For years, we’ve all watched in wonder as the city of San Francisco jettisons what Oberlin College calls an “archaic chase and detain policy,” and instead lets shoplifters take merchandise and simply walk out with it.

It’s such a small crime, and the jails are already full, and hell just let em go. The results have been spectacular if you’re a fan of neighborhoods with no stores in them, and the president and trustees at Oberlin, faced with their own neighborhood shoplifting problem, wasted no time expressing the same contempt for archaic law-abiders/merchandise retainers as their model, one-time SF DA Chesa Boudin.

An archaic local bakery, on discovering an Oberlin student shoplifting, viciously accused him of the crime, and then, when he denied it, proved its truth by approaching him and opening his jacket, in which two stolen wine bottles were hidden.

The crude, reactionary nature of the bakery’s response to the theft of its merchandise outraged Oberlin, which, under the organization of one of its deans, so relentlessly harassed the business – tagged as racist – that it practically collapsed.

The business sued Oberlin and won big – a way-angry jury awarded the bakery 44 million in damages, which a judge reduced to 36 mill. Oberlin proceeded to fail to pay, sending the suit to higher courts and failing upwards, and now Ah fuck it ok we’ll pay. Though where in our measly ONE BILLION DOLLAR endowment we’ll find it I don’t know…

Background here.

Oberlin Drags its Arrogant Refusal to Pay its Judgment Through One Court after Another.

Background here.

Oberlin College packs up its legal baggage and moves on from the Ohio Supreme Court to – I don’t know – the United States Supreme Court …? The European Court of Human Rights …? in a pointless, expensive quest to evade an already-crushing penalty for having bullied a venerable, much-loved local bakery practically out of business. The Ohio Supreme Court rejected Oberlin’s appeal without comment because nu? You did the deed; you never even attempted an apology; you hired the airhead apparatchik dean who made the magic happen. Own it, babe.

‘Oberlin has [fewer] than 3,000 students enrolled and an endowment of nearly $900 million; the research-intensive Canadian university where I teach, McMaster, has more than 30,000 students enrolled and in 2017 its endowment was about $704.7 million. The U.S. dollar is worth about C$1.30, so that means Oberlin’s endowment has more than USD$300 million than McMaster’s…’

But that was 2019. Little Oberlin’s endowment currently stands at $1.09 billion.

A few years ago, Oberlin College did a hell of a lot of damage to a local bakery – falsely accused it of racism, got tons of people to boycott it – and a jury’s decision that it pay the bakery $33 million in compensation doesn’t sit at all well with the school. But the decision has been upheld; the school’s only option at this point is to kick things up to the Ohio Supreme Court… or hey, maybe the US Supreme Court would like to air, for the nation and the world, a billion dollar school’s vicious attack on a local small business.

Let’s wait and see what Oberlin decides to do. Not paying will expose it to yet further penalties, one assumes; so it can’t do nothing forever. I’m figuring an Ohio court at any level will share the outrage of an Ohio jury in regard to the arrant vileness of Oberlin’s behavior. I doubt the Supreme Court would look at the case. And, you know, Oberlin has enough money in its endowment to pay what it owes.

It’d be nice if they concluded something humane and useful for themselves as a result of all of this, but that ain’t gonna happen. Mob rule will prevail.

*********

UD thanks David.

A bittersweet finish for Oberlin College and Gibson’s Bakery.

It’s been a long sit-down, but an appeals court has topped off the college v. bakery court case with a flourish: Gibson’s will indeed be served an abundant money feast from Oberlin (background here). So: bitter for Oberlin, sweet for Gibson’s.

The main miscreant in the matter, a VP at the school who sicced a student mob on an innocent local bakery (screamed all over town it was racist, organized a boycott, when all it did was confront a shoplifting Oberlin student), has moved on to generate her own particular form of magic at Oglethorpe. No doubt she is as we speak scanning commercial life in Atlanta to find a cafe against which she can organize a student mob. The obscenity she staged at Oberlin will cost the school thirty mill; here’s hoping Oglethorpe has a large legal payout fund.

A Little More on Gibson’s Bakery and Oberlin College.

At a time when there is so much actual injustice around us — third-rate schools, mass incarceration, immigrants dehumanized — it’s bizarre to see student activists inflamed by sushi or valorizing a shoplifter. This is kneejerk liberalism that backfires and damages its own cause.

Scathing Online Schoolmarm Asks: Why Did Oberlin Want to Spread Student Tensions More Widely?

