City Desk

Hazing at Howard Sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha Was “Dehumanizing,” Lawsuit Alleges

The two Howard students who allege that their human rights were violated when they didn't get into the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority have been treated pretty roughly around the Web since I wrote about their lawsuit yesterday. Gossip blog Bossip's reaction was typical of the responses: "Oh for crying out loud, are you KIDDING???"

But the lawsuit also includes some accusations of hazing I wasn't able to cover in the original post—some serious, some not so much.

The gravest accusations come from a document compiled by plaintiff Laurin Compton's mother Sandra Compton (an Alpha Kappa Alpha sister) that's been submitted as evidence in the case. Sandra Compton claims that the Alpha Kappa Alpha orientation in which her daughter participated in 2010 and 2011 was "dehumanizing." In the dossier, Sandra Compton alleges that one Howard student who went through orientation even suffered a nervous breakdown and had to leave the school.

Sandra Compton also claims that students hoping to join the sorority were forced to, among other things:

  • Pick up sorority members from the airport.
  • Buy alcohol for Howard's Founders Week.
  • Use different doors than full-fledged sisters.
  • Not eat in the Punch Out, a Howard hangout.
  • Line up and address sisters by their sister's full names.

"If [prospective members] approached a chapter member on the yard, the members would ignore them, embarrass them, and use foul language in front of other people," Compton writes.

The younger Compton and fellow sorority aspirant Lauren Cofield—who are both currently seniors—experienced other forms of "hazing," according to their lawsuit. After attending a sorority ceremony in the spring of 2010, the lawsuit claims, Cofield and Compton were forbidden to wear Alpha Kappa Alpha's pink and green colors, as well as any colors that when combined create pink or green (no red and white clothing at the same time, for example). According to the complaint, other requirements to enter the sorority included checking in with sisters:

Interested women were commanded to contact random sorors daily at a certain hour on the minute, and if they failed to do so, the women would be forced to suffer and endure verbal abuse or be disqualified from [membership process] ab initio

Being "harangued" at events:

Interested women were told to attend social events under the guise of getting to know other Greek letter organization members, only to be heckled, harangued and humiliated by sorors in front of their peers;

Being "mentally tormented":

Interested women were mentally tormented by sorors; for example some were instructed by sorors to do something random or silly, only to be immediately berated and castigated in front of other sorors for doing as they were instructed to do

And prohibited from speaking with certain people:

Interested women were restricted from speaking with friends on the college campus and warned not to report abuses.

So far, everyone involved in the case is keeping quiet—Howard, Alpha Kappa Alpha, and the plaintiffs' lawyer haven't responded to requests for comment. For its part, the sorority filed a motion opposing the plaintiffs' requests to suspend the new membership process until the case is sorted out, writing that Cofield and Compton could reapply for graduate student membership in the sorority.

Photo by Flickr user Travir used under a Creative Commons license

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  • sisterlysubmitted

    Most of these accusations or hazing are typically self-inflicted hazing. Prospective members usually rally among themselves and tell each other what they should and should not do. When i pursued the information of what i could and could not do ie. wearing pink and green and contacting members, standing in lines at programs all came from other prospective members. Members of the actual org did not tell me what to do except give me permission to call after I initiated it after I ASKED if i could call them. Self-inflicted hazing is usually the name of the game.

  • smh

    if these are serious and true accusations, do you all really think they would even be allowed to bring members in at this point? let's be serious, wouldn't they be suspended/removed from the campus? schools and organizations investigate accustations like the ones listed here. my guess is that the school/org did investigate, found nothing, and now these bitter kids and mothers (with the help of irresponsible journalists like the author) are on a slanderous rampage because their kids didn't make it

    kids lose, feel bad, and then make up rumors to make everyone else miss out. move on!

    actually, even if they wanted to move on now, they couldn't. thanks to the author of these series of articles, their names and information are posted everywhere on the internet. great job guys.

  • MetroRider

    "the (charter) members would ignore them, embarrass them, and use foul language in front of other people."

