City Desk

Alleging Human Rights Violations, Howard Students Sue to Get Into Sorority

Howard University seniors and sorority hopefuls Laurin Compton and Lauren Cofield find themselves in a plot with elements of a teen novel: arguments about who can wear pink, accusations of snitching, a cabal of girls called "the Sweets." But instead of devising an elaborate way to get back at the in-crowd, Gossip Girl-style, they're suing the sorority and the university to become sisters—and alleging that their human rights have been violated.

The lawsuit, filed on Feb. 28 in federal court, accuses Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority of violating the students' human rights. The lawsuit also names Howard University as a defendant for failing to protect students who refused to be hazed.

According to the lawsuit, Compton and Cofield's trouble began when they were invited to "Ivy Day," a ceremony for outgoing and prospective AKA members in the second semester of 2010. The two then-freshmen were expecting to find sisterhood, but what they allegedly found instead was hazing!

Some of the "hazing" rules sound innocuous, if extensive, like being forbidden from wearing the sorority colors of pink and green or any colors that could be blended into pink and green. In one humorous moment, the lawsuit notes that the pledges, who were called the "sweets," couldn't even wear white pearls.

Other hazing allegations are more serious. At one point, the pledges were told not to talk to non-sorority members at Howard, according to the suit.  "[Alpha Kappa Alpha members] on campus addressed the sweets by calling them weak bitches," Compton's mother wrote in a complaint to the sorority.

After Cofield's mother, also an Alpha Kappa Alpha sister, complained, the two pledges found themselves ostracized in the sorority for being "snitch-friendly" or "snitch-sympathists."

When 2013 rolled around, Cofield and Compton still hadn't been inducted into the sorority. (The lawsuit alleges official pledging had been forbidden because of previous hazing violations.) When they applied again, they say they were told that they couldn't be accepted because of a cap on new sisters. Much of the lawsuit hinges on this, but the gist is that Cofield and Compton say that, as legacies, they should be among the first to be inducted, and the sorority says there's nothing they can do to get around the cap.

How is any of this a violation of human rights law? The aspiring sisters say they're being discriminated against because, as legacies, their mothers were also in the sorority. In other words, they're being treated differently because of their "familial status"—a protected class under the D.C. Human Rights Act. In addition to monetary damages, the would-be Alpha Kappa Alphas want the court to grant an injunction putting the pledging process on hold.

J. Wyndal Gordon, the  outspoken attorney who calls himself the "warrior lawyer," is representing Cofield and Compton. Like Howard and Alpha Kappa Alpha's national organization, Gordon didn't respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit.

Update, 3/6: The lawsuit also contains other accusations of hazing at the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority.

Photo by Flickr user NCinDC used under a Creative Commons license

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  • Donise Wills

    I think that everyone on this board needs to see this AKA video on YouTube. Flips hair and exits.

    Carry on

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  • Dino Den

    I love how people are lamenting that "Life isn't fair" yet gripe that their organization should be immunne to a legal check.

    First and foremost, your job is committment to your community. Is your community young black women who look up to you, or other members/want to be members of the black elite? Kindness goes a long way.

    Due to their not being a line until their senior year, these girls were essentially hazed their entire collegiate stay. Someone could have pulled them to the side and said "hey, it's not going to happen for you" around junior year. That would have been decent.

    I remember one girl, she was a senior....knew all the information... had wanted it since freshmen year (which of course involved stalking people all over the yard for 4 YEARS!!) There was some rumbling among then prospects that she wasn't going to make it (the reason why escapes me)..that didn't stop the organization from allowing her to fundraise. And go to events. and 22 mile walks..etc..

    Bottom line. Life isn't fair. You act like a douche you open yourself up to be checked. It's 2013 and people believe in their dignitiy. If the divine 9 continue down their path - they will soon find themselves in the pool with Jack and Jill. Begging people to join, and scraping the barrel for people who need to fit in - as the strong willed and intelligent decide to go elsewhere.

  • SP08

    1908AKA unfortunately soror you speak the truth. Anyone breaking their backs to join AKA now is CRAZY. We need major reform.

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  • ThenWhat?

    Maturation is a process that supersedes any BGLO Membership Intake Process; whereas, "Joe Brady" would infer otherwise.

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  • Who Cares

    Update: The Case was dismissed and they were denied membership...

  • kg2001

    Why would anyone want to be an AKA anyway? You'd just be another number...a very large number, but a useless number.

    pledge something that needs the numbers, like SGRhos or Omega Pearls!

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  • Raina

    I thought sororities were about sisterhood, not being catty jerks.


    1st: Natl Pan Hell CANNOT dictate anything to any organization what to do (re: cap on lines) 2nd, read the dang articles: the two young ladies seem to have been on line but not allowed to cross for no other reason than they were legacies. It'll be interesting, in a few years, to see how those sorors feel about legacies when their daughters come up for membership. I already know the answer to that rhetorical ?. I'm an active member of a Blk fraternity and have seen it play out yr, after yr, after yr, after yr. All of a sudden, when it's their child or relative, "it's different", "you don;t understand", etc, etc . . .


    Bottom Line: there are state and federal hazing statutes and, whether or not people like them, they are applicable and being adamantly applied and pursued by the powers that be. Also, so, so, so many folks who claim they went thru whatever "strenuous process" didn't catch near the hell they claim and the biggest hazers oft times turn out to be the folks whom the least was done to when they went thru the process.

