Mother of Jordan Hankins claims Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority responsible for daughter’s death


Daily file photo by Sam Schumacher

Jordan Hankins plays in a game in 2016. The mother of the former NU basketball player filed a complaint against Alpha Kappa Alpha and 11 others Tuesday.

Catherine Kim and Elizabeth Byrne

Editor’s note, 5:10 p.m.: Due to incorrect information provided by the Office of Student Conduct, a previous version of this story incorrectly stated that the Northwestern chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority was suspended in May 2016. After the release of this article, the office updated its information to clarify that the chapter was suspended in May 2017. The Daily regrets the error. 

The mother of former Northwestern basketball player Jordan Hankins, who died by suicide in 2017, filed a complaint Tuesday against the Northwestern chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. The complaint alleges that hazing incidents during the pledging process caused Hankins to suffer severe anxiety and depression, which led to her eventual death.

The 50-page complaint, filed by Felicia Hankins in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, lists AKA and 11 other defendants –– including student members and advisors at the time. Northwestern is not named as a defendant. Hankins was subject to physical abuse, emotional abuse, sleep deprivation and financial exploitation, the complaint claims.

[Read the complaint]

The complaint alleges the defendants knew or should have known the hazing activities were “extreme, outrageous and unlawful.”

“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.

In a statement on Wednesday, Jon Yates, a University spokesman, said Northwestern is aware of the complaint.

“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,” he said. “The sorority involved has been and continues to be suspended from the University.”

Representatives of the sorority did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

AKA has been suspended on campus from May 2017 to Fall 2019, according to the Northwestern Office of Student Conduct. The alleged hazing occurred in late 2016.

The complaint also claims the defendants were informed that Hankins was mentally unstable and expressed that she was suicidal after the hazing activities. After being hazed, “it was foreseeable” that Hankins would kill herself, the complaint alleges.

The complaint brings counts of negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress against defendants.

Hankins was a Weinberg sophomore and a guard on the women’s basketball team. Those close to her remembered her as a warm and selfless friend.

“They say that character is what you’re doing and what you do when no one else is around. When nobody else is looking,” Chris Giffin, Hankins’ high school basketball coach, said at a 2017 memorial. “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.”

Cameron Cook contributed reporting. 

If you are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741

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