Red Watch Band Helps RAs Keep Students Safe

Published on Sunday, November 1st, 2009 reports 599,000 alcohol-related injuries among college students per year. Tyrone Newsome and Kevin Coyne don’t need statistics to know that alcohol abuse among college students is alarming.

“Not all students drink,” said Newsome, assistant director of residence life at Becker, “but everyone has a story about someone who went too far.” Newsome was a residence life area coordinator at Northwestern University in June 2008, when a student in a neighboring area, freshman Matthew Sunshine, died after binge drinking.

“In high school I saw one of my best friends drink himself to the point where he should have been in the hospital,” said Coyne, a sophomore, athlete and resident assistant. “I went to use the rest room at my friend’s house and I could not get the door open. My closest childhood friend was blocking the door, laying with his eyes open, glazed over, and in a puddle of booze and broken glass. This was an event that changed my life forever.”

Red Watch Band is a promising movement that trains college students and others to identify and respond to signs of alcohol poisoning. Newsome, and Director of Student Affairs Michelle Fatcheric, brought  Red Watch Band to campus to bolster their ongoing efforts to keep students safe. Coyne and more than 20 resident assistants and other residence life staff took part in the four-hour training program, which includes CPR certification, something not offered on every campus because of potential liability.

“We decided the chance was too important not to take,” said Fatcheric, referring to CPR certification.

“RAs are role models and peers; they have the power to make real change happen,” says Newsome. Becker plans to send representatives for further Train the Trainer programming. Newsome is consulting with students, staff, and administrators to expand Red Watch Band into a campus-wide campaign that would likely include interactive information sessions and RAs as training recruiters.

Coyne, a lifeguard of six years, was glad that Becker provided Red Watch Band training. "I know what I have to do to assess a situation and take the steps needed to help an individual in need," he said. "Now I know my peers have that training, too."

Matthew Sunshine’s mother, Dr. Suzanne Fields, professor of medicine at Stony Brook University, urged the creation of Red Watch Band to help prevent more deaths. The program claims that toxic drinking is a “problem only students can tackle.”

Red Watch Band National Coordinator Lara Hunter described the training as a “death prevention program.”

While other Massachusetts colleges (Northeastern, Tufts, College of the Holy Cross, Assumption College) have signed up for Red Watch, according to Hunter, not all have implemented the program.