    Based on that description, it appears that every single Metro train car has a charter member riding in it at any given time.

  • SP08

    Self inflicted hazing? ROFL! You cannot be serious!!!

    This is my theory on what happened.

    They pre-pledged and someone snitched. They got labeled snitches, tried to join the chapter the legit way and they were blackballed from the chapter. Alpha was under investigation in 2010 so this is not a surprise to me. Chapters pick lines WAY before an rush is posted. Do NOT be fooled. Most of the women (I would suspect the legacies didn't pre-pledge) who made that line were chosen based on the fact they already were Ivies waiting to cross. I'm still ROFL. Y'all don't know this game by now.

    I wouldn't be suing if I didn't pledge underground and were denied. I would try again... however if I were HAZED then denied membership I would feel some type of way and be out for some $$$.

  • Mahdee

    As a old head in APA and with a daughter that is trying to get into AKA I find that it's about time that we all stop thinking anything has change since (I cross Sp 88) the rules were to change back in 1990 . We all need to just bring back old school and do it the right way as this new way is not working. it's true that when you have a rush the lines have been pick already and they go thought something before then. My daughter is going under the legacy program at her school and she did not make it this past year as her mother was late on her payment in 2011 and she will have to try once more in 2014; and yes she was pre pledge.. It's just a Joke to think any of us did not go thought something to get in and we all know what goes on to cross..

  • Marcus Graham

    SP08 you hit the nail on the head. As for the rest of you don't believe that self inflicted BS.

  • IAmNotALiberalDemocrat

    What's the purpose of pledging a Sorority or a Fraternity? Hazing has been going on for years in many of these Greek organizations or in the Divine 9. What about Honorary AKA's like Corretta Scott King. Did she have to go through any pledging? Many black organizations like these groups are elitists and keep out other blacks. It's alleged, AKA's back in the day at Howard University had to be light or fair skinned. Some say, women had to pass a brown paper bag test. If these allegations are true, this is so sad.

  • Cap City Records Panhandler

    The problems of the the buppie class

  • Karl

    Do these actions really rise to the level of "hazing?" More like razzing.

  • sisterly submitted-2

    I'm going to back up sisterlysubmitted on her comments. Many of us did things in pursuit that we heard from other prospectives, not from actual chapter members, I know I did. The rumor mill is crazy.

    And that color thing- really? Delta and Zeta wannabes don't wear pink and green or red and white, either. I know GROWN women who shy away from doing so when they come to programs even though I've said its not that serious. They just don't do it.

    As for the mental torment and haranguing allegations- I'm sure some of those stupid things happened. Whenever 19 and 20 years are in charge of something its bound to happen on some levels. BUT, its up to those being subjected to stop it. My mother had it happen to her in the 50's- she refused to do it and became the chapter Basileus. If I a request was made of me that I found offensive and demeaning I respectfully declined.

    On another note, many moms (and dads, too) participated in this same behavior, but now sing a different tune since its their own precious babies. Maybe its a case of karma.

  • HUnh?

    @Iamnotaliberal...

    It is alleged that people who applied to Howard had to pass a paper bag test...

    I'm not sure how true any of these allegations are as I've never read a first-hand account of anyone subjected to it. BUT, we do know that colorism exists in the African-American community to this day; a carry over from slavery that we have yet to rid ourselves of.

    As for the elitist comment- I suppose that can be said for any organization that doesn't accept everyone who applies... And its all a matter of perspective- one person's snob is another person's hoodrat.

  • noodlez2: electric bugaloo

    SHIT THIS IS NUTHIN. I PLEDGED A FRAT IN THE 90S AND WE GOT THE CRAP KICKED OUTTA US. WE DIDNT RUN AND TALK TO THE PRESS OR POLICE. WE TOOK IT AND JOINED A LONG HISTORY OF PEOPLE WHO GOT THE SHIT KICKED OUT OF THEM.

  • ShawGuy

    If you ask me, they volunteered for it. Seriously - these issues were not dehumanizing when they still wanted to GET IN and then turn around and do the same thing to the next generation of pledges.

