On Feb. 27, 2021, college freshman Adam Oakes was forced to drink a bottle of Jack Daniels Whiskey while rushing the Delta Chi fraternity at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) — resulting in his death, according to Northern Virginia Magazine. Oakes’ death sparked conversations around hazing and resulted in the passage of Adam’s Law, which requires student organizations across the Commonwealth to participate in an in-person, anti-hazing training program.
The law went into effect July 1, and with the start of the 2022-23 academic year, the training has begun at JMU — but not without controversy.
On Aug. 27, students filed into the Atlantic Union Bank Center (AUBC) for the third round of training led by Pam Steele, JMU’s associate director of student life. During the interactive, open-ended portion of the presentation, students anonymously attacked Steele in protest of the training. Students took to YikYak, a popular app among college students, to release more of their frustrations.
“Everyone apologize to Pam rn,” one sympathetic user wrote. “Absolutely disrespectful and I’m embarrassed to be part of Greek life rn.” [sic]
“Pam was never hazed and it shows,” another user wrote.
The training program was created by the Gordie Center, an organization that works to end hazing in honor of Gordie Bailey — a University of Virginia (U.Va.) student who died as a result of hazing in 2004. The training covers what is classified as hazing, how to identify alcohol poisoning and how to report hazing. Despite the sensitive topic, Steele said she wasn’t surprised at students’ reactions.
“In my personal opinion, it just affirmed the fact we continue to have more work to do,” Steele said.
Courtney White, cousin of Adam and president of the Love Like Adam Foundation, also stressed that hazing deaths are preventable. Alongside those responsible for Adam’s death, White travels to different universities sharing his story.
“I’ve had students come up to me saying, ‘You need to be at JMU,’” White said.
Adam’s law also requires universities to share misconduct records. Since 2016, three on-campus organizations have received hazing violations at JMU. Four organizations have been kicked off campus, including PBX, known elsewhere as Delta Chi.
“Hazing deaths are preventable and this is a national problem,” Steele said. “I don’t think there’s a campus, in my opinion, that is exempt.”
The training stressed that hazing can happen in any type of organization, Greek Life or not.
To learn more about Adam’s Law and the anti-hazing training, tune into Breeze TV’s broadcast on Friday at 3:30 p.m. on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or Campus Cable.
Contact Kayla Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more coverage of JMU and Harrisonburg news, follow the news desk on Twitter @BreezeNewsJMU.