greek life graphic

Pamela Steele, JMU's assistant director of student life, said she hopes anti-hazing will help people get the most out of their college experience.

Editor’s Note: Sept. 22, 2:45 p.m. — The previous photo posted was misleading in implicating a specific organization in hazing. That was not The Breeze’s intent. The photo has been updated.

The third week of September is nationally recognized as hazing prevention week. In perfect timing, the family of Adam Oakes — a freshman who died as a result of hazing while rushing the Delta Chi fraternity at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) was awarded a $995,000 settlement from VCU on Sept. 20, according to CBS News. The university is also requiring students to complete 12 credit hours before rushing, as well as implementing stricter alcohol regulations, according to USA Today

Courtney White, cousin of Oakes and president of the Love Like Adam Foundation, travels to other universities across the country sharing his story alongside those responsible for his death. Oakes’ family believes the presentation, produced by CBS, is influential to hazing prevention, but not all universities are interested. 

“Hazing is a destructive culture that is so deeply embedded in our school systems that many schools don’t even want the Love Like Adam foundation to come and present to their campuses, for fear that it will draw attention … ” Oakes’ family said in a press release.

JMU’s Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life (FSL) said it’s aware of the presentation. The Breeze reached out to JMU FSL to ask whether the school will participate but didn’t receive a response before the print deadline. 

With the first month of the semester over, students are finding their place on campus. Fraternity brothers echoed throughout dorms as they welcomed their new recruits, and sororities embraced new sisters on Hillside field. Pam Steele, assistant director of student life, hopes the anti-hazing training will help these students make the most of their experience in student life. 

“It’s important that we take care of each other, that we’re safe, and that we engage in healthy behaviors and if there’s a concern raised, that we feel empowered enough with the knowledge and information that we can support our friends,” Steele said. 

More than 50% of college students in the U.S. who are involved in college clubs and organizations are hazed, not including those who don’t report their experience, according to Eastern Kentucky University

Hazing isn’t only happening at other universities across the country, but at JMU as well. White said that while visiting other universities across campus, she’s had students who’ve transferred out of JMU tell her, ‘You need to be at JMU.’

“That code of silence is basically, ‘I’m not gonna tell you because I’m in this secret organization and if I tell I’m a rat,’” White explained. “It’s the older boys doing it to the younger boys because it’s exactly what the older boys went through.” 

Despite that code of silence, the hazing culture at JMU is no secret. 

For the rest of story — and firsthand accounts of hazing at JMU — tune in to Breeze TV on Friday at 3:30 p.m. on Facebook, Youtube and Campus Cable. 

Contact Kayla Brown at brown8kl@dukes.jmu.edu. For more coverage of JMU and Harrisonburg news, follow the news desk on Twitter @BreezeNewsJMU.