Sorority hazing led to students suicide at Northwestern:Lawsuit

by Kim Boateng Posted on January 11th, 2019

Illinois: Severe hazing by a sorority at Northwestern University caused the suicidal death of a sophomore, according to a federal lawsuit filed this week by her mother.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Illinois, alleges pledging by Alpha Kappa Sorority in the fall of 2016 led Jordan Hankins to kill herself in her dorm room in January 2017 because it “negatively affected physical, mental and emotional health.”

Hankins, an Indianapolis native, was a women’s basketball player at the Evanston, Ill., school.

“Jordan Hankins was at the prime of her life and seeking to join an organization she believed was dedicated to sisterhood and personal and professional development,” the attorney for Felicia Hankins said in a statement obtained by ABC News. “Despite repeated warnings that the hazing was triggering Hankins’ anxiety and depression, we allege that AKA failed to take action to stop the abuse, resulting in Hankins taking her own life.”

Named in the lawsuit are the national sorority, its undergraduate and graduate chapters at Northwestern, as well as former regional director of the sorority and multiple individual members. AKA, a predominantly African-American sorority based in Chicago, has 300,000 members across more than 1,000 chapters.

The private university of 21,000 students was not sued.

Hankins “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 suit.

Hankins told sorority members the hazing was triggering her post-traumatic stress disorder, “causing severe anxiety and depression and that she was having suicidal thoughts,” according to the lawsuit.

“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,” the school said in a statement, adding it cannot comment further on the lawsuit because of the litigation.

Sorority officials did not respond to CNN or ABC’s requests for comment on the lawsuit Thursday.

Since its founding in 1908, the sorority has prohibited hazing though the lawsuit alleges it has failed to address the issue in “a well-known occurrence.”

Hazing is illegal in Illinois but an investigation by the Evanston Police Department did not lead to criminal charges, said Cmdr. Ryan Glew, executive officer of the department.

Image: Jordan Hankins, a sophomore at Northwestern, kill herself in her dorm room in January 2017 because of “negatively affected physical, mental and emotional health” brought on by pledging to Alpha Kappa Alpha, according to a lawsuit. Photo by Stephen Carrera/Northwestern Athletics

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