External investigation clears professor of sexual harassment and retaliation allegations

A report by the investigators, published by a Pennsylvania law firm, found computer science professor Alberto Quattrini Li “not responsible” on all seven allegations.

by The Dartmouth Senior Staff | 5/8/21 1:53pm

by Naomi Lam / The Dartmouth Staff

An external investigation into allegations of sexual harassment made by former computer science Ph.D. student Maha Hasan Alshawi, launched by the College last August, found computer science professor Alberto Quattrini Li not responsible for any of the seven allegations against him. The office of the provost released an executive summary of the report — produced by Cozen O'Connor, the law firm retained by the College — on April 30.

The report found Quattrini Li not responsible for the two sexual harassment allegations that Alshawi made. The first instance of harassment, Alshawi alleged, occurred “on an unknown date” between Nov. 6 and Nov. 11, 2019 when Quattrini Li allegedly “grabbed or fondled” his genital area during their one-on-one meeting in Sudikoff laboratory. According to the report, however, Quattrini Li showed evidence that he was attending professional conferences in Washington, D.C. and Macau, China from Nov. 4 to Nov. 11, 2019, rendering it “physically impossible” for him to have been present for the alleged conduct.

The second alleged instance occurred on Dec. 9, 2019. According to the report, Alshawi told investigators that Quattrini Li “grabbed his genitals while making eye contact with her for more than one minute,” and after the incident informed Quattrini Li she would not return until she “felt safe and comfortable,” after which she stayed home for “approximately three weeks.” 

Quattrini Li confirmed that the two met on Dec. 9, and provided Slack and email communications with Alshawi from before and after the meeting, the report said. The investigators also wrote that Quattrini Li shared communications indicating that the two met again on Dec. 11 as well as multiple times in January. Additionally, investigators found that, according to an email provided by Quattrini Li, on Dec. 11, Alshawi informed Quattrini Li that “her former professor at the American University in Cairo … ‘touch[ed] his private area inappropriately’ whenever [Alshawi] went into that professor’s office” — an allegation Quattrini Li told the investigators resembled the Title IX complaint against him, the report continued. 

Quattrini Li referred a request for comment to College spokesperson Diana Lawrence. Lawrence referred a request for comment to a May 6 press release by the College that summarized the report’s findings. 

According to the press release, Cozen O’Connor’s external investigation into the allegations came after “multiple reviews previously undertaken by Dartmouth in accordance with existing policies, practices and procedures.”

In its investigation, the law firm also looked into five other allegations of misconduct against Quattrini Li ranging from implied threats to fire Alshawi to unfairly excluding her from a research trip to Barbados. The investigation found that none of the incidents alleged by Alshawi constituted sexual or gender-based misconduct or retaliation.

The report noted that communications between Alshawi and Quattrini Li documented over Slack and emails showed “consistently positive and supportive” interactions from June 2019 to February 2020, when Alshawi filed the Title IX complaint against Quattrini Li. The investigators also found the College’s Title IX response regarding Alshawi’s February 2020 report “reasonable in light of the information available to them at the time.”

The investigation report is the first in a series that the law firm plans to release about Alshawi’s allegations against eight Dartmouth employees, but is the final one concerning Alshawi’s allegations against Quattrini Li, the executive summary notes. The full report is available upon request from the office of the provost.

Alshawi did not reply to a request for comment by press time.

A full article with more information will be published in the near future.