Senior Fifth

An art installation in the atrium of the Benson University Center draws attention to the Binge Thinking campaign on alcohol consumptionA few years ago, we had an art installation with red solo cups (the ubiquitous party cup), arranged to spell out the words BINGE THINKING, part of a campaign to talk to students about thinking about alcohol differently. Today’s Daily Deac is a heavy one, but an important one to discuss. So bear with me.

Some students choose to participate in a concerning and troubling event at the last home football game of the season.  It is called Senior Fifth.  My colleague Peter Rives (’98), Assistant Director of Wellbeing – Alcohol and Substance Abuse Prevention, describes it this way:

Senior Fifth is a very dangerous activity in which some upperclass students have participated in the past. It involves students attempting to drink an entire 750ml bottle (fifth) of liquor the day of the last home football game before kickoff (this year 11/18/17 v. NC State). This unfortunate activity is not unique to Wake Forest.

We have a prevention campaign seeking to foster a campus culture that questions assumptions that this activity is safe or universally accepted and offers those who wish to decline participation support and language with which to resist peer pressure. The posters specifically invoke the risk associated with alcohol poisoning, the nostalgia that upperclassmen students feel about their time spent at Wake Forest University, the conflict between high-risk drinking and achievement, and research on Self Perception of Adulthood (SPOA). This poster campaign is just one piece of a multi-faceted prevention program aimed at reducing high-risk drinking among Wake Forest University students.

Peter and his colleagues have developed a multi-pronged prevention for Senior Fifth, which includes the aforementioned prevention poster campaign aimed at upperclassmen. Students are currently seeing posters on digital screens, printed posters, and tent-boards around campus in areas strategically chosen for high visibility.  Peter says that the primary goal with this campaign is to stimulate discussion about Senior Fifth, to raise questions about the compatibility of Senior Fifth with safety, maturity, and academic success, and to give those feeling pressure to participate language with which to push back.  Here are some of the posters that are being used in this campaign.

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The good news is that last year, which was the first for this version of our prevention campaign, we saw some significant reductions in risk associated with drinking and Senior Fifth:

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Peter would tell you that while these single-year outcomes are encouraging, we still have a long way to go. The level of harm associated with this practice is still unacceptably high and it will take years to extinguish the culture that propels student participation in this activity.

There is a delicate line that is walked every year with Senior Fifth. Some students feel like they are being lectured to, or infantalized when the administration talks to parents and families about the event.  Only you will know if, when, and/or how it might be appropriate to talk to your student about high risk drinking behaviors. But we wanted to give parents and families a head start so you have time to think about whether and how you want to discuss this, since the last home game is next Saturday, November 18th at 7:30 pm.

Finally, in the general spirit of reminding all students of the importance of attending to their wellbeing, Penny Rue, our outstanding Vice President for Campus Life, sent a message to all students today. Here is a snippet:

“For many of us, early November on campus brings anticipation of travel and turkey, as well as time with family and friends from home.  Midterm exams have likely been returned and we are preparing for the final push of academic preparation heading into the final weeks of the semester that wait for us after Thanksgiving Break.

I’ve worked with students on college campuses for the better part of four decades, and one of the constants I’ve found is that this time of the fall semester can also be particularly challenging for many of our fellow Deacs.  Anticipation and anxiety about academic performance can cause us to isolate, feeling that we don’t have enough time to connect, socialize with, and support one another as we have been.  And yet we also know that it is in times of stress like this when looking to another, and looking out for one another is what is makes us inhabit such a special place.”

You can (and should) read her full message here. It’s a great one, and any reinforcement you can provide to your Deacs about taking care of themselves, and looking out for each other, can only be a positive thing.


Categories: campus lifethrive

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