    Deciding to join a frat or a sorority is a completely voluntary process. You are, in fact, allowed to go to school and NOT join one. I think of this as the same thing as suing a bar for having a crappy bartender who poured weak, overpriced drinks and played Nickelback really loud. Nobody made you stay there and pay $18 for a crappy apple-tini and listen to Nickelback. You were allowed to turn around and walk out right away. You didn't even have to buy a drink and spend any money. So if you wasted your whole Friday night there and left $100 poorer with ringing in your ears and no phone numbers in your pocket, it's your own damn fault. Deal with it, and go to a different bar, or just go home.

  • SP08

    Unfortunately the paper bag stuff is true of ALL D9 orgs. It is a sad part of their history.

  • SaddenedSister

    What bothers me most are the mothers. If they are sorors they should know that their membership doesn't entitle their daughters to anything. Just like they aren't entitled to anything in life. I imagine their mothers aren't active members of anyone's chapter and if they are the don't do ANY work. That's the only way they could believe this BS is actually justified. Last time I checked a college senior is an adult. Are they going to sue potential employers if they aren't selected for a job after an interview? This whole lawsuit is absurd.

    Also, If their rights were SO violated then why do they still want to join the organization? Clearly they have no interest in the actual mission and purpose of AKA or any Greek lettered org in the NPHC. They just want to wear some colors, which they can easily do on their own without any sorority affiliation.

  • Pingback: Why You Can’t Sue Yourself Into a Sorority |

  • DCMikeA

    Seriously!?!? So they want to sue their way into an chapter in which everyone hates them. I'm not Greek but I know enough Greeks to know how the game is played. They thought they were just gonna waltz in say 'I'm Legacy' and
    get in...too funny lol. The fact of the matter they just want to be able to say they came from Alpha Chapter. Get over yourself and wait a year and join a grad chapter. In that order!

  • Sorority Chick

    Paper bag tale has been going on for decades. All you have to do is look at the pictures of the Founders to know it is not true.

  • Alphaman

    This entire article is void in my opinion as one of the females in question has already told what the TRUE problem is. Its not poor example of hazing thats the problem. She is angry that she wont be allowed to become a member because she is a senior preparing to graduate and the chapter is giving sophomores and juinors priority....as they should. The chapter has no need for someone who is going to graduate a month after joining. She simply wants to be an Alpha chapter AKA like her mommy.

    Read it: http://instagram.com/p/WmLPNWGEvt/

  • MJ

    Dry Snitching 101.

    Let's say they get in (lol yeah right). They would be laughing stock of the Greek World. They can't go anywhere and obtain respect from fellow Greeks. “Paper” Greeks will have more respect than these ladies. Atleast they legitimately earned their way into their respected organizations.

  • http://inspiringsisters.blogspot.com Sistergirl

    Membership is not a right, because of the Anti- Hazing Laws if you are not invited with a letter you can't become an interest.

    Once you are pick there are strict Anti- Hazing Laws. If your not given an application then NO you are not welcomed to join.

    Some legacies have an air about them. Many feel they don't have to follow any rules and can do whatever because they "HAVE TO BE ACCEPTED."

    Well this helicopter mom is UPSET. How dare these girls not accept her daughter when she probably told her to she is in there. She just wan to join the "ALPHA" chapter. That's why the mom keeps bragging that she came in through the ALPHA chapter.

    Everyone knows she told that girl all her life this was her destiny. I'm sorry your daughter has a character flaw and she participated in HAZING and now has sour grapes for not being chosen.

