Calvin University's official student newspaper since 1907

Calvin University Chimes

Since 1907
Calvin University's official student newspaper since 1907

Calvin University Chimes

Calvin University's official student newspaper since 1907

Calvin University Chimes

Board releases details about Boer resignation in response to due process concerns

Former president calls for a transparent investigation
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More details have been released about Wiebe Boer’s resignation.

Calvin University’s board of trustees “remains confident” in its investigation that led to the resignation of former President Wiebe Boer; however, the former president and a group of alumni close to the president have called for a review of the process.

In response to questions, concerns and speculations about Boer’s resignation, Calvin’s board of trustees (BOT) conducted what it calls a “careful and thorough” internal review and subsequently released a statement to Chimes, clarifying details about the timeline of the process and further details about the allegations. 

This review led to a unanimous affirmation by the BOT of “the process of information-gathering and deliberation that led to Dr. Boer’s resignation,” according to the statement. 

Chimes reached out to Boer’s legal counsel with a request for comment, and was provided with the following statement attributed to Boer. 

“The Executive Leadership of the Board of Trustees informed me verbally of a complaint against me. The Board did not, and still has not, provided details in writing or shared documents. In fact, Calvin has provided almost nothing else about these allegations and the sum total of my conversations was a single 15-minute video meeting with the Board where I acknowledged exchanging messages, which the University itself confirmed were not sexual nor involved any physical contact, with a non-student, non-faculty individual. I continue to call for a transparent investigation for the benefit of the entire Calvin community. Until then, and on the advice of my legal counsel, I’ve been advised to not comment further.”

The board was made aware of allegations against Boer regarding “unwelcome and inappropriate communication and attention” between Boer and a member of the Calvin community on Feb. 10, according to the BOT. The board “immediately engaged outside experts” to ensure compliance with university policy and legal requirements. The board worked  with Kathryn Nash of Lathrop GPM, whom the board says is the university’s “regular outside counsel for matters of this nature.” 

The board was especially concerned by the “volume, frequency, and tone” of text messages between Boer and a woman who was not his wife, as well as the power dynamic between Boer and the woman with whom he was texting, according to the statement of the board to Chimes. 

The report of these allegations “came through the university’s Title IX office,” but a formal complaint was never filed to trigger a formal Title IX process, according to the statement from the board to Chimes. The board did not find that Boer engaged in sexual harassment as defined by Title IX. 

Boer was informed of the allegations against him on Feb. 22, after he returned from international travel.

Boer was given the opportunity to provide a response to the full board of trustees where he denied some of the allegations but admitted to sending the text messages, according to the board’s statement to Chimes. In that response, according to the board, he “characterized those communications as ‘flirtatious’ and ‘inappropriate.’” Boer also admitted to board leadership that he “deleted the messages from his phone knowing they were wrong,” the Board’s statement to Chimes said.

According to more than one source –– including Liza Nedd, an alumna and close family friend of Boer and his wife Joanna –– Boer expressed to the board that he was willing to have the texts made public. 

The board eventually determined that Boer could not continue to serve as president due to his “concerning and inappropriate” conduct. Boer was allowed the opportunity to decide his employment status “as a courtesy” before the board voted to terminate his employment, according to the statement to Chimes from the board. 

Boer subsequently offered his resignation on Feb. 24 via video call with two board members. The board confirmed his resignation via email on Feb. 25, and Chimes was told that Boer confirmed receipt of that email to the board on Feb. 26. The board voted to accept the resignation on Feb. 26, the board told Chimes

According to Nedd, Boer retained legal representation in the late morning or early afternoon on Monday, Feb. 26. Boer is represented by Sarah Riley Howard and Crystal J. Bultje of Pinsky Smith. Both women specialize in civil rights and workplace discrimination, while Howard also specializes in wrongful termination, according to the Pinsky Smith website.

The board’s statement to Chimes also clarified that the president’s employment at Calvin is “governed by an employment agreement that gives the Board the authority to determine his fitness to remain in the role.” 

