Tom Joyner Morning Show correspondent Jacque Reid goes “Inside Her Story” with attorney J. Wyndal Gordon about his four clients, which includes two Howard University seniors and their respective mothers about their suit against the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority (AKA) for not allowing them into the sorority and for hazing.
Howard University seniors, Lauren Cofield and Laurin Compton, and their mothers who are AKAs, claim that their rights were violated because they were not admitted into the AKA Sorority via the organization’s “legacy clause” back in 2010. They also claim they were subject to hazing by the organization.
Read Attorney Gordon’s full interview with Jacque Reid below, to find out the details of the suit, what they are asking for and the real story behind their claims.
JACQUE REID: Good morning, Tom, and Sybil and Dominique. Now, listen. Two Howard University students are a part of a federal lawsuit against Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated and Howard University. Now, the girls are suing, along with their mothers, because they were denied access to the sorority. They also said they experienced hazing, and that AKA participated in witness tampering.
TOM JOYNER : You’re Delta, right?
JACQUE REID: I’m going Inside Her Story – I am a member of Delta Sigma Theta, yes.
TOM JOYNER : I just wanted to get that, I wanted to vet first, that’s all.
JACQUE REID: You know, that is so not necessary. I’m a journalist. I’m going Inside Her Story with their attorney, D.C. area attorney J. Wyndal Gordon. Good morning, J. Wyndal.
J. WYNDAL GORDON: Good morning, Jacque. How are you?
JACQUE REID: Very well. Okay, let’s go back to the beginning. Now these two students are legacies, meaning both of their mothers are also members of Alpha Kappa Alpha. Now they say they should’ve been granted membership because they are legacies, and I didn’t realize this, but AKA has a legacy clause? Explain this.
J. WYNDAL GORDON: Well Jacque, this case is really about broken promises, breach of contract and AKA respecting the rights of its membership. In fact it has more to do with those three things than it does with my clients’ daughters who thought to participate in college the membership intake process. The daughters are really collateral damage. They’re victims caught in the crossfire between a larger battle between the AKA and its betrayed membership. Under current law a voluntary member organization creates a legally enforceable contract between the organization and its membership. The daughters have an enforceable right under the intended third party beneficiary doctrine of contract law. Now AKA is not just an organization, it’s a corporation, a multimillion dollar corporation. It can sue and be sued. So they’re bound by the same laws as any other multimillion dollar corporation of its time.
JACQUE REID: But, J. Wyndall, is there a legacy clause?
TOM JOYNER : Yeah, you haven’t answered the question.
J. WYNDAL GORDON: Well, yeah. Absolutely there’s a legacy clause. In fact AKA is the only member in the divine nine that has a legacy clause. And this legacy clause gives priority to legacy candidates.
JACQUE REID: Okay, so they were not, they’re legacy, these two ladies are seniors. So this is it for them as far as pledging undergraduate. They were legacies and you’re saying non-legacies were let on this line that’s up and running now, over them.
J. WYNDAL GORDON: Right. Not only non-legacy, but non-legacy seniors were allowed on this clause. And basically, according to AKA law, the legacy are supposed to be selected first. Everybody else gets selected second.
TOM JOYNER : I have never heard of that.
SYBIL WILKES : Were their mothers [AKAs] …
JACQUE REID: Yeah, I hadn’t either.
J. WYNDAL GORDON: It’s in their constitution. Apparently AKA has never heard of it either and they don’t read their constitution because it’s right there in black and white. Now these aren’t our laws. We didn’t create these laws. We didn’t write them. My clients just followed them, relied upon them, and respected AKA to apply them. AKA broke the law. So this is really, as I said before, a breach of contract case because, again …
JACQUE REID: Now, J. Wyndall, now your clients believe this all stemmed from the two students, because you represent the mothers and the young ladies.
J. WYNDAL GORDON: The mothers are the lead
JACQUE REID: That the students’ clients – right. You’re saying that the clients reported a hazing incident during their freshman year.
J. WYNDAL GORDON: Well, hazing has …
JACQUE REID: And that’s why they were denied access?