  • LegacyMom

    This matter is really not about Hazing; but it is about legacy membership. I absolutely agree with the Soror-Mothers of these young women. I'm not sure it rises to a Human Rights Violation; but it is a major violation of our legacy policy. During the 90's, AKA pushed the adoption of the Legacy clause. It was voted down my the membership for several years. Now that it has passed, we celebrate our legacies with a parade (with banners and stuff) at all our Regionals and Boules. It is a big deal; and it was sold to us as a BIRTHRIGHT! If the mothers and daughters have fulfilled the legacy requirements, then their daughters should be accepted now as an undergraduate; not sometime in the future as graduate students. Although, I'm not Alpha-made (I proudly state that); I do understand that significance to these Mothers. All other racial groups can uphold and be proud of their legacy status; but again, we it come to US, we want to berate these bold families for standing up for what they believe is right. Mothers, I applaud you for taking a stand and challanging this clause.

  • guest21

    With respect to anti-NPHC comments and whether or not "paper bag" tests were required, I have submitted various pics of pre-1950 AKA and DST chapter photos. Depending on the color of the bag, this is likely urban legend. Universities in the early 20th century frequently had higher proportions of lighter skinned students anyway.

    DST 1913-
    http://www.dst.gtorg.gatech.edu/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/founders.jpg

    AKA 1922 - http://www.aka1908.com/centennial/history/gallery/album1/large/1922wiberforce.jpg

    http://www.franbecque.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/011508_1240_AlphaKappaA1.jpg

    DST 1946-
    http://floridamemory.com/items/show/155120

  • pledgingisnothazing

    paper bagging was real.. every tradition had it's exceptions.. I'm not so sure if it was so prevalent in the orgs that came after AKA and DST, however..(see Our Kind of People by L. O. Graham. Fascinating book about Black Privilege.. My trek across Howard's campus has never been the same cause now I understand why certain student "hold their heads so high".

  • pledgingisnothazing

    well said Sistergirl (#19) I don't allow my son to wear our colors and symbols etc. If we were still pledging.. no let me say When we were pledging These Colors and Letters were something one had to EARN.. That's what's going wrong with our organizations: everyone is entitled.. I got the grades; I got the money; I even got the recommendation; so what I don't have the character; so what I'm not lead-able/ coach-able/ teach-able. Now you can't get sorors and frat to walk in parades (Howard University Homecoming!) or serve homeless families in a soup kitchen. They weren't taught service (through and by proper pledging activities; and they weren't taught pride (through and by having to earn their way in and across..)

    How are you going to sue a sorority for entry? why do you even still want to be apart of..?

    Status wasn't the reason for our organizations.
    Service Sisterhood/ Womanhood Brotherhood/ Manhood Scholarship

  • AlphaChapter

    I want to address the paper bag issue. How do you know the paper bag rule is true? Did you experience it? As someone who would not pass the paper bag rule, is not a legacy and pledge 25 years ago, I find the face that "we" keep these ill-facted comments circulating as though they are true. If you did not experience it personally, STOP IT!!

  • ELEL

    Hope these girls are happy being labeled as spoiled. Now, when an potential employer (likely a Greek community member) Googles their names before hiring them, THIS will pop up. And that potential employer will think only of how spoiled and entitled they are. They will see their unwillingness to earn what they receive and their whining. Not only that, but the overwhelming majority of the comments I have seen across a dozen websites seem to agree that these girls are spoiled brats. So I'm not really sure what they have accomplished. Money isn't everything, and even if they win, the rest of the world is laughing at them and won't take them seriously. Ever.

  • minime

    It is easy to say that they should have been let in LegacyMom. After reading the complaint online and AKA's response it is a little more complicated than that.

    It will be interesting to see how it all pans out.

  • smh-1

    I agree with the legacy moms and their daughters. If you meet the requirements and you have followed the rules then they should be automatically in. Why did this organization create the darn clause if they were not going to abide by it. So what if their mother told them since they were little girls that they would be AKAs. Don't all organizations brainwash they children into thinking that their organization is the best. It is a shame that these mothers worked hard for the sorority, paid their dues and represented this organization for over 20 years only to be told that we don't want your daughters. This is crazy. Why would a sister not want a sisters child? It makes absolutely no sense. All those AKA who are talking bad about these girls, remember that one day you will have daughters and God forbid if they idolize an organization and they get let down like this. I would not wish this on my worst AKA enemy! Shame on you AKA!!! I blame it on the leadership. Get it together ladies or prepare for a doomed future. Keep your heads up Sandra and Laurin, you are not crazy and many of us rational educated people understand your plight!!!!!

