‘[B]eing pissed off at the local college is not a valid legal doctrine for taking millions of dollars.’
An AAUP blogger demeans the Ohio jury in just the way the administration of Oberlin College has consistently done: The jurors are vindictive village idiots, unable to understand concepts like harm, defamation, and the rule of law, able to use the legal system only to stick it to the elitists down the block. For those who want to get rid of embarrassingly inexpert juries altogether, the lopsided outcome of the Oberlin trial ($44 million in damages and penalties to the college), in the Gibson Bakery case, is the icing on the cake.
Yet although this clearly was an angry jury, that doesn’t mean their verdict was dumb. The jury knows that Oberlin won’t in the end pay out that much money; they know that an appeal is thunderingly obvious. Appalled by the … well, let’s use the language of the AAUP blogger — a man who is sympathetic to Oberlin…
… Oberlin students behaved disgracefully, only to be exceeded by the incredibly stupid and repulsive actions and comments by Oberlin administrators. Protesters demanded a boycott over a case where the Oberlin students were clearly guilty (and later pleaded guilty) and there was no evidence of racial discrimination. They made accusations of past racism, but never presented any convincing evidence publicly. Oberlin’s administrators were even worse. They hurt Gibson’s business by refusing to stand up on their behalf and by boycotting the bakery for a time. They tried to intimidate Gibson’s into dropping charges against the Oberlin students by threatening to continue their boycott, and even asked the bakery to call the college rather than the police when students shoplifted in the future. And Oberlin’s administrators sent each other very dumb messages that alienated the judge and jury so much that the actual legal regulations about defamation [were overlooked].
Appalled by this behavior, which I suspect was felt as a personal attack on their community’s economy and reputation, the jury decided to communicate as forcefully as possible its unacceptable nature — perhaps with an eye to Oberlin eventually gaining some compassion and rationality along the way. As Bill Maher put it in lamenting Oberlin’s actions, “How do we get mainstream liberals to stand up to that faction?” One way is to jolt them awake with outrageous court awards; once awake, mainstream liberals might ask themselves why Oberlin has as a vice president and dean of students an angry factionalist, a woman way, way out of the liberal mainstream. That happened because no one’s watching. Now people are watching.