On Friday, an Ohio jury awarded a bakery $11 million in the bakery’s suit over the unconscionable behavior of the local Oberlin College after three of its students were accused of shoplifting by the business (they pleaded guilty). The college, the jury found, engaged in a pattern of defamation and retaliation against the bakery, trying to hurt its business, all as a way of placating college students who were outraged at the arrests. You can see the bakery’s lawsuit here.
It turns out that the $11 million award is a minimum for compensatory damages, and there can be additional punitive damages up to twice the amount of the first award, raising the possibility that the bakery could get as much as $33 million from Oberlin. As far as I can see, Oberlin deserves a big financial hit, for it may serve as a deterrent to it and other schools trying to signal their virtue by placating unjustifiably outraged students.
Oberlin, of course, is a woke school: it’s the Midwestern version of Evergreen State, but I’ll leave you to look up the shenanigans the college and its students have engaged in. (Remember the General Tso’s Chicken controversy?)
You can read the lawsuit story at CNN by clicking on the screenshot below, and a longer account, with some juicy details, at the conservative Legal Insurrection link below (note: that piece is written pretty poorly). The award was for Oberlin engaging in “defamation, infliction of intentional emotional distress and intentional interference of business relationships.”
I’ve followed this story for some time, but now that it’s shaken out I’ll give a few details. Here’s what CNN reports:
The case stems from the November 2016 arrests of three black Oberlin students at Gibson’s Bakery and market near the college’s campus in Oberlin, Ohio.
One student, Jonathan Aladin, was accused of attempted robbery for allegedly trying to “steal wine or otherwise illegally obtain wine” from the bakery, according to a defamation lawsuit. He would eventually confess in a written statement to buying alcohol illegally.
Two other suspects, Cecelia Whettston and Endia J. Lawrence, were arrested and accused of misdemeanor assault, court documents state.
After that, Oberlin staff members tried to discredit the family-owned bakery, the lawsuit says.
The shop said defamation and boycotts by Oberlin have had a “devastating effect on Gibson’s Bakery and the Gibson family.”
Oberlin College staff — including deans and professors — and students engaged in demonstrations in front of Gibson’s Bakery following the arrests of the three students, the lawsuit stated.
The suit also said Oberlin Vice President and Dean of Students Meredith Raimondo and other college staff members “handed out hundreds of copies” of a flier to the community and the media stating that Gibson’s Bakery and its owners racially profiled and discriminated against the three students.
The court documents include a copy of the flier, which included the words “DON’T BUY.”
“This is a RACIST establishment with a LONG ACCOUNT of RACIAL PROFILING and DISCRIMINATION,” the flier read, according to the lawsuit.
The flier also listed 10 of the bakery’s competitors and urged customers to shop there instead.
Then in November 2016, the lawsuit stated, Oberlin College said it severed its business ties with Gibson’s Bakery. The shop had provided baked goods for the school’s dining services through a third-party company.
The thing is that all three students pleaded guilty to charges of aggravated trespass and attempted theft. So by their own admission they did the crime. But that wasn’t enough for the uber-woke Oberlin.
Oberlin didn’t exactly act judiciously here, choosing to demonize the bakery—and break off commercial ties to it—as a way of placating students who saw the shoplifting charge as a sign of racism. I guess they didn’t count on the bakery owners having the moxie to sue. Have a gander at the President and Dean’s letter to the students in the LI excerpt below:
. . . the shoplifting case at Gibson’s was grabbed by the students as their symbolic protest expression of how they hated the world because of who was now president.
Instead of realizing that college students often do emotional and stupid things – especially when politics are involved – the Oberlin College administration added fuel to the fire. This is what the school president, Marvin Krislov, and dean of students, Meredith Raimondo, sent to students while the protests were still going on.
“This has been a difficult few days for our community, not simply because of the events at Gibson’s Bakery, but because of the fears and concerns that many are feeling in response to the outcome of the presidential election. We write foremost to acknowledge the pain and sadness that many of you are experiencing. We want you to know that the administration, faculty, and staff are here to support you as we work through this moment together.”
If that letter was not dumb enough, as the jury expertly could see, the school didn’t listen to the smart ones among them. There were plenty of the Oberlin College and community elders who were telling them that how they were handling this student protest was “dumb” and making them “furious.”
This is perhaps the most important. A university, which is supposed to value intelligence and experience and those who pay attention to the bigger picture, did not listen to those folks at all. From my perspective — after hearing this stuff non-stop since April in court — this was the average-Joe, real common-sense rejection idiocy that the jury found Oberlin College was guilty of.
The LI article gives quotes from deposition made by people, some associated with the College, who thought that the institution’s actions were way out of line. The article suggests that the disparity between the local jury (none of whom were Oberlin grads) and the “elite” college may have led to the guilty finding and the large award. Perhaps that was the case, but it could also be construed as a woke college, completely out of touch with common sense, punishing an innocent business to prop up its social-justice credibility.
Whatever happened, Oberlin is out of pocket big time. And, like Evergreen State, it’s going to lose students as well as money.