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President Casteen Reminds Students to Celebrate with Caution

President Casteen reminds students to celebrate with caution The end of the home football season and the approaching end of the semester put many students in a celebrating mood. For some students, celebrating means consuming large amounts of alcohol. Each year, a small number of fourth-year students reportedly engage in a dangerous fad of trying to drink a fifth of alcohol (the fourth-year fifth) on the day of the last home football game. Parents are encouraged to talk with their students about the deadly potential of such activity, as well as the overall problem of illegal or abusive alcohol use. It is also important to remind students not to leave intoxicated friends alone. Students should not be afraid of reprisal from the University if seeking medical help for themselves or a friend. A rash of student deaths has occurred across the country this fall, and in nearly all the cases, the victim was left alone to sleep it off, only never to wake up.

As he has done every year since the tragic loss of a University student to an alcohol-related death in 1997, President Casteen has written a letter to the student body about celebrating responsibly during the weekend of the last home football game. The letter appeared as a one-page ad in the Nov. 11 edition of the student newspaper, the Cavalier Daily. In addition, a student peer group, the Student Athlete Mentors, has prepared a creative video message reminding students to have fun and at the same time, to be responsible and respectful. In addition, another student peer group, ADAPT, is sponsoring an alcohol-free Tailgate with live music and free food on Nov. 13 from noon to 3 p.m., prior to the football game. During the week of Nov. 8, the Fourth-Year Trustees joined the "be responsible" campaign by sponsoring a pledge drive. Students who have pledged not to participate in the fourth-year fifth are being entered into a drawing for a nice array of prizes, and they will receive free bottled water at the game.

President's Letter to Students November 2004

Dear Students:

Now that it is November, the semester is waning, the holidays are approaching, and football season is coming to its final few games, and then to what comes after the regular season. This Saturday marks the last home football game, an occasion sometimes promoted by persons (who have not seen sad outcomes) as a time to drink to excess, to break the rules or principles that make for safety and good health, and in some cases even to risk or lose lives.

Having fun with friends and celebrating good times is a healthy part of the experience of college and university life. Good times are not the issue at this season. We all want those. On the other hand, thoughtlessness endangers health and safety—your own and the health and safety of those around you.

Newspaper headlines from around the country have told grim stories this fall of young people who have died in consequence of irresponsible, illegal, and abusive drinking. This news disturbs me and saddens me because these deaths are needless. They waste the human potential, the opportunities for life, of women and men who look remarkably like you. In September alone, five students in four states, Virginia among them, died as the result of too much alcohol. These stories have several things in common: the students consumed large amounts of alcohol, sometimes throughout the day on which they died; their friends left them alone to sleep it off; the victims never woke up.

Do not leave an intoxicated friend alone. Many already know this and take care to practice this rule. Make it your habit to stay with friends who are intoxicated. If you do not know what to do, or if your own judgment is impaired, call a sober friend to help you, or call the Emergency Room or Dean Rue’s office, or for that matter the University Police or 911.

We have not escaped losing students because of excessive drinking at this time of year. Several years ago, a small number of students invented what they called the “4th-year fifth,” a dangerous practice that turned to disaster when one student (not a minor) died after consuming too much alcohol at a pre-game fourth-year fifth party held off Grounds. I attended her memorial service. I saw and felt her family’s and her friends’ agony and bewilderment. This year, unthinking persons, persons who do not mind risking your life will try again to promote the consumption of an entire bottle of hard liquor as a University tradition, which it is not and has never been.

Consider this: A fifth of liquor (25 ounces) is more than enough to kill you or to disable you—permanently. Consumed quickly, 15.5 ounces for a 150-pound male, or 11 ounces for a 120-pound female, can be lethal. Smaller quantities of alcohol can be lethal depending on your weight and physical condition. Even if spaced out during the day, this much alcohol can be more than your body can tolerate. The fourth-year fifth can kill you, and it has killed before.

Recognize also that you face other risks if you choose to participate in this fake tradition. One impulsive action, such as striking a police officer (a felony, with a minimum mandatory jail sentence of six months) or attacking another person, however provoked you may think you are or how drunk your adversary may be, can follow you throughout your life. Unwanted and regretted sexual activity often goes along with an intoxicated state of mind. Life and the happinesses it offers are too good to waste.

I care about you profoundly, as do your parents and instructors. Care also about yourself and about those around you. This is the basis for student self-governance, a valued tradition and principle here.

So be smart: Do not abuse alcohol. Watch out for your friends and for yourselves. Do not abandon an intoxicated or impaired friend. When necessary, seek immediate medical attention for yourself or another. You may save a life, even your own.

And do celebrate. Just do so in a responsible way that ensures health, safety, and happiness for yourselves and for all of us.


John T. Casteen III

View "Resist the Fourth Year Fifth" Flash Video (45 seconds).