In court, one of the College’s attorneys, Rachelle Zidar, argued that the College and [the dean of students] did not seek to injure [Gibson’s Bakery] but rather the pause [in their business relationship] was meant to diffuse tensions that had built within the student body.

Time for Oberlin to Smear the Entire Jury as White Supremacists and Picket their Homes.

Pending an appeal, that’s their only move.

This is one angry jury; they just added $33 million in damages. See this post for details.

Why are they so angry? I’m gonna go ahead and guess.

  1. Most people really hate bullies.
  2. The jury perceives itself to be defending not just a family but a way of life, and the reputation of its community (which, by the way, voted for Hillary Clinton). These are things they take very seriously.
  3. Oberlin has throughout this fiasco handled things with the delicacy, kindness, and rationality of Donald Trump. In the way of Trump, it has basically, and repeatedly, dismissed the jury as losers. The jury did not take this well.

Oberlin at this point desperately needs an outside public relations firm. But apparently it is too clueless even to realize that.

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UD thanks tp.

“Oberlin hired an unrepentant bigot to teach undergraduates to write about justice and guide them in their moral development.”

Quite true, and this Tablet writer captures the real scandal at Oberlin, which is similar to the real scandal at Florida Atlantic University, and at the University of Colorado: How do hiring committees at American universities end up appointing vicious ideologues? What sort of hiring committee says We want to expose our students to sadists and knaves, and this is a sadist and a knave? How can we account for the regular emergence among the American professoriate of liars and moral idiots?

UD thinks the outcome only seldom has to do with what you might call fanatic affinity. It seems unlikely to her that there are other people on hiring committees who think the Sandy Hook massacre was a government-created charade intended to destroy our gun rights, or that the people killed on 9/11 deserved it, or that the 9/11 plotters were Jews. It seems far more likely to UD that colleges and universities end up with cretinous conspiracy theorists because their hiring committees, for some jobs, are lazy. They don’t read applicants’ writing (including blogs) with any care, or, if they do read, they don’t understand what they are reading.

At some universities, no one much cares who teaches the soft stuff – ethnic studies, communications, composition. Internal standards in these sorts of fields may be as low as they are in the courses designed for football and basketball players. Indeed, some of these are the fields into which the jocks are herded – especially communications. No one should be surprised when actually examining what some of these people write uncovers the political grotesque.

But what are you going to do? FAU and Colorado are big jock schools; it’s as important to them as it is to Auburn and the University of North Carolina to keep the course scam going one way or another. They’re not exactly going to start scrutinizing content and instructor.

As for Oberlin — damned if I know.

An Oberlin Professor…

… makes the same point I make at the beginning of my Teaching Company talk on how to write well. She headlines her post WE ARE ALL WRITERS NOW. Excerpts:

… [W]ith more than 200m people on Facebook and even more with home internet access, we are all writing more than we would have ten years ago. Those who would never write letters (too slow and anachronistic) or postcards (too twee) now send missives with abandon, from long thoughtful memos to brief and clever quips about evening plans. And if we subscribe to the theory that the most effective way to improve one’s writing is by practicing—by writing more, and ideally for an audience—then our writing skills must be getting better.

… My friends and I write more than we used to, often more than we talk. We correspond with each other and to colleagues, school teachers, utility companies. We send e-mails to our local newspaper reporters about their stories; we write to magazine editors to tell them what we think. And most of us do labour to write well: an e-mail to a potential romantic partner is laboriously revised and edited (no more waiting by the phone); a tweet to a prospective employer is painstakingly honed until its 140 characters convey an appropriate tone with the necessary information. A response to our supervisor’s clever status update on Facebook is written carefully, so to keep the repartee going. Concision and wit are privileged in these new forms. Who would not welcome shorter, funnier prose?

… [T]he quality of many blogs is high, indistinguishable in eloquence and intellect from many traditionally published works.

Our new forms of writing—blogs, Facebook, Twitter—all have precedents, analogue analogues: a notebook, a postcard, a jotting on the back of an envelope. They are exceedingly accessible. That it is easier to cultivate a wide audience for tossed off thoughts has meant a superfluity of mundane musings, to be sure. But it has also generated a democracy of ideas and quite a few rising stars, whose work we might never have been exposed to were we limited to conventional publishing channels…

Hamfisted Hamline deserves all the shit coming its way…

… via a hijabi who took offense at an image of Muhammed shown in the classroom. The professor was immediately fired; the school is now, in its public comments, backtracking like a bat outa hell but it’s too late. They won’t have to pay the prof (who is, correctly, suing) as much as Oberlin had to pay that bakery, but the same cretinous reflexive bullshit did in both schools and as Joan Baez plaintively asked so many years ago when will they ever learn?

