Wednesday November 19, 2008
"To know what can happen empowers people to be able to not agree with everybody else," says UVa Fourth Year Chloe Downe.
Downe learned about alcohol the hard way; a high school friend went off to college at the University of Colorado and within weeks of setting foot on campus died of alcohol poisoning.
"I thought it would be important to get involved with the student alcohol education group here at UVa," Downe recalls.
She's now one of a number of students who work as peer educators for UVa's Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Team (ADAPT). Downe and her friends are working hard this week to educate their peers during this Substance Abuse Awareness Week, a week that culminates in the Fourth-Year Fifth.
"We know that a majority of Fourth-Year students aren't attempting it or completing it, but there's still sort of this myth," explains Susan Bruce, director of the University's Center for Alcohol and Substance Education (CASE). "So I think there's pockets of students where it is a tradition, but I would say for the vast majority of students it's not something that they do."
Quite simply, the human body wasn't designed to consume a fifth of alcohol in a matter of hours. Still, that's the tradition for UVa Fourth-Years each season before the last home football game; a game coming up this saturday.
Experts say during the Fourth-Year Fifth, students are drinking a seriously unhealthy amount of alcohol. They say if a student imbibes 80 proof liqour, they're taking in the equivalent of about 17 shots. If they drink 100 proof, that number jumps to about 25 shots.
It's something Downe says transcends the University of Virginia and really is a generational issue.
"I've learned that this is just a huge problem of our generation in our country and that we are really the ones who are in the middle of it and have the power to wake up and do something about it."
Students have been signing up Fourth-Years all week long, getting them to sign a pledge that they won't take part in the Fourth-Year Fifth. Organizers of the effort say they hope to have about 1,000 people signed up by Saturday.
Another initiative to discourage that heavy drinking Saturday morning: the Fourth-Year 5K, an early-morning race that will help raise awareness about this problematic tradition.
University officials say they're more worried about the Fourth-Year Fifth this year than most others. With Saturday's kickoff set for noon, they fear students will try to drink all that liquor in the few hours before the early start time.
For more information on the University's efforts, go to http://www.virginia.edu/case/.