Red Watch Band program teaches students to save lives

On Sunday, eight student leaders participated in an initial Red Watch Band training session; a program designed to educate students on how to recognize and treat toxic drinking.

The Red Watch Band movement started on March 15 in response to the death of a SUNY Stony Brook faculty member's child, who was a Northwestern University student, due to acute alcohol overdose.

The program was launched nationally in 2009 and has since been implemented at many colleges, including Geneseo.

Melinda DuBois, administrative director of student health and counseling at Lauderdale health center, attended a Red Watch Band training session at Stony Brook over the summer. Other Geneseo staff members in attendance were Wayne Lee, a nurse at Lauderdale; Joseph VanRemmen, interim assistant to the chief of University Police; Chip Matthews, director of College Union and Activities; and Kevin Hahn, area coordinator for Residence Life.

Sunday's training session involved teaching students basic choking first aid, CPR and the use of an automated external defibrillator. Participants discussed the facts and myths associated with drinking, as well as statistics about drinking habits, including situations specific to Geneseo. They also participated in role-playing exercises where students practiced making phone calls upon realizing that a fellow student may need medical attention.

DuBois said that the Red Watch Band program does not aim to cast judgment on legal or illegal drinking, but rather it is about "recognizing a situation when it's gotten out of hand."

"[The program is] educating students on toxic drinking with the hopes that they can intervene in a medical emergency … to do whatever they can to help prevent another death," DuBois said. "If this saves one life, it's well worth it."

Junior Fiona Harvey, who was trained on Sunday, said the session offered "a real open dialogue kind of feel."

Senior Skye Naslund said the project provides an open forum where students can talk about serious issues without worrying about being judged.

A second training session will be held at the end of October during Alcohol Awareness Week. As the program grows, the intention is for students to take over much of the planning and training themselves.

High-risk drinking at Geneseo has become a closely watched issue since the death of then-sophomore Arman Partamian on March 1, 2009. Partamian had allegedly been drinking heavily with members of an unsanctioned organization known as PIGS prior to his death.

Students who are interested in learning more about the program's mission can find information at, and those wishing to sign up for training should contact DuBois at or Dana Minton, coordinator of health promotion, at