April 23, 2012 — Before students don their seersucker suits or sundresses and floppy hats for Saturday's Foxfield Races, they might consider stopping by one of the Foxfield Safety information sessions put on by U.Va.'s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Team, or ADAPT.
The sessions will take place Wednesday at 6:30 and 8 p.m. in the School of Architecture's Campbell Hall, room 153. The presentations, which satisfy a Fraternal Organization Agreement education requirement, will feature speakers including Assistant Dean of Students Michael Citro and representatives from the Albemarle County Police Department and the Foxfield Racing Association. Students are encouraged to arrive early to get a good seat, organizers said.
The spring running of the Foxfield Races, a steeplechase event, is particularly popular social event for students from U.Va. and nearby colleges and universities. Alcohol abuse is an annual concern, particularly with the course located four miles outside of town on a curvy, two-lane road.
Susan Bruce, director of U.Va.'s Gordie Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, said ADAPT, a student group affiliated with the center, urges students to think ahead about Foxfield and plan for three things: to secure a safe way home, to bring enough food and non-alcoholic beverages for their group and to not be afraid to get help for friends if they need it. "One of our biggest issues is to plan ahead – then have a plan B," she said.
Wednesday's information sessions are part of a larger effort to ensure students have a safe and responsible Foxfield experience. ADAPT first offered the sessions in 2008 in an effort to expand outreach beyond the initial focus on U.Va.'s fraternities and sororities. , The sessions grew out of previous efforts by a Foxfield Races strategy group formed by the Albemarle County Police.
Bruce said ADAPT's educational efforts now extend to other colleges and universities.
"This is a really intensive effort," she said.
On Monday, Patricia Lampkin, U.Va.'s vice president and chief student affairs officer, emailed "reminders for having a safe Foxfield" to U.Va. students, noting that intoxicated people face higher risks of injuries, police citations and sexual activity that is later regretted or does not include mutual consent.
ADAPT has posted several documents on its "Safe Foxfield" website. "Tips for a Safe Foxfield" contains information about law enforcement, transportation to and from the event and resources for obtaining food, water and medical attention at the races. The "Foxfield Catering Guide" lists restaurants and stores that cater and a catalog of food packages, prices and estimates of how many people the package will feed.
Bruce said that ADAPT created the catering guide after discovering that groups that brought food often ran out early in the afternoon.
ADAPT operates a safety tent at the races that offers free water and snacks to people who have been caught unprepared, but Bruce emphasized that these resources are not a substitute for groups bringing their own supplies. The tent also offers a table where students can sign a pledge to not drink at Foxfield. The first 600 people to sign the pledge will receive a free T-shirt. All who sign receive free sodas.
Two years ago, the ADAPT team handed out 2,000 cups of water; last year it handed out 3,000. Bruce called this a "significant increase," at least partially attributed to especially warm weather. As of Monday, forecasters were calling for temperatures in the mid-70s on Saturday with a chance of thunderstorms.
In 2011, 650 people signed the pledge to abstain from alcohol during the races, compared to 600 in 2010 and 471 in 2009. This year, ADAPT is shooting for 700 pledges.
Bruce said police believe ADAPT's awareness-raising efforts have made an impact over the last couple of years. Last year, ADAPT won an award and monetary prize from the National Organization for Youth Safety for its campaign to prevent impaired driving and promote safety at the Foxfield Races.
– by Kate Colwell