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The GW Hatchet

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Crime log: Subject barred after shoplifting at bookstore
By Max Porter, Contributing News Editor • February 26, 2024

GW implements enhanced anti-hazing training in compliance with Virginia law

Officials+said+GW+student+organizations+with+new+members+must+comply+with+the+law+because+of+GW%E2%80%99s+certification+to+offer+degrees+in+Virginia+through+the+University%E2%80%99s+Ashburn+campus.
Will Allen-DuPraw | Photographer
Officials said GW student organizations with new members must comply with the law because of GW’s certification to offer degrees in Virginia through the University’s Ashburn campus.

Student organizations are organizing new anti-hazing training to comply with a Virginia law signed after a Virginia Commonwealth University freshman died while pledging a fraternity in 2021.

Brian Joyce, the assistant dean of student life, said the Office of Student Life began implementing Adam’s Law training in the fall for accepted but pre-initiated members of student organizations and is currently hosting training sessions for active organization members. Joyce said the training sessions follow the law’s guidelines, which consist of “comprehensive” in-person hazing prevention education that outlines the dangers of hazing, alcohol intoxication, the legal implications of hazing and GW’s policies on hazing.

“We will also provide information explaining that the University’s disciplinary process is not to be considered a substitute for the criminal legal process,” Joyce said in an email.

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) signed the legislation into law last April following the death of Adam Oakes, who died from alcohol poisoning while pledging VCU’s Delta Chi fraternity. Joyce said GW student organizations with new members must comply with the law because of GW’s certification to offer degrees in Virginia through the University’s Virginia Science and Technology Campus in Ashburn.

Joyce said the law requires all Greek life chapters to attend the training. He said the law applies to all student organizations with new members — or individuals who have been offered an invitation for student organization membership but have not yet been initiated — meaning some non-Greek Life student organizations are also subject to the training.

Joyce said required participants are “strongly encouraged” to attend the training but did not specify a fine or a particular form of enforcement.

The law requires Virginia universities to report hazing violations on institutions’ public websites and to report hazing incidents to the police, which lawmakers said was not the case prior to the signing of Adam’s Law.

IFC chapters Kappa Alpha — which the University suspended from campus in 2020 for hazing and alcohol violations — and Sigma Chi are the only two student organizations on GW’s campus with active hazing violations, according to the Division for Student Affairs’ list of student organizations with conduct violations.

Virginia state Sen. Jennifer Boysko (D-VA), who introduced the bill with Oakes’ family, said the law leaves the training implementation and hazing disciplinary process up to individual institutions because lawmakers recognize hazing looks different at every university.

“As you’re passing legislation, sometimes you let the institution make some of the decisions themselves instead of mandating that they do it in the exact same way,” Boysko said. “They have some different options on how they go about it.”

Boysko said Adam’s Law aims to equip students with knowledge about the danger of hazing, like alcohol poisoning, which Oakes experienced after consuming 40 ounces worth of whiskey while pledging Delta Chi. She said the law mandates training that makes students aware of student organizations’ prior history of hazing, allowing them to make informed decisions about joining groups.

Joyce did not specify whether GW’s training includes information about the history of hazing in GW chapters.

She said if Oakes had been aware of the VCU Delta Chi fraternity’s history of hazing, underage drinking and sexual assault that dates back more than a decade, he may have chosen not to pledge the chapter.

“The idea in all of this is education is power,” Boysko said. “If Adam had known this organization that he had wanted to join had been habitually in trouble for hazing and harming students, he could have made a different decision, but he didn’t understand that.”

GW currently has a “zero tolerance policy” for hazing and the DSA offers a Student Conduct Incident Reporting Form where GW community members can report incidents of hazing, according to the Fraternity and Sorority Resources website. The DSA directs reports to members of the Fraternity and Sorority Life team and the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities, who decide whether to proceed with disciplinary action, according to the website.

Officials updated the Code of Student Conduct last August to increase students’ access to the University’s drug and alcohol amnesty policy — which outlines when a student seeking medical attention for drug or alcohol intoxication is in violation of the code — in response to students who said they would benefit from more information on the policies. Officials also updated the code to grant community members immunity for recording a hazing incident to make it easier to report instances, which used to be a violation of the code.

Junior Jack Palaian, the president of the IFC, said he hopes the new Adam’s Law training will reinforce members’ current knowledge on hazing but does not believe the new training will be different from the current training new members entering IFC chapters must already complete. Current training for IFC members includes an AlcoholEdu training and hazing prevention course as part of the Office of Student Life’s new member education sessions hosted once per semester, along with national chapters additional required training, according to Palaian.

Adam’s Law training, contrary to IFC’s new member training, requires current members to attend the training alongside new members.

“It’s nothing new,” Palaian said. “It’s just another training that we have to do.”

Palaian said although he does not anticipate the training to be useful compared to the training members already have to complete, he hopes it will bring more awareness to the consequences of hazing and support the IFC’s “very strict” policies on hazing.

“I just hope it’s a reinforcement for what a lot of our members have already been educated on and continue to bring back to their chapters, continuing this conversation,” Palaian said.

Sophomore John Attwood, the president of GW’s IFC chapter of Phi Gamma Delta, said he hopes the training will encourage members to consider the “serious consequences” of hazing and its “legal implications,” which in D.C. includes conviction of a misdemeanor, a fine of up to $1,000 or up to six months of imprisonment according to the DSA website, to prevent incidents of hazing from occurring in the future. Attwood said IFC will enforce a $25 fine for members who do not attend the training.

“Obviously, it can be extremely serious,” Attwood said. “So I want them to take into account how serious that can be but also understanding the merits of Greek life and that hazing is not what it’s about.”

Attwood said Phi Gamma Delta’s national organization is in the process of cutting down their semester-long pledging — the period of time between a member accepting a bid and their initiation — to four days after the national organization closed 16 chapters across the country because of accounts of hazing. Attwood said GW’s chapter has already adopted this change but other chapters nationally are still working on its implementation.

Attwood said while anti-hazing education and implementing prevention measures are important, members of Greek life may just see it as another requirement because they must complete the additional training on top of other required trainings, deterring them from internalizing the training and taking it seriously.

“I think sometimes people get grinded down by a lot of training,” Attwood said. “Sometimes they lose their effect, especially with Greek life.”

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About the Contributor
Fiona Bork, Assistant News Editor
Fiona Bork is a sophomore majoring in journalism and mass communication from San Diego, California. She is The Hatchet's 2023-2024 assistant news editor for the Student Life beat.
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