Blood Drives Decision


February 21, 2008

To the Campus Community:

I am writing today to express my gratitude for the strong support many of you have shown for our decision to suspend campus blood drives. I greatly appreciate your telephone calls and e-mails and will respond to them.

Please be assured I remain steadfast in my belief that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's lifetime blood donor deferral affecting gay men violates our non-discrimination policy. Our policy is much more than a regulation. It is an expression of values we all share, most notably our core belief that people must be treated as individuals, free of prejudice.

So I am greatly concerned that the FDA's lifetime deferral affecting gay men remains in place because it may be safe and appropriate for these men to be treated individually, as is the case with people of other sexual orientations.

We are not alone in this position. For the past decade, students and administrators sharing our position on college campuses nationwide have contacted the FDA and blood collection agencies to voice their concerns. In addition, the American Red Cross, America's Blood Centers and AABB -- three organizations that stake their reputations on blood supply safety -- have released a statement calling upon the FDA to modify the deferral affecting gay men.

Like these organizations, San José State is asking the FDA to make the deferral affecting gay men consistent with the deferral for others at high risk for HIV. Currently, most people at high risk for HIV are barred from giving blood for 12 months while gay men are treated differently and barred for life.

For nine months, my staff and I studied this issue and consulted many experts. What began as a response to one employee's complaint evolved into a university position based on our shared values. Like many of you, I am very concerned that our position will reduce the amount of blood available to people in need. I ask that you be guided by your personal responsibilities to family and community and by your own values in deciding whether to give blood off-campus while SJSU awaits the FDA's response.

I have requested a meeting with the U.S. Food and Drug commissioner. In a face-to-face discussion, I plan to explore ways San José State can work with the FDA to amend its deferral policy while maintaining blood supply safety, increasing the number of blood donors, and making it possible for SJSU to once again hold campus blood drives that support and honor individual rights as reflected by our non-discrimination policy.

My associate vice president for public affairs, Larry Carr, remains available to answer questions and address concerns about this decision. Please contact him at 408-924-1166 and by e-mail.

Get background information on this issue.

Don W. Kassing