Oberlin College Finally Stops Fighting Judgment

Oberlin College Finally Stops Fighting Judgment

Oberlin College Finally Stops Fighting Judgment

This has been a long time coming for the Gibson family and their bakery. After years of legal wrangling and fighting the verdicts and just plain arguing, Oberlin College is waving the white flag when it comes to paying the ordered damage judgment to Gibson’s Bakery.

And when I say this has been a long time coming, this case STARTED in 2016. That feels like a lifetime ago. Legal Insurrection has been following this case, and its twists and turns, for years now. The story starts with a shoplifting at Gibson’s Bakery in 2016.

On November 9, 2016, Gibson’s employees noticed what they thought was a person shoplifting two bottles of wine hidden in his jacket. That alleged shoplifter was a black Oberlin College student. When they attempted to stop and photograph him, they were attacked by several other people accompanying the student.”

The shoplifter was arrested, and that’s where Oberlin College stepped into the story.

What could have been a simple shoplifting incident and arrest created a firestorm when Oberlin College students, including the Black Student Union, Student Senate and College Democrats, alleged racial profiling and launched a boycott of Gibson’s. Protests were launched outside the bakery…”

And it wasn’t just the Oberlin students. They had gotten help, specifically from the Dean of Students, Meredith Raimondo. This, along with Oberlin canceling their contract with the bakery, led to Gibson’s suing both Oberlin and Raimondo for damages.

The lawsuit filed by Gibson’s contended that Oberlin had defamed the bakery when the dean of students, Meredith Raimondo, and other members of the administration took sides in the dispute by attending the protests, where fliers, peppered with capital letters, urged a boycott of the bakery and said that it was a “RACIST establishment with a LONG ACCOUNT OF RACIAL PROFILING and DISCRIMINATION.”

Gibson’s also presented testimony that Oberlin had stopped ordering from the bakery but had offered to restore its business if charges were dropped against the three students or if the bakery gave students accused of shoplifting special treatment, which it refused to do.”

The store said that the college’s stance had driven customers away, for fear of being perceived as supporting an establishment that the college had tarred as racist.”

The verdict was handed down in 2019, with monetary damages being awarded.

Jury verdicts in favor of Gibson’s Bakery and its owners reflected the weakness of the defense attacks: $11 million compensatory damages rendered on June 7, 2019, and $33 million in punitive damages rendered on June 13, 2019, after a separate punitive damages trial. The combined $44 million was reduced by the Court under Ohio’s tort caps to just over $25 million. The Court also awarded over $6.5 million in legal fees and costs against defendants on top of the damages. Defendants were required to post a $36 million bond to secure the judgment pending appeal.”

And ever since that verdict, Oberlin College has been actively fighting having to pay those damages at all. Meanwhile, the Gibson family lost two family members, including the family patriarch Allyn Gibson just this last February, while waiting for this judgment to make its way through the courts. Every time Oberlin lost, they would simply refuse to pay, and the case kept being appealed.

Those appeals ended on August 30th of this year, when the Ohio Supreme Court refused to take Oberlin’s appeal on the judgment.

That was the end of the legal road, and yesterday, FINALLY, the college announced that it would pay the Gibson family the monetary damages that the courts had awarded them.

The decision by the college’s board of trustees, announced Thursday, came nine days after the Ohio Supreme Court had declined to hear the college’s appeal of a lower-court ruling.

“Truth matters,” Lee E. Plakas, the lawyer for the Gibson family, said in an email Thursday. “David, supported by a principled community, can still beat Goliath.”

In a statement, Oberlin said that “this matter has been painful for everyone.” It added, “We hope that the end of the litigation will begin the healing of our entire community.”

The college acknowledged that the size of the judgment, which includes damages and interest, was “significant.” But it said that “with careful financial planning,” including insurance, it could be paid “without impacting our academic and student experience.” Oberlin has a robust endowment of nearly $1 billion.”

Oberlin College has and will pay dearly for this saga, as enrollment has been in a continual decline for years and has been trying to cut costs while spending money out of that endowment.

On the stand in Lorain County Common Pleas Court, (President Carmen Twillie) Ambar testified that the college’s total assets are an estimated $1.4 billion. That includes an endowment that was estimated at $887 million as of June 2019.”

Ambar and Rebecca Vazquez-Skillings, the college’s vice president for finance and administration, testified that two-thirds of the endowment is earmarked for spending only on donors’ specific wishes.”

Enrollment declined over the previous decade and a nearly 3-to-1 ratio of students to employees was called unsustainable under the college’s current finances, Ambar testified.”

Vazquez-Skillings testified the college has been deficit spending “for decades,” and pays down $10 million in debt each year from its endowment. It also spends $9 million more each year than it gets from tuition, room and board and other revenue, she testified.”

Could a judgment of this size, given the financials of the college, financially ruin the college? It’s definitely possible. Meredith Raimondo, the former dean of students and a defendant in the lawsuit, left Oberlin College in 2021 for a new job at Oglethorpe Liberal Arts College in Atlanta. Apparently she shares no personal stake in the judgment, because she was an employee of the college and therefore covered by their insurance. So Raimondo gets to walk away and leave her former employer on the hook for her actions.

One would like to hope that this case would be an example in academia and beyond of what the consequences are of slander, especially when the accusation of “racism” is used to damage reputations and livelihoods. However, it’s pretty rare that a small business like Gibson’s Bakery, and a family like the Gibsons, are willing to sue to restore their reputation, much less keep fighting in court for years. This case will definitely be a harsh reminder to Oberlin College of how they let their employee slander a business in the name of “Black Lives Matter” and “racial justice,” who then left them to pay for her actions, quite literally. And while this case is important, and the Gibson family is getting what they have been owed, colleges won’t learn a single thing from it. Well, maybe they learned to never put anything in writing, and then hand it out at a protest, where it can be used as evidence against you.

Featured image: Oberlin College sign via PeaceUnicorn on Wikimedia Commons, cropped, Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0)

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  • Taylor says:

    So sad that the elder Gibson (David) and his son (Allyn) died. I wonder if the stress of this case affected their health. Meredith Raimondo reminds me of so many of the women I see who march in “Progressive demonstrations” – unattractive, loud mouthed, and unmarried.

  • NTSOG says:

    I was delighted to hear that the college has finally lost and must pay the full price for the bigotry of its students and staff. I too doubt whether other ‘woke’ colleges and their staff and precious students will learn anything. That Raimondo found employment elsewhere tends to prove the point that the Left protects its own no matter what they do. The best thing would be for the college to close.

  • Cameron says:

    This needs to be done more often. These schools need to be brought to heel every single time. It needs to get to where they are too scared to bother normal people because they know they’ll lose their funding.

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