  • dstack

    This story is very interesting . I didn't know that Greek life was still so popular.Back in the 80s I went to a large public univ in Calif. Frats and sororities were really gaining in popularity after being seen as elitist and out of touch with "the struggle" of the1960-70s.I was majoring in an engineering field and I met another brother was also majoring in engineering . He told me about a frat that was just getting started on campus that he and other Black engr majors were going to pledge. He said that I would be a charter member of the chapter along with him if I went on line. I declined his offer. I'll admit that the Greeks were the "in crowd" among the Black students on the mainly white campus..Over the years he and others from that frat and other frats invited me to their smokers which I declined. To make a long story short , most of the frat brother didn't graduate but to this day the ones I have kept in touch with are still proud to be members of the frat.WTF? A couple of years after I started working in a different city after graduating, I began taking grad couses in the evening. I was walking past the gym one day and ran into one of the frat brothers who tried to get me to join his frat a few years before. I knew that he was from this city. He told that he was workig in law enforcement (which I already knew he had gone into after dropping out of engineering). He asked me if I was going for my masters which was true. As one of my other friends used to say about the frats is that the brothers forget what they're going to school for.

    These two women should forget about the AKAs for now. They are getting good grades and I'm sure that they will be successful in their chosen careers.There will be plenty of organizations through which they can contribute to the community and who will welcome them.

  • dsquared1908

    Go to on the membership tab. It clearly states membership is by INVITATION ONLY. Membership is exclusive. These crybabies with the sense of entitlement are why there are all these rules,to appease all those who just don't get that everybody isnt going to make it. MIP isn't supposed ro be fair. It's SUPPOSED to be unfair, I should not have to let any person off the streets into my organization... And to AKA1908... Off we are pwtty bitches... Please feel free to exit, stage left...

  • ElderWD

    When these girls graduate and get into the real world and learn there is a world outside of Howard University they will realize how little belonging to these groups matter.

  • prettyboyYO

    Sit it out, this too shall pass, you din't get in, cry a river, run to a grad chapter, suing won't solve issues and won't clearly give you a membership card

  • http://n/a Q-DAWG

    RQQ to the Bruhz!!!

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  • Queen Bee

    I am a legacy and my mom is an AKA advisor and the legacy clause states that the MOTHER must have been active for 24 consecutive months prior to the Rush, attended so many conferences and meetings w/n those 24 months, and a signed legacy form from their local grad chapter president and submitted on time. A mother being an AKA doesnt make her daughter "legacy" if she has not met ALL the requirements to be considered a legacy! There is protocol in AKA if the mothers felt their daughters were handled unfairly and knowing OUR regional director with membership and allegations of hazing, the parents had no case and that is why they sued. All sisters know that Nationals and regionals jump on any and every little allegation of hazing or improper conduct! Furthermore, each AKA has ALL the national, regional,local, and international contact information and could have addressed this with the Sorority at ANY TIME whether she is active or not! But please understand that it is the mother's responsibility to REMAIN ACTIVE in order to use the legacy clause and if the mothers WERE active in a local chapter, they would have been informed of that when they needed the local president's signature. Their daughters still had to have everything else the other non-legacies had! Clearly the mothers need to stop being t-shirt wearers and become active and learn the new amendments because things have changed from 20yrs ago!

  • minime

    Has this case really been dismissed as stated above?

  • smh-1

    I commend these ladies for standing up to the petty nonsense that has plagued this organization for decades. If the organization has a rule that if your mother is an AKA then you are in if you meet all requirements, then they should abide by their own darn rule. It is a birthright!!!! Why would sisters not want to accept other sisters daughters, this makes absolutely no sense. This organization needs to get it together with better leadership or the future will be bleak. I heard Michelle Obama rejected their invitation after she saw how shady they were. Keep your heard up ladies and know that everything happens for a reason. You will probably be better off without the fake sisters who talk about you and stab you in the back. Pledge Delta, Zeta or Sigma, at least they are smart enough to perpetrate sisterhood a little better. God help the AKAs, they need Jesus.


    The case has not been dismissed.

  • mytai

    The reality of this situation is that it is highly unlikely that they will accomplish much with this lawsuit. The spotlight will be on D9 intake processes for a while but will ultimately subside just as it does with other big hazing/intake stories (just the reality of it). The best thing they could have done is join a grad chapter and work hard to gain a leadership position on the regional and national level (over time) and ultimately BE the change in the organization that they wish to see. I applied to my sorority at a time when there were over 250 applicants on our campus. Many of my close friends didnt make it but pledged later and are still happy and productive members. Also, I just read that the parents have had thier memberships revoked (rightfully so) and the lawyer is stating that the sorority broke the law by tampering with witnesses in a federal court case. It seems like this will be a long drawn out situation.

  • mytai

    One last thing....if you read the accompanying court documents you will see exactly why they were not chosen. Apparently, they could have chosen to apply as a regular candidate who is subject to chapter vote and they chose not to. The 1/3 legacy cap that Howard has for its greeks meant that only 17 legacies can be chosen in priority order of sophomores, juniors, then seniors. All of the slots were filled with sophomore and junior legacy applicants. The seniors were not even considered. If they had however, applied as a non-legacy candidate they would have had better chances and could have raked in the chapter vote IF they had built relationships and had enough current members to support. Its obvious that the chapter didn't want them because someone could have given them this info prior to them applying. Also consider that pre pledging may have been done by one or two individuals(current or past members) and does not necessarily equate the acceptance/support of the current chapter. This new breed of greeks has to tighten up. Stop pre pledging people who you know you will not accept. Check out the documents all!!!!

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  • Vaughn


  • Vaughn

    Nice an honest assessment. I really wish young ladies would learn this.