Solidarity with Maha Hasan Alshawi
Upper Valley DSA
July 25, 2020
Earlier this month, Dartmouth College settled a $14.4 million class-action lawsuit with more than 70 women who were subjected to sexual harassment, degradation, and rape by three professors in the department of Psychological and Brain Sciences. The plaintiffs (two of whom are members of Upper Valley DSA) intended this precedent-setting #ScienceToo case to force Dartmouth to reckon with the steep cost—to college coffers and, more, to women’s lives—of sexual harassment and violence. Appallingly, the case of Maha Hasan Alshawi, a doctoral student in Computer Science, shows that Dartmouth continues to condone an academic culture where sexual misconduct and power abuses flourish.
Members of the Upper Valley Democratic Socialists of America stand in solidarity with Maha Hasan Alshawi. As we write, Maha is enduring a grueling hunger strike to protest Dartmouth College’s refusal to launch a Title IX investigation into her report of sexual harassment and subsequent retaliation by two Computer Science faculty members. We denounce Dartmouth’s attempt to use narrow proceduralism and compliance to shelve her report. We take issue with the Title IX office’s initial response that two instances of unwanted sexual attention don’t constitute “persistent and sustained” harassment and that more students must lodge complaints against these professors to justify an investigation. We also call out as gaslighting the college’s simultaneous refusal to launch an investigation and its claim of having found insufficient evidence of harassment and retaliation. Finally, we charge Dartmouth with valuing image over students’ lives by making its recent “offer” to engage an external investigator contingent on Maha and her supporters ceasing to publicize her case. This and other such cases must be brought to public light because, reports the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, women in STEM fields face the highest rates of sexual harassment of any profession outside of the armed forces, with more than 90 percent of women who report abuse also experiencing retaliation. Long overdue is a reckoning with the hostile and dangerous climate women students and others from marginalized identities face in STEM classrooms and labs.
We affirm the Dartmouth Community Against Gender Harassment and Sexual Violence’s call for Dartmouth College to “immediately and unconditionally engage an external investigator in this case.” We applaud Maha for her brave determination and celebrate the Dartmouth students who have organized public demonstrations and social-media campaigns in her defense. We also dedicate ourselves to this struggle and to all struggles for gender justice and the right to an education free from sexual harassment and abuse.