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Professor told to stop giving extra credit for blood donations

News Editor

Published: Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, October 31, 2012 21:10

Oct 31 Web 6

Bob Taylor / IC

English professor Russell Reising stands in front of a Red Cross truck during Tuesday’s blood drive on campus. Reising was told to discontinue his extra credit policy, which gives 10 points to students who donate blood.

For most of the 30 years he has taught, University of Toledo English professor Russell Reising has been offering extra credit for students who donated blood or volunteered at a blood drive.

That practice came to an end last week after English department chair Sara Lundquist found out and told him to stop — and Reising isn’t happy about it.

Lundquist said the policy is inappropriate, while Reising said he doesn’t see the harm. 

The issue arose when a student emailed Reising with concerns about her grade, and mentioned that she had taken advantage of the extra credit option. When Reising forwarded the email to Lundquist, she noticed the reference.  

“Please tell me that you did not give students extra credit for donating blood,” she wrote in a reply to Reising.

Reising said he then spoke with Lundquist by phone and she emailed him later that day, telling him to stop. 

“I’m just confused — it all happened so fast,” he said. “It struck me as such a strange thing to be upset about. Why would they say don’t give blood?”

But Lundquist said extra credit shouldn’t be given for things like donating blood. 

“I think it’s a very bad academic practice,” she said Tuesday. “You’re giving extra credit for something that is not related to the content of the course. You’re trading something else for credit that leads to a grade.”

Reising said he first came up with the idea when he was teaching at Marquette University and students responded positively. When he came to UT 18 years ago, he continued to offer the same deal. 

“I’ve had people write letters, saying they had never given blood before, but now they give blood three or four times a year,” Reising said. “That has just really gotten me excited.”

He said between all of his classes, about 10 to 20 students take advantage of the option each semester, including four so far this semester.

Reising said he introduced an alternate policy his first year teaching at UT when a student who wanted to participate could not give blood because she was underweight. 

“Those who can’t give blood can volunteer,” he said. “I wanted this to be as fair as possible.”

Reising said he has also allowed students to offer up other types of community service for extra credit, like for those who participated at UT’s Dance Marathon.

“I have never had a complaint,” he said. “The students have been universally happy with the option, and a lot of them have taken it seriously and it’s something they have continued to do.”

Lundquist said while she agrees that blood donation is a “wonderful thing,” she said the fact that it is not connected to the curriculum makes it unfair to students.

“Maybe if you’re a nursing student and you’re taking a course in hematology, the study of blood, maybe it would be appropriate to even require students to give blood — I don’t know,” she said. 

“But I think if you’re teaching a course on 19th-century American literature … I think it’s inappropriate to give credit for it.”

“There’s lots of good things we could do in the world and every professor could choose their favorite charity and give their students credit for it, but that’s not what the class is for,” she said.

Reising described the decision as “wrongheaded.”

“Giving blood is an unequivocal good — helping save lives is an unequivocal good,” he said. “I think for university students to start cultivating a sense of responsibility is an unequivocal good.” 

 “I think this was handled sort of hysterically, sort of frantically, he said. “It never dawned on me that there would be anybody who would have any objection to it.”

He said he wants to speak with the person from UT’s legal affairs department who advised Lundquist before deciding what to do next.

 “I hate the idea that I would have to stop doing this, but I can’t legitimately claim that it’s an infringement on my rights,” he said. “I mean, I’ll still encourage students to give blood, but I just can’t give extra credit.” 

Lundquist said while the final decision may not be hers, she is confident in her position.

“It’s up to the university and the university’s policies, but I would recommend that he cease doing it,” she said. “The person I spoke to recommended that the professor cease.”

“A student could give blood, eat the cookie, drink the juice and look fine, and then faint on the way home while driving,” she said.

Lundquist said she sees nothing wrong with professors encouraging students to do charitable things, but “attaching credit to it, to me, is taking another step.”

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