Nava: Faked threats, assault aimed to draw attention to cause
Francisco Nava '09 said his falsification of threatening emails to prominent campus conservatives and subsequent assault on himself stemmed from a belief that his actions would draw attention to the pro-chastity cause, attendees at a Monday-evening meeting said early Tuesday morning. The gathering included Nava, Butler College administrators and fellow Anscombe Society members.
During the meeting, Nava also reportedly said he was the only person responsible for sending threatening emails to himself, three other Anscombe members and noted conservative politics professor Robert George and had no assistance in fabricating the alleged Friday-evening assault on him. Additionally, he described how he inflicted upon himself the injuries he had claimed resulted from the attack.
"He said he pummeled his face; he didn't say what with. He scraped his head against a brick wall [and] broke the bottle ... over his head," Anscombe president Kevin Staley-Joyce '09 said, referring to a glass Orangina bottle with which Nava had initially said his assailants beat him during the attack. "It certainly was enough to merit treatment by doctors," Staley-Joyce added.
In addition to Staley-Joyce, the 40-minute meeting was attended by the other recipients of the threatening emails — former Anscombe president Sherif Girgis '08, vice president Jonathan Hwang '09 and George — as well as Butler College Dean David Stirk, Master Sanjeev Kulkarni, Dean of Student Life Mindy Andino and Director of Studies Matthew Lazen.
Nava admitted to being "responsible for everything that happened," Staley-Joyce said, adding that Nava "saw Anscombe's ideals as not making enough progress" and wanted to bring more publicity to the group's cause.
"He wanted something big and showy as opposed to the approach that we set out in our mission statement," Staley-Joyce said. The statement describes Anscombe's goals as providing "social support and a voice" for students committed to its ideals and "intellectual engagement" on campus.
"He, in his poor judgment, thought that doing this would somehow help our cause," Staley-Joyce added.
During the meeting, Nava expressed regret for his actions, Girgis said, though there was no discussion of a public apology to the campus community. "He wanted to give us a chance to tell him anything we wanted to tell him and to ask him anything we wanted to ask him," Girgis said.
Still, Staley-Joyce said, "it was more us talking than Francisco talking."
Additionally, Staley-Joyce said, he found it "strange" that he "couldn't tell a whole lot of difference" between Nava's behavior during the meeting and the way he had acted before the hoax was revealed. In terms of his demeanor, "it was almost as if I was meeting the same Francisco that I met this time last week," Staley-Joyce said.
Staley-Joyce added, however, that Nava "did seem disturbed when we talked about the ways in which the situation had hurt the Anscombe Society and the four of us who received threats."
Staley-Joyce said Nava appeared to expect expulsion from Princeton based on what he said during the meeting. "He seemed to think that what he had done was serious enough that it wouldn't make sense for him to be associated with the University community any longer," Staley-Joyce said.
Though no Butler administrators could be reached for comment early Tuesday morning, Stirk sent an email to Butler students at around 9:30 p.m. Monday, ostensibly after the 7:30 p.m. meeting had concluded, updating them on the case. "Today, the university learned from local authorities that Francisco admitted that he fabricated the attack, as well as the preceding threats to himself and other members of the community," Stirk said in the email. "It is indeed troubling that a student would fabricate such matters, and disciplinary action is pending."
Staley-Joyce said that administrators at the meeting largely discussed disciplinary consequences as opposed to broader consequences and that no legal charges were mentioned. "From what the deans at the meeting seemed to say, this is a disciplinary issue," Staley-Joyce said.
Additionally, though no official decision has been made, Nava effectively "no longer has a position in the Anscombe society," said Girgis, who is now listed on Anscombe's website as the group's administrative committee chair, the post previously held by Nava. "His continued membership has not been discussed. It's assumed he won't be [at the University]."
Both Staley-Joyce and Girgis said they believe the Anscombe Society has weathered the incident with its integrity intact. "It is important to note that we refused to capitalize on [this incident] politically," Girgis said. "We were at the very forefront of uncovering the truth once we had any reason to doubt Francisco."
Staley-Joyce cited the "quick thinking and very good judgment" of George as essential in the past few days, pointing to the decisions to turn down media requests and not to publicize the situation until the facts had been ascertained.
"We made sure this is not a repeat of other situations where people started jumping to conclusions before all the facts were in," Staley-Joyce said.