October 28, 2014

Cayuga’s Watchers Sees Large-Scale Growth

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A year after its official launch, Cayuga’s Watchers — a student-run nonprofit dedicated to reducing the harms associated with high-risk drinking — has seen large-scale growth and expansion across the Cornell community, according to Sarah Reitman ’15, president of the Watchers.

Over the past year, the Watchers have trained nearly 600 students to respond to a variety of emergencies at Cornell social gatherings, according to Reitman.

“[The Watchers’] success represents an entire community working together to keep the party going, safely,” she said.

Reitman added that the Watchers have been officially present at 40 events so far.

The Watchers train Cornellians to attend social events as peer advocates who can intervene in high-risk situations, according to Reitman. They have achieved several successes in the past year, she said.

Cayuga’s Watchers first becomes involved in an event when a host reaches out to the organization, according to Hannah James ’15, director of internal operations. She said they are then assigned to the event, where they anonymously interact with partygoers and remain alert for circumstances that may require intervention.

“Watchers are required to remain sober for the event that they are working, and they are also trained to engage in … bystander intervention techniques that are subtle but can be meaningful,” James said. “In the event of an emergent situation, they are comfortable working with the hosts to take the necessary steps that will keep partygoers safe.”

Since the Watcher’s launch last October, James said that the organization has been working to expand its operations by ensuring all members undergo comprehensive training to promote safety without disrupting an event.

“We also educate Watchers to be able to identify signs of a medical emergency and what to do if there is an emergency situation while they are working,” James said. “We teach them using practical scenarios and … make sure that they would be comfortable engaging with any individual at a social event.”

The overall response to the Watchers from the Cornell community has been overwhelmingly positive, according to Noah Liff ’15, director of external operations.

“The strength of the program in its peer-to-peer nature has resonated across the Cornell community, and has allowed us to effectively develop relationships across that network,” Liff said. “We have seen support from individual fraternity and sorority members, alumni, administrators and countless other members of the Greek community.”

According to Reitman, this support  has translated into quantifiable success.

“Cayuga’s Watchers seeks to promote a new social norm on the Cornell campus based on responsible behavior and safeguarding other students,” she said.

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