Alcohol is frequently used in combination with hazing activities because it can reduce the anxiety about subjecting others to distress and decreases resistance to participation in a risky behavior. When combined with a new member's lack of knowledge about the activity, being intoxicated further lowers new members' power relative to those who are hazing them.
Intoxication of current members promotes "strategic disinhibition" to reduce anxiety or guilt about subjecting new members to mental and physical distress. Alcohol enables members who feel conflicted about hazing to temporarily suspend their moral standards.
Alcohol provides a sense of "insurance" against culpability by allowing hazers to point to their inebriated state as the explanation for hazing incidents. The "we were drunk and things just got out of hand" defense seeks to obscure that fact that hazing is generally premeditated and systematic. Intoxication, however, is not a valid legal defense, nor is it a defense in Colgate disciplinary proceedings.
Chronic health risks to new members
One in 10 college or university students report worrying that they might have a problem with alcohol or other drugs. New member processes that involve alcohol pose extra risk for students with alcohol problems.
In some cases, members are either unaware of such risks or recklessly disregard them. By creating conditions where it is difficult for a person with an alcohol problem to decline to drink, the group contributes to the person's problem.
Risk to hazers and the group
In addition to increasing their own risk of the acute and long-term individual consequences described above, members who haze risk harming others and bringing sanctions upon themselves or their organization. When the members of a group that is hazing become intoxicated, they may make disastrous decisions. Impaired judgment can turn a premeditated act of hazing into a tragedy. One of the biggest challenges with hazing is that it gets out of hand, and what begins as an innocent prank can lead to disaster.
Academic risks to the group
Students involved with hazing are significantly more likely to have a lower grade point average (GPA). This is because activities such as sleep deprivation, loss of time management, and stress can all contribute to decreased scholastic performance.