Gamma Phi Beta blood donation coordinator Christie Key sent a written apology to media organizations and university administrators on Thursday in response to her mass e-mail asking sorority members to lie about their health on Red Cross blood donation forms during the Greek Week blood drive last week.
Key had told students with recent tattoos and piercings, and those who were sick, to lie on pre-donation paperwork and give blood anyway. Members were also encouraged to use stickers indicating “do not use my blood” if they were concerned about the safety of their blood, she previously told the Missourian.
In her apology, Key called her e-mail “irresponsible” and said she was sorry she created concern about the safety of blood collected during the drive, and about the Red Cross’s possible “wasted resources.” Key also apologized for tarnishing the image of her sorority, Greek Week and MU.
“I ask the administration, faculty, staff and my fellow students to forgive my error that put us in the public eye for such a negative act,” she wrote in the apology.
After the Missourian obtained the e-mail last week, newspapers and television stations around the country published wire accounts of the incident. Excerpts from Key’s e-mail, in some of those reports, included “punishment for not giving blood is going to be quite severe” and “I don’t care if you got a tattoo last week — LIE.”
In addition to metropolitan newspapers and local television stations, national media outlets including The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN and FOX News have picked up the story. The British newspaper The Guardian also ran a story about the incident.
In college newspapers, the University of Massachusetts’ Daily Collegian and Texas A&M’s The Battalion, ran columns about the incident under the headline, “Bloody lies.”
The story was also passed around online. On GreekChat.com it prompted seven pages of responses from Greek organization members.
Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Cathy Scroggs and Student Life Director Mark Lucas said they’re happy to see an apology from Key.
However, Lucas said the amount of negative publicity the incident has drawn is unfair to the university’s administration.
“When it’s something that involves our students at the University of Missouri, guess who assumes all the responsibilities of it?” he said. “The University of Missouri — when in fact we were not aware as administrators what was transpiring in Greek organizations.”
Lucas said, however, that he was “not unhappy” to see the issue of the highly competitive nature of the Greek Week Blood Drive come to public attention. The blood drive set a world record in 1999 for the highest number of units of blood collected in a single-day, single-site drive.
“That e-mail stems from the commitment to this competition, and that’s where some of the problems are arising,” he said, adding that for the most part, the drive is very beneficial to the community.
Reached Thursday night, Scroggs said she couldn’t comment on the media attention MU has received about the incident.
Key was not asked to send the letter by either her sorority or the university, according to Scroggs and Gamma Phi Beta President Shannon Wisniewski.
Key and Wisniewski both declined further comment.
The university is still investigating whether Key violated MU’s student conduct code by sending the e-mail and what, if any, punishment is warranted, said Lucas. Earlier this week Scroggs said possible actions could include expulsion. Lucas emphasized that MU always considers that option when dealing with student conduct cases.
Lucas also stressed that the administration’s decision is not meant for the public.
“At such time a decision is made, that is always between the university and the students,” he said.
— Missourian reporter Sara Semelka contributed to this report