Graduate student ends hunger strike

by The Dartmouth Senior Staff | 8/7/20 4:06pm

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by Divya Kopalle / The Dartmouth Senior Staff

After hunger striking for nearly four weeks, computer science Ph.D. student Maha Hasan Alshawi has agreed to end her strike in protest of the College’s handling of her harassment and retaliatory academic action allegations against two computer science professors.

Her decision follows a College announcement yesterday naming an external investigator who will review her claims. The investigator, attorney Maureen Holland, has contacted Alshawi to begin the investigation.

“Although I still do not have answers to all my questions, at this point, I am ending my hunger strike and look forward to working, in good faith, with the independent investigator to ensure that my allegations are investigated fully and fairly,” Alshawi wrote in a Facebook post Friday afternoon.

In her post, Alshawi thanked her supporters and added that she “remain[s] committed to working to ensure that Title IX investigations at Dartmouth are conducted fairly and that all parties, including complainants, are treated with dignity and fairness.”

Holland, as well as College spokesperson Diana Lawrence and vice president of communications Justin Anderson, have declined to comment on Alshawi’s case until the conclusion of the investigation.

Alshawi is alleging that her supervisor, computer science professor Alberto Quattrini Li, inappropriately touched himself in her presence on two occasions and entered her private office without her permission in the fall of 2019. Additionally, she claims that then-department chair Prasad Jayanti failed her on an exam and gave her a “low pass” as a teaching assistant without cause.

After reviewing her allegations, Dartmouth determined that “no further investigation or other action is warranted or appropriate.”

Alshawi began the strike on July 14 to fight for her allegations to be reexamined. She wrote in her Facebook post announcing the hunger strike that the Title IX office conducted an “unfair assessment” of her case, gathering information from the professors without properly examining her evidence.

“I started this hunger strike to stop this injustice and because I want to be treated equally,” Alshawi wrote.

She explained in a post the following day that she would halt the strike should Dartmouth agree to “look into my evidence as they looked into the respondents' evidence.”

Over the past few weeks, as Alshawi negotiated with the College, her terms have evolved. First, Alshawi wrote that she would end her strike should the College remove or explain the low pass grade she said she received unfairly after bringing forward her sexual harassment allegations. Later, when the College initially offered to investigate her claims on July 20, Alshawi objected to the offer’s conditions, and then promised she would end her strike once the College agreed to investigate her case without any preconditions. 

The College announced on Tuesday that it would open an external investigation into Alshawi’s claims, but Alshawi wrote on Facebook that the College had not yet provided details on who would be investigating her case or when it might start. She then continued her hunger strike and said she would begin a thirst strike, maintaining she would end her strike only when the investigation was launched. 

The findings of the external investigation will be made public, according to the College.