Mother of suicide victim files lawsuit against sorority that allegedly hazed her daughter

The Northwestern University basketball player was subjected to hazing that hurt her "physical, mental, and emotional health," causing severe anxiety and depression, the suit claims.
Image: Jordan Hankins, a former Northwestern University basketball player, died by suicide in 2017.
Jordan Hankins, a former Northwestern University basketball player, died by suicide in 2017.Courtesy of Northwestern Athletics

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By David K. Li

A woman whose daughter played basketball at Northwestern University and committed suicide in 2017 filed a lawsuit against the sorority that allegedly subjected her to hazing.

The mother, Felicia Hankins, filed a 50-page federal civil complaint against Alpha Kappa Alpha, an African-American sorority based in nearby Chicago, and eight current or former individual members of the organization.

Sophomore Jordan Hankins, 20, from Indianapolis. was found dead in her dorm room on Jan. 9, 2017, and the Cook County medical examiner ruled it a suicide.

Her mother claims in the lawsuit her daughter was subjected to brutal hazing that caused her to suffer anxiety and depression before she killed herself.

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The Northwestern sophomore basketball player "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.

"These incidents negatively affected Jordan Hankins' physical, mental, and emotional health," according to the lawsuit that claimed the experience "was triggering her PTSD, causing severe anxiety and depression and that she was having suicidal thoughts."

A representative for Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority could not be immediately reached for comment on Wednesday.

Northwestern University said in a statement that it "remains deeply saddened by the death of Jordan Hankins," NBC Chicago reported.

"The sorority involved has been and continues to be suspended from the University," a spokesperson for the school said in the statement, noting that Northwestern itself was not named in the suit.

Hankins graduated from Lawrence North High School in Indianapolis, where she was an honor roll student and National Honor Society member, according to Northwestern. She had planned to study biological sciences at the university.

"Jordan Hankins was in the prime of her life and seeking to join an organization she believed was dedicated to sisterhood and personal and professional development," family lawyer Brandon E. Vaugh said in a statement.

"Instead, as a condition of her membership, it is alleged she was subjected to severe physical and mental abuse by members of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. 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."

NBC Chicago contributed.