The Cavalier Daily
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Purging dangerous tradition

TRADITIONS at the University die hard. Even in light of recent citations, students continue to streak the Lawn. Though many students probably can't tell you why we use the term "fourth year" rather than senior," we still employ the Jeffersonian terminology upheld by generations of our predecessors. We flock to Scott Stadium in dressy attire and put on southern airs at Foxfield.

These traditions, though perhaps not some of the University's most meaningful, remain fairly harmless. This weekend, however, one of the University's more ridiculous - and dangerous - traditions threatens to dampen the final football game of the season. If you see a disproportionate number of incoherent fourth-year students stumbling through the stands, tripping toward the bathroom to prevent a public puking spectacle, you'll know it's no coincidence. These students, if they could articulate a complete sentence, likely would boast of their successful observance of the fourth-year fifth tradition.

The fourth-year fifth marks an annual attempt by fourth-year students to finish a fifth of hard liquor by the final whistle of the last home football game of the season. The resulting mayhem in the student section of the stadium reminds us all of the dangers of drinking ourselves into oblivion. The ramifications extend far beyond the typical slurred speech and gregarious nature of a typical Wahoo. These students can barely stand up, and many end up losing all the liquor they downed before the end of the afternoon. Such a spectacle certainly creates a plethora of teachable moments for underclassmen observing the chaos. Still, such an extreme example of irresponsible drinking creates potential hazards for participating fourth-year students that greatly outweigh any possible advantage for others.

Ironically, the fourth-year fifth comes at the end of a week devoted to educating the community about dangerous drinking habits at the University. Alcohol Awareness Week, sponsored by a variety of student organizations and University agencies, includes presentations, speakers and activities focused on dealing with substance abuse for yourself and others. The week culminates with the fourth-year 5K run and a free tailgate. These events compete directly with observance of the fourth-year fifth tradition and serve to reemphasize the proactivity of student groups to end the ridiculous practice.

Students at the University, while intelligent, sometimes take the "work hard, play hard" mentality too far. By slapping the label of tradition on drinking a fifth of liquor, enough to incapacitate even the most meaty meathead, students somehow can ignore the sheer stupidity of the practice. But in addition to participating in the events planned for Saturday morning and early afternoon, fourth-year students can take an even more proactive and definite stand against observing the fourth-year fifth.

Project F.E.S.T. (Fourth Years Ending Stupid Traditions) targets this weekend's stupid tradition in its attempt to get fourth-year students to pledge their abstinence from drinking a fifth. If students sign a pledge card, they retain a stub entitling them to a free cup and beverage at the Buffalo game and also are entered into a raffle for prizes ranging from restaurant gift certificates to a cruise for two. Some proponents of the fifth argue that, as 21-year-old adults, fourth-year students have the prerogative to drink as much as they desire. Legally speaking, of course, that's true. But the pledge doesn't require participants to refrain from drinking completely; only from attempting to finish a fifth of liquor.

Honoring this pledge and practicing responsible drinking should prove synonymous for any University student, even those who have developed high tolerances over their years on Rugby and in Corner bars. In fact, it is impossible that responsible drinking and finishing a fifth of liquor could describe the same event.

Students shouldn't see refraining from the fourth-year fifth as an infringement on their rights as card-carrying 21-year-olds. On the contrary, signing the F.E.S.T. pledge and refusing to perpetuate the fourth-year fifth tradition reflects the maturity all students should strive for during their final year at the University. Maybe some still regress to childhood practices at times (my neighbor remains convinced he's a six-year-old at heart), but the real world looms on the post-graduation horizon. Fourth-year students have begun the march to adulthood, a status conferring greater respect, but also increased responsibility.

The final undergraduate year does represent many students' last opportunity to indulge in unadulterated, unbounded fun. It does not give students license to engage in behavior that, though billed as fun and backed by years of tradition, remains dangerous. Fourth-year students at the University tailgate before each home football game. Many of them drink alcoholic beverages at these weekly gatherings. None of that needs to change to end the fourth-year fifth tradition. Students merely need to prove their intelligence and maturity by exercising appropriate judgment while drinking. By doing so, they can make their final home game as Wahoos one they will enjoy - and remember the next day.

(Amy Startt's column appears Wednesdays in The Cavalier Daily.)


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