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Family of Adam Oakes hopeful after bill passes in Virginia Senate

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Posted at 4:35 PM, Jan 27, 2022

RICHMOND, Va. -- The family of VCU freshman Adam Oakes who died during a hazing incident last year are hoping legislation to address hazing passes in the Virginian General Assembly this year.

This week, one of their bills cleared a major hurdle. "Adam's Law", a bill named after the late student, passed the Virginia Senate unanimously.

"It was a small but a very mighty win," Courtney White, a cousin of Adam Oakes, said. "Seeing just every Republican and Democrat in the room, you know, respond the way that they did and really embrace this bill was huge."

Oakes was a 19-year-old freshman at VCU and an underground pledge at the Delta Chi fraternity. He died of alcohol poisoning last year after attending a party hosted by the fraternity.

Since then, his family has worked to address hazing at colleges and universities.

"As we were thinking out details of this bill, we really thought about what did Adam not have that we wish he would have," White said.

The bill that passed the Senate sets up several new protocols around hazing, including requiring advisors to groups like fraternities to undergo anti-hazing training and then teach in-person lessons to members and potential members.

"That opens it up to be taught at rush, that opens it up to being taught at initiation," White said.

It will also require incidents with those groups to be published on each school's website and on a national database.

"Making it a lot easier for families but also for students and potential new members to make better choices on which ones they join," White said.

One item that was dropped from the original bill was the requirement to have advisors present at all events. White said it was removed after universities said it wasn't feasible.

"A majority of advisors are volunteers and you're going to lose volunteer advisors by putting this into place and taking up more of their time," White said.

With the bill clearing the Senate, a companion bill must now make its way through the House of Representatives. White said she and her family are hopeful it will receive similar support.

"Truly, our mission is to not let another family go through what we've gone through and not let another child die due to hate, due to hazing," White said.

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