Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXV, No. 17
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
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President Tilghman Responds To Lecturer Antonio Calvo’s Death

Ellen Gilbert

On Monday, Princeton University President Shirley Tilghman released a response to mounting questions about the April 12 suicide of Princeton University Senior Lecturer Antonio Calvo.

Mr. Calvo, 45, was on leave from Princeton University at the time of his death. Reports of the suicide said that Calvo was apparently asked to arrive at his office at 11 a.m. on the morning of Friday, April 8, where he was met by a university-appointed public safety officer who informed him that his contract would not be renewed. Several accounts stated that Calvo was then forcibly removed from the premises, his keys were taken away, and he was barred access to his personal Princeton University email account.

Directed “to members of the Princeton University community,” Ms. Tilghman’s statement observed that the “tragic death of Senior Lecturer Antonio Calvo last week has left many members of the community with a deep sense of loss. Those of you who knew Professor Calvo as a valued and beloved colleague, teacher, and friend are seeking answers to the painful question of what could have driven him to take his life. This is natural, but in my experience it is never possible to fully understand all the circumstances that lead someone to take such an irreversible decision.”

Ms. Tilghman noted that “the specific events leading up to Professor Calvo’s abrupt leave-taking from the University came out of a review whose contents cannot be disclosed without an unprecedented breach of confidentiality. That policy is in place to protect the privacy of the individual faculty or staff member, and his or her family. An unfortunate consequence of this policy is that in the absence of the facts, untrue and misleading rumors have been swirling on campus and in the blogosphere. Most problematically, innocent individuals on campus have been identified and fingers pointed in a manner that is deeply unfair, hurtful and unworthy of this university community.”

Although she said that she was unable to divulge the details surrounding the case, Ms. Tilghman used the statement to offer a description of the policies and procedures that are used to review the appointments of senior lecturers.

“These procedures were followed in this case,” she went on to note.

While “some have written to me asking for full disclosure of all the details in this case,” Ms. Tilghman said, “I must stand on the principle of confidentiality and of respect for Antonio Calvo’s privacy and that of his grieving family.”

Calvo did his undergraduate work in Hispanic linguistics at Universidad Complutense in Madrid, Spain, and received his Ph.D. in Hispanic and Luso-Brazilian literatures from the City University of New York. He joined Princeton’s Department of Spanish and Portuguese Languages and Cultures in 2000 as a lecturer, and was named a senior lecturer and director of the Spanish language program in 2008. Beginning in 2007 he directed the department’s summer program in Toledo, Spain.

An academic adviser in Butler College, one of Princeton’s four-year residential colleges, Calvo was an active participant in language tables in Butler and in some of the other residential colleges.

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