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Students support ban reversal drop by drop

When every drop was counted at yesterday's blood drive at the Busch Campus Center, organizers said they collected more than double what a normal blood drive on Busch campus receives.

Organized by the Rutgers University Student Assembly and the University Queer Caucus, the 'Every Drop Counts' blood drive was held in protest of a U.S. Food and Drug Administration ban that disallows men who have had sexual contact with other men from donating.

Along with every pint, the New York Blood Center will be donating $1 toward a UNICEF-sponsored Haiti relief fund.

Donors and non-donors were also able to sign one of three kinds of affirmations that stated they donated in the name of a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender friend, donated in protest of the discriminatory policy or did not donate but still oppose the ban.

'The idea is to give blood in the name of someone who isn't able to,' RUSA member Thomas Bruestle said.

The affirmations will be sent to Congress representatives with the intent of working toward changing the policy to ask more specific questions instead of lumping together a whole category, RUSA member Ben West said.

'If you don't have a disease, why should you be penalized because of your orientation?' said donor Molly Rynn, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student.

Students raised 56 units of whole blood and 10 units on automated red cell machines between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. for a total of 66 pints.

'It was really great because that's twice as much as normal blood drives on Busch,' said West, a Rutgers College senior.

The drive also collected more than 100 signed affirmations.

'We got a lot more than expected,' West said. 'I knew people would come, but I didn't know it would be that crazy throughout the day.'

A petition supported by donors and non-donors may be the best approach to changing the policy, said Jared Tomasco, account manager of New Jersey Blood Services.

'The idea is to not stop donors - still encourage them - but have the FDA take another look at the rule,' he said.

According to the New York Blood Center Web site, less than 2 percent of eligible people in New Jersey donate blood.

'Even some blood centers are against the ban and don't agree with the policy either,' said West. 'Ultimately, they want more blood.'

The drive promoted an alliance between people who support the cause and protest the ban, said Shawnna James, co-president of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Questioning People of Color Union at Rutgers.

'This is something that is very marketable,' said James, a School of Arts and Sciences junior. 'It's important for people to see it's a problem and build awareness.'

The blood drive attracted many students for different reasons, although more than expected came in support of the FDA ban protest, West said.

'Most of the time the lines were so long that people had to come back to give blood,' he said.

Students like School of Arts and Sciences senior Clebis Grullon donated in the name of a friend or family member who is unable to.

'I think it's unfair,' said Grullon, who donated in the name of her cousin. 'Donating blood isn't that big of a deal. It doesn't have anything to do with sexual orientation.'

Many students considered the FDA policy offensive and were in favor of revision.

'It's a pointless policy since they test the blood,' said donor Bilal Ahmed, a Rutgers-Newark College of Arts and Sciences sophomore. 'Not only is it discriminatory and obsolete, it's really isolating and alienating a minority for no apparent reason.'

Some students thought the drive's multi-cause quality made it more appealing to take the time and contribute.

'If people are able to donate they should take advantage,' said School of Arts and Sciences junior Janina Pescinski. 'Since it's an additional cause, it's an additional impact.'

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