UPDATE 1/28: Calvin College has released the following updated statement:
The alumni-initiated letter challenging the appointment of Betsy DeVos as U.S. Secretary of Education has generated a lot of media attention and a misperception among some that Calvin College has endorsed the letter. This is not the case. Because of our status as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization the college does not engage in political activities.
The college understands that its community (alumni, faculty, staff, students and beyond) represents a wide spectrum of political opinion. The college also understands that each member of its community seeks to work out his or her calling, and that our mission is affirmed when members of our community, like Mrs. DeVos, respond to their calling.
Mrs. DeVos and her fellow 60,000 alumni are discerning the best ways to engage politics and culture in this moment. And, in doing so, they are living out what we hope our students are learning during their time on campus: to think deeply, to act justly and to live wholeheartedly as Christ’s agents of renewal in the world.
Hundreds of Calvin alumni have signed a letter opposing their fellow alumna Betsy DeVos’s confirmation as United States Secretary of Education.
The letter was drafted and circulated by Sara Moslener, ’96, on Saturday, Jan. 21. As of 11 p.m. Monday night, it had over 700 signatures. Moslener said that, beginning Tuesday morning, signatures would be open for another 24 hours. She will then make the letter available for alumni to send to their senators.
Alumni of multiple generations have signed the letter, from the class of 1953 to the expected class of 2018.
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee will vote on DeVos’s confirmation on Tuesday, Jan. 31. On Wednesday, the committee announced that it was denying Democrats’ request for a second confirmation hearing, though the vote was delayed from its original date.
The text of the letter is as follows:
As alumni and students of Calvin College we share an educational background with Betsy DeVos, the current nominee for United States Secretary of Education. Not only did we all receive degrees from the same undergraduate institution as Mrs. DeVos, but many of us also began our education at private Christian schools, just like the current Education nominee. We have no doubt that Mrs. DeVos is among the best-educated college graduates in the country. Calvin College is highly regarded as an institution that values intellectualism, critical thinking, discernment, and academic excellence—qualities for which we remain very grateful.
We are writing to share our concerns about Mrs. DeVos as nominee for Secretary of Education. There are several reasons why we believe she is not qualified for the position.
1) While many of us were inspired by our time at Calvin College to make education a professional commitment, Mrs. DeVos was not. She has never worked in any educational institution as an administrator, nor as an educator. If the position of the Secretary of Education requires the individual to have an intimate knowledge of the tools used by educators, which we believe it does, Mrs. DeVos does not qualify.
2) Many of us entered Calvin College directly from Christian high schools and spent our entire elementary and secondary school years in these institutions, as did Mrs. DeVos. While we appreciate the opportunity to thrive and learn that is provided by these educational systems, we recognize that the vast majority of K–12 students are educated in the public school system. Because of this, we believe that any individual who is nominated to be Secretary of Education should have a strong commitment to public education, which Mrs. DeVos does not.
3) We believe that Mrs. DeVos’s commitment to education is limited to her advocacy of and financial contributions to religious and charter schools. Having the financial resources to promote one’s ideological point of view and endorse elected officials who share that ideology is not equivalent to the preparation that comes from being an educator or educational administrator.
4) Finally, in the first day of her confirmation hearing, Mrs. DeVos indicated a lack of support for federal policies regarding educational systems that receive public funding. This is especially concerning given that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and Title IX, which ensure that all students’ educational experiences are free of discrimination that impedes learning, are not of value to Mrs. DeVos.
Our undergraduate education prepared us to be engaged and informed citizens who support public servants who seek to serve effectively and competently. This is precisely why we oppose the nomination of our fellow alumna, Betsy DeVos, for the position of United States Secretary of Education.