RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — ‘Adam’s Law’ – named after VCU freshman Adam Oakes, who tragically died last year after being hazed by fraternity members – advanced out of a senate committee with unanimous bipartisan support.
The vote signals that the bill will in all likelihood become law during this session of the General Assembly.
In emotional testimony to the Senate Subcommittee on Higher Education, Eric Oakes, Adam Oakes’ father, told the senators, “We’re here today to support Adam’s Law.”
Adam Oakes’ father choked back tears as he described how his son had touched the lives of students around him, but said he still struggles to come to grips with his death.
“I think about what happened to Adam,” he said. “And I can’t understand why no one got him help.”
The law refines previously existing regulations on how institutions implement anti-hazing measures, making changes that its supporters say could have saved Oakes’ life.
Senator Jennifer Boysko, who patroned the bill, said, “It requires that an advisor must be present at all official events including new and potential members.”
The bill also requires colleges and universities to publicly post a record of all the of the violations of the institution’s code of conduct committed by student organizations.
Courtney White, Adam Oakes’ cousin and an educator studying for her PhD, said during her testimony that the fraternity Adam was pledging had just been taken off of a four-year suspension for hazing violations – but neither he nor his parents had any way of knowing that.
“Students joining an organization need and deserve to know the dangers they face from hazing,” Eric Oakes said.
White is studying hazing prevention as part of her doctoral thesis, and she said her work was driven by one question: “What can we do in Virginia to stop hazing in our high schools, our universities and our student organizations?”
SB 439 will now go before the full senate for approval.