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Hazing responsible for suicide of Northwestern athlete, according to lawsuit

Jordan Hankins, a Northwestern basketball player, committed suicide in January 2017. Her mother filed suit on Tuesday, alleging that sorority hazing led to her daughter’s suicide. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings, File)

The mother of Jordan Hankins, the Northwestern basketball player who committed suicide in January 2017, has sued the Northwestern chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, alleging that their hazing was responsible for the deterioration of Hankins’ mental health and her eventual suicide.

As reported by the Daily Northwestern, Felicia Hankins filed suit on Tuesday and named not only the Northwestern chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha, but 11 others as defendants, including individuals who were student members and advisers.

According to the complaint, Hankins attended a rush event at Alpha Kappa Alpha in October 2016. To pledge the sorority, she had to agree to a post-initiation pledge process. The complaint alleges that as part of that process, Hankins experienced 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 hazing affected her emotional, mental and physical health, and she told several members of the sorority (including those named in the suit) that the hazing was “triggering her PTSD, causing severe anxiety and depression and that she was having suicidal thoughts.”

The complaint says that the hazing began in late November 2016. Hankins was found hanging in her dorm room on Jan. 9, 2017.

The suit alleges that it was foreseeable that Hankins would commit suicide for several reasons. She had let members of the sorority know that she had been having suicidal thoughts. The hazing practices being employed had already been banned and were being used anyway. And the hazing intentional, and “done with the purpose of causing Hankins to suffer humiliation, mental anguish, and emotional and physical distress.”

The complaint also points out that while Alpha Kappa Alpha instituted tougher anti-hazing policies in 1999, court records and police reports show that banned hazing practices have continued, including several incidents reported as recently as February 2018. According to the Daily Northwestern, Alpha Kappa Alpha has been on full suspension since May 2016. Until Fall of 2019, the sorority isn’t allowed to recruit members or host events.

Felicia Hankins’ suit is seeking unspecified monetary damages.

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