Ban Chick-fil-A? How About Banning Blood Drives on College Campuses?

Colleges should ban blood drives from campuses because such drives violate our non-discrimination statements and needlessly limit the blood supply in a time of great need. Period.

What's wrong? Stop reading and go start the ban! Why are you hesitating? Would it make it easier if the blood drive was held in a Chick-fil-A? Probably so, huh?

Last week, I received a deluge of e-mails calling for colleges and universities to sever their ties to Chick-fil-A on the basis of the food chain's donations to anti-gay groups and recent proclamation that they are indeed against gay marriage.

Christine Quinn, New York City Council Speaker, wrote a letter to NYU President John Sexton urging him to remove the vendor from campus. The argument? That Chick-fil-A "denigrates a portion of our population."

Campus Pride, a non-profit organization for LGBT and ally college students, sent out multiple mailers encouraging colleges and universities to take action against Chick-fil-A including ending food service contracts that include the chain and pulling out of conferences, events and sports games in which Chick-fil-A is a sponsor. The argument? That "no college or university wants to be associated with hate."

Where, then, is the same passionate level of discourse around blood drives?

The FDA, under the leadership of the CDC, comes onto our campuses and rejects our gay students directly -- far more directly than Chick-fil-A, I might add -- by telling them that their blood is not valuable, that it can't save lives. That this practice is discriminatory is not up for debate. That this practice violates our non-discrimination statements is undeniable. These students are then turned away with a sticker saying, "Well, I tried to donate blood...", feeling dejected, marginalized, and, yes, denigrated. All because of an arcane policy that in no way reflects current medical practice and is, yes, very much connected with hate.

And yet, the call to arms on this actual life-saving practice pales in comparison to the uproar over the place of anti-gay waffle fries on our campuses. The leadership on this issue is simply not there. And that should be no surprise.

Arguing for a ban on blood drives just plain sucks. It is an unenviable stance that earns you scorn, ridicule, and a healthy dose of "what is wrong with you?!?" looks. But lets keep in mind the twin goals of both creating inspired action that would actually result in astronomically more blood donors as well as the preservation of our non-discrimination statements. Trying to assert those goals, however, is like telling people you're against puppies. Cute, hypoallergenic ones. That only want to snuggle.

So, instead, our leaders argue for the FDA to reconsider their ban. Recently, the state legislature here in Vermont passed a non-binding resolution "urging" the FDA to "reassess" their ban. This non-binding urging, a legislative expression of sentiment, was hailed as "trailblazing."


Trailblazing would be banning bloodmobiles from government-owned property. Trailblazing would be arguing against a compromise one-year deferral period that perpetuates a stigma that has been rebuffed scientifically and medically.

A few years back, San Jose State University suspended their blood drives on campus "guided by the clear mandates of our non-discrimination policy." Sarah Lawrence College sports a similar ban. But these schools are the outliers with few (if any?) peers standing beside them.

Some organizations offer strategies on addressing blood drives on campus, anything from writing letters to the FDA to making stickers. But nowhere is "Sponsor a dialogue on banning blood drives from campus" listed as a strategy. It should be.

Look, donating blood saves lives. Eating waffle fries doesn't. I get that. But we're in the business of sending clear messages to our students. It is the utmost in hypocrisy to shout at the top of our lungs about a discriminatory food vendor even as we invite bloodmobiles to our campus with open arms.

If you have ideas for inspired actions to create life-saving change to blood donation guidelines, I'm all ears... and veins.