February 25, 2013

Cayuga’s Watchers Begins Training for 119 ‘Party Monitors’

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As Cayuga’s Watchers — an independent group created by the Student Assembly that will train unidentified party monitors to look out for dangerous situations at the request of any student or campus organization hosting a party — prepares for its launch in April, the organization held its first training session Saturday.

The session — which included speakers from University organizations, including Gannett Health Services and CUEMS — focused on alcohol education, bystander intervention techniques and sexual assault prevention.

Deborah Lewis, alcohol projects coordinator at Gannett, emphasized the importance of mitigating the rate of alcohol consumption.

“Slowing down how much someone drinks, but doing it in a way where everyone has a lot of fun — I think that’s a really good model,” Lewis said.

Eric Silverberg ’14, president of Cayuga’s Watchers, said that although the Watchers are not responsible for providing medical attention to students who might need it, they do need to be able to identify emergency situations.

“It’s most important to be trained and equipped with the skills to be effective [in identifying emergency situations],” Silverberg said.

There are 119 students currently part of the Watchers’ training program, but that number is still rising, according to Mike Ostro ’15, vice president of outreach for Cayuga’s Watchers.

Ostro said that, because Greek organizations organize a large portion of social events on campus, the Watchers have thus far been composed largely of members of fraternities and sororities; however, Ostro added that many Cayuga’s Watchers members also belonged to a cappella groups and sports teams.

“It’s crazy the amount of organizations that we have connections with already,” Ostro said. “It’s friends looking out for friends.”

Still, Silverberg emphasized that the Greek community is an important part of the Watchers’ focus. They have been working to recruit as many Greek members as possible and have been working with the Interfraternity Council, Panhellenic Council and Multicultural Greek Letter Council to gather feedback on the initiative.

Though Cayuga’s Watchers said they will not be able to gauge fraternity interest until the program launches, they are currently strengthening support within fraternities by working on a one-to-one basis with fraternity presidents and  establishing an ambassador program, according to Ostro.

Felix Tabary ’14, a member of the ambassador program and vice president of Sigma Pi, said the ambassador program consists of people from different “key houses” to better gauge interest in creating party guidelines that extend beyond Interfraternity Council regulations.

Lewis said being a Watcher will not prove to be an easy job.

“I think it would take a really special person to be able to easily navigate social situations in which people are drinking to surreptitiously slow down the rate in which someone is consuming alcohol,” she said.

According to Tabary, several fraternities have been actively enlisting their members or pledges to go through the training. At least one other fraternity has asked all of its new members to undergo the training to become Watchers.

Though fraternities already have designated sober monitors at registered parties –– as the IFC requires one monitor for every 25 party attendees –– Cayuga’s Watchers will be unidentified. The program also adds a monetary incentive because Watchers are paid for their role, according to Tim Lenardo ’14, president of Sigma Phi.

Lenardo said he became a Cayuga’s Watcher because he often must sober monitor at parties.

“It makes sense to have people go through that training so that they’re more effective with their jobs as well,” Lenardo said.

Silverberg said he is encouraged by active participation he has observed from members of Cayuga’s Watchers.

“This entire processes is a community collaboration … I’m extremely enthusiastic and hopeful that we’ll be successful,” Silverberg said.

Tabary said Cayuga’s Watchers do not plan to approach their job “with the mentality of catching people.”

“Cayuga’s Watchers is a very different alternative. It’s not aggressive, invasive, and there’s no legal obligation,” Tabary said.

Lenardo said he had initially expressed concern about allowing strangers into his fraternity house. However, Cayuga’s Watchers is aiming to reach the point where there are enough members from each house to monitor their own events.

According to Silverberg, the Watchers will cover parties in teams, which he says will ensure they are held to a high standard of conduct.

Lenardo said some students expressed concern that Watchers may be there to report back to the University or the police.

“When you first hear about the program, there are doubts because it does seem kind of weird to allow these people into your house,” Lenardo said.

However, Ostro said that Cayuga’s Watchers is not meant to serve as an enforcement agency.

“We’re not there to curtail alcohol use, but to curtail alcohol abuse, which is a vital distinction,” he said. “We are there to help protect the Greek community and advance the social system, not degrade it.”

Original Author: Dara Levy