Wednesday, April 20, 2011

More on Dr. Calvo's Suicide

This is a comment left by Ana Martin Sevillano at the discussion board of The Daily Princetonian:
I am an old friend of Antonio; we studied together in Madrid. I was with him two weeks ago in NY, visiting from Canada. He had already told me about the university activities against him. I believe they were trying to address the complaints of spoiled graduate students and a language lecturer. He was suffering. He had been working non stop for more than three years, but in his opinion the dean seemed to be more interested in keeping the complainers happy than in acknowledge all he had done for the program. Yet he was still hopeful that they would finally come to their senses. But they did not. If they fired him, they are now responsible for what has happened. Antonio was a great person, if he told some of the language teachers to put up with their job is because he had to. I hope an investigation is quickly opened and helps us coping with the terrible pain of not having him among us any longer.
And another comment from the same person. This is somebody who, I believe, can definitely be trusted because she comments under her own name in a situation where senior faculty members seem to be completely silent:
As a friend of Antonio, I only know what he told me. I would like to post it here once again so speculations abut him stop. The investigation conducted by the dean about him had been instigated by some graduate students and a lecturer. As language coordinator, Antonio had to supervise their work, and at one point they had a harsh disagreement during a meeting. This investigation (asking letters from specific people, etc) went on for months. 
If the administration wanted to fire him, it should have done it as it is customary in academia, either with one year notice or last fall, so Antonio could have applied to the positions available in his field. The job market is now over. Antonio would have had zero chances of applying for another job. If the administration also wanted to remove its sponsorship for his visa, he would have been suddenty in Spain, after more that a decade in the United States, where he had all his professional network. 
The people who decided on his fate were deliberately mean to him, they did not want to give him a chance, despite he had, as far as I know, the support of most of his colleagues and of many past and current language lecturers. 
Was the fact that he had a disagreement with some of the graduate students so terrible? Why was so important for the administration to please grad. students? 
The administration needs to come forward and explain why they did what they did. Why did they treat a human being like that? 
I have been in Academia for the last twenty years, everybody knows that the language coordinator suffers a lot of pressure: he has to deal with other faculty and with grad. students (all of whom normally teach language against their will, they want to teach literature and culture), and the lecturers. They are all under his supervision, but since this position is not tenured, it is a very vulnerable one, where the obligation to make decisions is not supported by any factual power. 
The administration is there to mediate and to help faculty, even if they are lecturers, foreigners, or any other minority. Why they were not there for Antonio? 
Those of us who were close to him won't be able to mourn until we have some answers. 
He might be ultimately responsible for his death, but there are other kind of moral responsibilities.
Those who feel guilty now claim Antonio was ultimately responsible for what he did. That might be true. But all we know to hear is why the Princeton administration treated him in such a way for a something that happens day in day out in academia (disagreements and fights). 
Does anybody have any more questions as to why it is so extremely difficult to raise the standards of language teaching at our departments? Is anybody still wondering why preserving the institution of tenure is absolutely crucial to the future of the American higher education?


Anonymous said...

I am just shocked and sad by this and disheartened that so many people only want to hear and give credence to the administration's version of events.

Rimi said...

Funny. I shared the link on my social networking sites, and nearly zero response. And most of my friends are academics, or ex-academic research professionals like me.

I think the world needs a Self Interest 101.

Clarissa said...

I think people often want to persuade themselves that if they try hard enough, this will not happen to them. Which is sad enough in itself.