Dartmouth Grad Student, Maha Hasan, on Hunger Strike: College Denies Wrongdoing

Dartmouth College graduate student, Maha Hasan Alshawi, is on a hunger strike in response to how the college has handled her allegations of sexual misconduct against a professor.  Maha is a first year PhD student at Dartmouth’s Department of Computer Science. 

A group of Dartmouth students and community members gathered outside the college’s administration building on Thursday afternoon to show support for Maha Hasan Alshawi, who wrote on Facebook that she began her hunger strike on July 14.

Maha first filed a complaint on February 5, regarding two incidents where she alleges her advisor, Quattrini Li, sexually harassed her. However, she was told there was not enough evidence of sexual harassment, not enough complaints and not enough victims against the same individual to start an investigation. The institution’s response stated that no evidence showed both parties involved were called for the assessment, however, no students or faculty in the department were questioned about her case.

The Title IX Office did not provide any ways to protect Maha. This later led to multiple academic actions against her from other faculty members, including the department chair and PhD program director in the computer science department during the winter and spring terms. On April 9, Maha complained and reported everything that was happening to her to the Title IX Office and Dean of the Guarini School of Graduate and Advanced Studies, Professor Jon Kull, who handed the case over to Professor Dan Rockmore, Associate Dean of the Faculty for the Sciences. Again, no one listened to Maha, including Dean Rockmore. Furthermore, when the university was interviewed by “The Dartmouth” on June 22, regarding the investigation of Maha’s allegation, the Vice President of Communications lied, stating that the university asked Maha for consent to release evidence of Dartmouth’s response to her. She denies receiving any communication from the university requesting her permission to share information regarding her case. Since then, Maha has decided to use her social media platforms to seek justice.

In her letter to Title IX Office she stated how her supervisor “overtly touched his genitals in my presence on several occasions, intentionally making me uncomfortable.” 

Dartmouth must reopen a fair investigation. No faculty in computer science has spoken up to protect Maha or offer to serve as her faculty advisor since parting ways with Dr. Quattrini Li’s lab. Similarly, the Guarini School of Graduate and Advanced Studies has done nothing to support and protect her as their roles are supposed to serve all the graduate students. Dartmouth continues to remain silent. This is an abuse of power by authorities.

Maha has done everything she can to get justice, but Dartmouth refuses to reopen her case.

In her letter to Title IX Office she stated how her supervisor “overtly touched his genitals in my presence on several occasions, intentionally making me uncomfortable.” 

Maha says this happened behind closed doors in his office when they were the only two people present. Her supervisor, Alberto Quattrini Li, entered her private office using his own key without her consent. 

“Through his actions, Professor Quattrini Li made me fear for my safety whenever I was in his presence, depriving me of the opportunity to take full advantage of the resource and advice he, as my supervisor, was supposed to offer,” Alshawi wrote. 

In her complaint, Maha says she had brought up the misconduct to her department, and in return she was given a failing grade on a final exam and was withheld answers for lab assignments she needed as a teaching assistant. 

Maha is asking Dartmouth to reopen her case and change her failing grade. She is now on day 7 of her hunger strike. She says she will end the strike if Dartmouth looks into her complaints. 

Dartmouth released a statement to NHPR regarding Maha’s hunger strike. In the statement, the college said it is “deeply distressed by [Maha’s] decision to engage in a hunger strike and her refusal to accept numerous offers of support resources, medical and mental health assistance” which Dartmouth says it is making available to her. 

Dartmouth also said that “no further investigation or other action is warranted or appropriate” in Maha’s case. 

“We have carefully reviewed all of her allegations against faculty, staff and students,” the college said, “contrary to the narrative that has been shared on social media and elsewhere.” 

If you want to support Maha, visit her social media sites and use the hashtag #Justice4mahahasan .