Commonwealth, VCU to pay nearly $1 million settlement to the Oakes family

Delta Chi letters hung on the fraternity house on Cary Street before they were removed. CT file photo

Katrina Lee, News Editor

Anna Chen, Audience Editor

The university and the Commonwealth of Virginia will pay Adam Oakes’ family $995,000 as a settlement approved by Fairfax County Circuit Court.

Freshman Adam Oakes died at a Delta Chi fraternity event in February 2021. His cause of death was ruled as alcohol poisoning by the Medical Examiner’s Office, according to a previous report by the Commonwealth Times. 

The agreement also identifies changes to Greek life at VCU that the university hopes will become a “national model” for universities and colleges across the country. 

VCU and the Oakes family released a joint statement following the settlement. It states Adam is missed and the changes to fraternity and sorority life will be a “blueprint” to foster a safer and healthier community for students.

“Adam was a beloved son, grandson, nephew, cousin, student and friend. He had a tremendous future ahead of him and his senseless death brought unspeakable pain and tragedy to all who knew him,” the joint remark states. “By working to honor Adam’s life and legacy, we are dedicated to creating a national model for universities and colleges across the country.”

Changes to fraternity and sorority life in the agreement according to the press release include:

  • Students must complete 12 credits at VCU and meet other eligibility requirements before joining Greek Life
  • Increase the length of new member education to 28 days
  • Prohibit alcohol at any Greek life event with new members
  • Create an annual hazing prevention day and day to memorialize Adam Oakes on Feb. 27
  • Alcohol served at events sponsored by student organizations must be provided by a licensed third-party vendor with advance notification with VCU
  • Include a link to the Love Like Adam Foundation website on the university’s Fraternity and Sorority Life page
  • Create a web page accessible through the Fraternity and Sorority Life page which celebrates Adam Oakes and includes the details of his death
  • Include bystander intervention training in the hazing prevention training program required by Adam’s Law
  • Make reports of all ways in which a student organization was found guilty of a violation of the Student Code of Conduct public on the VCU website. The report must include details about the incident and if any individuals were injured
  • Create a physical memorial for Adam Oakes on campus

The Oakes family released a statement regarding the settlement.

“No amount of money is going to bring Adam back. As much as we pray to wake up from the nightmare, it just isn’t going to happen,” the comment stated. “If we truly want change, we need to invite innovation, invite student voices, and engage together in this hard work. Thankfully VCU sees that and is willing to engage and work with us to make positive change.”

Some schools do not want the Love Like Adam foundation to come present on their campus due to the fear and attention it would bring, according to the family.  

“Those schools that have allowed our Foundation to present, see that change is needed and know they want to be a part of the solution,” the comment stated. “They see that the system is broken. They recognize that what has historically been done to dismantle hazing (webinars, PowerPoints, etc.) is not working.”

This week is National Hazing Prevention Week. The Love Like Adam Fondation, a non profit organization established in honor of Adam Oakes, has been posting messages on their social media to raise awareness around the issues of hazing. 

Messages from the Oakes family, other families that lost family members due to hazing, anti-hazing advocates and organizations all have taken part of the foundation’s National Hazing Prevention week campaign. 

The university sent an email to all students on Tuesday outlining some of the new changes for selective student organizations. 

“At VCU, selective organizations are student organizations for which upon invitation for membership, individuals do not automatically become members of the organization and have a period of time between invitation for membership and being initiated into membership,” the email states. 

The university urges students to take their role of ending hazing at VCU seriously, according to the email.

“Should you wish to report any potential violations of the Hazing Prevention and Discipline policy, or any other university policy, we encourage you to do so using the Incident Reporting Form,” the email states. 

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