A young woman was a student at a large university. As an African-American at an institution with a very small minority population, she was seeking a way to belong and fit in, and membership in an NPHC Sorority seemed to offer that opportunity. She was assured that the intake process would be safe and would include no violence or hazing.
At first, the intake process followed the guidelines described in the Sorority’s application materials. But then, graduate members showed up one evening. They called the new sorors paper, not real members. They told the officers that the only way a black woman could gain respect among her peers in the community was to be made the real way. They seemed to say, ”I experienced it, and if this person is going to be a legitimate member, they must experience this, too.”
At that point, the intake experience changed dramatically. According to the young woman, over the course of the next several weeks:
- Graduate members beat her and another aspirant repeatedly on the head until a third aspirant could finish reciting the history of the Sorority.
- Members poured juice on the floor and made her clean it up with her back, then tore her shirt off.
- Members slammed her face into the wall, making her lip bleed profusely.
- Members made her stay awake all night.
- She was forbidden from going to the bathroom, causing her to pee her pants.
When she threatened to quit, the active members told her that they “loved” the aspirants and their actions were intended to strengthen the bonds of their line. They also told her that she would be ostracized on campus if she left. Although she felt pressured to remain, she eventually left the Sorority.
As a result of the intake activities, she left school and was forced to seek counseling as a consequence of her treatment. She sued the Sorority for punitive damages and lost future wages. Parties to the lawsuit included the Sorority, the campus chapter and individual members.
A young woman was a student at a HBCU, and was interested in the Sorority community there. Her mother was a Sorority member, and both the young woman and her mother hoped that her legacy status would lead to membership in the Sorority. When she was invited to join, the young woman was thrilled. The intake process was exactly as the Sorority had described, and the young woman became a member.
One evening soon after, the young woman received a text message to meet at 4:00 the next morning at the track of a nearby high school, dressed totally in black and to be prepared to sweat. She joined the other new members as requested.
Older members told the new members that they would be exercising together at the instruction of the older Sorors, and that if anyone messed up or couldn’t keep up, the length of time of the session would be extended. No water would be available either.
- Running up and down stadium steps
- Jumping Jacks
- Wall sits
- Running the track in line, with the final runner required to sprint to the beginning of the line at the direction of the active members.
Older Sorors did not participate in the exercises, but observed from the sidelines, yelling criticisms and abuse at the aspirants. It was during this run that the young woman collapsed from exhaustion. The older Sorors berated her, telling her to get up, she was letting her line down. She tried to rise, but instead passed out.
The new members were told to keep running while they tried to decide what to do. They poured water on the young woman’s face, and tried to get her to drink, to no avail. Finally, they decided to cut the activity short and head back to campus. They brought the young woman back to her residence hall room and left her. When the young woman’s roommate returned, she found her roommate unresponsive and called 911. The young woman was taken to the hospital, where she later died. An autopsy showed that she died because of a rare medical syndrome that can be triggered by strenuous exertion. Her death was attributed to “acute exertional rhabdomyolysis,” a syndrome linked to sudden deaths of military recruits and athletes.