  • Pledgie

    A person joins a Fraternity or a Sorority usually want to be part of brotherhood or sisterhood... Think about it all a mental game/Mind fuck.. EVERYONE, has to go thur it.. its to see if you are mental strong enough to be with them.. Each hazing "activity" are suppose to make you and your pledge sister/brother become closer.. and to become closer to the other girls cause they all went thur tnat shit. Some teach things.. I was told not to walk on grass and always walk on payment.. is for to teach you that there is not shortcuts in life you have to work hard to get where you wanna be. But dont get me wrong if it is severe hazing (such has SEVERE physical abuse from other current member) then it okay to "Snitch".... with your bitch ass lol

  • chs8892

    I find it funny that most comments written here pushes their accusations to the side. But when allegations were put all over the internet and news regarding FAMU's DST chapter (which no charges were filed) people assumed that the members of that chapter did something. So funny yet so sad.

  • smh-1

    Pledgie,
    You have to realize that this is not the pledging of old. This is a intake process period.They have no time to bond. The focus should be community service anyway. Big Brothers and sisters got out of hand so this is what we have. I like the new process because it cuts the bullshit. They can have sister sessions to gain sisterhood or go on a dam cruise. The tactics of old did not help gain sister or brotherhood, it gained hate for the big bros and sisters and caused many in these groups to be disenfranchised. I can talk from experience, I pledged back in the day, Bloody chapter, got hazed more than anyone on this page. physically and mentally and let me tell you, it does not help brother or sisterhood. And that bullshit about the excuse me grass and dirt, I did that shit too and it meant nothing at the time and it means nothing now. There are more positive ways to groom someone. As Spike Lee ended the movie SchoolDaze back in 1988 "WAKE UP!!!!!!"

  • Deborah

    I read these comments and I am sad seeing us suing each other. A house divided cannot stand. I cannot speak on the legacy issue within AKA. There are many issues involved that level heads needs to prevail and our HBCU's does not need be sued because they are struggling to maintain financial stability. This is bad publicity. However, I will speak on the issue of the BROWN Paper Bag. It is a fact that the AKA'S practiced this in the 40's. How I do I know this? My Aunt who is 95 years old and is a AKA and I love her dearly relayed this story to me and my sisters in 1967. We were shipped off to visit her in Portland, Ore. Her neighbor came by to meet and greet us and we did not know what to think of her coming from (Ark) of such a lady who looked white with blond hair. When she open her mounth she was Black power and all. We met other members of her sorority who were very fair skinned. I remember asking if all of sorority sisters looked like her. She replied, most of them because we had to pass the brown paper bag test. If we were darker than the brown bag then they did not get into Portland's AKA Chapter. I asked about dark skinned girls and she replied, we have legacy because a lot of the sorors married dark skinned colored (as she called it)and the daughters came out with a darker skin tone.So Sorors with daughters who took after their father's skin tone had a chance to join AKA and not be prohibited due to their skin tone. This is a true story and I would happily retell this in the presence of my 95 year old Aunt. She loves her Pink and Green at 95.

  • PRETTYgirlWANNAbe

    So what does everyone think the proper requirements and processes should to become an AKA?

  • Angelfire3

    All campus organizations including sororities Must FIRST abide by the rules and regualtions of the UNIVERSITY/COLLEGE. Secondly, if they must if instructed by the school adhere to the Pan Hellenic Conference or Council. THEN and only then do the organizations rules apply. At Howard there is a cap of 50 initiates. Pan-Hell says that if your organization has a “legacy clause” you may only hold ONE THIRD (that would be 17) of the available spaces for legacies and you must first consider sophomores (there were 9 of them) then juniors (and 8 of them) and lastly seniors. Incidently, 8+9=17 These girls, nor their mothers, appear interested in membership in Alpha Kappa Alpha, they just wanted to be initiated into a certain chapter, Alpha Chapter. Notice that the 11 other seniors that could not be made are ever mentioned (like this was some kind of personal vendetta). They will probably go on to join a graduate chapter. This woman is now suspended, probably nullifying her daughter’s legacy status because I think my friend told me that the member you claim to be a legacy of has to be an active member. Boo F’n Hoo. These people are ridiculous.

