Suicide of Antonio Calvo

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Antonio Calvo (May 18, 1965 – April 12, 2011)[1] was a senior lecturer in Spanish at Princeton University who committed suicide in April 2011 after learning either that he had been suspended from his job[2] or that his employment contract had been abruptly terminated by Princeton.

The cause of death, as determined by the New York City medical examiner's office, was "slash wounds" to his neck and arm.[3][4] The cancellation of his employment contract would have meant that Calvo—a Spanish citizen—would lose his residence visa in the US and face deportation.[5][6]

Calvo's death has provoked questions regarding why employment was interrupted during the middle of the academic semester. According to an acquaintance of Calvo, on April 8, a security guard reportedly forcibly removed him from his office and took his keys,[7] and the university barred access to his email account.[8] Later that day students waited in vain for him to arrive to a class he was meant to teach.[6][9]

Calvo, who also taught linguistics, poetics and the arts of the Harlem Renaissance, was being evaluated for reappointment (he did not have academic tenure), and his department had recommended that he be retained.[10] A colleague told the New York Times that a number of graduate students and a fellow lecturer had mounted a campaign to block his renewal, on the basis of comments alleged to be harsh and inappropriate.[4][9] An entry in Calvo's notebook from 9 April referred to concerns about his having "raised [his] voice to subordinates"; Calvo had supervised the work of graduate student instructors who in his view sometimes did not work hard enough. Colleagues and students told the New York Times that Calvo sometimes used Spanish expressions that might have been offensive to people who did not understand their connotation in Spanish culture.[6] A letter from his department chair told him he would receive a call from an associate dean to schedule a meeting at which the allegations would be discussed.[2]

The university administration, in a statement by president Shirley Tilghman, has declined to answer questions or provide details about the reason for the termination, alleging reasons of confidentiality,[11] and members of Calvo's department have allegedly been instructed not to speak about it (an allegation disputed by the university),[7][12] leading to dissatisfaction among some groups on campus, particularly among those undergraduates who revered him.[9][10] Friends of Calvo have alleged that the administration is "hiding something"[13] and refer to "vicious politics".[14]

Writers in Spain have observed that Calvo's story bears similarities to a number of academic novels, including Philip Roth's The Human Stain.[15]


  1. ^ Find A Grave (includes photo)
  2. ^ a b Lisa W. Foderaro, "Princeton Suspended Instructor Four Days Before He Killed Himself", New York Times, 2 May 2011
  3. ^ Sarah Chen (25 April 2011). "Tilghman speaks on Calvo’s death". The Daily Princetonian. 
  4. ^ a b Vivienne Foley (23 April 2011). "Princeton professor's suicide draws ire from friends, students". CNN. 
  5. ^ "Princeton's Spanish professor 'killed himself after he was forced from job for being politically incorrect". Daily Mail. 22 April 2011. 
  6. ^ a b c Robin Wilson, "At Princeton, a Life Taken", Chronicle of Higher Education, 26 June 2011
  7. ^ a b Sohee Kim, "Questions raised about Calvo’s death", The Daily Princetonian, 19 April 2011
  8. ^ Amanda M. Fairbanks (20 April 2011). "More Questions Surround Antonio Calvo's Suicide And Removal From Princeton". Huffington Post. 
  9. ^ a b c Lisa Foderaro (22 April 2011). "At Princeton, Questions After Instructor’s Suicide". The New York Times.  Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "nyt422" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  10. ^ a b Susan Donaldson James, "Princeton's Antonio Calvo Kills Himself After Contract Dispute", ABC News, 20 April 2011
  11. ^ Shirley Tilghman, "Tilghman issues statement regarding Calvo",, 25 April 2011
  12. ^ Ricard González, "Princeton: Seguimos todos los procedimientos adecuados en el despido de Calvo", El Mundo, 25 April 2011
  13. ^ Ricard González, "El profesor español de Princeton, ¿víctima de una conspiración?", El Mundo, 25 April 2011
  14. ^ Jennifer Bain, Perry Chiaramonte and Cathy Burke, "Plot led to prof's suicide: friends", New York Post, 22 April 2011
  15. ^ Luis Alemany, "Caso Calvo: antecedentes novelescos", El Mundo, 25 April 2011