Is Princeton Hiding Something About the Death of a Professor?

Dr. Antonio Calvo, director of Princeton’s Spanish language program, passed away early last week. Princeton released a brief statement regarding the death on Friday, but has disclosed few details about its circumstances.

The Daily Princetonian writes that Calvo was on a leave of absence — one that began on Friday, April 8, according to IG sources — though the university registrar shows him teaching a class this semester. The only explanation given for the unexpected departure was that it involved “personal reasons.” Now, several individuals with ties to Princeton are saying that Calvo killed himself after Princeton abruptly and unexpectedly terminated his contract. We don’t lightly tread into conjecture about this sort of tragedy, but speculation at Princeton has reached such a fever pitch that the Prince was actually compelled to follow-up on the rumors. We did as well.

In an open letter to the university (available in entirety below the jump), Princeton senior Philip Rothaus — a member of the Spanish department and “close friend” of Calvo’s — presented a timeline of events that paints a much more complete picture of the last few days of the professor’s life.

1. On Friday, April 8, a representative of the administration, essentially a security guard, entered Antonio’s office (without informing either him or anyone else in the department more than a few minutes beforehand), demanded his keys and told him to leave. He was not “on leave,” and certainly not for “personal” reasons,” as per Nassau Hall’s press release. This is a euphemism for their having cancelled his contract against the wishes of the department.

2. He was under a standard 5-year review, as a result of which the Department’s enthusiastic recommendation was to continue his contract. The reappointment committee, if they performed any sort of investigation whatsoever, never interviewed a single member of the department nor Antonio himself.

3. On the morning of Tuesday, April 12 Antonio Calvo committed suicide at home in New York City. He did not merely “pass away” as per Nassau Hall’s official line.

This is a version of events also proposed by Dr. Marco Aponte-Moreno, an actor and academic to whom Calvo was a supervisor at Princeton between 2005 and 2008. Both Rothaus and Aponte have suggested that the university has actively worked to suppress on information about the leave of absence.

Said Rothaus:

Antonio’s dear friends, his colleagues in the Spanish and Portuguese Department, have been forbidden from speaking about this to anyone…There is a clear effort to suppress this information–members of the faculty were apparently told they weren’t allowed to talk to Antonio for any reason after he was suspended.

There are also rumblings that Princeton was actively looking for excuses to let Calvo go, according to the Daily Prince:

As part of the review process, the University solicits letters from colleagues of the faculty member in question, but Aponte said he had never been contacted and questioned the University’s choices of colleagues to contact. He said the University only asked for letters from people it knew had “some sort of conflict” with Calvo.

Whatever the case, it appears as if Princeton acted with urgency to relieve the professor of his duties — a measure taken mere weeks before the end of the semester. Per Rothaus:

Herein lies the greatest mystery: they must have had some reason – otherwise nothing makes sense – but they continue to suppress it. They haven’t even told the senior faculty of the Spanish and Portuguese Department. There were two weeks left of classes that he was teaching, and of school for students he was advising – was he dangerous? If so, where is the evidence? And why won’t they tell even the department itself?

Few official details have been confirmed. We’re working to independently verify both that Calvo was fired and that he indeed took his own life. Several individuals we contacted last night declined to comment. Princeton has yet to return our inquiry. We’ll update as soon as we know more.

Below is the full version of Phil Rothaus’ open letter to Princeton:

An Open Letter to Nassau Hall from Philip Rothaus ‘11

By now, most people know that a dear friend and colleague, Antonio Calvo, “passed away” this past Tuesday. What is also clear is that Nassau Hall has been veiling the whole issue in secrecy – nobody seems to know what happened. As a member of the department and a close friend of Antonio’s, there are a lot of things I know that I wish I didn’t, but that it’s time the university community as a whole learns. Antonio’s dear friends, his colleagues in the Spanish and Portuguese Department, have been forbidden from speaking about this to anyone, but I am, thankfully, not under subject to the same constraints, and, at this point, am angry enough not to care.

What we know

1. On Friday, April 8, a representative of the administration, essentially a security guard, entered Antonio’s office (without informing either him or anyone else in the department more than a few minutes beforehand), demanded his keys and told him to leave. He was not “on leave,” and certainly not for “personal” reasons,” as per Nassau Hall’s press release. This is a euphemism for their having cancelled his contract against the wishes of the department.

2. He was under a standard 5-year review, as a result of which the Department’s enthusiastic recommendation was to continue his contract. The reappointment committee, if they performed any sort of investigation whatsoever, never interviewed a single member of the department nor Antonio himself.

3. On the morning of Tuesday, April 12 Antonio Calvo committed suicide at home in New York City. He did not merely “pass away” as per Nassau Hall’s official line.

The whole affair seems nonsensical. Why would the University physically escort a member of our community who had faithfully and enthusiastically served Princeton for a decade out of his office without notice? What purpose could this sort of humiliation serve? Why would they fire him against the wishes of the department and in the apparent absence of any reason whatsoever?

