Dionne and Steve Williams say the two weeks since they lost their son Jauwan Holmes to hazing have been tough.
“I wake up and he’s the first thing on my mind,” said Dionne Williams.
Now Virginia State University, the university where he met the men charged with hazing in his death, has launched a new task force against hazing.
“Without being angry, it’s kind of like it’s too late for me,” said Dionne Williams. “But if it will stop hazing or another child from being hurt or losing their life it’s a good thing.”
The group Men of Honor told Holmes, Portsmouth native Marvell Edmondson and five other VSU freshmen to walk through the Appomatox river last month. It was initiation for the group the young men thought was a campus organization, but the swollen river claimed Holmes’ and Edmondson’s lives.
“It’s been hard,” Dionne Williams said.
According to an open letter written by VSU President Keith Miller, the task force includes students, faculty and staff that will monitor any incidents of hazing by campus groups. VSU is also starting an online guide to provide a list of VSU sanctioned groups and how to determine if a group is legitimate.
Holmes’ parents told NewsChannel 3 these are all good steps, but they wish VSU had reached out to them for input.
“It would have been a good step on their part to maybe see if we had any input, the families who’ve been through this,” Steve Williams said.
Williams said they would have suggested the university also provide a list of unsanctioned groups like Men of Honor who try to pass as campus organizations.
“Make sure that these unaffiliated groups, that the students know that these groups are not a part of the university,” he said. “Hopefully they’ll more proactive in making sure the health and safety of their student body is protected.”
NewsChannel 3 reached out to VSU spokesman Tom Reed about the parents’ suggestion. Reed replied “As stated, it will provide a list of sanctioned organizations and provide information for a student to check to see if an organization is sanctioned. It would be impossible to list groups about which we’re not aware.”