The Legend of the 4.0

Collected by John Aiello (

Summary: Iif your roommate dies from any cause, while you are living with them at Vanderbilt, you automatically receive
a 4.0 GPA for that semester.

Text: "The Legend of the 4.0" is a college tale that has developed over
time at Vanderbilt and other colleges and universties across the
country. The legend presents an academic as well as a social context.
The legend involves a ritual that almost every college student has
experienced, having a roommate. Whether this roommate is chosen or
assigned, living with someone else provides a unique social experience.
This tale also involves elements of death. We have all wanted to "kill"
our roommates at one time or another for myriad reasons, but this legend
seriously addresses this issue. The legend attempts to answer the
question, "What would happen if my roommate were to die or commit
suicide?" According to the legend, Vanderbilt will automatically give
the deceased student's roommate(s) a 4.0 grade point average for the

Notes: This tale is a very popular one on college campuses across the
country. This was made obvious after the recent release of a movie
titled "Dead Man on Campus". The comedy centers around two students who
refuse to do any work and will eventually suffer the consequences of
their laziness. They then discover a rule that follows the
aforementioned legend. The students try to live with any and all
borderline suicides cases on campus in hopes of taking advantage of the
rule. This movie proves the widespread popularity of this legend on
college campuses. Apparently this rule is just a legend at Vanderbilt,
though. I searched through the Student Handbook and the Undergraduate
Catalog looking for any reference to the rule, but came up empty. My
next step is to refer the question to someone in the administration, but
I will save those results for my paper.

A. My informant had the following to say regarding the legend:
"I have heard many times that if your roommate dies from any cause,
while you are living with them at Vanderbilt, you automatically receive
a 4.0 GPA for that semester."

B. The tale type is unclassified, at least according to Stith Thompson's
article. This legend is fairly modern, however, and can be broadly
categorized as collegiae folklore. It does emply a death motif, though.

C. This legend is very popular and appropriate on this campus
considering Vanderbilt's recent history. Within the last three years,
four Vanderbilt students have died on campus. These deaths bring about
questions regarding the dead student's roommates. This is where the
"Legend of the 4.0" comes into casual conversation around campus and
eventually becomes part of Vanderbilt lore.

D. The informant first heard the tale in the first semester of her
freshman year.

E. The informant's Resident Advisor passed on the tale to her.

F. The RA mentioned the tale after two Vanderbilt students died in a car
wreck on campus. This wreck occurred during the first semester of the
1996-97 school year.

G. Give he following information on your informant:
Age: 20
Sex: female
Place of birth: Boston, Massachusetts
Ethnic Group: Irish
Languages spoken: English
Religion: Catholic
Year in school: Junior
Extracurricular jobs: SGA Press Secretary
Date Collected: 9/14/98