Beloved Princeton University Spanish teacher Antonio Calvo stabbed himself to death in his Manhattan home last week, leaving his friends and colleagues wondering why.
Calvo's death was ruled a suicide by the New York City Medical Examiner's office, which said his death had been caused by "multiple incised wounds of the neck and left upper extremities" of his arm.
The Ivy League university in Princeton, N.J., initially released a statement after Calvo's death, saying the 45-year-old senior lecturer in the department of Spanish and Portuguese languages and cultures had died, without providing details.
But colleagues say the administration had defied department recommendations and not renewed Calvo's contract in a decision that seemed mired in academic politics.
"We do not speak to rumors," said Princeton University spokesperson Cass Cliatt. "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."
Cliatt also said, "As a policy the university does not speak to matters of personnel, which are not public."
Princeton has planned a campus memorial service that is not public, she said.
"[Calvo] was full of life, an incredible personality," said Marco Aponte, a close friend who was a lecturer at Princeton in 2007 to 2008 and was supervised by Calvo.
This week, Aponte started a Facebook group called "Justice for Antonio Calvo," which gained more than 200 followers in two hours. But he said he had to shut the page down when he got "hate mail," some from Princeton.
"He was probably the most popular teacher in that department and one of the most popular lecturers at Princeton," said Aponte, who now teaches international business at the University of Surrey in England. "All the students pretty much loved his classes, and he always got good grade evaluations. He was very devoted and worked morning to evening."
Aponte said Calvo had been at Princeton for 10 years and his five-year contract had been under the routine renewal process since last fall. As a senior lecturer, Calvo was in charge of graduate students who often groused about their working conditions.
"This is nothing unusual coming from graduate students," Aponte said. "For them, it's not a real job and they cancel more classes, which is unacceptable at Princeton, and they don't want classes at 9 in the morning."
But in March, said Aponte, the graduate students and one lecturer began to build a campaign against Calvo's contract renewal, but he still had the full support of the department and his reappointment seemed assured.
At one point the situation seemed to shift, and one of the lecturers -- someone who was also married to "an important professor," said Aponte -- joined in protest with the graduate students. One of the major complaints was that "Antonio was from Spain and had a loud voice in meetings," Aponte said.
"We don't know why the university did it," Aponte said. "By Friday before his death, the decision was made -- the contract was not renewed and he was let go immediately."
The campus newspaper, The Daily Princetonian, reported that security officials had entered Calvo's office and demanded he return his keys, informing him of his dismissal.