Penn Employee Asks University to Reconsider Hosting Anti-Gay Red Cross Blood Drive

University of Pennsylvania Administrative Coordinator Joseph Hallman was taken back when he received an email from the Penn Professional Staff Assembly (PPSA) announcing that Red Cross would be holding a blood drive on campus. The reason? The Red Cross excludes gay men from donating blood, a touchy topic as the FDA recently endorsed a lifetime gay blood ban. In response to the University’s announcement, Hallman composed an email to the chair of PPSA, expressing his concerns regarding the discriminatory practices of the Red Cross:

“While I applaud your blood drive, I think it is important that you let staff know that the Red Cross bans homosexual men from making blood donations.

Your choice to use them as a donor partner has a negative effect on your staff members, like myself, who cannot choose to be a part of this drive. There are alternate means to make blood donations and I urge you to research them and make an attempt to include, rather than use a provider with exclusionary rules and language in place.

You have the right to choose a different partner for the drive and a choice to make a decision that allows for people like me to be a part of this chance to help others. Finally, making this choice for alternate donor partners expresses your commitment to the humanity and equality that your staff members, again: like me, deserve.

I hope you will consider the change and also issue a statement about the exclusionary practices at play here on the list serv. Most people may not know about this inequality.

Joseph Hallman”

Little did Mr. Hallman know that this email would start a journey down a rabbit hole that would end up at the desk of the University’s vice president.

The chair of the PPSA did address Hallman’s concerns, but, in so many words, explained that it wasn’t just the Red Cross who held this ban, but many other organizations were also following the FDA recommendations. Hallman wasn’t satisfied with the response, saying it was “a slap in the face to those excluded by the ban and [an] inability to recognize this as an extremely harmful policy is a furtherance of such a ban.”

Hallman was then accused by the chair of the PPSA of personally attacking her. She adde, “I don’t personally agree that the solution is to never have any blood donations available. I think it is uncalled for and offensive to assume that supporting a much needed collection of blood should be interpreted as an act of support in dehumanizing any group of people.”

Still unsatisfied with the response, Hallman took matters a step further: He contacted Leslie Laird Kruhly, vice president and University secretary. Unlike the previous interactions he had with PPSA officials, Ms. Kruhly thanked Hallman for bringing the matter to the University’s attention.

More importantly, she suggested Hallman register to speak at the University Council Open Forum, taking place February 18th from 4pm to 6pm at Penn’s Houston Hall. The Council, according to its mission, “is a deliberative and broadly representative forum which exists to consider the activities of the University in all its phases, with particular attention to the educational objectives of the University and those matters that affect the common interests of faculty, staff and students.”

Anyone who is a member of the University community is welcome to attend the Forum, provided they register beforehand by emailing or calling 215-898-7005.

What does Hallman hope to accomplish at the forum? “I hope to find an alternative donor partner, a loophole for the FDA ban, or,  if there is no alternative, to abolish the drives on campus. They don’t belong if they are discriminatory,” he said.

He added, “Imagine if they placed a ban on any other minority. Penn would never host drives in that case.”

We reached out to Penn officials who had no comment.