Mon. Oct 3rd, 2022

Virginia Commonwealth University has agreed to pay $995,000 to the family of Adam Oakes, a student who died last year from alcohol poisoning at a fraternity party and whose death drew renewed scrutiny of hazing in Greek organizations across the country.

The university said in a statement on Friday that, in addition to the payment, it had agreed to make changes to its fraternities and sororities, including requiring that the alcohol served at their events be provided by a licensed third-party vendor; offering more hazing prevention training; and dedicating Feb. 27 — the day Mr. Oakes, a 19-year-old freshman, was found dead in 2021 — as a day of remembrance for Mr. Oakes, and for hazing prevention.

Eric Oakes, his father, said on Monday that “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,” he said. “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’s father said that the family had not filed a lawsuit against the school. Virginia Commonwealth University said in its statement that it would soon begin the process of creating a memorial to Mr. Oakes on campus.

Fraternity organizations have been under intense scrutiny in recent years, after a number of high-profile cases that have drawn the ire of anti-hazing activists and victims’ loved ones who say that the culture of Greek life is dangerous and shrouded in secrecy.

According to Mr. Oakes’s family, the young man’s death occurred at an off-campus party at the Delta Chi fraternity house, where he was given a bottle of Jack Daniel’s whiskey and told to drink it.

V.C.U. permanently expelled Delta Chi from campus last year, after the university hired a consulting firm to study its Greek culture. The firm, Dyad Strategies, said in a report that while the university’s Greek organizations weren’t an outlier compared with those at other colleges, V.C.U. still struggled to address concerns about binge drinking and hazing.

In September last year, 11 people were arrested in connection with Mr. Oakes’s death. His father said that six of them were either found guilty or had pleaded guilty, and that charges had been dropped against the five others.

As part of their plea agreements, the six who were convicted will travel to universities across the country to talk about how their actions that night have affected their lives and those of others, Eric Oakes said, and they will do so while sharing the stage with him. He will discuss how his life has been ruined by what the men did or didn’t do that night, he said.

“Who better to talk to students than the people their age that, you know, hazed Adam that night,” he said.

He added that the family did not want the six men to serve jail time.

“We want to make sure this never happens again to another student, family,” he said. “And then not just at V.C.U., but in the entire state and, obviously, the country.”



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