Sorority member apologizes for urging lies by blood donors

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Associated Press WriterCOLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) -- The University of Missouri-Columbia student who urged her sorority sisters to lie about their health to qualify as donors in a competitive blood drive issued a letter of apology Thursday.

Facing discipline from both the university and Gamma Phi Beta sorority, Christie Key wrote that she "failed to consider the consequences of my actions in suggesting that members lie about important health issues in order to earn points for our chapter."

She apologized to the university and to the American Red Cross, which has rushed to reassure the public that blood supplies are safe.

"I am very sorry for the waste of resources that may have resulted from my irresponsible e-mail remarks. I also regret that it created concern about the safety of donated blood and required the American Red Cross to defend their policies and procedures," Key wrote.

The Red Cross received the letter but had no immediate comment, spokesman Jim Williams said from St. Louis.

Key, a sophomore from St. Louis, confirmed in an e-mail that she wrote the letter, which was on Gamma Phi Beta letterhead, but she had no further comment.

In the letter, Key wrote: "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."

Mary Jo Banken, a spokeswoman for the university, said the school had no public response to Key's letter.

Banken said Key has not yet appeared before a school disciplinary board. She faces punishment ranging from a letter of reprimand up to expulsion, if it is found that Key violated a school standard of conduct against endangering the safety or health of others.

In her April 6 e-mail sent to about 170 members of Gamma Phi Beta, Key wrote: "I dont care if you got a tattoo last week LIE. I dont care if you have a cold. Suck it up. We all do. LIE. Recent peircings? LIE."

The Red Cross tells people who are sick or have recently received tattoos or piercings not to donate blood, to protect their health and that of the blood recipients.

Donors who have second thoughts at the donation site can discreetly attach a sticker to a health questionnaire, indicating their blood shouldn't be used. In her e-mail, Key urged: "Even if youre going to use the Do Not Use My Blood sticker, GIVE ANYWAY."

Donations accompanied by the stickers on health forms are destroyed. Of 3,366 units of blood donated during the April 7-8 "Greek Week" drive in Columbia, about 100 units were marked by the donor against being used and were discarded. The Red Cross said the number of such units was not unusually high for such a large event.

A sorority or fraternity's turnout for the blood drive comprises about one-fifth of its points for various projects that can earn recognition during "Greek Week." Gamma Phi Beta was ordered to forfeit any points from its blood drive efforts.

On a single day in 1999, the campus drive took in 3,156 units of blood -- enough to earn recognition from the Guinness Book of Records as the largest single-site, single-day blood collection.

"I realize that I have embarrassed the Greek community and tarnished a proud tradition," Key wrote. "Greek Week competition is meant to serve the community and present a positive image of sororities and fraternities at the university. I do hope that this well-deserved image will soon be restored."

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