Red Flags sparks awareness on campus

While the front of the library can be seen with students scurrying to their final or entering the building for their long night studying escapade, many took a moment to bring their attention to the 1,824 little red flags that had been placed in front of the library in the Darwin quad. The little red flags are not for landscaping or as a holiday decoration, but as a representation of the 1,824 college aged students that die each year from alcohol related incidents.

This display was one of many events throughout Sonoma State University’s “Save A Seawolf” Alcohol Awareness week. This is the week of awareness that is hosted by the National Collegiate Alcohol Awareness Week for the past 15 years in various forms. The Arrive Alive Simulator was something new that administration was able to have come to campus in December, which allowed administration to promote positive behaviors around the holidays.

UNITE’s Arrive Alive tour is a program that uses a stimulator, impact video, and other resources to educate the public about the dangers of texting while driving or while under the influence. Stimulation in a controlled environment was an eye opening experience for students that got to take part in the stimulator. In 2014, it was reported that the highest percentage of drunk drivers involved in fatal crashes were between the ages of 21 to 24.

If the stimulation event was not eye opening enough, a car from an actual alcohol related accident was on display in the Salazar Plaza from Tuesday, Dec. 4  through Thursday, Dec. 6.

Surrounding the car were messages that were chosen to be shared about drunk driving. Faces with stories also were displayed around the car. The faces were of college students around the country that have died in alcohol related accidents.

Mo Phillips, the Director of Student Involvement, has coordinated these alcohol awareness weeks for several of the colleges that she has been able to work at. In her time here at Sonoma State, she has known five students that have passed away from alcohol related incidents. The most recent happening in late October when graduate student Mo’Tasem Haddad passed away in an accident on Rohnert Park Expressway.

Phillips’ was able to share the importance of this event that she holds close to home: “At four of the 6 universities I have worked , I have had residents or have known students who have died from alcohol related incidents. Even one is too many.” Phillips said. “The effect [of] … every student’s death has had on me, and the community, is tremendous, so sad, so unnecessary.”

She agreeably noted that yes, alcohol is a growing problem currently at all college campuses. In 2015, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism stated, “Drinking at college has become a ritual that students often see as an integral part of their higher education experience. Many students come to college with established drinking habits, and the college environment can exacerbate the problem.”

Phillip’s offered these tips as advice to students on how to handle the party aspect of college and a student: Be aware of what’s going on around you, be aware of the drink you have, keep your drink with you and do not put it down, know your limits, have a designated driver at parties or a sober person who looks out for you, drink responsibly, look out for each other, know the signs of alcohol poisoning, call if you think your friend is in trouble and drink or drive...not both.