College to open external investigation into Alshawi case, student says she will continue hunger strike

by Gigi Grigorian | 8/6/20 12:13pm

maha-protest

Students participate in a "Justice for Maha Hasan" protest on the Green on July 31.

by Lorraine Liu / The Dartmouth Senior Staff

The College announced on Tuesday — the 22nd day of Ph.D. student Maha Hasan Alshawi’s hunger strike — that it will launch an external investigation into her harassment allegations against professors in the computer science department. Meanwhile, Alshawi has stated that she will not stop her hunger strike and will also begin a thirst strike, maintaining that she refuses to eat or drink until the external investigation has officially begun.

Alshawi, who began her strike on July 14 in protest of the College’s handling of her sexual misconduct and retaliatory academic action allegations, stated that she will continue striking because the College has not yet provided her a date or time for opening its investigation and has not responded to her messages since making its announcement.

“How long does it take to launch an investigation, Dartmouth?” Alshawi wrote in a Facebook post following her decision to abstain from both food and liquids. 

On Tuesday, the College wrote in a statement that “in the interest of [Alshawi’s] safety and in keeping our commitment to Ms. Alshawi,” an external investigation would be opened “in addition to the extensive assessment and multiple reviews Dartmouth has previously undertaken.” The College had previously offered to open an external investigation into Alshawi’s allegations, but Alshawi declined, citing preconditions that mandated she end her strike and seek medical attention. 

“Every student at Dartmouth has the right to ask for a fair and transparent investigation without any preconditions,” she wrote on Facebook. 

According to the College’s Tuesday statement, an external investigator would contact Alshawi directly to explain the investigation process and “seek any information she would like to provide,” but it did not provide a timeframe for doing so.

Alshawi wrote in a series of public Facebook posts that the College informed her on Saturday of the investigation, and later told her that the investigator would reach out to her “shortly.” She added that she reached out to the College with questions regarding the investigation’s start date and the procedures it would follow. 

However, neither an external investigator nor the College has contacted her as of Wednesday evening, Alshawi wrote.

In a Facebook post on Wednesday, Alshawi stated that she now weighs 77 pounds, having lost at least 11 pounds since July 15.

“This is my last post,” she wrote. 

Alshawi did not provide a comment to The Dartmouth by press time.

Since Alshawi first spoke out on Facebook against members of the computer science department in June, she has attracted a significant social media following. A student-run Instagram account named “Justice for Maha Hasan” has reached more than 1,700 followers, and an online petition demanding that the College open an investigation has garnered over 21,000 signatures.

The findings of the investigation into Alshawi’s case will be made public, according to the College. Dartmouth also stated that it will have no further comment on the case until the investigation’s completion.