A month after Adam Oakes’ death, VCU grapples with misconduct in Greek life

Cary Street houses Delta Chi's fraternity house. Photo by Wessam Hazaymeh

Sahara Sriraman, Contributing Writer

Although sophomore bioinformatics major Disha Trivedi had a positive experience during her first year with Kappa Phi Gamma, a South Asian interest sorority at VCU, she said she knows that’s not common for all Greek life members. 

Trivedi, who is also the president of Kappa Phi Gamma, said she’s heard of many instances where Greek life organizations hazed new members.

After the death of freshman Adam Oakes at an off-campus Delta Chi fraternity event on Feb. 26, many VCU community members and Oakes’ family called for the expulsion of the university chapter. More than a month later, there is no update in the Richmond Police Department’s investigation, according to a spokesperson.

Trivedi said that after Oakes’ death, Delta Chi should not be allowed to have a chapter at VCU and the members involved with the incident should face involuntary manslaughter charges.

“I really think FSL and VCU need to take other sororities and fraternities, the larger ones, more responsible for their actions,” Trivedi said.

The Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life at VCU declined to comment.

“Delta Chi is not the only fraternity that hazes, but they’re the first fraternity to get caught hazing,” Trivedi said.

There have been numerous other allegations of hazing against Greek life organizations in previous years, ranging from hazing to sexual assault.

The Theta Rho Chapter of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority was found guilty of misconduct in 2010 due to hazing by the National Pan-Hellenic Judicial Council, according to past reporting from The Commonwealth Times.

In 2014, the VCU chapter of the sorority came back to campus, complete with a new student council. That same year, Alpha Kappa Alpha also began the recruiting process, after which they engaged in events and activities around Richmond. 

VCU’s chapter of Alpha Kappa Lambda was forced to shut down in 2018 after a hazing incident took place on West Cary Street, according to the Richmond-Times Dispatch.

VCU Police began investigating the fraternity after it obtained the report of the incident in October of the same year, according to the article.

University spokesperson Michael Porter said at the time that members of the organization weren’t willing to cooperate during the investigation, which resulted in an inadequate amount of evidence. The investigation became a cold case after inactivity.

The VCU Fraternity and Sorority Life Office is located in the VCU Student Commons. Photo by Wessam Hazaymeh

VCU and Alpha Kappa Lambda’s national headquarters considered taking corrective action against the chapter, according to Porter. The fraternity’s headquarters said that in December of 2018, it had “revoked its charter at VCU’s chapter for four years following the incident,” meaning that the chapter wouldn’t be recognized until 2022.

VCU alumna Caelynn Miller-Keyes disclosed on “The Bachelor” in 2019 that she was drugged and raped during a party, according to The Virginian-Pilot. The alumna stated she remembers passing out and seeing two men in bed with her. 

Miller-Keyes stated in a 13 News Now article that the assault took place at a fraternity house and that she later found out that two men assaulted her, one of whom was expelled from VCU. After the party, she talked to two friends who disclosed they had been drugged and assaulted at the party as well.

Miller-Keyes stated that she took legal action against VCU, although it exceeded the Title IX time limit in which a case must be concluded. Title IX is a federal law prohibiting any discrimination based on sex on college campuses.

Senior Vice Provost for student affairs Charles Klink issued a March 2 statement stating that VCU would begin an independent review of all Greek life organizations.

“This comprehensive review will propose new ways to ensure all organizations follow our values and how they will be held accountable when they do not,” Klink stated.

Greek life leaders sent an email to all their members on March 12 explaining that a halting period would take place, prohibiting all Greek life events and requiring members to fulfill certain requirements. 

Any chapters or individual students found to have violated the law and/or University policies will be held accountable and may be subject to a range of disciplinary actions, including removal from the University,” it stated.

Klink issued a follow-up statement on March 22, announcing that VCU hired Dyad Strategies to conduct the review on Greek life. Dyad Strategies is a research firm that provides universities with campus assessments regarding issues of hazing and sexual assault, according to its website. The review will begin in late March and end in June when it submits its findings to VCU.

“This independent review is a crucial step to ensure fraternity and sorority life at VCU becomes a national model that promotes health and safety and creates a climate of respect and inclusion that is conducive to academic success,” Klink stated.

Carson Sturgis, a VCU senior, created the petition to expel Delta Chi. As of March 30, it has reached more than 16,200 signatures.

“We can’t bring a life back, but we can do something,” Sturgis said.

Sturgis wanted to ensure an end to hazing and prevent Delta Chi from threatening campus safety, she said.

“I think there’s no way campus will be safe with those people around,” Sturgis said.

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