University reaches agreement with hazing victim’s family

Virginia Commonwealth University will pay nearly $1 million to the family of a young man who died following a fraternity bullying incident in 2021 as part of a recent settlement.

The Adam Oakes Family Agreement also requires the University of Richmond to make additional changes to its fraternity and sorority life. The deal was approved on Friday by the Fairfax County Circuit Court, VCU said in a press release.

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

A police investigation revealed that Oakes, a 19-year-old who received an offer to join the Delta Chi fraternity, was ordered to drink a large bottle of whiskey in February 2021. The next morning, a freshman from Loudoun County was found dead. The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner ruled that Oakes’ death was caused by alcohol poisoning. VCU delisted Delta Chi in June 2021.

“Adam was a beloved son, grandson, nephew, cousin, student and friend. He had a great future ahead of him and his senseless death brought untold pain and tragedy to all who knew him,” the statement said Friday.

In addition to a $995,000 cash settlement, the agreement requires VCU students to complete 12 credit hours and other eligibility requirements before joining a fraternity or sorority. It will also ban the consumption of alcohol at any fraternity or sorority activities that new members participate in, and tighten the rules on alcohol served or consumed at student organization activities.

VCU will begin the process of creating a physical monument to Oakes on campus and will designate February 27 as an annual Hazing Prevention Day and Memorial Day for Oakes. The settlement agreement also contains a requirement to provide information about student organizations that have violated the code of conduct.

According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Delta Chi has faced disciplinary action in every one of its last seven years on campus.

The newspaper reported that several former fraternity members pleaded guilty or were found guilty of hazing or the misdemeanor offense of serving alcohol to a minor. Nobody received a prison sentence.

Copyright 2022 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or distributed.

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