A Virginia university has agreed to pay a nearly $1 million settlement to the family of a 19-year-old student who died after a fraternity hazing incident where he was forced to drink a large bottle of whiskey.
A Fairfax County judge signed off on the agreement between Virginia Commonwealth University and the family of freshman Adam Oakes – who died of alcohol poisoning after a Delta Chi frat party on Feb. 27, 2021.
In addition to the $995,000 payment, the school also agreed to implement reforms to fraternity and sorority life, it said in a statement Friday.
Those include a slew of new measures aimed to stop hazing, such as prohibiting alcohol at Greek life parties attended by new members. Students must also have completed 12 credits, attend member education and meet other requirements before they can join a frat or sorority.
“Nothing can take away the pain of losing someone so loved,” the family and school said in a joint statement, adding, “Our agreement honors his memory, and our goal is that it will help save lives in the future.”
VCU designated Feb. 27 as annual hazing prevention day, as well as a day of remembrance for Oakes – for whom the school will create an on-campus memorial.
“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 statement said.
Oakes, who had received a bid to join Delta Chi, attended the bash where he was going to be paired with a “big brother.” He was told to drink the bottle of liquor as part of his initiation, and later passed out on a frat house couch, where he was found dead the next morning.
The coroner’s office determined his cause of death was alcohol poisoning.
Days after later, the university and the Delta Chi national chapter suspended the local frat, ordering it to cease all activities. The fraternity was ultimately expelled in June 2021.
In September, eight students were also arrested and charged with criminal hazing over Oakes’ death.
“Adam was a beloved son, grandson, nephew, cousin, student and friend,” the joint statement from his family and VCU said. “He had a tremendous future ahead of him and his senseless death brought unspeakable pain and tragedy to all who knew him.”
With Post wires