Home Christian News Feud With Ex-President Leads to Lawsuit, Alleged Threats of Violence at Calvin...

Feud With Ex-President Leads to Lawsuit, Alleged Threats of Violence at Calvin University

Calvin University
Wiebe Boer, left, is the former president of Calvin University in Grand Rapids, Michigan. (Photos courtesy Calvin University)

(RNS) — When Calvin University hired Wiebe Boer as its new president in May 2022, the school signed the former business executive to a lucrative five-year deal.

Along with a $400,000 annual salary, Boer received a $100,000 signing bonus, with annual bonuses of up to $200,000 with the chance to earn additional long-term bonuses, paid college tuition for his children, a car and use of the presidential residence on campus.

The hope was that Boer, a Calvin alum and son of missionaries, could turn the prominent evangelical school around after years of budget cuts and enrollment decline while easing tensions with the denomination that owns the school.

For a while, it seemed things were working. Enrollment went up, and in January, Boer announced an ambitious plan for Calvin’s future. Less than two months later, however, everything fell apart.

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

In mid-February, Boer resigned after the school’s board received complaints that he’d sent “unwelcome and inappropriate” messages to the employee of a vendor who worked on campus. When confronted by the board, Boer agreed to step down — leaving the campus in turmoil, with anger and confusion over how things went so wrong so fast.

That anger has led to Boer being locked out of the school’s presidential residence, a lawsuit — and this past weekend — alleged threats of violence against one of the school’s senior leaders.

“I want to be very clear. This must stop,” said Calvin interim President Greg Elzinga in a video message sent to the campus community. “Regardless of how you feel about the board’s handling of Dr. Boer’s resignation, it is never acceptable to threaten or attack other members of this community or to joke about doing so in a misguided attempt at humor.”

Elzinga said that the threat against a leader had been reported to local law enforcement. The Kent County Sheriff’s Department said in an email that any public records request for an incident report would take several days.

On Friday (April 12), Boer and his wife, Joanna, filed suit against the school in federal court, alleging that Calvin violated his employment agreement and defamed the former president — and that the school failed to pay him $400,000 in severance or to prove that he’d engaged in significant misconduct.

“Calvin, specifically the Board of Trustees as led by Chair Los and Vice Chair Tuuk Kuras, has diligently continued and perpetuated a harmful narrative about Dr. Boer to the campus and local community, irrespective of truth or fairness,” his attorneys alleged in a complaint filed in the US District Court for the Western District of Michigan Southern Division.