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Calvin University Board Stands by Its Decision That Former President Had To Go

Calvin University
Calvin University in Grand Rapids, Michigan. (Photo by Andy Calvert, courtesy of Calvin University)

(RNS) — The trustees of Calvin University released a statement Thursday (March 28), defending their decision to part ways with the school’s former president, who they said admitted sending “flirtatious” and “inappropriate” messages to a woman who was not his wife and therefore he was no longer fit to lead the Christian school based in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

“Based on these admitted communications, the Board determined that Dr. Boer’s conduct was concerning and inappropriate and that he could not continue to serve as President of the University,” the board of trustees told The Calvin Chimes, the school’s student newspaper.

Former Calvin President Wiebe Boer resigned in February after the messages — sent to a member of the Calvin community who was not faculty or a student — were reported to the school’s Title IX office. The board told Chimes that no formal Title IX investigation was conducted into the matter but instead, the trustees spoke to Boer, who admitted sending some of the communications, which they say he admitted were wrong.

RELATED: Calvin University President Wiebe Boer Resigns Amid Allegations of ‘Unwelcome and Inappropriate’ Behavior

The resignation of Boer, a popular leader who had been on the job less than a year and a half, came as a shock. Boer had just announced an ambitious plan to grow the school’s enrollment and had been seen as someone who supported LGBTQ students on campus as well as faculty who dissented from denominational teaching about sexuality. Calvin is part of the Christian Reformed Church, which made its beliefs on sexuality part of the denomination’s confession of faith last year.

Wiebe Boer, former president of Calvin University in Grand Rapids, Michigan. (Photo courtesy of Calvin University)

John Hawthorne, a retired sociologist and longtime Christian college professor who now studies Christian colleges, said Boer, a former corporate executive and son of missionaries, was an ideal leader for Calvin, which like many Christian colleges, faces financial, enrollment and cultural challenges.

His departure was a huge disappointment, said Hawthorne, author of “The Fearless Christian University,” a forthcoming book about the future of Christian colleges.

He said Christian college presidents have faced heightened scrutiny in the wake of the #MeToo movement and the high-profile scandals involving Jerry Falwell Jr., the former president of Liberty University, one of the nation’s largest Christian schools.

Hawthorne , who has no information about the specifics of Boer’s situation, said Boer’s alleged actions likely were seen as a betrayal by someone the board had trusted.

Boer’s departure has led to questions from Calvin faculty, students and supporters. A group of Calvin alumni have reportedly asked the board of trustees for a third-party investigation into the board’s handling of the allegations against Boer, according to the Chimes.

The student paper reported that Boer was willing to have his allegedly inappropriate messages made public — but also that Boer claims to have deleted those messages.

Campus of Calvin University in Grand Rapids, Michigan. (Video screen grab)

Campus of Calvin University in Grand Rapids, Michigan. (Video screen grab)

Boer reportedly hired an attorney after resigning. He told the Chimes that the board of trustees has shared few details of the allegations against him but told him a complaint had been filed.