However surprising it might be to the current students of Stony Brook University, our campus was once such an active base of operations for left-leaning political causes that many considered it the “Berkeley of the East.” After the end of the Vietnam War and the demonization of liberal ideals that came with Jimmy Carter’s defeat, the political activity at the university quickly lost this identity. While liberal causes have continued to have a fairly muted presence on campus, the new drive toward allowing males who have had sex with other males to donate blood calls back to years past when students truly cared enough to change the world.
The perception regarding the apathy of students is not entirely wrong. The Blood Donor Equality Movement has a fantastical and righteous purpose, and it has achieved remarkable success in the short time that it has been active. However, it is difficult to interpret whether its triumphs can be attributed to the student population as a whole or to the fact that it has been co-opted by Stony Brook University’s administration in order to continue their recent habit of interjecting in national politics.
Over the course of the past year, Stony Brook University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. has publicly stated his support of various political causes. He has been a vocal surrogate in support of immigration reform and repeal of the budget sequester. Additionally, both Newsday and the Huffington Post have published articles written by President Stanley on student debt.
The Blood Donor Equality Policy Panel began with a video in which President Stanley voiced his support for the movement. Additionally, it was sponsored by the university’s Office of the Dean of Students, the Division of Campus Residences and the Office of Undergraduate Academic Affairs. This panel was significantly publicized by the Undergraduate Colleges—freshmen could use this event to help satisfy the requirement to attend two events during the semester.
This has all worked toward the advantage of the small group of students who have masterminded the movement. Without connecting so heavily with the university, this movement would not have been able to push forward in such a short amount of time. While I truly hope that the Blood Donor Equality movement continues to host events to educate students here at the university while expanding to other college campuses, the approach that it took to attain such a prominent position on campus causes one to consider the means by which they achieved so much.
This organization is the opposite of a grassroots movement—by working so closely with the administration in order to educate the masses that allowing males who have had sex with other males to donate blood would not drastically increase the risk of contaminating the blood supply, there becomes less necessity to proactively increase the number of students intimately involved in the movement. However, by gaining the nod of approval from the university, the group gains a huge springboard which allows it to expand to other campuses. One of the major surrogates of the movement is Anna Lubitz, former Undergraduate Student Government President and Stony Brook University’s current student representative to the SUNY Student Assembly, who is working to spread this movement through the SUNY Student Assembly to other SUNY campuses.
The route through which the Blood Donor Equality movement gained credibility on campus is rarely taken by activist groups, yet it is the one with which organizations stand the greatest chance of becoming legitimate. By making subtle use of connections to the various offices on campus, this movement gained complete support from the administration and is now perhaps the preeminent activist movement currently on campus. If a lesson should be learned from the Blood Donor Equality Movement’s conquest of Stony Brook University, it would be that connections to administration can be a powerful tool to achieve your goals.