Anna Chen, Contributing Writer
President Michael Rao detailed VCU’s “independent, comprehensive review” of Greek life in a statement released Tuesday. The effort follows the death of 19-year-old freshman Adam Oakes.
Oakes was found dead Feb. 27 at a residence on West Clay Street. His family says a Delta Chi fraternity hazing event resulted in his death.
“No parent should receive a call from a college president offering sympathy for the loss of their child,” Rao stated in the release. “I’m sickened by what happened and continue to urge anyone who has information to speak up and contact Richmond or VCU Police.”
The Division of Student Affairs will conduct the review and “examine all major aspects of Greek Life at VCU,” the release stated.
“Adam and his family deserve answers and there will be accountability,” Rao stated. “We will honor Adam’s life by setting the bar highest for the very organizations he wanted so much to be part of.”
The investigation will examine aspects including relationships between Greek life and the university; the role of university advisers; incident reporting and transparency; hazing, alcohol and drug abuse, and sexual violence; recruitment practices; social, educational and philanthropic activities; and alumni involvement.
“The goal is for something like this to never happen again and to build a national model that promotes health and safety and creates a climate of respect and inclusion that is conducive to academic success,” Rao stated.
Students held a vigil and memorial on March 3 for Oakes. The gathering, both on Zoom and in person at Monroe Park, was held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. for community members, family and friends of Oakes who wished to speak and share memories of his life.
Students decorated the base of the Monroe Park fountain with painted portraits of Oakes, candles and flowers.
Oakes’ grandmother, Carol Oakes, was “deeply moved” by the attention that has been given to her grandson’s death and the respect that has been paid to him.
“His loss is monumental to our family,” Carol Oakes said during the virtual vigil. “He was such a gentle giant.”
Carol Oakes said Adam was always affectionate, even as a young boy, and never hesitated to hug and kiss his grandparents in public.
“It’s just devastating, he was looking forward to college so much and to a bright future,” Carol Oakes said.
Freshman Alec Cardullo-Munoz, Adam Oakes’ roommate, said during the vigil that Adam was one of the greatest people he knew and was someone he could always talk with.
“I just miss my friend,” Cardullo-Munoz said during the virtual vigil. “No matter what, I’m always going to love Adam like a brother.”
The investigation into Adam Oakes’ death by the Richmond Police Department is ongoing, according to a department spokesperson.
At the Monroe Park memorial site, sophomore criminal justice major Nick Gilmore expressed frustration with Delta Chi, citing “negligence” from the fraternity.
Gilmore said the fraternity “selfishly” hosted a party during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I strongly believe that we as people have a responsibility to protect each other, even at a cost to ourselves,” Gilmore said. “Their actions and inactions should have consequences beyond the suspension of their fraternity.”
Max Turner, a close friend of Adam Oakes’, said they grew up playing Little League together and described him as “truly a one of a kind.”
“I’ve never met someone like Adam, and I don’t think I ever will again,” Turner said during the virtual vigil.
Losing a best friend is hard, Turner said, but replaying memories and finding new ones through talking to friends and Adam Oakes’ parents has been beneficial.
“His legacy is going to live on through the hearts of those that knew him,” Turner said. “We really lost a good one, and he’ll never be forgotten, and we all love him.”
The Oakes family held a funeral service for Adam on Monday at Christian Fellowship Church in Ashburn, Virginia. He was laid to rest at Chestnut Grove Cemetery in Herndon, Virginia, according to NBC 12.
Anyone with information about this case can call Major Crimes Detective Michael Gouldman at 804-646-3915 or anonymously contact Crime Stoppers at 804-780-1000.
This story was updated March 10.