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Spanish lecturer's suicide stuns his Princeton students

University remains silent on circumstances behind Antonio Calvo's death

On few occasions has a teacher been dismissed before the end of a trimester, and before a period of exams, at the prestigious Princeton University. The governing body of the Ivy League establishment admits that the case of Antonio Calvo, 45, who ran the Spanish Language department, was an exception. But a dearth of convincing answers to the many questions surrounding Calvo's suicide on April 8 has led students to launch a campaign to wring information out of the rectorship.

They want to know why Calvo, who had spent five years at Princeton, was dismissed and by virtue of which rule or regulation. The rectorship responded on Monday by saying there are matters that are best resolved quietly, especially among the academic elite.

The university's president, Shirley Tilghman, sent a communiqué in which she laid out, without details, the process that led to Calvo's sacking before his contract was reviewed. "In this process, if allegations of improper conduct emerge, they must be exhaustively investigated. Only very rarely is suspension recommended."

According to chapter five of the rules governing staff at Princeton, there are nine possible causes for Calvo's dismissal: giving paid, private classes; nepotism; consensual sexual relations with a student; sexual harassment; fraudulent use of the university name; diffusion of students' personal details; mala praxis in research, such as plagiarism; public disturbance on campus; and conflicts of interest in research.

The university has not said which of these applied to Calvo, whose students waited for him in the lecture room on April 8 and 11, the same day he was due to attend a meeting with Princeton representatives. He did not attend. His students want to know why a respected teacher was sacked in this way and why the rectorship did not inform them of his suicide until three days after the event, in a brief and cold statement.

"Antonio made many sacrifices for his students," said Ricardo López, a third-year undergraduate. "He worked tirelessly and you could ask him for advice on any subject. It's not right the way he was dismissed. There must be a reason why everything happened so suddenly and we want an answer."

In the meantime, a small alter has been mounted at the door of Calvo's office, in Easy Pyne Hall. The students still await their answers and those that hold them say it is best to maintain silence on the matter.