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Lawsuit Claims Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority's Hazing Led to Student's Suicide

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A mother whose daughter died by suicide while attending Northwestern University near Chicago has filed a federal civil suit against Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority. Felicia Hankins claims in the lawsuit that the sorority’s intense hazing caused her daughter’s depression and anxiety, which led to her suicide in January 2017.

Jordan Hankins was a 20-year-old sophomore, who played on the university’s basketball team. Jordan rushed for the sorority in October 2016 and completed a “membership intake process,” according to the lawsuit. She then performed in an introduction show for new members on campus, also known as a probate, and was told she’d have to agree to a “post-initiation process.”

Hazing is any situation that intentionally causes embarrassment, harassment or ridicule to members of a group, according to HazingPrevention.Org. Jordan “was subjected to 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,” according to the lawsuit obtained by NBC Chicago.

Hazing risks emotional and physical danger to members and is typically used as a form of “initiation,” though members don’t have to be new to experience it. Many universities have taken steps to end hazing in their Greek Life and most states have anti-hazing laws.

Alpha Kappa Alpha is an African-American sorority with about 1,000 chapters across the nation, according to its website. The sorority, its Northwestern chapter, Evanston graduate chapter and regional director were all named in the suit. Eight current or former individual members were also included. Northwestern University was not named. Northwestern’s Alpha Kappa Alpha chapter was suspended after Jordan’s death and remains suspended.

The Hankins’ lawsuit claims the hazing “negatively affected Jordan Hankins’ physical, mental, and emotional health” and “was triggering her PTSD, causing severe anxiety and depression and that she was having suicidal thoughts.”

The sorority “failed to take action to stop the abuse” despite multiple warnings that the hazing was triggering her depression and anxiety, Brandon Vaugh, an attorney for the Hankins’ said in a statement.

If you see or experience hazing at your university, there are a few things you can do. You can report the incident to campus police and your organization’s headquarters. If you’d rather report anonymously, you can call the anti-hazing hotline and leave a voicemail message with the location of the incident. The messages are then transmitted by email to the appropriate organization headquarters.

The Mighty reached out to the central regional director of Alpha Kappa Alpha and have yet to hear back.

Photo via Twitter

Originally published: January 10, 2019
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