the '4th-year fifth'
By Ida Lee Wootten
at the University die hard -- even those that have only been around
for a few years. Nonetheless, U.Va. officials, student leaders,
athletes and members of the Greek system are engaged in a variety
of efforts to dispel a decades-old perception that alcohol use
among students is a rite of passage.
Awareness Week, a series of educational events, kicked off
Nov. 7, as students and officials unite to eliminate the "4th-year
fifth." This relatively recent practice has fourth-year students
competing to consume a fifth of alcohol on the day of the last
home football game.
name of a new student organization matches its mission -- Fourth-years
Ending Stupid Traditions (FEST). The students have banded together
to raise awareness of the dangers of binge drinking and to promote
responsible drinking behavior during the last home football game.
The group hopes to eliminate the "4th-year fifth," a
drinking practice started some 10 years ago.
to drink a fifth of liquor is extremely dangerous, said Dr. James
C. Turner, director of U.Va.'s student
health department. "It's tantamount to playing Russian
roulette. It places a young person at extremely high risk of injury,
sickness or death."
members will ask students to sign pledge cards promising to drink
responsibly and not to participate in the "4th-year fifth."
Students who bring the signed pledge cards to the football game
can redeem them for U.Va. cups that entitle them to free non-alcoholic
beverages during the event. Cardholders will also be eligible
for a raffle of prizes donated by local merchants.
encourage students to sign the pledges, athletes, cheerleaders
and members of the Greek system will staff tables on the Lawn.
For the first time, U.Va. officials have a sense of how many fourth-year
students may engage in the last home game drinking practice. Data
from a longitudinal study of the 1999 undergraduate class showed
that 84 percent of those surveyed did not participate in the practice.
In response to the question "Did you participate in the '4th-year
fifth' during the day of U.Va.'s last home football game last
fall?", 9.4 percent said they had finished a fifth of liquor;
6.7 percent had engaged in the practice, but did not finish.
showed that fraternity and sorority members engaged in the "4th-year
fifth" practice more than students who were not in the Greek
system. Thirty-two percent of fourth-year Greek men and 1 percent
of fourth-year Greek women consumed a fifth, the data showed.
However, the data also showed that 32 percent of the fraternity
men and 39 percent of the sorority women did not drink on the
day of the last home football game.
longitudinal study followed about 20 percent of the undergraduate
class from the time the students entered U.Va. in fall 1995 until
they graduated in spring 1999. During the fourth year of the study,
questionnaires were distributed to 621 students in the group;
541 returned completed surveys, for a response rate of about 87
and officials in U.Va.'s Institute
for Substance Abuse Studies will present Alcohol Awareness
Week, Nov. 7-13. Although the week is observed nationally in October,
U.Va.'s Alcohol Awareness Week is held to coincide with the last
home football game, said Alison Houser, interim director of the
Institute for Substance Abuse Studies. "We want to support
the efforts of student leaders who are working to end the '4th-year
fifth' practice," she said. "The week of events is intended
to promote responsibility, safety and caring for others."
week is planned by a University-wide committee chaired by peer
educators of ADAPT, a new program created in response to recommendations
of the 1998 U.Va. alcohol task force calling for greater student
leadership on alcohol issues. Peer educators in ADAPT, the alcohol
and drug abuse prevention team in the Institute for Substance
Abuse Studies, worked with other students and administrators to
organize events around the theme of "Say Something,"
a message that encourages students to address problem drinking
by recognizing and stopping behaviors that enable students to
events are intended to stimulate thoughtful discussion, provide
useful information and promote healthy decisions about alcohol
use, according to Jill Ingram, ADAPT peer educator and chair of
the week's planning committee.
In addition, the Fourth-year 5K run, created by student health's
Office of Health Promotion in 1992 as a healthy way to celebrate
the last home football game, will be held Nov. 13, starting at
8 a.m. at the Aquatic Fitness Center. Organized by Peer Health
Educators, the five-kilometer race is open to everyone who can
run, walk or roll. Winners will receive gifts donated by local
merchants. U.Va. President John T. Casteen III will present plaques
to the fourth-year male and female student winners during a quarter
break at the football game.
portion of the race proceeds will be donated to the Leslie Baltz
Scholarship Fund. Two years ago fourth-year student Leslie Baltz
died from head injuries in an alcohol-related fall. The Baltz
family will be participating in the race that their daughter ran
norms marketing campaign
"U.Va.'s The Real Grounds," a series of new, brightly
colored posters portray one principal message: most first-year
students have 0-4 drinks per week. The posters are part of an
information campaign begun in 1998 as a long-term education and
research effort to curb high-risk drinking among first-year students.
Located in first-year residence halls, the posters proclaim such
70 percent of first-year students say drinking is not a central
part of their social lives;
only a minority of first-years think that drinking to get drunk
the majority of first-years intervene to stop intoxicated friends
from harming themselves or someone else.
These facts are based on a random sample survey of 888 first-year
students conducted in the spring of 1999. The survey results
show that there are widespread misperceptions about alcohol
use among first-year students, according to Elena Bertolotti,
social marketing coordinator.
"The survey showed that 59 percent of the first-year students
drink four or fewer drinks per week. That percent includes the
36 percent who abstain completely," said Bertolotti. "However,
most first-years believe that the Ćaverage' first-year student
drinks more than that. This misperception inadvertently leads
to more drinking."
posters illustrate the differences between the data and students'
perceptions, Bertolotti said. The poster displays -- seven are
planned -- are being rotated by residence life staff, who have
received training on the basics of social norms theory.
"The staff are not only the harbingers of the positive norm
message, but they are also conscious of comments that might unintentionally
reinforce misperceptions about drinking," Bertolotti said.
reaction to the first poster was positive and shows solid retention
of the data. Of 50 first-year students who were randomly questioned,
76 percent recalled that most first-year students have between
0-4 drinks per week. "The recall from the posters has been
exceptional," said Bertolotti. "The challenge will be
to provide new information and to keep it engaging. Recall is
important, but we are most interested in finding out if there
will be behavior change down the road."
In the spring, first-year students will be surveyed to determine
their behaviors and perceptions. Results of the 2000 survey will
be compared to those of the 1999 survey to see how students' knowledge
and behaviors have changed.
complete report of the 1999 survey is available at www.virginia.edu/student