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University reaches settlement agreement with family of frat hazing victim for $995K. School forced to make policy changes

Virginia Commonwealth University reached a settlement agreement on Friday with the family of a fraternity hazing victim for $995,000. Additional requirements from the agreement included changes to fraternity and sorority life, the university announced.

The 19-year-old victim, Adam Oakes, passed away from alcohol poisoning in February 2021 after a fraternity told him to drink a large bottle of whiskey. Oakes had received a bid from the Delta Chi fraternity and was ordered to drink as part of a hazing process during a “big-little” party, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Oakes was found dead the following morning.

The news outlet stated that Delta Chi had repeatedly gotten into trouble. The fraternity was reportedly disciplined each of its last seven years on campus.

Following the incident, the fraternity was expelled from the university in June. In September, 11 members of the fraternity were charged with hazing, and seven individuals were charged with serving alcohol to a minor. However, none of the members have received jail time, the Associated Press reported.

The settlement between VCU and the Oakes family was approved Friday by the Fairfax County Circuit Court. In addition to paying the family nearly $1 million, the school also announced changes to school policy.

The Virginia Commonwealth University initiated Adam’s Law, which incorporates additional instruction in the school’s required hazing prevention training.

Going forward, VCU will require students to have completed 12 credit hours before they are eligible to join a fraternity or sorority. Alcohol will no longer be allowed at fraternity or sorority events that involve new members. Additionally, if students wish to host events that provide alcohol, they must notify the school in advance and secure a third-party vendor.

The VCU and the family released a joint statement acknowledging changes to fraternity and sorority life at the university. It read, “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 university also announced February 27 as an annual hazing prevention day. In addition, VCU stated that it would create a physical memorial to Adam Oakes on campus.

“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 statement stated.