August 30, 2012

Cayuga’s Watchers Program Aims to Launch in Spring

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Despite remaining obstacles, student leaders say that they hope the Cayuga’s Watchers initiative — which will send unidentified students to monitor parties for possible health emergencies — will be implemented by next semester.

Student Assembly President Adam Gitlin ’13 said that planning for the Watchers program, first introduced in September 2011, is reaching its final steps.Currently, he said, students are in the process of registering the group as a non-profit organization, which would make any donations to the program tax exempt.

Money donated to the program, if or when it launches, will go toward pay and training for the Watchers, as well as, potentially, to allow them to buy food, drinks and supplies for the parties they are supervising.John Mueller ’13, a member of the Watchers’ executive board, said that the Watchers are also currently recruiting students to join the program in order to comprehensively address the effects of binge-drinking. “We want to decidedly decrease the negative effects spawning from alcohol over-consumption,” Mueller said. “Whether that involves the long term effects of drinking or the short term problems such as going to the hospital, waking up with a hangover or damage to property in Collegetown, these are simple things that can be fixed in order to make students’ college experience easier.”Trained students will be compensated for attending parties and monitoring them for instances of alcohol poisoning, sexual assault and reckless behavior, Mueller said. The students will blend in as regular party-goers, and will only come at the consent of the party’s host. “If tons of students, including social leaders on campus, are trained to identify dangers, more people will be responsible to respond in these risky situations,” Gitlin said.  Rather than prevent drinking at parties, the Watchers could give someone a glass of water or observe party guests’ behavior to make sure they are not being endangered by alcohol use, Mueller said. “In the end, I hope we can create a culture where it’s normal to tell someone that they should have a cup of water and skip that next shot of liquor,” Mueller said. “We may not all agree on what high risk drinking is, but we can all agree that we don’t want people to drink dangerously.” Students will also be prepared to handle more serious situation. According to Eric Silverberg ’14, another member of the Watchers’ executive board, the Watchers will be extensively trained in first aid and able to identify instances of alcohol abuse. However, the “Watchers” will not have authority to discipline any organization or student, Silverberg said.  “They don’t work with the intent of reporting any cases. There wouldn’t be any disciplinary repercussions,” Silverberg said. “As a former fraternity president, I’d welcome students who are actually trained for such emergencies. The sober monitors we had last year were not as attentive, because they never had any training to spot situations where students are put in harm’s way.” Mueller said that the group will instead serve as an “extra set of eyes and ears” for the party’s host or the organization’s president. Mueller said he believes both Greek and non-Greek events could benefit from the opportunity, noting the service would be completely free and voluntary for all student organizations.“It’s not like we are going to go into people’s parties and ruin their fun,” Mueller said. “We’re not interfering with anyone’s partying. We just want to make people aware of risky behaviors, to prevent it from getting to the point where you need to bring in an ambulance or call the police.” Gitlin also said that he hopes the Cayuga’s Watchers proposal will reach on and off campus events and organizations.  “We definitely want to see the plan be adopted by the Greek system,” said Interfraternity Council President Chris Sanders ’13.Sanders, however, acknowledged that the IFC has yet to engage in a robust discussion on the extent of the Watchers’ involvement in Greek life.

Original Author: Harrison Okin