Herein lies the greatest mystery: they must have had some reason – otherwise nothing makes sense – but they continue to suppress it. They haven’t even told the senior faculty of the Spanish and Portuguese Department. There were two weeks left of classes that he was teaching, and of school for students he was advising – was he dangerous? If so, where is the evidence? And why won’t they tell even the department itself?

There is a clear effort to suppress this information – members of the faculty were apparently told they weren’t allowed to talk to Antonio for any reason after he was suspended. What right does the administration have to prevent one from speaking to a friend, even about entirely personal matters, on his own time?

Antonio is dead; the emotional violence the administration perpetrated against him has been done. At this point, the continued strangling of the truth is an act of the worst kind of institutional injustice against the students, faculty and all those who loved Antonio – and there were many. Even if Antonio did something that merited this horrid treatment, something that we, his friends, highly doubt, the student body deserves to know.

To the administration: You are denying us the information we have a right to know about our professor and our beloved friend. You are denying us closure. And you are denying Antonio justice.

  • Víctor Fernández

      Agustín Hidalgo writes an article in “La crónica virtual”, a digital Spanish newspaper, in which he tells that:
     - he’s surprised for the speed of the firing procedure and mourns its consequence.
     - he doesn’t reject the right of the University to evaluate its professors.
     - he accepts the right of the University to not renovate the contract of its professors.
     - he thinks that Antonio Calvo killed himself because the unkilsfulness of his “judges”, who destroyed his personal and professional life.
     - Princeton’s has not any reason to give explanations about the contraction or the fire of a professor.
     - the Spanish people doesn’t need information about Antonio Calvo, because he was not known before his suicide.
      This strange article finish telling that out his family and professional areas, nobody is interested to know the causes of his fire and death. For this reason, Agustín Hidalgo asks: “Why so much commotion?” 

  • Víctor Fernández

      Agustín Hidalgo writes an article in “La crónica virtual”, a digital Spanish newspaper, in which he tells that:
     - he’s surprised for the speed of the firing procedure and mourns its consequence.
     - he doesn’t reject the right of the University to evaluate its professors.
     - he accepts the right of the University to not renovate the contract of its professors.
     - he thinks that Antonio Calvo killed himself because the unkilsfulness of his “judges”, who destroyed his personal and professional life.
     - Princeton’s has not any reason to give explanations about the contraction or the fire of a professor.
     - the Spanish people doesn’t need information about Antonio Calvo, because he was not known before his suicide.
      This strange article finish telling that out his family and professional areas, nobody is interested to know the causes of his fire and death. For this reason, Agustín Hidalgo asks: “Why so much commotion?” 

    • Living in Spain

      I´m Spaniard and I did not know “La crónica virtual”, because it is a local blog from Alicante (province, small area). Calvo were from Leon (about 700 kilometers to Alicante). I think this is not a relevant opinion. The most importants newspapers,  in digital editions or not, have shown a very different point of view. I did not know Antonio calvo or his family and I do not take part in Academia, but  I think he were Spaniard and he were  person, and as I love freedon and justice, I´m interested in this case.

      • Víctor Fernández

          The important thing is the author, not the distance. Although the author lives in Asturias, a province which borders on León by the north side. And the author of this article is a very important professor of the University of Oviedo. Agustín Hidalgo is professor of Pharmacology and director of the Department of Medicine of the Medicine Faculty of that town, researcher of the Oncology Institute, and, last, but not least, writer of articles in different digital newspapers. He writes about economic and social questions.
           The important thing here is that, for the first time in this question, a Spanish University professor (catedrático) tells that the life and death of Antonio Calvo are not interesting for the majority of the Spaniards. 

      • Víctor Fernández

          The important thing is the author, not the distance. Although the author lives in Asturias, a province which borders on León by the north side. And the author of this article is a very important professor of the University of Oviedo. Agustín Hidalgo is professor of Pharmacology and director of the Department of Medicine of the Medicine Faculty of that town, researcher of the Oncology Institute, and, last, but not least, writer of articles in different digital newspapers. He writes about economic and social questions.
           The important thing here is that, for the first time in this question, a Spanish University professor (catedrático) tells that the life and death of Antonio Calvo are not interesting for the majority of the Spaniards. 

      • Víctor Fernández

          The important thing is the author, not the distance. Although the author lives in Asturias, a province which borders on León by the north side. And the author of this article is a very important professor of the University of Oviedo. Agustín Hidalgo is professor of Pharmacology and director of the Department of Medicine of the Medicine Faculty of that town, researcher of the Oncology Institute, and, last, but not least, writer of articles in different digital newspapers. He writes about economic and social questions.
           The important thing here is that, for the first time in this question, a Spanish University professor (catedrático) tells that the life and death of Antonio Calvo are not interesting for the majority of the Spaniards. 