J. WYNDAL GORDON: Well, not necessarily all that. Don’t get caught up on this hazing thing. There’s, yes, there’s hazing involved in this case, but hazing is not the controlling issue. Hazing …
JACQUE REID: Well, why do you think they were denied access?
J. WYNDAL GORDON: Hazing just provides the motivation for AKA to deny these women because women who submitted to hazing were selected, even those women who are non-legacies were selected who submitted to hazing. My clients resisted hazing. They followed the rules, just as their mothers did, they followed the rules. They followed the rules and they were rejected.
JACQUE REID: But did they file a complaint with the sorority? Did they file a complaint? Did one of the mothers file a complaint saying that their daughters were hazed?
J. WYNDAL GORDON: What they witnessed is what they consider to be questionable conduct. They told their mother. Their mother investigated and their mother actually did bring it to do the director’s attention. Yes. So the answer is yes.
SYBIL WILKES : And yet they still wanted to join the sorority after this hazing incident?
J. WYNDAL GORDON: You know, at this point in time, it’s not necessarily about joining a sorority, it’s about justice. And for us, for them, justice preempts the sorority.
JACQUE REID: Well, what do they want, J. Wyndall? What do these girls, do they want money?
SYBIL WILKES : They don’t want to be members?
JACQUE REID: Do they want membership? What do they want?
J. WYNDAL GORDON: They want any number of things. They want an apology. And I’m talking about the mothers.
TOM JOYNER : Do they want money?
J. WYNDAL GORDON: You guys are caught up on the daughters because the daughters make the story for you …
TOM JOYNER : Do they want money?
J. WYNDAL GORDON: this is really about the mothers and the members.
TOM JOYNER : Lawyer, do they want money?
J. WYNDAL GORDON: I mean if that’s the only way to get justice, what we’re seeking is justice. If it includes money, if it includes, whatever that entails, that’s what …
TOM JOYNER : How much money?
J. WYNDAL GORDON: Well, that’s what a jury decides. That’s not our decision to make…
TOM JOYNER : How much are you asking for?
J. WYNDAL GORDON: How much are we asking for? We demanded over $75,000 so that we can meet the minimum threshold of Federal Court. But again the jury makes those decisions, not us.
JACQUE REID: What about witness tampering?
J. WYNDAL GORDON: Oh, yeah. I’m glad you brought that up. As a result of our lawsuit, AKA states in writing that they were suspending my clients’ privileges and threatened to expel them. Under Federal law that is a criminal violation 18USC 1512 which prohibits witness tampering. It carries a 20 year period of incarceration at worst.
JACQUE REID: So they kicked out one of the mothers?
J. WYNDAL GORDON: They kicked out both of the mothers for merely trying to enforce their rights under AKA’s constitution, yes.
JACQUE REID: Hmm? Wow.
J. WYNDAL GORDON: So there’s a lot involved in this case.
JACQUE REID: Are these girls still on campus at Howard?
J. WYNDAL GORDON: They’re still on campus at Howard. They intend to graduate on time. And they intend to pursue their respective careers rather successfully.
TOM JOYNER : And they want to bring down the AKA.
SYBIL WILKES : Oh, Tom.
J. WYNDAL GORDON: Tom, I see them bringing up the AKA because the AKA needs to respect the rights of their members. That’s not bringing anybody down, that’s raising them up. That’s elevating them. The AKA should be an organization that respects the rights of its members and is beholden and bound by its own …
SYBIL WILKES : And holding them to a standard.
TOM JOYNER : Hmm. Right.
JACQUE REID: J. Wyndal, are you Greek?
J. WYNDAL GORDON: I’m sorry?
SYBIL WILKES : Are you a Greek?
JACQUE REID: Are you a member of a Greek organization?
J. WYNDAL GORDON: I’m a member of a Greek organization, but I’m African-American. (Chuckle)
JACQUE REID: Okay.
SYBIL WILKES : (Laugh)
TOM JOYNER : Okay.
JACQUE REID: Okay, J. Wyndal. J. Wyndal Gordon. Alright, thank you.