The Mysterious Case of a Princeton Lecturer's Suicide

Antonio Calvo, a popular lecturer in Princeton Univeristy's Spanish department, was found dead in his Manhattan apartment last week after an apparent suicide by "incised wounds of the neck" and arms.

The University issued a tight-lipped statement. One week later, from the void of desperate confusion that follows most suicides, emerged something like a conspiracy theory: Before his death, the University had denied Calvo a contract renewal, against the Spanish department's recommendation. Two of Calvo's friends are now pointing the finger at academic politics.

Marco Aponte, a former Princeton lecturer who has since decamped to the University of Surrey, claims that a Calvo rival married to "an important professor" and a group of graduates led a campaign to eliminate Calvo. Among their complaints: "Antonio was from Spain and had a loud voice in meetings." (At least, that's how Aponte summarized it in an interview with ABC News.) After Calvo's death, Aponte started a Facebook group called Justice for Antonio Calvo. A few days later, he took down the page, citing "hate mail."

Princeton senior Philip Rothaus circulated an "open letter" accusing the University of "suppress[ing] information" and committing acts of "emotional violence." The grieving student listed the knowns and unknowns:

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.

An article in The Daily Princeton confirms that Calvo's hasty exit came as a surprise to students. Another article chronicles community members' dismay at learning about Calvo's downward spiral "through all these back doors." But was Calvo the victim of "horrid treatment" and "institutional injustice," as Rothaus' open letter claims? Or was Calvo's death the result of an unpredictable chain of events? (So unpredictable, perhaps, as to leave mourners searching desperately for answers?)

A Princeton spokesperson refused to "speak to rumors," telling ABC News, "We continue to feel that it's not the university's place to make any statements that might be taken as some kind of official determination about the circumstances of Antonio's passing."

"The whole affair seems nonsensical," Rothaus writes. That part is indisputable. [ABC News, IvyGate, Princetonian, Princetonian, image via]

Contact the author of this post at maureen@gawker.com