LYNCHBURG, Va. – As students return to college and university campuses, they’ll undergo new programs to prevent hazing.
“We currently think that what we’ve previously done is okay, and it’s not,” said Courtney White, president of the Love Like Adam Foundation.
The cause is personal for White and her family.
Her cousin, Adam Oakes, was a freshman at Virginia Commonwealth University and died from a fraternity hazing incident in 2021.
Adam’s Law went into effect in July 2022, and it requires Virginia colleges and universities to provide anti-hazing education, report incidents to a national public database, and also post the incident reports on their own websites.
“Although we might not think it’s happening in Virginia, it is. It’s all over Virginia,” said White.
Now the family is turning their trauma into a teaching tool.
They’re traveling to colleges and universities across Virginia to lead a presentation on the definition of hazing, understanding that bystanders can be charged for not intervening, and recognizing signs of alcohol poisoning.
“Every year there’s a new generation of students coming into these universities, and it’s almost like, ‘I was hazed so you’re going to be hazed,” said White.
Eleven men were charged in connection with the 19-year-old’s death.
Adam’s father, Eric, said part of the plea deal is for three of them to travel with the family and be part of the presentation.
“I was faced with the dilemma, do we put them in jail for a year or do we try to get some kind of benefit from the sentencing?” said Oakes.
The men will share first-hand experiences on their role in the incident, how it has impacted them, and answer questions from students and parents.
“We’re hoping that connection is going to be something that’s never been seen before,” said Oakes.
It will be seen for the first time on Saturday when they present to more than 400 new students at the University of Lynchburg’s three-day orientation.
“This, to me, is an ideal time to say, ‘before you really embark upon being a student at the University of Lynchburg, we’re going to give you this valuable information because we see this as value,’” said Matt Scruggs, Assistant Vice President for Student Development at the University of Lynchburg.
The family said they’ll go to Randolph College in Lynchburg on Sunday, then UVA Wise in September.
They’re reaching out to other colleges and universities across the Commonwealth, aiming to turn tragedy into triumph against hazing.