Adam Oakes Story Brings Hazing to the Fore

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Lindsey M. Foster, Editor


When entering new schools in the transition from high school to college, students have different experiences. One thing that occurs at some institutions, however, is hazing.

This is the act of any action taken or situation created, whether on or off campus, to produce mental or physical discomfort, embarrassment, harassment, or ridicule, according to Student Affairs and Lehigh University. Hazing has been shown to have a multitude of negative effects–even death.

A student who recently passed due to hazing was Adam Oakes who attended Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). While in the process of becoming a member of VCU’s chapter of the Delta Chi fraternity, Oakes participated in the last activity of the process, Big/Little night.

The main purpose of this night was to get as wasted as they possibly could. Afterward, the Little’s Big would take them back to their house to watch over them. Oakes’ Big, Andrew White, noticed his Little vomiting and laid him down on a couch. Thinking he was asleep because White could hear Oakes snoring, White left him on the floor throughout the night and did not stay with his little like he was supposed to.

The next morning on Feb. 27, 2021, other members of the fraternity noticed that Oakes was not waking up. Moments later, they realized that Oakes passed from an excessive amount of alcohol consumption.

Jason Mulgrew, the previous president of the Delta Chi chapter, and White were then put in jail for four days and denied bond.

After this incident, the Oakes family began the “Love Like Adam Foundation” in 2021. Since then, the family has hosted speaking tours at different colleges to bring awareness to Adam and the dangers of hazing.

“There’s nothing I can do to change what happened anymore, but I can stop it from happening to someone else,” Mulgrew said.

On Feb. 28, Courtney White, Oakes’ cousin, Oakes’ father, and Mulgrew came to campus for one of their talks.

“It was good. I wasn’t expecting the father to be there,” said Braxton Hughes, senior and event attendee. “It’s got to be hard to go to places and talk about this sort of thing.”

A video titled “Death Of A Pledge” by Daniel Catullo, Director of Breathe, Nolan, Breathe, was made to tell the story of Oakes.

“It was interesting to hear the story, and (it) shows that hazing can happen anywhere in different types of ways,” said Orion Harris, freshman, and event attendee.

While watching the video, I started to tear up. Knowing that someone lost their life due to college “fun” is horrible.

When the presentation first started, I was not aware of Oakes’ father and Mulgrew’s presence. After seeing their faces, I felt so bad for Oakes’ family and could only imagine what was going through their minds.

According to Thomas Law Offices in 2021, this act traces back to 387 B.C. with the founding of Plato’s Academy. This action still carries on, even though it sometimes results in death.

Within the Oakes’ presentation, there are stats showing the state of Virginia as a hotspot for hazing, with 11 total deaths reported due to it. Also, within the nation, there have been more than 80 hazing-related deaths within the past 15 years.

While I have never gone through the experience of hazing, I could not imagine what others feel as they are forced to perform actions they may not be comfortable with, just to be a part of a club/organization.

Additionally, even after some students go through the embarrassment, their lives could be taken away before their membership even begins, just like how Oakes’ was taken.

If a student wants to be a part of a club/organization, they should be treated as a member to make connections and make friends, not suffer through negative actions. It could be worth it when it’s over, but it is not worth someone’s embarrassment or life being taken.