Utes struggle to win blood drive because of unwillingness to be involved

By By Alicia Williams

By Alicia Williams

While lounging in the bloodmobile early in the afternoon on Sept. 12 with a needle stuck in my arm, I realized the U just might have a chance to win this year’s blood drive. At 825 units, we had already surpassed last year’s total of 762 units and there were still plenty of hours left.

The bus was packed and outside there was a line of students all patiently waiting his or her turn to share a little blood. Surely this year we had the blood donation contest against Utah State University in the bag.

Well, apparently not. The Aggies have once again pulled off a mysterious win and, for the fifth year in a row, the Utes are losers.

There has to be an explanation as to why the U, with 28,000 students and 3,300 faculty members, can’t beat USU’s 16,000 on-campus student and 800 faculty member donors. Our non-student staff alone at 13,000-plus should be able to give the entire population at USU a good fight. So, what happened to the other 31,000 Utes?

Although it’s not a real athletic event, it is still a competition where students and faculty, who generally sit in the bleachers as fans, can actually get in on the action. We are the team; the only requirement for success is to give some effort.

The biggest negative factor is that the U is double the size of USU. Students are spread throughout the valley. Most commute and are just not getting the word.

“It relates back to the demographics. If we were a small residential campus, we could just broadcast on the local radio station that everybody listens to,” said Brian Burton, programming adviser for the Associated Students of the University of Utah. “We could post it in the newspaper everybody reads. Here, it’s more of a transient commuter population.”

Although there was media coverage from The Daily Utah Chronicle, The Salt Lake Tribune, KUTE, Deseret News, FOX 13 and ABC 4, it obviously wasn’t enough.

“Certainly, there are a lot of students who wanted to donate and would have donated during Bleed Red that just didn’t hear about it,” Burton said.

It seems USU’s biggest advantage is its small size. But you can also attribute its success to the Aggie’s dedication.

“They take the blood drive very seriously up at Utah State, because they know they can win,” said Lance Bandley, the community relations representative at ARUP. “They don’t want to give it up.”

Bandley evaluates statistical information and feedback each year to identify better ways of finding and informing those students needed to make the difference in winning. He said the contest only needs 35 more students a day, so next year instead of a total goal of 1300 units, he wants to focus on hitting 250 students a day.

“It’s a numbers game,” Bandley said. “I think we put ourselves in a position to win next year, just because last year we were about 350 (units) apart. This year, we closed the gap to about 150, so we know how to increase (the amount of donors).”

OK, so USU has a small, centrally-located campus with strong community ties. The Aggies can more easily communicate their message, and because everyone is already there and probably walks through their Taggart Student Center each and every day, they don’t have to make extra efforts to donate.

But, realistically, most U students had to have heard or seen something about the blood drive. All they had to do was log on to the U Web site8212;something students do every day8212;to get the message.

Ultimately, the Utes lose every year because most of our students and faculty are unwilling to get involved. It’s one of the easiest ways to help8212;it only takes 45 minutes, and only five minutes to walk to the Union, but it seems that giving blood has no obvious value to the vast majority of the U population.

The only reason our huge institution loses to such a small opponent is our lack of team players. ARUP can give us the tools for success just as a coach, our student leaders can give us encouragement like cheerleaders, but if the players are unwilling to get in the game, the Utes will never win.

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Willus Branham

Alicia Williams