On Jan. 26th, Senate Bill 439 was passed in Congress with unanimous approval for the diminution of college hazing at the state level in Virginia.
This legislation, known as “Adam’s Law,” was created in response to the death of Adam Oakes, a Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) freshman who lost his life to alcohol poisoning at a Delta Chi fraternity party in Feb. 2021, at the age of 19.
Delta Chi house Adam Oakes
Hazing is any activity expected of someone [a pledge] joining or participating in a group that humiliates, degrades, or endangers them.
College hazing has been a popular undertaking within fraternities for decades. Unfortunately, there has come a point where it is far too dangerous for its pledges. Oakes was forced to drink close to 40 shots of whiskey, a deadly intake.
11 men were charged with hazing misdemeanors on the death of Oakes, and the Delta Chi fraternity was expelled from campus.
The purpose of the bill, which passed 38-0, is intended to shed light on the realities of hazing to students and universities: specifically to provide “extensive, current and in-person education and information on hazing to all members and new members of student organizations,” according to News Website Virginia Mercury.
In addition to this, Virginia colleges and universities are now expected to post hazing incidents that have occurred in student organizations.
The goal of this new legislation is that freshman and sophomore students looking to join a fraternity will be able to make a more informed decision based on past incidents at specific fraternities.
Although VCU has enforced stricter rules, there is no promise that the same incident will not happen at another college in the near future, or at VCU behind closed doors.
A second bill, which is currently pending committee referral, has also been introduced: House Bill 993. With this law in effect, hazing is considered a Class 5 felony, if it results in death or severe bodily injury.
Hazing that does not result in death or severe bodily injury is considered a Class 1 misdemeanor.
There is currently debate, however, between the Senate and House of Delegates on whether hazing should be considered a misdemeanor or felony, which could lead to a change in overall legislation.
There is a grace period, however, within House Bill 993. Immunity of arrest is provided for those who send or get emergency medical help for an individual who has fallen victim to bodily injury through hazing.
In Aug. of 2021, VCU decided that sororities and fraternities would not be allowed to take new members until further notice.
The school also has put new laws in place regarding alcohol consumption. There will be no alcohol allowed for official student organization functions for all undergraduate students.
The Oakes family, VCU, and other colleges across the state hope for a change.
“I love him, I miss him, and his death didn’t go in vain,” said Adam Oakes’ father, “We’re hopefully going to save some lives with this law and deter people from doing this again.”