Oberlin College in Ohio may be one of the most egregious politically correct campuses in the nation. Back in 2013, the campus closed down for a day of “racial sensitivity training” despite the fact that the administration knew that the supposed “racial incident” that prompted this “crisis” (someone spotted wearing Klan robes on campus) was a hoax.
Then in 2016, Black Lives Matter and a number of super-woke Oberlin students launched protests and a boycott against Gibson’s Bakery, a family-owned and run establishment that has been a fixture of downtown Oberlin since 1885. What prompted this? Gibson’s had the temerity to apprehend and charge three students with shoplifting (they later pled guilty), but because of the race of the offenders, the Oberlin College wokerati accused Gibson’s with racism, racial profiling, and probably genocide for all I know.
The Oberlin student Senate passed a resolution charging Gibson’s with “a long history of racial profiling,” and the Oberlin dean of students, Meredith Raimondo, endorsed and distributed the flyer. The college also discontinued purchasing baked goods from Gibsons, because you just can’t take the chance that you’ll cause literal pain or mental anguish to Oberlin students by procuring a bag of racist bear claws for the faculty lounge.
Gibson’s decided not to take this politically-motivated harassment lying down. They filed a libel and slander suit against Oberlin College, and yesterday a jury found for Gibson’s, ordering Oberlin to pay $11 million in compensatory damages. A punitive damages hearing will follow, so the total award could grow to over $30 million.
William Jacobson at Legal Insurrection has a complete account of the background of the case and the legal drama that has played out. A news account quotes Jacobson: “The students eventually pleaded guilty, but not before large protests and boycotts intended to destroy the bakery and defame the owners. The jury appears to have accepted that Oberlin College facilitated the wrongful conduct against the bakery.”
Good for the Gibsons. Between lawsuits like this, and the mounting cost of settlements (now dozens if not hundreds) that colleges have had to pay out for violating the due process rights of students in ideologically-driven Title IX star chamber proceedings, maybe college administrators and trustees will start to wake up to the cost of wokeness. As Glenn Reynolds likes to say, “get woke, go broke.” More of this please.
Follow up question: will dean of students Raimondo be fired or reprimanded for her recklessness? Tuition-paying parents might want to ask.
JOHN adds: As I understand it from reading some of Legal Insurrection’s posts, Oberlin made no effort to defend the defamation that was directed against Gibson’s by its students and staff. Rather, the college argued that it had nothing to do with the smears, which were just a case of students exercising their First Amendment rights. There was evidence of Oberlin’s involvement in the campaign against the bakery–its Dean of Students reportedly was part of the group that picketed and handed out fliers accusing Gibson’s of being “racist”–but that evidence was rather skinny. Someday, an appellate court will rule on whether there was enough, under Ohio law, to sustain the jury’s award.
One Oberlin faculty member, a retired theater professor, was a voice of sanity. He wrote a letter to the editor of the local newspaper criticizing Oberlin’s handling of the anti-Gibson’s jihad, which prompted a text from the Dean of Students to the college’s Communications Director: “Fuck him. I’d say unleash the students if I wasn’t convinced this needs to be put behind us.” It’s the kind of evidence trial lawyers love: it didn’t necessarily prove anything, but it lifted the lid on what horrible, arrogant people social justice warriors are.
In my view, the main significance of the jury’s verdict is that is shows how normal people react when they are exposed to today’s campus leftism. You cannot sell to a normal person the idea that it is “racism” for a store to catch a student stealing a bottle of wine, and call the police, merely on account of the student’s skin color. Social justice warrior culture is insane, and is properly judged as such by normal people, who–luckily for them–tend not to encounter it often. The jury’s reaction to the demonization of Gibson’s bakery is, I think, a good indication of how most Americans will respond if, and when, they realize how depraved the Left has become.