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Organizations look to curb practice of "fourth-year fifth"

Several University organizations are working to tackle the emerging "fourth-year fifth" drinking trend this week by sponsoring awareness campaigns and offering alternative activities for fourth years.

The practice involves consuming a fifth of alcohol -- approximately 17 shots of liquor -- before the season's last home football game. University Peer Health Educators and the department of social norms began their campaign for awareness last weekend with the annual fourth-year 5K run. Normally, the race is scheduled for the morning of the final home football game in order to counteract the fourth-year fifth, Peer Health Educator Coordinator Tara Schuster said.

"The fourth-year 5K is a healthy way to celebrate the last game," said Susan Bruce, director of the Center for Alcohol and Substance Abuse Education.

Schuster said Peer Health Educators decided to move the date of this year's run since the last home football game was scheduled for the start of Thanksgiving break and the group wanted to ensure the highest possible participation level.

"Increased participation means increased awareness, and the 5K helped kick off this week's events," Schuster said.

Schuster added that this year marked the highest level of participation in the race.

"We had 510 people cross the finish line -- the most participation of any year yet," Schuster said.

Members of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Team, Fourth-Year Trustees and Peer Health Educators joined efforts by setting up tables on the Lawn and outside Newcomb where fourth-year students could sign a pledge. By signing the pledge, fourth years are expressing their intent to drink responsibly, said Ross Baird, president of the Fourth-Year Trustees.

Baird added that the Fourth-Year Trustees will be handing out water before Saturday's game.

The University administration is echoing the message of these student groups. President John T. Casteen, III sent an e-mail and published a letter in The Cavalier Daily warning students of the potential dangers of excessive drinking and urging all students to make healthy, responsible decisions.

Through awareness activities, Bruce said social norms hopes to correct the misconception that a large number of students participate in the fourth-year fifth. Contrary to popular belief, a "very small percentage of fourth-years engage in the fourth-year fifth," Schuster said.

According to Bruce, 11 percent of fourth-year students said they took part in the practice last year.

"Maybe some students think this is what everyone does, but the vast majority of students are not drinking a fifth of liquor even though a lot of students do drink at the last home football game," Bruce said.

Several fourth-year students said they do not feel pressured to finish a fifth before the football game this weekend.

"I have friends who are doing it, but I have many more that aren't," fourth-year College student Layton Hill said. He also said he believes the fourth-year fifth is not a widespread practice.

"I think it's a small minority, and it always has been," Hill said.

Laura Clark, chair of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Team echoed Hill's thoughts.

"I think it's an unfortunate thing people do, but I've heard only a few people mention it in passing," Clark said.