Why You Can't Sue Yourself Into a Sorority

AKAs participate in the 2008 Unity Day March in Washington, D.C. (the Washington Post)
AKAs participate in the 2008 Unity Day March in Washington, D.C. (the Washington Post)

(The Root) — Entitlement is a finicky fruit. It can ripen into the kind of "I got this" self-confidence that helps people nail interviews, land jobs and climb ladders. But entitlement can just as easily rot into the kind of nauseating conceit that puts people off. These days, too many millennials have been accused of stockpiling the latter without having enough of the former.


The most recent case of extreme entitlement in the court of public opinion involves two college students who allege in actual court that their human rights were violated when they weren't admitted to their sorority of choice. Oh, OK.

Howard University seniors Laurin Compton and Lauren Cofield are suing their soon-to-be alma mater and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. for discrimination based on their "familial status." Their lawsuit hinges on two points: As "legacies" (the daughters of women in the sorority), both allege that they should have breezed into the sisterhood by birthright instead of being denied membership. Also, confusingly, the college coeds claim that they were denied membership because of their legacy status. Got that?

Both Compton and Cofield claim that they should be AKAs because their mothers are AKAs. In their reality, nepotism is apparently a right. But the young women also claim that they were illegally mistreated — unfairly bumped to the back of the applicant line when a cap was placed on the number of new members — because their mothers are AKAs.

So when a discriminatory practice didn't work in their favor, both women cried discrimination.

I'm not sure what bothers me about this case more: the fact that anyone would think to sue because she wasn't given enough preferential treatment or that the mother of a would-be AKA supports her daughter's whining.

According to the Washington City Paper, Sandra Compton, Laurin Compton's mother, claims in the suit that the would-be sisters were subjected by sorority members to "dehumanizing" hazing, which included picking up dry cleaning, addressing sisters by their full names and not wearing the sorority's official colors. In light of the case of Robert Champion, the Florida A&M University drum major who died after a hazing incident in November 2011, I am loath to identify what the Comptons and Cofield describe as anything resembling hazing.


The culture of hazing in this country — from boot camp to band camp — is no doubt born of a dangerous delusion, conflating the notion of earning your place with debasing yourself at best and putting yourself in a potentially fatal situation at worst. The problem now is that working hard for something is such a loosely defined concept to some that swinging the pendulum too far in any direction is an easy task.

Look at what's currently happening to interns, "assistant tos" and the like. The New York Times recently uncovered the apparently new trend of "hardworking 20-somethings " — folks in "rock star" jobs that put in long hours for short (or no) pay.


"Children of helicopter parents who have been overscheduled since nursery school might find it especially hard to set professional limits," according to the Times. I would assume the same goes for the flip side of that argument: Could those same children, as in the case of the disgruntled wannabe AKAs, just assume they've worked hard enough by evidence of their sheer existence?

I had nervous nightmares about my first internship after graduating college. Would I have to pick up dry cleaning? Walk my boss's dog? Be on the receiving end of a tongue-lashing for fudging a salad order? Would it be worth it? No matter how many fill-in-the-blank menial tasks were completed in the Mad Libs of making it in entry-level New York City, the answer to that last question would almost always be yes.


But hard work doesn't always pay off — a hard lesson you won't hear in your graduation speech. Interning somewhere didn't guarantee me a job there (if so, I'd be Oprah's righthand woman), and running 10 blocks to bring my boss that file she forgot before she left on the jitney to the Hamptons for the weekend didn't mean she'd remember how to pronounce my name on Monday.

That's the lesson Cofield and Compton may have missed. No matter how much you might want or think you deserve something, that doesn't make it your own — it only makes it your goal. And not every goal gets counted in your win column.


Helena Andrews is a contributing editor at The Root and author of Bitch Is the New Black, a memoir in essays. Follow her on Twitter. 

Helena Andrews is a contributing editor at The Root and author of Bitch Is the New Black, a memoir in essays. Follow her on Twitter.