More than a month has passed since the suicide of Dr. Antonio Calvo who took his life after a humiliating dismissal from Princeton University. And still, Princeton is providing no answers as to what happened. Why was it so necessary to remove a professor who had worked for the university for a decade from the premises in the midst of the semester? What were the charges against Dr. Calvo? What happened during the secret proceedings that culminated in an outright dismissal of an educator while the students were waiting for him in class?
In the US, the issue attracted some attention for a while but many things have happened since then and the interest in the subject has waned. This plays right into Princeton’s hands, of course. Dr. Calvo is dead and soon he will be forgotten. If nobody asks questions about what happened, Princeton will be able to escape all responsibility for this tragedy.
The Spanish-speaking world, however, is not letting the matter rest. A famous Argentinean writer Ricardo Piglia, who is a member of the same Department of Spanish and Portuguese Languages and Cultures in Princeton, has been demanding answers from the university. Piglia published an article in an Argentinean newspaper that was immediately widely quoted in other Spanish-speaking countries. Here is what the writer had to say (translation is mine, the link is, understandably, in Spanish):
The authorities based their decision on observations and opinions expressed in several letters of evaluation that the administration requested from Calvo’s students and colleagues. What matters in this most painful event is not the content of these letters which habitually circulate during the multitudinous and kafkaesque evaluation procedures but rather the way they were read. In the ten years that Calvo worked at this university, not a single thing has taken place that would have justified this decision.
So what do you think Princeton’s response has been to Piglia’s attempts to find justice for his dead colleague? I thought that we’d seen the heights of contempt and cynicism that this university can reach but it turns out that Princeton can do much better. Cass Cliatt, the university’s spokesperson, has declared (again, the link is in Spanish) that Piglia, who has been on a sabbatical leave since December, has no knowledge of what took place during the discussions of the committee that decided to dismiss Dr. Calvo. This, according to Princeton’s spokesperson, prevents the writer from judging for himself whether Dr. Calvo’s dismissal was justified.
Princeton’s cynicism here is mind-boggling. They refuse to tell us what happened and why exactly Dr. Calvo was dismissed and then inform us that we cannot judge because we have no idea what happened. Well, of course, we have no idea. That’s because nobody is telling us anything.
It’s good to see that Ricardo Piglia and the most important Spanish newspaper El Pais are not letting this matter rest. Dr. Calvo is dead, and Princeton is doing all it can to make the truth about what happened hidden from public view forever. Only a sustained effort on the part of academics, writers, and journalists will manage to make the truth known.
Thanks to Spanish Prof who pointed me in the direction of this article.