SGA backs student’s petition, waits for university response

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A student petition to suspend Suffolk University blood drives exceeded 500 signatures as of last week. 

Suffolk student Wyatt Costello drafted the petition in September with the goal of suspending on-campus blood drives. The suspension would last until such a time that the FDA law banning gay and bisexual men from donating blood is repealed.

The law was enacted in 1983 at the height of the AIDS epidemic. The FDA cites high rates of HIV among gay and bisexual men and the demand for higher blood testing accuracy to defend the policy.

Costello is not convinced.

“It’s a homophobic law,” he said, “It came out through panic.”

Melissa Hanson/ Editor-in-Chief

The issue sat with Costello for many years. His mother is a frequent blood donor, he said. Upon learning about the screening policy, he had to question the implications.

“Am I going to be presented with these consequences just for being gay?” he asked.

Several weeks ago something gave. Costello was at his work study at the 10 West Residence Hall, brooding over a sense of inequality that would not leave him.

“I just got angry,” he said, “I got very angry.”

Costello spoke with Senior Associate Dean of Students Ann Coyne on the matter before drafting the petition. With support from Dr. Coyne and several other unnamed members of the Suffolk faculty, Costello started gathering signatures.

The petition bolstered over 400 hand written signatures and another 100 online at Change.org. Additionally, the Suffolk Student Government Association now backs the petition under the belief that the blood drive screenings violate Suffolk’s Diversity Statement and Notice of Non-Discrimination.

Suffolk’s Notice of Non-Discrimination states that the university does not discriminate based on sexual orientation and a number of other identifying factors.

Costello said he was grateful to have the SGA’s support.

“Now that the SGA is taking a stand, [the university] has to do something,” he said.

Despite the sizable support behind the petition, there have been a few skeptics. Costello notes that a few students have approached him in opposition. They see his petition as an attack on university blood drives. He clarifies that his problem is not with the donations, but with the exclusion.

“I’m attacking the policy through the university,” Costello said.

He hopes that the drives will be moved off the Suffolk campus, not discontinued. This way, donations would still be possible and the blood supply would not be affected, but a statement would be made.

Costello eagerly awaits a response from the Suffolk administration and the FDA, both of which have been silent until this point. He hopes his efforts at Suffolk will be the start of a larger discussion on the issue of donor screening. Though he does not think suspending drives from all colleges is the answer, he hopes other universities in the area will take notice.

To the administration, he has just one message: “Please listen to your student body.”

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