The family of a fatal hazing victim at Virginia Commonwealth University will receive nearly $1million settlement.
Nineteen-year-old Adam Oakes died of alcohol poisoning after pledging VCU’s Delta Chi on 27 February 2021. The fraternity was eventually expelled from the university and an investigation into his death led to the arrest of 11 people, six of whom were found or pled guilty, The New York Times reported.
On Friday, the university’s newspaper VCU News reported that the Oakes family and VCU reached an agreement in which the university and the Commonwealth of Virginia will pay a monetary settlement of $995,000 to Adam’s parents. Eric Oakes, Adam’s father, said that although nothing will bring his son back, he was hopeful that changes VCU agreed to make would prevent hazing deaths in the future.
The university will incorporate “Adam’s Law,” or bystander intervention instruction in the hazing prevention training, designate 27 February as annual hazing prevention day, and require that any alcohol consumed at an event organized by a student organization is provided by a licensed third-party vendor.
“Life without [Adam] has been a struggle. It’s been a little over 18 months and we’ve just been trying to keep ourselves busy,” Mr Oakes said in a video posted on the Love Like Adam Foundation Facebook page. “Just trying to carry the message of, ‘don’t let yourself be hazed, and don’t haze others.’”
Per VCU news, the agreement was approved by the Fairfax County Circuit Court.
“As much as we pray to wake up from the nightmare, it just isn’t going to happen,” Mr Oakes told the Times. “The light in all this is that Virginia Commonwealth University is now making changes to prevent what happened to Adam from happening to anyone else in the future.”
Mr Oakes said his son died after he was hazed and given a Jack Daniel’s alcohol bottle to drink at an off-campus party. He said that Adam was struggling to socialize during the pandemic and that since many childhood friends were simultaneously pledging Delta Chi, he thought it would be a good way to make new friends.
“Your parents, you’re their prized possession and they’re so grateful to have you,” Mr Oakes said in an emotional video on Sunday to commemorate Hazing Awareness week. “You guys are not invincible, just because somebody drank an entire bottle of alcohol, doesn’t mean that you have to do that.”
Mr Oakes told the Times that he didn’t want the six people found guilty in Adam’s death to serve time. Instead, he said, they will join Mr Oakes on a tour across universities nationwide to spread awareness about the consequences of reckless hazing.
“Who better to talk to students than the people their age that, you know, hazed Adam that night,” he told the newspaper.