Dartmouth Grad Student Says She Is On A Hunger Strike, Asks College To Respond To Allegations | New Hampshire Public Radio

Dartmouth Grad Student Says She Is On A Hunger Strike, Asks College To Respond To Allegations

Jul 16, 2020

This is a developing story and will be updated. 

A Dartmouth College graduate student says she is on a hunger strike in response to how the college has handled her allegations of sexual misconduct against a professor. 

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

Alshawi is a first year PhD student in Dartmouth’s Department of Computer Science. 

In a letter to the school’s Title IX office posted on Change.org, she alleges her supervisor “overtly touched his genitals in my presence on several occasions, intentionally making me uncomfortable.” 

Alshawi says this happened behind closed doors in his office when they were the only two people present. She also alleges that 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, Alshawi says she had brought up the misconduct to her department, but then received retaliation from other faculty – specifically, one giving her a failing grade on a final exam and, she says, withholding answers for lab assignments she needed as a teaching assistant. 

Alshawi is asking Dartmouth’s Title IX office to reopen her case and change her failing grade.

Vassiki Chauhan is a fifth year graduate student at Dartmouth. She says she wanted to show solidarity for Alshawi by showing up to Thursday’s demonstration. But says she’s worried about her health. 

“I think with someone with the clear mindedness and tenacity as Maha is more useful to society alive than she is in becoming a symbol as a result of adverse outcomes of this hunger strike,” Chauhan said. 

Another graduate student, Aileen Eagleton, organized the demonstration. She says she wants the college to conduct a thorough investigation of the complaints. 

“I’m hoping Dartmouth will act soon and fast to prevent any harm from happening to her,” Eagleton said. 

A petition with nearly 1,500 signatures is asking the college’s Title IX office to re-open its investigation into Alshawi’s complaints. 

On Facebook, Alshawi says she is now on day three of her hunger strike. She says she will end the strike if Dartmouth looks into her complaints. 

Late Thursday night, Dartmouth released a statement to NHPR regarding Alshawi’s hunger strike, which comes less than a week after a federal judge gave final approval in a proposed $14 million settlement in a class action sexual misconduct lawsuit against Dartmouth College.

In the statement, the college said it is "deeply distressed by [Alshawi's] decision to initate a hunger strike and her refusal to accept numerous offers of support resources, medical and mental health assistance" which Dartmouth says it is making availabe to her.  The college also notified public safety officals in Lebanon on Thursday to request an immediate wellness check. 

Dartmouth also said it stands behind the decision that "no further investigation or other action is warranted or approriate" in Alshawi'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." 

Read  Maha Hasan Alshawi's letter below: