A change in rules designed to reduce competition in donating blood did nothing to reduce community support of the 19th annual Homecoming Blood Drive held last week at the Hearnes Center. This year’s event, which exceeded Red Cross’ expectations, generated 3,783 blood donations, said Jim Williams, communications manager of the Missouri-Illinois Red Cross.
“The students were as anxious to give as they ever have been,” Williams said of the event, which received a national award Tuesday for being the most successful blood drive during the Red Cross’ Save a Life tour last year.
During homecoming and Greek Week activities, fraternities, sororities, residence halls and other organizations compete for points in a variety of talent and service-related categories. In the past, organizations were awarded points in the blood-drive category based on the percentage of members donating blood during the drive and on the number of people outside the organization donating in its name.
This led to fierce competition among organizations to recruit large numbers of outside donors and to get as close to 100 percent participation among their own members as possible.
During last spring’s Greek Week blood drive, the issue gained national attention when a member of one MU sorority sent an e-mail urging members to give blood even if it meant lying about weight, recent piercings, tattoos, illness or other factors that would make them ineligible to donate.
This year’s homecoming steering committee revamped the point system, capping the points awarded in the blood donation category so the maximum number of points was awarded once an organization reached 80 percent participation among its members, said Michael Chrum, a junior and one of three student directors of the steering committee.
A similar cap was placed on points awarded for an organization’s recruitment of outside donors. The goal, Chrum said, was to reduce pressure and competition by allowing organizations to earn the maximum number of points even if some members or outside donors were unable to donate blood.
Members of local sororities and fraternities said the change did not reduce enthusiasm or participation in the event.
Senior Michael Steele, who has donated blood seven times for his fraternity, Farm House, said the atmosphere surrounding this year’s homecoming blood drive was the same as past years. Although the fraternity’s goal was still to get 100 percent attendance, he said, he did not feel pressured to donate blood.
The big change, Chrum said, did not come from the rule change but from the addition of an educational component to the blood-drive portion of the competition. More than 3,500 students attended one of the half-hour educational seminars given by the Red Cross in late September, he said. Organizations earned maximum points in this category if 50 percent of members attended the session.
Chrum said the sessions were important because they explained the dangers of giving blood when ineligible, highlighted the importance of giving blood and generated greater enthusiasm to donate than usual.
“I’ve been trying to get across that it’s not about a competition; it’s about saving lives,” Williams said. “And I think they’ve got that message.”
As a result of last spring’s incident, the university also created a task force to study competition in the Greek community. The task force will hold a series of focus groups with the ultimate goal of providing recommendations to Greek house leaders and university officials toensure that competition remains healthy, said Cathy Scroggs, vice chancellor of student affairs.
Despite the negative aspects that surfaced in the spring, many thinkcompetition is positive overall and, at least in the case of the blood drive, necessary.
“Competition helps,” said junior and Alpha Kappa Psi member Ben Kelly. He said many people are scared to give blood, and the competitive nature of the drive helps them overcome their fears.
“It’s not really a pressure, but it adds incentive for people to give blood,” he said.