While most of the board’s statement to Chimes directly addressed the questions surrounding the Boer process, it concludes with a request for those speaking on the issue to consider the reporting party: “We ask that all community members speak and act in a way that is respectful and sensitive to the fact that this individual is a part of our community.”

Alums and donors call for a third-party review

A group of alumni sent a letter to the university’s board of trustees on Monday, March 18, requesting an independent review of the board’s decision by a neutral third party, due to questions about transparency and the perceived speed at which events surrounding Boer’s resignation transpired. The written request cites a seeming disconnect between official Calvin communication, Boer’s account of the situation and university employee complaint procedure.

This group — spoken for by Boer family friend and Calvin alumnus Liza Nedd — offered to fund the review and proposed engaging Jennifer B. Salvatore of Salvatore Prescott Porter & Porter, PLLC. This firm “has been recommended by Miller Johnson, Calvin’s lead outside counsel,” according to the official document sent to the board requesting the review.

According to the document, the group wrote to the board “out of grave concern for the Boer family. We care about their well-being, reputation and vocation in God’s kingdom.” According to Nedd and others close to the Boer family, the situation has caused “distress” for the Boers. 

The group who submitted the request does not assert Dr. Boer’s innocence; their main request was for transparency and assurance that due process was followed in the complaint process, for the good of both Boer and the individual who reported the allegations.

The board decided to conduct an internal review — which resulted in a unanimous affirmation of the board’s process — rather than an external one because they “are mindful of the precedent that would be set for the Board’s ability to function in the future if every decision were open to a third-party review requested by a party that disagrees with the outcome,” the executive committee told Chimes.

This is a developing story.

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  • D

    Donna sieplinga, alumnaMay 2, 2024 at 6:03 pm

    What a lost opportunity to call parties together to talk, pray, listen, express hurt, offer apologies forgive and live in love. To jump into action so quickly without any effort to work together is one of the reasons we are so divided at so many levels in our world today.

  • D

    Dr. Daniel DekkerApr 21, 2024 at 7:15 pm

    There appears to have been a relationship issue involving Dr. Boer. However, the Board of Trustees response was very bad and has made a mess that affects the reputation of Calvin. The Board should have been less impulsive and more transparent from the beginning. If this was an isolated case with no previous history, it should have been dealt with in a more productive way. Social norms vary in different schools, organizations, or countries. If Dr. Boer misunderstood the very strict norms at Calvin, he should have been counseled, given a mentor, or placed on confidential probation. That’s what good organizations would do. Lawsuits are unhelpful and unproductive to both sides (as well as expensive).

  • E

    EmilyApr 5, 2024 at 4:26 pm

    It’s clear that there is a group rallying around Boer and his family, concerned about their well-being. Could the Chimes report also about whether there are similar efforts happening for the student who received the inappropriate texts? I’m sure that this was not an easy thing for her to do and I wonder what support is being offered in the way of students who are on the receiving end of misconduct. This can go a long way in communicating something about the institutional culture and posture toward those who take the risk to report.

  • L

    Lawrence BeamerMar 30, 2024 at 5:42 pm

    All steak no sizzle; Calvin Chimes does it again! Excellent article.

  • B

    Brian HanseMar 30, 2024 at 12:12 pm

    Had any attempt been made to deal pastorally with the issue prior to asking for his resignation?

    • K

      KayMay 22, 2024 at 9:05 am

      This behavior took place in a workplace context, not a church context.

  • R

    RunitupMar 29, 2024 at 10:47 pm

    Why weren’t the messages made public?

  • C

    Case MedemaMar 29, 2024 at 9:10 pm

    Yall cooked on this story

  • A

    Ann VandermeerMar 29, 2024 at 4:47 pm

    Well done. Thanks for keeping us informed!

  • E

    Ephraim LeeMar 29, 2024 at 10:48 am

    Great read!