Calvin University President resigns over inappropriate conduct

On Monday, Feb. 26, 2024, Dr. Wiebe Boer resigned as President of Calvin University. The Grand Rapids-based university said in a statement that Boer allegedly “engaged in unwelcome and inappropriate communication and attention toward a non-student member of the campus community.” 

Former 12th Calvin University President Wiebe Boer
(Photo source: Dr. Wiebe Boer via X)

Calvin University was founded as Calvin College and Seminary in 1876, later changing its name to John Calvin Junior College in 1906, then to Calvin College in 1931, and finallyagain to Calvin University in 2019. Calvin is a private NCAA Division III college with 3,256 students and a $160.8 million endowment. They are known for their engineering, nursing and religious programs. They are officially affiliated with the Christian Reformed Church, a small denomination of Calvinism.

“The Board of Trustees of Calvin University is committed to fostering a workplace and educational environment that emphasizes the worth of every member of our community,” the school continued their statement. “This includes taking seriously all reports of inappropriate conduct.” 

There was no timeline given on the dates of any specific events, but it did appear that these allegations were brought to the attention of the Board in early February. At a faculty and staff town hall meeting, phrases such as “past number of days” and “couple of weeks” were used in reference to Boer’s eventual resignation. Vice President of Advancement and Interim President Gregory Elzinga, Board Ttrustee Gene Miyamoto, University Paster Mary Hulst and Executive Vice President of Student Experience and Sstrategy Sarah Visser all addressed the staff.

They did clarify that Boer’s allegations did not include any “sexually explicit communication or physical contact, but the alleged conduct is concerning and inappropriate. Boer denied some of the allegations but did admit to sending communications that were inappropriate and inconsistent with the high standard of conduct and character expected of the President of Calvin University.” Officials consulted all external reports to verify compliance with all policy and legal requirements, including Title IX.

The Anchor interviewed an anonymous Calvin student about the situation. “I first found out about the situation in the mid afternoon on Monday (2/26). Apparently Boer moved out very quickly.” When asked about how they felt, they responded with the following, “I feel mostly disappointed and shocked. I know Calvin is doing the right thing in handling the situation but it makes me wonder if there’s any other way to resolve this.”

Since the incident, the campus dynamic has understandably changed. “I’ve heard more rumors going around campus which has been disappointing. Mostly just talk amongst students. Chapel has felt more somber and the campus pastor has brought it up. But the university has done a good job with discussion spaces for people to process the event.”

Boer is the son of Christian missionaries who were based in Nigeria, where he was born and raised. He earned a bachelor’s degree in history in 1997, when Calvin University was still named Calvin College. He holds a Ph.D. in history from Yale University. He was appointed as the university’s 12th president in March of 2022 with no prior experience leading any educational institutions. He did have a great amount of experience in various leadership roles in many nonprofit and for-profit organizations. 

Gregory Elzinga has takenook over as Interim President while the Bboard of Trustees looks to find a replacement. He previously served as Vice President of Advancement. “Mr. Elzinga is already fully engaged in the day-to-day operations of the university and is well situated to provide effective continuity of leadership while the board conducts a thorough search for the university’s next permanent president,” the school reported. Elzinga and other community members spoke to the student body on Thursday, Feb. 29 at 3:30. 

It was apparent that many students were not previously aware of who Dr. Elzinga is. “I have never heard of him or met him. No one really does. There was an opportunity to meet him at the chapel but I was unable to go.” Students do have some sense of optimism for Dr. Elzinga and the university moving forward throughout the spring semester. “I think it is going to be very important for the interim president to build connections and build reports with students because he has some big shoes to fill. He needs to make himself known to establish a better sense of stability.”

Boer is not the first University president to resign this school year. Former University of Pennsylvania president, Elizabeth Magill resigned in early December after appearing in front of Congress and evading questions of whether her students who called for the genocide of Jews should be punished. This was after her university seemingly tried to seek a balance between the freedom of speech among pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli sentiments of students. 

Former Harvard University President, Claudine Gay, also resigned after much controversy over issues such as affirmative action, her own plagiarism, race- related curriculum, and ultimately antisemitism. This followed her own tense hearing in front of Congress during which she evaded questions of if and how antisemitism and “calling for the genocide of Jews” violated Harvard’s code of conduct. She routinely dodged questions and referred to herself as the “ideal canvas for projecting anxiety” about the anti- semitic attacks. President of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Sally Kornbluth, remains in office despite a large campaign to remove her. She was on trial with Magill and Gay over the same issues of campus antisemitism.

This story is still developing. Calvin University has referred any and all writers to their previously made statements in regard to developments. 

(Featured image source: Calvin University)

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