hallway

Science, Discrimination, and the Blood Supply

Response to Kassing’s decision was both immediate and national in scope. The story was covered by major media outlets nationwide after being picked up by the Associated Press. Many students and university staff cheered the University’s move, and Kassing reported receiving numerous telephone calls and e-mails from the campus community voicing strong support for the decision (1). “He [Kassing] was sending a clear...
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