Because of a federal regulation that prohibits some gay men from donating blood, several sororities and fraternities at Iowa State University chose not to participate in a week-long, campus-wide blood drive.
p. According to reports from the Associated Press and The Des Moines Register, the protest caused a loss of between 400 and 500 donations from the largest student-run blood drive in Iowa.
p. The blood drive is part of Iowa State’s Greek Week, a series of philanthropy events and contests organized by the sororities and fraternities on campus. The protest began after Delta Lambda Phi, a fraternity for gay and bisexual men, objected to the blood drive because the Red Cross was unable to accept donations from some of the members.
p. The Red Cross’s reluctance to accept donations stems from federal legislation. In 1992, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration guidelines disallowed men who have had sex with other men since 1977 from donating blood. The FDA created the rule in order to keep the blood supply protected from HIV.
p. Traditionally, the blood drive receives a majority of its donations from sorority and fraternity members competing to see which organization could have the highest number of volunteers. Due to protests, Greek Week officials decided to end the competition.
p. “We don’t want to endorse events that don’t give equal opportunity to all of our members,” Iowa State senior Courtney Knupp, the general co-chairwoman to oversee Greek Week activities, told the Register.
p. Jennifer Plagman-Galvin, Iowa State’s Greek Affairs adviser, told the Register that the organizers ended the blood drive because some students cannot give blood due to medical history or religious affiliation.
p. Delta Lambda Phi praised the decision to end the competition between Greek organizations. No single fraternity or sorority expressed frustration with the decision, but members from several organizations spoke out against the protest.
p. By mid-week, Iowa State officials realized the effect that the protest was having on the blood drive. In 2006, the school received 713 usable units of blood and this March they only received 466.
p. This is not the first time the issue has occurred on a college campus. In 2005, the University of Maine’s student senate requested that all student organizations to stop participating in blood drives with the Red Cross.
p. While the American Red Cross did not oppose the 1992 regulations in the past, they have begun to protest more recently. In March, they lobbied the FDA to change the rule so that only men who had sex with other men in the past year are ineligible to give blood.