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Alcohol and Hazing

While hazing does not necessarily involve alcohol use by either current or new members, often alcohol consumption is either a central or contributing element.

Risks of Alcohol in Hazing

In addition to potential legal and disciplinary consequences, when hazing involves alcohol, there are risks that include premature death.
Acute health risks to new members
Rapid consumption of large quantities of alcohol can kill by suppressing brain functions:
  • A person can pass out and then drown in his or her own vomit because of an impaired gag reflex.
  • A person can pass out and then suffocate with his or her face in a pillow.
  • A person's breathing or heart beat can stop.
A common argument in defense of groups that pressure new members to drink is that they do not "force anyone to drink." Comments such as "No one poured it down their throats," and "They could have walked out at any time" ignore the reality of coercive power in groups and the fact that psychological force can be as strong as physical force.

Whenever a person is severely intoxicated, it is imperative that someone call 911 for medical assistance. Every student should be familiar with the signs of alcohol poisoning and Colgate's Medical Amnesty and Good Samaritan protocols.

It is never worth risking someone's life for the sake of the group. When someone does the right thing and calls for help, Colgate administrators consider the act of calling a mitigating circumstance when determining any sanctions that might apply to an organization. Not calling is an aggravating circumstance that may result in more severe sanctions.
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.

The Role Alcohol Can Play in Hazing

1. Consumption by new members - Providing alcohol to new members can serve a variety of functions, including the following:
  • Alcohol impairs the judgment of new members thus decreasing their resistance to engaging in risky behavior.
  • When combined with their lack of knowledge about what they are being subjected to, being intoxicated further lowers new members' power relative to those who are hazing them.
2. Consumption by current members - Intoxication of current members promotes "strategic disinhibition" to achieve the following:
  • 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.
  • Provide 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.

Adapted from hazing.cornell.edu