Authorities see few ‘Fourth-Year Fifth’ incidents

ADAPT working to curb high-risk tradition


The "Fourth-Year Fifth" is a tradition from the 1980s in which fourth-years drink a fifth, or 750 mL, of alcohol before the start of the last home game.

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The number of University students who participate in the annual “Fourth-Year Fifth” has been on a steady decline this year and in recent years. Groups like the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Team at the University have also been engaged in efforts to curb the high-risk tradition. 

The “Fourth-Year Fifth” dates back to the 1980s and takes place the Saturday of the last home football game of the season. The tradition involves fourth-year students attempting to drink a fifth of a bottle of liquor — the equivalent of 17 shots — by the start of the football game that day. 

The tradition garnered nationwide media attention in 1997, when fourth-year College student Leslie Baltz fell down her apartment steps and hit her head after partaking in the tradition. She did not receive medical attention in time and died later that evening from the alcohol-induced head injury. 

Ben Rexrode, University Police Community Service and Crime Prevention Coordinator, said in an interview with The Cavalier Daily that the number of Fourth-Year Fifth related incidents this year and in recent years has been “holding steady at low and few incidences.”

“It’s been pretty low for the past several years at our end,” he said.

Only three 911 calls were made between 12 a.m. and 6 p.m. Saturday relating to substance overdose in the areas surrounding Rugby Road and the Corner, where many students live off-Grounds. It is unknown if these calls were specifically related to the Fourth-Year Fifth. 

Senior Officer Cody Bowman, a crime analyst with Charlottesville Police, told The Cavalier Daily that no arrests for public intoxication or related issues were made Saturday or Sunday by Charlottesville Police.

ADAPT has been working to reduce the number of fourth-year students choosing to engage in the Fourth-Year Fifth. Substance Abuse Prevention Week in particular has been a key part of ADAPT’s outreach and is well-timed with the last few weeks of the home football season. The events this year included a pledge drive, a Bodo’s brunch, a panel featuring students in recovery from substance abuse and a lecture given by a former alcoholic University student. 

The week culminated with the Fourth-Year 5K sponsored by the Peer Health Organization, strategically scheduled for Saturday morning in order to deter fourth-years from participating in high-risk drinking. 

Miranda Gali, a fourth-year College student and one of the ADAPT co-chairs, said the goal of Substance Abuse Prevention Week was to openly and honestly educate fourth-years about high-risk drinking behaviors. 

“With the Fourth-Year Fifth, that is a really risky behavior for students to be partaking in, and we just want them to be educated on the risks,” Gali said. “Open and honest education is really our goal.”

A component of the week and a major deterrent for fourth-years planning on participating in the Fourth-Year Fifth is a pledge fourth-years sign specifically regarding safe drinking behaviors on the day of the last home football game, stating “On my honor as a 4th year student I pledge to not participate in the 4th year 5th. If I do choose to drink on the day of the last home football game, I will do so in a manner that does not impact myself or others. I will attended to an intoxicated friends and get help as needed.” 

According to Gali, the pledge is related to reduced number of fourth-years who participate in the tradition, and the effects have had a personal impact on Gali. 

“I do know that a friend of mine decided not to participate in the fifth this year because of the pledge, and for me that is a win,” Gali said. “Even if we can change one person's mind, that is a good thing and it is a move toward safer behaviors in our community.”

Rexrode highly praised ADAPT’s efforts and the positive effect they have had on reducing the number of students who participate in the Fourth-Year Fifth. 

“They’ve done a lot of outreach about it,” Rexrode said. “The Fourth-Year 5K that they do has grown significantly … [It’s been] a really, really big event just in the past couple of years.”

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