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

Wiebe and Joanna Boer sue Calvin for breach of contract, defamation

Joanna+and+Wiebe+have+filed+a+complaint+against+Calvin+in+federal+court.+
Photo by Abigail Ham
Joanna and Wiebe have filed a complaint against Calvin in federal court.

Former Calvin University President and First Lady, Wiebe and Joanna Boer, have filed a complaint in federal court against Calvin on three counts: breach of contract, defamation and violations of the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act. 

The breach of contract count claims that “Calvin cannot show a case of ‘serious misconduct’ as defined by the Contract against Dr. Boer,” and states that the “threat he was about to be fired, intimidation, and undue time pressure” meant Wiebe Boer was effectively terminated.

While the employment contract does state “both the president and the University have the right to terminate the employment relationship at any time and for any reason,” that termination — if for a reason other than “serious misconduct” — must be followed by “‘salary continuation’ payments in an amount equal to one (1) year of the President’s Base Salary as of the time of termination,” according to the employment contract.  

As relief, the plaintiffs are seeking “front pay in an amount that would fully compensate him for the injuries alleged herein resulting from the unlawful breaches of contract” as well as “compensatory damages including damages for mental anguish and emotional distress,” according to the complaint.

The board “remains confident that Dr. Boer’s decision to resign, and the board’s decision to accept his resignation, are in the best interests of all involved,” according to the most recent statement from the board.

The defamation count claims that Calvin made “intentional” and “false and defamatory statements” about Wiebe Boer in both the first and second public statements issued by Calvin officials following the former president’s resignation. 

The count regarding violations of the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act — a state law that aims to eliminate discrimination and secure equal opportunities in employment, housing and several other areas, according to the State Bar of Michigan — alleges that Calvin employees perpetuated sex and race discrimination against plaintiff Joanna Boer. 

The complaint, filed on April 12, makes a wide range of further allegations regarding past events as well as the process that led up to the termination of Wiebe Boer. 

The board is “disappointed by the numerous misrepresentations in the Boers’ legal complaint that will create additional confusion,” and says they “look forward to correcting the record through the appropriate legal processes.” 

A civil case can take many months to resolve, and filing a complaint is just the first step in the process. Once the complaint is filed, the plaintiffs must make the defendant aware of the complaint within 90 days, and the defendant generally has 21 days to respond by serving an answer or making motions. Facts of the case must be discovered as the suit continues, and it can end in a few different ways including a summary judgment, a settlement or a civil jury trial, according to the Michigan Supreme Court Learning Center

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  • D

    Dr. Daniel DekkerApr 21, 2024 at 8:01 pm

    It’s sad that it has evolved to the point of lawsuits. Nobody comes out a winner from a lawsuit. Both sides will have their reputations tarnished and leave with bitterness and diminished bank accounts. There should have been a better way to handle the situation from the beginning; like stop, take a breath, and think about the long term reputation of Calvin and Dr. Boer. By the way, if the “victim” was uncomfortable, why didn’t she express that to Boer and ask him to stop (like way before receiving 100 texts)? Women are not helpless.

    Reply
  • D

    DeanApr 20, 2024 at 10:17 am

    If I was in leadership at Calvin and was tasked with coming up with a strategy to reverse and suppress recent enrollment and morale momentum and growth, I don’t think I could come up with a better one than the path Calvin’s board chose.

    Reply
  • A

    Andrew SApr 18, 2024 at 11:20 am

    Agree with Anna – read the complaint. It looks like the old WASPY board of directors didn’t like what they were seeing and found a way to fire him. What a great way to move forward into the 21st century Calvin! The first multi-racial family in the DeWitt Manor and we humiliate the whole family in this way.

    Reply
  • J

    John A. TammingApr 17, 2024 at 4:28 pm

    “… and then Calvin’s finance head refused to pay for my new bathroom faucets to match the college colours…. and then later that same guy said to me ‘my, you look so glamorous with those oversized glasses’… and even though Calvin created a paid “first lady” position for me, a black woman, I know that he is sexist and racist because he was upset with me funding a wedding reception for a racialized couple….”

    “… and I could not find a lawyer anywhere and, yeah, I did agree to resign but…..”

    “… and yes there were a lot of texts and I deleted all of them because, well, you only have so much storage on an IPhone and they were not sexually explicit per se, which I guess leaves open sexually implicit, and I may have told the board they may have been flirtatious but….”

    As a lawyer for over 30 years, I can only say that I have never read a risible pleading like this before. I thought they had a lot to offer the college but this couple has shown that they are not serious people. This litigation was very poorly advised.

    John A. Tamming
    Owen Sound, Ontario
    1984

    Reply
    • A

      Andrew SApr 18, 2024 at 11:47 pm

      John, I am in higher education, do research in law and economics, and have been an mid-level university administrator. I have also been in Christian para-church organizations (InterVarsity). Having been in both worlds, I’d like to make one key point:

      I’ll bet you that when the Board approached Weibe, they approached the problem in a very pastoral, fatherly, way. They probably spoke in “Christianese” using words like “prayerfully”, “grace” and “lament” (their favorite word) a dozen times. My guess is that this got Weibe to let his guard down, and admit to more than he should have, or even admit to things that he violated under the “spirit,” rather than merely the “letter” of the law. Once they had his admission of guilt, I’ll bet they turned up the heat and got him to reason.

      Even in more adversarial criminal proceedings, all the research shows that clever prosecutors can get defendants to accept crappy plea bargains (and even admit to crimes they didn’t commit). It happens in the U.S. all the time and you ought to know that as a lawyer.

      Let’s be clear, I am no way saying that Weibe is innocent. Rather, that the conclusions that one can draw from “admission of wrongdoing” is not always clear cut.

      Something is puzzling here – if in fact these texts were flirtatious, then given the power dynamic, it should have initiated a Title IX proceeding of some sort. At least that’s what would have happened at my university. The Board’s story here isn’t holding together very well.

      Reply
      • T

        Tjalle T Vandergraaf '63Apr 20, 2024 at 10:43 pm

        Andrew, this is pure conjecture on your part. We simple do not know what transpired at the meeting between the Board and Dr Boer (and, by the way, it’s “Wiebe”, not “Weibe” (“Wiebe” is a common Frisian given name).
        From reading the complaint, I do wonder why Dr Boer did not resign some time ago, given the alleged treatment Mrs Boer had to endure.

        Reply
  • A

    AnnaApr 16, 2024 at 12:08 pm

    I would recommend everyone to read the filed complaint. A lot of what’s listed there changes my opinion of the situation. As an alumni of Calvin, I’m disappointed but not surprised that the board pulled something like this.

    I hope this does make it to court.

    Reply
  • R

    Robert L BatyApr 15, 2024 at 8:04 pm

    Will the university invoke the “ecclesiastical abstention doctrine” in order to have the suit dismissed?
    .

    Reply
  • J

    JesusApr 14, 2024 at 11:12 pm

    This dude is just crazy

    Reply
  • J

    JesusApr 12, 2024 at 9:13 pm

    Surprise surprise…there is money involved. Who would’ve thought

    Reply