Antinomies

Although UD‘s fascinated by Autonomies, a dystopian Israeli film, she’ll never watch it. She’s triggered by images of female slave cultures. But what’s amazing about this imagination of an Israel that devolved into bloody secular/religious civil war thirty years ago and is now entirely balkanized between a strict haredi sect territory in and around Jerusalem, and a modern territory in and around Tel Aviv, is that at least one important Israeli intellectual says dystopia shmystopia! It’s a great idea and let’s get going on it!

The series is very clever, with bracing realism (a smuggler makes an excellent living smuggling porn and pork into Haredi Autonomy), but what it’s really about, if you ask ol’ UD, is the horror of surrender to theocracy. Israel has only itself to blame for decades of cynical accommodation to massed ignorant fools who think every offense against liberty and dignity they commit comes stamped with God’s Approval; no wonder Israel’s artist class now depicts the tragicomic walls within walls within walls within walls location that place has become. You don’t reason with the lord’s anointed; they don’t do reason; they’re pre-reason; they’re non-reason; they’re anti-reason. Let them ride roughshod over your democracy and hey look ma no democracy.

*****************

[Israeli media conglomerate] Keshet is also in the early planning stages of an English-language adaptation of the format, set in the United States and using America’s own blue state-red state divide as a substitute for the original Israeli plot.

Oh really? Oh reallllllyyyy? So let me tell you something, Buster. Happy to have you do that; plan away. But the overlay ain’t working for me.

Let’s see. Half of America is dirt poor (the other half is unimaginably rich); no one there has any occupational skills and anyway everyone refuses to work because keening over religious texts will feed their children. So their children are starving. They don’t believe in the germ theory of disease so coronavirus is killing everyone over sixty. Anyone interested in their territory is making a play for it since except for a small group of secular mercenaries no one fights. Daily street riots rage between teenyweeny ultraorthodox sects headed by senile warring rabbis. Women are totally absent from the world. There aren’t any. No one knows where they are; where they went. There aren’t any.

This is totally cool drama-wise for sure. I just don’t think we can manage it. I’m seeing plenty of yahoos waving Confederate flags, yes. Absolutely someone’s breaking into a gender theory class at Oberlin waving an AK-47. I’m not saying our blue-red state divide is without dramatic potential. I’m saying we just totally do not measure up.

‘Unchecked emotion has replaced thoughtful reasoning on campus. Feelings are no longer subjected to evidence, analysis or empirical defense. Angry demands, rather than rigorous arguments, now appear to guide university policy.’

Ronald S. Sullivan Jr. could be talking about Oberlin College. But he’s talking about Harvard’s capitulation to students seemingly unable or unwilling to understand the rights of accused people to legal representation. Sullivan is representing the vile Harvey Weinstein; because of this, students demanded that he be thrown out as faculty dean of one of the school’s residential houses as he made students feel “unsafe.”

Sullivan writes that he is “willing to believe that some students felt unsafe,” but UD ain’t willing. It is beyond pitiable to fear that a vile person’s attorney is going to hurt you, and UD‘s going to go on record believing that any undergraduate woman impressive enough to get into Harvard (assuming she got in legitimately…) simply can’t be that pitiable. UD does these trembling babes the honor of assuming that their real motive is to keep national attention focused on the issue of sexual abuse, and they saw an opportunity here.

12 Angry Men and Women

‘[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.

Herd Instinct + Political Correctness: A Most Expensive Confection.

A slice of Oberlin College’s administration, students, and faculty ganged up on a local bakery.

Oberlin College staff — including deans and professors — and students engaged in demonstrations in front of Gibson’s Bakery following the arrests of … three students, [a] lawsuit [filed by the bakery] 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.

*********************

Students carried signs accusing the bakery owners of white supremacy or simply saying “Fuck Gibson’s.”

*********************

All three students eventually confessed, one to having tried to steal wine, and two others to physically attacking a person from the bakery who tried to stop them as they exited the store.

A jury just told Oberlin to pay the bakery eleven million dollars. Punitive damages – to be decided later – may raise that figure quite a bit.

A subtle moral lesson for Oberlin students from the people who run their school:

  1. Rush to judgment.
  2. Pay for your mistake with other people’s tuition money.

Details.

