After a Northwestern University student died of suicide in 2017, her mother is suing the sorority she says contributed to her daughter’s depression and anxiety.
Felicia Hankins names Alpha Kappa Alpha as a defendant in her 50-page lawsuit, as well as the undergraduate and graduate chapters of the organization. Gamma Chi, the undergraduate chapter, and Delta Chi Omega, the graduate chapter, are listed along with the names of nine people serving as directors or advisers of the chapters or those who are now former students who were members when Jordan Hankins died, according to the Jan. 8 filing made in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.
“While post-initiation pledging, Jordan 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,” the suit states.
The 19-year-old sophomore, a guard on the women’s basketball team, was discovered hanging in her dorm room at the university on Jan. 9, 2017. First responders pronounced the student dead upon their arrival.
Northwestern is not named in the wrongful death suit, which says hazing continued within AKA despite a “tougher anti-hazing policy” being instituted in 1999.
The organization was suspended from the university in May 2017 through fall 2019, according to the Northwestern Office of Student Conduct. However, a spokesperson for the school told ABC News it could be reinstated but it “must meet several criteria for that to happen.” Currently, they said the organization “continues to be suspended from the University.”
The suit, which seeks unspecified damages, lists several counts of negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress regarding the hazing, which is said to have happened in late 2016. It also states that Jordan Hankins told the individually named defendants that the hazing was “triggering her PTSD, causing severe anxiety and depression and that she was having suicidal thoughts.”
“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 spokesman said in a statement to ABC News. He added no further comment will be provided due to the litigation.
A statement released by attorney Brandon Vaughn on behalf of his client Felicia Hankins and her family said the young basketball player was “at the prime of her life and seeking to join an organization she believed was dedicated to sisterhood and personal and professional development” before the alleged abuse led to her “taking her own life.”