Created last year as an education awareness campaign by then-President Kenny and designer Milton Glaser after the son of a Stony Brook professor died from alcohol poisoning, the Red Watch Band campaign has taken hold on campus, garnered national recognition, and become a model program for other colleges and universities.
“Toxic drinking is a central concern on college campuses across the country,” explained Jenny Hwang, Associate Dean and Director of the Center for Prevention and Outreach. “More than 1,800 college students die each year from alcohol-related injuries.”
Out of the original ad campaign, a comprehensive bystander intervention program was developed by the Center for Prevention and Outreach and student leaders to prevent deaths from drinking on college campuses. Articles about the program began to appear in venues such as the Wall Street Journal and USA Today, stirring interest at the national and even international levels.
Forty colleges and universities around the country have now implemented the program on their campuses. Inquiries have come from as far away as Great Britain, South Africa, and Mexico.
What gives the Red Watch Band movement its broad appeal? The name suggests one possible reason: Students band together to watch out for one another, forming a tight community of caring. What is not a component of the program is a no-drinking policy handed down from administration.
“The program is not about alcohol abstinence, it’s about fostering a sense of compassion and care in the community,” said Hwang. “It’s about students looking out for one another, helping each other make the right choices, and ultimately it’s about saving lives.”
Through special training, which is offered to all students, participants learn how to recognize the signs of toxic drinking and how to respond. All students who complete the four-hour training receive CPR certification and sessions in role-playing and myth-busting, along with a red watch band and a certificate.
Stony Brook peer educators and alcohol and drug specialists trained 90 students last spring and more over the summer; there are now 120 members. Training sessions are offered twice a month, on Mondays and Fridays. Students can sign up for training at www.redwatchband.org
“Stony Brook has a history of goodwill and of caring about one another,” said Hwang. “We want to act on the goodwill that is already here to create healthy communities.”