Northwestern’s Red Watch Band facilitators to broaden focus on health, wellness in new student group

Alice Yin, Managing Editor

For the past five years, a group of Northwestern students has gone around campus educating others on what to do when their peers have had too much to drink. This quarter, these students are spearheading a new group that will expand upon alcohol safety to encompass all aspects of student health and wellness.

The new group, Wildcats Advancing Total Campus Health, will debut this month and oversee Red Watch Band Bystander Intervention Training implemented in 2010, which has trained more than 3,000 students in responding to alcohol toxicity at NU. In addition, WATCH will develop programming to focus on other health topics that arise throughout college, said Kevin Meier, coordinator of alcohol and other drug education and outreach at NU’s Health Promotion and Wellness Center. Both Red Watch Band and the upcoming WATCH group are student-sponsored groups under HPaW.

“(These students) are no longer facilitating one program,” he said. “This is a peer health education that will facilitate a number of different programs.”

Meier, who is also the lead adviser for WATCH, said he hopes the new group can implement programming for students to learn about preventing negative outcomes from alcohol and drugs before they occur. Currently, Red Watch Band functions as a bystander intervention program to certify students in knowledge of proper response protocol for intoxication.

“Our goal is to provide our students and community with the necessary knowledge in order to reduce harm and make well-informed decisions,” Meier said. “While (Red Watch Band training) is important, it’s more of an after-the-fact approach, versus a proactive prevention type of education.”

There are currently 11 students trained as Red Watch Band facilitators who will all return this quarter for the inception of WATCH, Meier said. Eventually, he said he hopes to see the group grow to about 20 members.

Meier said WATCH will have a joint two-day training at the end of this month with Sexual Health and Assault Peer Educators and Men Against Rape and Sexual Assault  to establish a universal peer education.

“We want all students to be trained with the same base level of knowledge,” he said. “This is a great opportunity to explore the intersection of alcohol and sexual health, and how those relate.”

Both Amanda Odasz, communications chair of SHAPE, and Jacob Kerr, president of MARS, said the missions of their student groups align well with that of WATCH’s.

“Already what I’ve experienced in SHAPE is a lot of nuance when we talk about alcohol and sexual assault,” Odasz, a Communication junior, said. “I think more training is better and we’re trying to emphasize with communication, the more the better.”

Kerr, a Weinberg junior, reiterated the strong overlap in sexual violence and alcohol and said many assailants use alcohol as a weapon to render victims incapable of judgment.

“We want to talk about not just how to approach someone if you think they need help with alcohol, drugs, sexual assault … but also how to have a conversation ahead of time,” he said. “WATCH will really help with those conversations.”

Following the training, WATCH members will continue Red Watch Band facilitating and work on finalizing a constitution and establishing outreach through workshops and awareness campaigns, Meier said.

Currently, applications for WATCH are open until Jan. 15, with the final staff selection slated for Jan. 27 at the latest, Meier said.

“Ideally we will have a very diverse group,” he said. “I want different backgrounds from where students are coming from — different majors, different ages … different involvements. We’re making sure we can represent the Northwestern community as best as possible.”

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