************

Update: Those who argue that this was a bad decision, with frightening implications for free speech on campuses, make two points:

  1. It is impossible to assess what damage was done to the bakery by a concerted effort (large protest gatherings in front of the store and broadly disseminated messages to the community to boycott Gibson’s because it was and had long been a racist institution) to shut it down.
  2. The attack on the bakery did not come from officials who speak on behalf of Oberlin. Thus, “to punish a college for not reining in its students, administrators, and faculty even when they are not speaking on the college’s behalf represents an extraordinary threat to academic freedom and to freedom of speech.”

As to #1, you can see from these clashing financial experts at the trial that Oberlin did itself no favors by hiring as their expert someone who dismissed out of hand any evidence of harm to the business. No doubt the guy on the other side inflated stuff, but Oberlin’s problem lies in the fact that when a crowd of people vociferously and steadfastly condemns a business as racist, it’s reasonable to expect long-term damage. UD grants that we’re in a rather gray zone here, but if she consults her own response to obscene deep-rooted bigots of the sort the Oberlin literature about Gibson’s evoked (she shrinks away as fast as possible), it’s intuitively obvious to her that many people are going to stay away from the bakery. Serious damage will ensue.

On #2: Actually, a college should – must – rein in people like the Oberlin vice-president and dean of students who stirred up the student body against an innocent business (UD personally thinks the deathblow in that trial came from the parade of African American locals who testified that far from a racist location, Gibson’s Bakery was a place of love) and in texts boasted of her ability to organize the students to do her bidding. Oberlin might have saved itself a lot of grief if it at least issued a statement acknowledging that this woman acted badly. Intemperate ideologues who rush, disastrously, to judgment, don’t seem to UD the very best candidates for deans of students; but if you insist on hiring them, you should be prepared to distance yourself when they make a mess of things. If you choose not to distance yourself, you should be prepared to absorb some legal blows.

Beyond the Fringe

As Oberlin College finally rids itself of a really florid Jewish-conspiracy devotee on its faculty, as we deal with yet another (there have been several in the last few years) serious embarrassment to a respectable institution — is there actually much of use to be said about this?

A racist conspiracy theory powered the political career of our president-elect. These things are apparently mainstream and can get you places. If some professors at our universities believe Jews brought down the World Trade Center and the New Town massacre was a federal government simulation meant to undermine gun rights, so what? For forty-two years a professor at Northwestern who seems to be a Nazi-symp has been (in the words of NU’s president) a “reprehensible… contemptible… embarrassment” to the place, and assuming the guy is hardy enough to continue teaching past his current eighty-three years of age, NU will continue being embarrassed for some time.

No doubt people with sociopathic and inane beliefs and belief systems crawl the woodwork of plenty of universities. Most are with-it enough to figure out that they should keep their views – at least in their most overt forms – out of their classrooms; but social media and other forms of publication betray them, for eventually some student or colleague is going to discover the place where they park their deepest, most delirious, convictions. Then the press, which is under the impression that professors have something to do with rational and responsible teaching/scholarship (no one cares if the dude bottling vitamins next to you in the vitamin factory writes Facebook postings blaming the Waco biker shoot-out on Muslims), will talk it up, and in seconds a university’s got one hell of a bimbo eruption on its hands.

But what is to be done? How can we avoid it? How should we think about it?

Well, as to the selection and cultivation of faculty on the fringe… Look to your recruitment committees, o ye sinners, and repent. Everyone knows that America has universities that pass all the way to the PhD people whose views move them from the provocative subversive margins (see Trump supporter S. Zizek) to flat-out beyond the pale, and it’s not that hard for hiring groups to check these people out. I mean, they’re not shy about putting what they think about the CIA, the Zionist conspiracy, and black presidents out there. Just take a look. Decide how important it is for your students to understand the links among the Trilateral Commission, King Edward’s abdication, and fluoridation.

As to how we should think about it – well, UD can offer this. People do not like evidence. They really do not like evidence. Americans have just elected an evidence-execrator. More than a few American colleges and universities teach their students that the earth is six thousand years old. Anything goes, and, as Don DeLillo points out in his hilarious novel White Noise, the more sources of information Americans enjoy, the stupider and more credulous they become. Why should one person with a vicious racist conspiracy get to be president, while another person with a vicious anti-semitic conspiracy have to lose her job? Just because, as one of her colleagues correctly points out, her arguments about the world lack evidence?

[Y]ou don’t generally hear such things being espoused by scholars with PhDs. That is because such unsubstantiated, unfalsifiable, speculative hypotheses are not only overwhelmingly wrong, but are also the opposite of research.

But nobody much cares about substantiation – including, on occasion, PhD and hiring committees. In fact a lot of people, inside and outside of universities, have a strong preference for big ol’ crazyass bullshit.

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