The mother of a Northwestern University student and basketball player who committed suicide in 2017 is claiming in a lawsuit that the brutal hazing rituals of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority are to blame for her daughter's death.
Felicia Hankins has filed a 50-page complaint in the Northern District of Illinois court, listing the sorority and 11 others, including students and advisors, as defendants. The complaint accuses the defendants of “extreme, outrageous and unlawful" activities that led to the death of Jordan Hankins, who took her own life on Jan. 9, 2017. The allegations against the 12 defendants include negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
The complaint, which asks for unspecified compensation, also accuses defendants of being aware of Hankins' compromised mental health, which made her a potential suicide risk.
Prior to hanging herself, Jordan had allegedly been the victim of physical and emotional abuse, including sleep deprivation and financial exploitation, as part of the group’s initiation process.
“Defendants’ conduct was intentional and done with the purpose of causing Hankins to suffer humiliation, mental anguish, and emotional and physical distress,” the complaint alleges.
Jordan's brother, Jared Hankins, was shocked by his sister's death at the time.
“We talked for the last time a week ago and everything seemed good,” he told The Indy Star in 2017. “She was happy.”
Jon Yates, a spokesperson for Northwestern University, said the school is aware of the suit and confirmed the ongoing suspension of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, which went into effect in May 2017.
“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,” Yates said, according to The Daily Northwestern.
Northwestern University was not listed as a defendant in the complaint. Hankins' death is one of nine suicides to have occurred at Northwestern University since 2013, according to ABC 7 Chicago.
Alpha Kappa Alpha has not offered a comment on the legal action being taken against them.
Chris Giffin, a high school coach who once instructed Hankins, memorialized the young woman in 2017, shortly after her death.
“They say that character is what you’re doing and what you do when no one else is around. When nobody else is looking,” Giffin said. “If you use those definitions to assess Jordan in her life and what she meant to so many people out here today, including myself, then you quickly realize there isn’t anybody who had a stronger character than Jordan Hankins.”
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