      • Víctor Fernández

          The important thing is the author, not the distance. Although the author lives in Asturias, a province which borders on León by the north side. And the author of this article is a very important professor of the University of Oviedo. Agustín Hidalgo is professor of Pharmacology and director of the Department of Medicine of the Medicine Faculty of that town, researcher of the Oncology Institute, and, last, but not least, writer of articles in different digital newspapers. He writes about economic and social questions.
           The important thing here is that, for the first time in this question, a Spanish University professor (catedrático) tells that the life and death of Antonio Calvo are not interesting for the majority of the Spaniards. 

      • Víctor Fernández

          The important thing is the author, not the distance. Although the author lives in Asturias, a province which borders on León by the north side. And the author of this article is a very important professor of the University of Oviedo. Agustín Hidalgo is professor of Pharmacology and director of the Department of Medicine of the Medicine Faculty of that town, researcher of the Oncology Institute, and, last, but not least, writer of articles in different digital newspapers. He writes about economic and social questions.
           The important thing here is that, for the first time in this question, a Spanish University professor (catedrático) tells that the life and death of Antonio Calvo are not interesting for the majority of the Spaniards. 

      • Víctor Fernández

          The important thing is the author, not the distance. Although the author lives in Asturias, a province which borders on León by the north side. And the author of this article is a very important professor of the University of Oviedo. Agustín Hidalgo is professor of Pharmacology and director of the Department of Medicine of the Medicine Faculty of that town, researcher of the Oncology Institute, and, last, but not least, writer of articles in different digital newspapers. He writes about economic and social questions.
           The important thing here is that, for the first time in this question, a Spanish University professor (catedrático) tells that the life and death of Antonio Calvo are not interesting for the majority of the Spaniards. 

        • Living in Spain

          I do not see the importance of the statements of this individual in any way
          Mr. Hidalgo is a complete stranger, inside and outside Spain. Just type your name on the Internet, there are several  “Agustín Hidalgo”, none relevant
          In fact, you should explain how you know so much about him, because in the blog of the province of Alicante, he is not identified as a  lecturer or as a physician or any other profession. Do you know him personally?
          Proof that no one knows him is the very low diffusion blog he has chosen, dedicated to issues of local policy of the municipalities in the province of Alicante, and which appears to have a fairly definite political color. You could also explain how you found it, because I usually do searches from Spain and I  never have found it
          It is also a curious fact that a man who allegedly works in Oviedo, post a nonsense contribution in Alicante (about 900 kilometers).
          The few people who have had access to such a page, have dedicated  to insult him, which is what he deserves, of course. 
          Finally, in Spain there are many universities (including the most prestigious is not that of Oviedo, for your information) and thus, tens of thousands of professors.
          I do not know how you met Mr. Hidalgo  or how you got his article, but the fact is that the result is simply irrelevant, and Mr. Hidalgo has much to thank you, because you have offered him a diffusion  that he could never dream in Spain.
          No relevant  person  from Academia in Spain   has made a statement in the way of Mr. Hidalgo

          • Víctor Fernández

              If you look for, you can find. It’s very easy with “Google”. I look for Agustín Hidalgo and I check every person with that name. Finally, I discover a person with that name who made another article in a different digital newspaper of Murcia. And the picture of his face was the same that the existing picture of Agustín Hidalgo in “La crónica virtual”. But there was something more: the man of Murcia had two family names. Then, I went to Google and I look for that man: Agustín Hidalgo Balsera, and I founded a lot of things about him.
              About the comments in his page, well, do you think that a person is a good or bad professor for the number of insults that it receives?
               The important thing here is not the number of critics that he receives for his articles. The important thing is if he is telling the truth or not. As a member of the Spanish University he has contacts with other professors and students, and he told us that many of them think like him.

    • Living in Spain

      for those who want to waste time reading this “gentleman”.

      http://mebmail.lacronicavirtual.com/index.php/opinion/23030-piglia-princeton-y-el-suicidio-de-antonio-calvo

      Note: If you do not understand what he says, it is not by not knowing the Spanish language, is because his  no logical way to explain his conclusions

  • Víctor Fernández

      Last night, two months after his suicide,  the Spanish TV channel “Antena 3″ had a program about Antonio Calvo. It was the most critic program that I never have watched in the TV. A hidden Princeton’s student filmed the graduation ceremony and talked with students of Antonio Calvo about him. It showed  policemen in the area telling that they were there, perhaps, to avoid an incident. The channel criticized that nobody remembered him in their speeches after 10 years working there. Also, the program showed through the opinion of different persons and through his last letter that Antonio Calvo commited suicide because he wanted to do it, influenced, possibly, because he will lose everything: his job, house, visa, friends, country as a consequence of to be fired. The program told that he understood that he had not chances to get a new similar job in Spain or in the USA after it. One of the brothers of Antonio Calvo told that the family laments to have not received any letter of condolences of the University. And it showed also a comic, made for the channel, about the possible conspiracy against him which finished in his fire. Good program, but very hard with some persons of Princeton’s.

  • Wertyu

    The Book of Maklumat.

    Let the cross be its revelation.