  • smh-1

    Howard University’s membership intake cap is 65, not 50. (HU Handbook 63) (“There is a sixty-five (65) new member limit for organizations participating in the membership intake process.”) HU’s Pan Hellenic Council, Inc. (“HU NPHC”) had the intake cap of 50, but HU NPHC’s constitution clearly stated: “No rules may be enacted that are in conflict with the rules of the University. The members of Alpha Kappa Alpha could have resolved this issue by following their own law and listening to these women, instead they chose to turn their noses up and this is what happened. I commend the mothers and the young ladies for standing up for their rights. What is wrong with them wanting to be a legacy of the Alpha Chapter where their mothers pledged? That is one of the reasons they went to Howard. You all act like these ladies were not qualified. They had high GPAs 3.7, high morals, 100 hrs of community service etc. This was personal and AKA wanted to flex muscle instead of being the sophisticated,educated leaders that they claim to be. Good luck ladies and remember, some of us out here understand your plight!!!!

  • Amess!

    A mess...but I am not surprised at all...AKA has turned into a joke, and an embarrassment for black organizations. The so called hazing is typical of any organization, so that they should get over. On the other hand, the only reason universities, and pan-hel orgs. on campus have had to put caps in place is because AKA will take any and everybody and everybody's money...which only causes drama on campus, suspensions, and in some cases expulsions. All because they can't handle their business in house. As soon as sorors sue, they turn around and suspend them. It's weak. It is amazing the things you see and learn after you pledge, especially the passive-aggressiveness of the members. Alpha Chapter has NOT been a real hazing chapter in years, so these little examples are child's play. The paper bag test did exist, and AKA has turned into nothing but a social club. I probably have more pari than any soror around, but not just because I "earned" it, but to make my prophytes look good, to show that they have the money to spend, but also as a bribe, because as strong as my line was to decline to do things....you can't always prevent a black eye or busted lip...now all of a sudden they want to be picky about who they allow in, tomorrow they will be back to letting everyone in legacy or not...smh.....

  • NotALPHAMade

    Here's the problem - the legacy clause is an issue and how it is applied is an issue. I strongly feel that the Pan Hell Council should not dictate a percentage of legacies. If the entire line is made up of legacies, then that's the way it falls out. I have done my part as an 25+ plus year active and financial member; attending Boules, Regional conferences, Chapter meetings, financailly supporting Cotillions and other fundraisers, service projects. For me and for my child it is a BIRTHRIGHT; I've paid my dues - that's what they asked for from the membership.

  • smh-1

    Well said NotALPHAMade!!!!I agree 100%

  • Sharin

    Deborah said "It is a fact that the AKA'S practiced this in the 40's. How I do I know this? My Aunt who is 95 years old and is a AKA and I love her dearly relayed this story to me and my sisters in 1967. We were shipped off to visit her in Portland, Ore. Her neighbor came by to meet and greet us and we did not know what to think of her coming from (Ark) of such a lady who looked white with blond hair. When she open her mounth she was Black power and all. We met other members of her sorority who were very fair skinned. I remember asking if all of sorority sisters looked like her. She replied, most of them because we had to pass the brown paper bag test. If we were darker than the brown bag then they did not get into Portland's AKA Chapter. I asked about dark skinned girls and she replied, we have legacy because a lot of the sorors married dark skinned colored (as she called it)and the daughters came out with a darker skin tone.So Sorors with daughters who took after their father's skin tone had a chance to join AKA and not be prohibited due to their skin tone."

    Wow Deborah, thanks for sharing this. Good to read this from someone who received the information from a member from back then.

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