This weekend, David Bianchi from our firm was asked to appear on Prime News as “one of the country’s leading hazing lawyers” to comment on a hazing death that occurred at Virginia Commonwealth University. Adam Oakes, a 19-year-old student, was rushing for Delta Chi at an off-campus event in February when he was forced to drink an entire bottle of liquor. He died from alcohol poisoning shortly thereafter.
Now, eight of the fraternity members responsible for his death were arrested and charged with unlawful hazing. They also face charges of buying and giving alcohol to a minor. The parents expressed their gratitude for the work the police and prosecutors, who conducted a months-long investigation into Oakes’ death. However, they also expressed disappointment in Virginia’s outdated hazing laws, which treat hazing as a misdemeanor. The defendants face a maximum of one year in jail.
This case bears a striking resemblance to the Andrew Coffey case, who died in a virtually identical way in November 2017. Our firm represented the Coffey family in civil claims against the fraternity and individuals involved, and we wrote a law designed to motivate students to call for medical aid as soon as a hazing injury occurs. Andrew’s Law has strengthened Florida’s anti-hazing statute while making it more likely that students will come forward after hazing has occurred.
The Solution: “Expel Everybody Involved”
When asked what could be done to stop the never-ending chain of hazing deaths, David answered, "The universities can stop it if they do the following: one, they need to expel everybody involved in these incidents within 30 days and two, they need to expel everybody who holds an office in the fraternity chapter where the event takes place. If you do that, the fraternity members will be their own police patrol."
“But the universities are unwilling to expel the people who do it, and therefore [perpetrators] feel like there’s no consequence,” he added.
Watch the below clip from the interview:
Investigating Fraternity Hazing at Northwestern University
Just last week, the police began investigating a case at Northwestern University involving two fraternities accused of drugging students against their will. The two fraternities, which have not been publicly identified by the university, are now barred from hosting social events or recruitment until October 17 at the earliest. Students at Northwestern have begun protesting the two fraternities after students came forward saying they had been non-consensually drugged at parties hosted by both organizations.
Universities have a responsibility to hold these fraternities accountable, but they also must ensure that the public knows what organizations are potential dangers to students’ lives. Withholding the fraternity names only serves to protect the organizations at the heart of these terrible crimes. Our hearts go out to the Oakes family, and we look forward to seeing these young men held accountable for what they did.