We need to take a stance on Greek life

Illustration by Marisa Stratton

Ishaan Nandwani, Contributing Writer

Shock. Disappointment. Anger. Sadness.

These were some of the many emotions I felt when I heard about the death of Adam Oakes, a 19-year-old VCU freshman who died on Feb. 27 as a result of the hazing process for the Delta Chi fraternity at VCU.

Whether it’s looking at his bright-eyed smile on his family’s GoFundMe page, or listening to the stories from his friends during his vigil, it’s evident to all that Adam was a person who lived a life of decency and compassion, radiating boundless love to all those who surrounded him. And he had so much more to live for.

At VCU, Adam sought a brotherhood in the Delta Chi fraternity. He desired a group of people that he could establish lifelong connections with; a community that he could lean on and that would inspire him to reach his best self. Instead, Adam endured a process that, paired with the negligence and apathy of his so-called brothers, ultimately resulted in his death — all because of hazing.

We’ve all heard of hazing, especially within the context of Greek life. Technically it’s illegal in Virginia, but I’d say most college students are aware that it happens behind closed doors. Rituals like blindfolding and drinking down dozens of cans of alcohol are rites of passage for brothers pledging for fraternities. VCU is certainly no exception.

This dehumanizing practice is thoroughly problematic. Hazing is an abuse of power, with upperclassman fraternity members leveraging tactics of intimidation and peer pressure on younger pledging students in a falsified spirit of brotherhood. If recruits are able to make it through hazing, they are awarded the elusive “gift” of full membership into the fraternity.

With such a clearly predatory practice that has now led to the death of a student who had his whole life ahead of him, it begs the question of how this was even able to occur, especially at our university.

The fraternity responsible for Adam’s death, VCU’s chapter of the Delta Chi fraternity, has had a long history of abuses on campus. They have a rumored reputation for sexual assault. In 2018, they were suspended by the university but pardoned from their suspension early in 2019. It’s despicable that despite these occurrences, this fraternity has remained on campus, threatening the safety of all students.

Justice needs to be served. Delta Chi must be eliminated immediately. All brothers involved in Adam’s death must be immediately expelled from the university and tried for manslaughter. I encourage all readers to sign the petition from VCU senior Carson Sturgis on change.org to ensure expulsion occurs.

Beyond Delta Chi’s involvement in Adam’s death, this incident calls into question the institution of Greek life as a whole, and the future of all fraternities and sororities on campus.

Delta Chi is not the exception here. There are many fraternities at VCU that actively partake in hazing and have a history of misconduct. Moreover, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Greek organizations have openly defied the health and safety guidelines put in place by throwing parties and hosting large get-togethers. 

These acts clearly pose a danger to the Richmond community. While these organizations preach philanthropy and social support, the contrary is occurring.

Frankly, I’m shocked at the lack of accountability of these organizations by VCU and how much has been swept under the rug — sexual assault, hazing and COVID-19 restriction defiance. The fact that it took the death of a student for the university to launch an investigation into Greek life is unacceptable.

Now that VCU is embarking on the path to rectifying the Greek system, we must hold them accountable. Their initial statement of the investigation was quite vague, and although it’s probable that the details of the process are still in the works, it is essential for the student body to demand comprehensive reports periodically of actions and updates into the investigation.

The circumstances that led to Adam’s death must never happen again at VCU — or anywhere, for that matter. But for change to truly be effected, all Greek organizations that disobey the law must be abolished immediately. Sorority and fraternity activity throughout the pandemic must be deeply investigated, and all Greek activity must be tightly regulated.

2 Comments

  1. You are right on two fronts. Justice must be served in this case. Secondly, this can never happen again. But I am terrified it will. Just a week after Adam, another young man drank too much alcohol and lost his life on another campus. But there are so many assumptions and rumors in your article. In these cases, I believe in facts-not innuendo. Nothing will change the fact that Adam is gone and reforms must be made. But at this point in time, right now, nobody knows exactly what happened. So my hope is law enforcement will do a thorough job investigating and any people responsible are held accountable. And I hope the Oakes family will know exactly what happened to Adam.

  2. I say that alcohol is dangerous, and without alcohol, none of this would happen. Just ban alcohol, or better yet, let’s realize that a horrible crime was committed against a young man. A crime that is is so heinous that it was made against the law by the people of all fifty states. Some of those people that saw this illegality and saw to it that it was made law and attempted to stop it in the face of the very people that had in the past committed these acts, the elites that are members of these organizations and have power. Crime is a horrible thing to have done to you or someone else in your community, and it is in the best of all that is human to want justice, what is justice? A young man, at a drunken party, drinks too much after being made to, throw all personal responsibility out of the damn window and blame the name on the marquee. A young boy in Chicago or New York overdoses on Fentanyl, after only the first try, and who cares. This issue is about power, money, race and elitism and always has been.

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