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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
- Most people really hate bullies.
- 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.
- 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.
UD thanks tp.
… 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?
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.
‘[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.
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:
- Rush to judgment.
- Pay for your mistake with other people’s tuition money.
Update: Those who argue that this was a bad decision, with frightening implications for free speech on campuses, make two points:
- 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.
- 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.