RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Adam Oakes, the Virginia Commonwealth University freshman who died in a hazing incident at a Delta Chi Greek life event, has his name honored on one of 700 bills signed into Virginia law on Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s desk.
‘Adam’s Law‘ passed through both the Virginia House and Senate before sitting under the pen of Youngkin.
According to his family, although they wish Oakes was still here, this full-circle moment could help save the life of the next student who could be potentially hazed to death.
“I think it is a moment of joy. To be honest, the past year has been one of the hardest we have ever faced as a family,” Courtney White, Oakes’ cousin, said. “To really hone in and focus all of our grief and feelings on making true change, this goes to show that all that hard work really paid off.”
“It is really sad and really happy at the same time,” Oakes’ father said. “Happy there are going to be significant changes in Virginia, but sad that Adam is not going to be here to see it. The change that is coming is going to be well-worth it. It is surreal. Every day, I wake up and I cannot believe Adam is gone. I cannot believe he is not here with us.”
Adam’s Law requires hazing-prevention training and education for all students in college. It mandates that an advisor be present at the training with all new and current members of a fraternity.
The law also provides a huge focus on the transparency of hazing incidents in each fraternal organization. The goal is to give families and students the freedom of knowing every past hazing incident of a chapter and prevent the covering up any information.
“We wanted to prioritize everything Adam did not have at VCU. We thought, how can we ensure that all kids moving forward have these things,” White said. “Nobody called for help. Now we are pushing people to call for help.”
The law requires the past 10 years of documented incidents of misconduct to be readily accessible so people can notice patterns and trends within the Greek organization, something Oakes’ family wishes they would have been able to access.
The data for all the incidents will be housed in a central location at the Timothy J. Piazza Center to collect hazing information into a database. The center tracks organizations nationally to add on to the transparency of the Greek life websites.
“I like to think that Adam has been watching and has been seeing the work we have been doing to honor him. I think it is absolutely amazing that, when we are long gone, he is always going to have this law in his name moving forward,” White said. “He is always going to be a part of systematic change in the state of Virginia.”
A second bill focused on hazing penalties, co-sponsored by state Sen. Jennifer Boysko (D-Fairfax) is still in limbo — but a compromise is still hoped to be achieved by Oakes’ family.