Alpha Kappa Alpha is at the center of a new lawsuit filed by the mother of a former Northwestern University student. According to the suit, the former student, Jordan Hankins, committed suicide after being hazed by sorority members.
Back in January 2017, a Northwestern University basketball player killed herself as a result of “severe hazing she endured while pledging to the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority in the fall of 2016.” As a result, her family filed a federal lawsuit earlier this week. Filed in US District Court in Illinois, the lawsuit argues that “sophomore Jordan Hankins killed herself in her dorm room in January 2017 because of hazing practices that negatively affected (her) physical, mental, and emotional health.”
According to the suit, the type of hazing Hankins experienced included emotional, mental, and physical abuse, including “paddling, verbal abuse, mental abuse, financial exploitation, sleep deprivation, items being thrown and dumped on her, and other forms of hazing intended to humiliate and demean her.” Hankins pushed back against the hazing and told members of the AKA sorority that the hazing was “triggering her post-traumatic stress disorder.” As a result, she began experiencing “severe anxiety and depression” and even began having suicidal thoughts.
Tragically, Hankins “was found dead in her dorm room” on January 9, 2017.
The suit names the national AKA sorority and “its undergraduate and graduate chapters at Northwestern.” Additionally, the “former regional director of the sorority and multiple individual members” are named in the suit as well.
Prior to her death, Hankins was a member of the Northwestern women’s basketball team and “planned to study biological sciences in college.”
So far, officials for the sorority have not responded to requests for comment. However, a spokesman for the university, “which is not a defendant in the lawsuit,” said, “Northwestern remains deeply saddened by the death of Jordan Hankins two years ago, and we continue to send our kindest thoughts and condolences to her friends and family.” It added, “Because this is a matter now in litigation, the University is not commenting further on the lawsuit.”
As a result of the incident, AKA was suspended from the university. The suit accuses the sorority and other defendants of “multiple counts of negligent supervision and negligent entrustment and makes several wrongful death claims.” It states, “the sorority’s members and officers were negligent in allowing Hankins to be hazed.” It also argues that the defendants “failed to seek medical attention or report the hazing after Hankins said it was causing her severe emotional distress.”
It should be noted that the sorority prohibited any type of hazing back in 1908 during its founding. Then, in 1999, it “reiterated its opposition to hazing…but it has failed to address the issue,” according to the suit. The suit alleges that there have been “multiple instances over several years when hazing allegations were made against the sorority.”
In Illinois, hazing is illegal and normally considered a misdemeanor. However, in cases where hazing results in bodily harm or death, the state considers the hazing a Class 4 felony. However, while police did investigate Hankin’s death, no criminal charges were filed.