The other day I reported on the Ohio Supreme Court’s rejection of Oberlin College’s appeal; the College had been ordered in a civil suit to pay $31 million to Gibson’s Bakery (plus, as this post notes, perhaps another $5 million more) for “libel, slander, interference with business relationships, and interference with contracts.” You can see the whole sordid story, which reflects terribly on Oberlin College, on the Wikipedia page Gibson’s Bakery v. Oberlin College.
I assumed that, since the Ohio Supreme Court was Oberlin’s last recourse in this civil suit, the College would pay up. Two members of the Gibson family have died since the 2006 incident that precipitated the lawsuit, and as I recall, Oberlin had put up a bond to cover the amount.
But according to a piece by Lorna Gibson, one of the family that owns and runs the store, Oberlin won’t pay up—or hasn’t paid up (it’s not quite clear). Her account, “Will I ever see the $36 million Oberlin College Owes Me?“, is posted on Bari Weiss’s Substack site. It also gives a few details I didn’t know. The story is familiar, so I’ll just give the information that was new to me. (Beyond that, Ms. Gibson recounts the horrible way the bakery was treated by Oberlin, which withdrew all standing orders as a form of retribution.)
Before November 9, our relationship to the school had been wonderful. We delivered pizza dough, bagels, and cookies to the dining halls every day. We did pie and ice cream socials for parents’ weekend, and pastry trays for parties. I worked as a nurse at a local hospital until 2002, but if there were a large order, I’d often help David deliver the trays of baked goods to campus.
A week after the incident, the school canceled all of our standing orders. That was just the beginning of my family’s nightmare.
The school put out a statement that implied that this wasn’t an isolated incident. The school’s student senate passed a resolution urging the school to cut ties with us, which was posted in a display case at the student center. Our business from the students themselves and administrators—we have a small grocery store and sell beer and wine in addition to our pastries and candies—dried up completely. And the students kept showing up to protest.
David met with the President of the school, along with other administrators, to try to get Oberlin to retract its baseless claims that we were racist, and to quell the small group of students who, in their passion, had gotten us so wrong. But Oberlin would not even consider issuing a statement, and allowed the public to believe that we were in fact “racist.”
Instead, the school proposed a deal where, in the future, if a student were caught shoplifting, we’d call the dean instead of the police. My husband and his dad believe firmly that everyone should be treated equally, so they refused. Eventually, in 2017, we felt that we had no choice other than filing a lawsuit against Oberlin (for libel, among other things) because David’s 89-year-old father, who had dedicated his life to the business, did not want to die being falsely branded a racist.
There is not a scintilla of evidence in the bakery’s long history that it was “racist”. These accusations arose because one or more of the shoplifters who pleaded guilty were African-American. But Oberlin is among the wokest of American colleges, and the students and administrators couldn’t pass up the chance to accuse someone of racism.
Further, trying to cut a deal whereby Oberlin students wouldn’t be reported to the cops for breaking the law is execrable. Does Oberlin think its students are above the law? During the trial, both Allyn Gibson (Lorna’s father in law) and her husband David died. They never lived to see justice done—if indeed it has been done. The school kept appealing:
. . . after the verdict was handed down, David and I left Oberlin to seek treatment for his cancer at bigger hospitals in the South and in New York. We found out that the cancer had spread during the trial, and that we had no recourse. Before he died in 2019, David asked me to keep the store going. “Just keep the doors open, no matter what,” he said. He gave his life for the store, and I promised him that I would do everything I could to honor his final wish.
I still haven’t seen a penny from the school.
Talk about a lack of empathy, much less a lack of morality! Doesn’t Oberlin realize the “optics” of this situation? For that alone, since they apparently don’t recognize what’s right, they should pay up pronto. The bakery is nearly bankrupt, all because of Oberlin, and Gibson’s needs the money because, thanks to Oberlin, business has tanked:
During the week, my girlfriends come in to have coffee and snacks. We have some locals and people from the surrounding towns who support us, but it’s not enough. Our shelves are bare because there’s no foot traffic anymore, so we don’t bother stocking them. Before, there was a constant stream of people coming into the shop. Now, we might have one or two customers throughout the whole morning. We still sell our whole wheat donuts, and apple fritters, chocolates and candies with homemade caramels, but far fewer of them.
If I got the money from the college, I wouldn’t buy a house, or go on vacation, or leave Ohio. I would replace the compressors for the refrigerators and replace the fryers and proofers that we use for our dough. I would pay off the mortgages on my properties that I’ve taken out in the past few years. I’d hire back employees and ramp up production. While the Ohio Supreme Court’s recent decision has made us hopeful, if the money doesn’t come through within the next couple months, I’ll be forced to declare bankruptcy and shut the doors of Gibson’s for good.
Yet as Ms. Gibson notes in the subtitle, “We won our case. But the school is refusing to pay.” That implies that the school won’t pay, but what’s written above implies that the Gibsons simply haven’t gotten the money, and I suppose these things take time. It’s not clear what Oberlin is doing; perhaps they’re just taking their sweet time, which is just like them. But I know one thing: if Oberlin has any sense of ethics, they should issue a check to the Gibsons IMMEDIATELY.
I tweeted to the College this morning.
Oberlin lost the Gibson's Bakery case and you owe the Gibsons $36 million. They say you still refuse to pay. What kind of school are you? Obey the law and give them what you owe for hurting them.https://t.co/AhpAdhmyAb
— Jerry Coyne (@Evolutionistrue) September 1, 2022