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Do the Right Thing

More than 400 Northwestern students have completed Red Watch Band training

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October 6, 2010 | by Stephen Anzaldi
Red Watch Band trainees discuss their experiences at an Oct. 5 reception to recognize their efforts in helping to make the Northwestern community safer.

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Northwestern University students came together on the Evanston campus for an Oct. 5 reception to be recognized for their participation in a program that advocates thinking before drinking and helping peers avoid the tragic consequences of drinking too much.

President Morton Schapiro applauded the more than 400 students who have completed training thus far in Red Watch Band, a national grassroots program that teaches students not only about toxic drinking but also about having the courage to do the right thing when someone needs help. More than 60 schools around the nation have joined the education and prevention program.

"When there really is a sense of community, you're looking to each other to do the right thing," President Schapiro said. "When in doubt, make the call."

At the reception William Banis, vice president for student affairs, announced that Counseling and Psychological Services would add a substance abuse psychologist to the staff in January.

Lisa Currie, director of health promotion and wellness at Northwestern, stressed the reception was a way to especially thank students for agreeing to intervene in a problem situation. "The bottom-line message to trainees is that we know it can be difficult to step up, even when it's the best thing to do," Currie said. "But they’re the ones most likely to be on the scene at the time, so we want to make sure they’re prepared to respond."

Since April, Northwestern has conducted 17 sessions to train students, including Wildcat Welcome staff, fraternity and sorority leaders and PURPLE peer mentors in the athletics department. In the two-hour sessions, trainees are taught the signs and symptoms of intoxication and the biological and behavioral effects of alcohol, or what Currie calls "Alcohol 101."

"We're confident that if we seed the community with enough students who have the training, someone will be present when and where these issues come into play," Currie said.

Junior Karlee Nussbaum said Red Watch Band training taught her to recognize the signs of alcohol poisoning.

"It's helped already, because I've already been in situations where I can say more confidently, 'We need to do something about this.'"

Red Watch Band was launched at Stony Brook University in 2009 in response to the death of Northwestern student Matthew Sunshine from alcohol poisoning. Sunshine's mother is a faculty member at Stony Brook. Northwestern implemented the Red Watch Band training following a court-approved agreement with the Sunshine family. Northwestern agreed to supplement its long-time policies and programs addressing alcohol and substance abuse, which have included mandatory education and counseling services.

According to the Red Watch Band site at Stony Brook, trainees who successfully complete the program are given a red watch, which symbolizes the "band" of students who are trained to "watch" over one another when "every second counts."

The Red Watch Band program expands upon Northwestern's existing programs with its emphasis on the dangers of binge drinking and encouragement to respond to excess drinking. Northwestern also is funding academic research into binge drinking and related problems on college and university campuses.

Additionally, the Red Watch Band sessions at Northwestern cover relevant University policy, including Responsible Action Protocol, adopted by Student Affairs in 2009 to create a set of expectations for students to take responsible action in the face of health and safety emergencies.

"Having students look out for their peers is one of the most important lessons we can teach," added Burgwell Howard, dean of students. "We want to do whatever we can to help students help themselves, because the end result is a healthier and safer Northwestern community."

For more information on Red Watch Band at Northwestern, go to http://www.nuhs.northwestern.edu/evanston/ed/redwatchband.aspx.

Topics: University, Campus Life