Virginia college student drank alcohol, was blindfolded and hit head on tree before death, cousin says

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RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Virginia Commonwealth University students are speaking up about the sudden death of their fellow student, Adam Oakes, 19.

A university senior created an online petition to expel the fraternity from campus that is gaining traction.

News of Oakes’ death is swirling online and around the Monroe Park campus. Many students are calling out the culture of sororities and fraternities at VCU and across the U.S.

Carson Sturgis, a senior at VCU, tells WRIC she did not know Oakes but felt a calling to start the petition and stand-up for a fellow student.

“This was an entirely preventable death,” Sturgess told WRIC. “Human life is sacred.”

Oakes, a freshman, was found dead on Saturday morning on West Clay Street in Richmond. His death is linked to the now-suspended Delta Chi Fraternity, which Oakes was in the process of joining.

“We all come to college to make friends and it’s just so, so, so sad that he lost his life trying to find his community at VCU,” said Sturgis.

WRIC learned on Monday that Delta Chi was suspended back in 2018 for one year. A VCU spokesperson released this statement:

“Delta Chi was under suspension from August 3, 2018-August 3, 2019. The suspension was based on the organization’s failure to comply with the university’s requirements for fraternal organizations (event registrations, attendance policies, and academic performance)”.

Oakes’ cousin, Courtney White, said in an email that Oakes may have been forced to drink a large amount of Jack Daniels, was blindfolded and with his head hit against a tree to get initiated into Delta Chi. White and her family are pleading for answers from the investigation.

Sturgis, along with more than 7,000 others are demanding the permanent expulsion of Delta Chi at VCU, as well as the expulsion of the students involved from the university.

“I just want to make sure that this tragedy isn’t swept under the rug and that justice is served,” Sturgis told WRIC. “It’s only fair that the people who were involved and had a part in this preventable death be held accountable.”

Sturgis says she learned of Oakes’ death on Twitter and since the incident, a firestorm of tweets have been posted online, potentially exposing a dark culture of Greek Life.

One student tweeted, “These orgs have not been productive or genuine in the entire time I’ve been at VCU” meanwhile dozens of others were tweeting, “reckless party culture,” “toxic,” and “disgusting.”

According to VCU’s Code Of Conduct, hazing is listed under ‘abusive conduct’. Under VCU’s Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life policy, hazing is not tolerated.

Physical and mental hazing is banned by VCU, national and international fraternities and sororities, and by the Commonwealth of Virginia statutes. Fortunately, student members of fraternities and sororities recognize that hazing has no place in their organizations and have eliminated it. All acts of hazing by any group, member, or alumni/alumnae are explicitly forbidden and are not tolerated by VCU.

No chapter, colony, student or alumnus shall conduct nor condone hazing activities, and all will support and follow the VCU Hazing Policy and VCU Student Code of Conduct. The governing councils implement all other policies and procedures.

VCU’S OFFICE OF FRATERNITY AND SORORITY LIFE

Sturgis says she plans to submit her petition to VCU President Michael Rao in the coming days along with the comments she’s received from fellow students.

Students are planning a vigil for Oakes on Wednesday in Monroe Park from 6 to 8 p.m. during which masks are required. The vigil will also he held virtually.

Some are also in the process of creating a memorial in Oakes’ honor in the heart of campus, Monroe Park.

Richmond Police and VCU Police are still investigating this incident. Oakes’ cause of death will be determined by the Medical Examiner in Richmond.

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