VCU makes changes to Greek life after settlement over deadly hazing incident

Virginia Commonwealth University is reforming the campus’s Greek life following an agreement with the family of a student who died during a 2021 hazing incident.

Headlining those changes include requiring students to complete 12 credit hours at VCU before rushing a fraternity or sorority, changing the length of new member education to 28 days and banning alcohol at Greek life activities where new members are present.

“This is a blueprint to foster a safer and healthier community for students who are part of fraternities and sororities, and to create a climate of respect and inclusion that is needed for academic success,” the family of Adam Oakes and VCU said in a joint statement.

“By working to honor Adam’s life and legacy, we are dedicated to creating a national model for universities and colleges across the country,” the statement continued.

Oakes was a VCU freshman from Loudoun County who died of alcohol poisoning in Feb. 2021 following a Delta Chi fraternity party where he was told to drink an entire handle (1.75-liter) bottle of Jack Daniels as part of a “big brother” ritual.

The medical examiner’s investigation found that Oakes’ blood alcohol content was 0.419, or five times the legal limit.

Criminal charges against five members of the fraternity were dropped by the state prosecutor’s last month.

The university said Friday that Fairfax County Circuit Court approved an agreement where the Oakes family will receive $995,000 from VCU in a settlement.

Another change that the university said it is implementing is designating Feb. 27 as an annual hazing prevention day, as well as a day of remembrance for Adam Oakes. A physical memorial to Oakes will also be installed on campus.

If a student organization intends to serve alcohol, they now need to notify VCU and get a licensed third-party vendor to serve the alcohol.

VCU will also provide summaries of all incidents where students violate the Student Code of Conduct, and will include a link to the Love Like Adam Foundation website on the college’s Fraternity and Sorority Life.

The reforms come after Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s signing of “Adam’s Law” this past spring, which requires every member of a college student organization to get training on hazing and alcohol poisoning.

WTOP’s Nick Iannelli and Luke Lukert contributed to this report.

Matthew Delaney

Matt Delaney is a digital web writer/editor who joined WTOP in 2020.

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