Princeton University Assures the Late Professor Calvo’s Dismissal was Appropriate

Professor Antonio CalvoThe late Antonio Calvo, Princeton University Spanish Professor

Princeton University Assures the Late Professor Calvo’s Dismissal was Appropriate
The university recommended “immediate suspension” of his contract after finding proof of “inadequate conduct.” It was silent on the matter for two weeks in order to protect the privacy and honor of the late professor.
El País: Princeton asegura que el despido de Calvo fue procedente
David Alandete reporting from Princeton, New Jersey April 25, 2011

A student-led petition for information about Princeton University Spanish professor Antonio Calvo, who committed suicide on April 12 in New York, four days after being dismissed from the university, has reaped its first official consequences. After almost two weeks of silence, the rector of the university, Shirley M. Tilghman, sent a missive to the academic community on Monday assuring that the professor’s dismissal, six weeks before the end of the semester and before the expiration of his five-year contract, followed university guidelines, and it has withheld further information in order to protect Calvo’s honor and privacy.

“The specific events leading up to Professor Calvo’s abrupt leave from the University came out of a review whose contents cannot be disclosed without an unprecedented breach of confidentiality,” she said. “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.”

President Tilghman referred to a series of rumors disseminated in various North American media that the departure was motivated by a supposed protest campaign led by certain graduate students who wanted Calvo to leave the university. Tilghman, however, has explained that the university was already obligated to subject Calvo to a renewal process before his five-year contract expired the next spring: “if any allegations of improper conduct arise in the course of the review, they must be thoroughly investigated, and the findings reported to the Faculty Advisory Committee on Appointments and Advancements (often referred to on campus as ‘the Committee of Three’).”

This committee is composed of the president, the provost (who is in charge of the university’s academic budget), the pertinent deans (administrators) of the faculty, postgraduate school, and teaching staff, and six members of the professorate. “In rare cases the Committee recommends immediate suspension,” the president admits. In this case, it did, obligating Calvo to leave Princeton before the end of the semester. Calvo was given the opportunity to defend himself in another meeting scheduled for April 11. He did not attend, and the next day he committed suicide.

Student Anger
The university has avoided commenting on the suicide from the beginning and maintained a policy of silence for 13 days. This angered Calvo’s students, who had come to his class and waited for him on the 8th and the 11th. In an open letter, senior Philip Rohaus demanded an explanation from the university for his dismissal, and he called a meeting on campus which took place last Saturday and had 25 participants. There, the students decided to demand that the administration explain the procedure which lead to Calvo’s dismissal.

Now, the president herself has responded, saying that there was proof of “improper conduct” and that “it is never possible to fully understand all the circumstances that lead someone to take such an irreversible decision.” Calvo, who is very popular with his students, founded a school trip to Toledo and was faculty director of the Spanish Department. According to the New York forensic department, he died from wounds to his neck and left wrist.

Explore posts in the same categories: Education, Spain, Translations, USA

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