Oberlin College just lost a lawsuit against a small bakery named Gibson Bros. Bakery, a family-owned small business that had survived the Great Depression, two World Wars, and the social upheaval of the 1960s only to be nearly put out of business by the social justice warriorism of 2019.
The Gibson Bros. Bakery and owners — three generations of Gibsons who have owned and operated the store since the late 1880s — were awarded $11 million Friday, which could double next week once punitive damages are awarded. They were targeted by Oberlin College as racist for simply stopping shoplifters from stealing. There were protests and boycotts led by Oberlin students that culminated in a two and half year legal ordeal for the family. The Gibsons had to lay off nearly a dozen employees and couldn’t pay themselves while the trial wore on.
When the verdict was read by the judge, four generations of the Gibson family — from 11-year-old Cashlyn to 90-year old Allyn W. “Grandpa” Gibson — hugged each other behind their plaintiff’s courtroom table. They are a hardy bunch, and did not cry or show too much emotion — no wailing or crying by this family — but as one who has watched them for over a month now, you could see a burden had been lifted from their shoulders.
It was the culmination of their life being blown up and their state of living being pushed upside down ever since three students from Oberlin College shoplifted at their store on Nov. 9, 2016.
Their reward for calling the police on the shoplifters was being tagged as racist by the Oberlin College students who protested their actions. And for Oberlin College to support those actions of defamation. Two-and-a-half years later they feel somewhat vindicated, as an Ohio jury saw what Oberlin College did to them was wrong and slapping them with an $11 million judgement for doing so.
“I am at a loss for words,” 64-year-old David Gibson told Legal Insurrection in an exclusive interview. “Two-and-a-half years of putting up with this has been very difficult and overwhelming. I just want to let people know across the country that this can happen to anyone else, but we stayed and worked together as a family and fought against this. In many ways, what we wanted from Oberlin College the jury gave to us. They said we were not racists and that the college should have said so when all this started.”
“I thank the jury for seeing what we have seen from the beginning of this,” he said
Lee Plakas, who handled much of the month-long trial and who gave the closing argument, said this case “is a national tipping point.”
“What the jury saw is that teaching students and having them learn how to be upstanding members of the community is what colleges are supposed to do, not appease some students who they are afraid of,” Plakas said. “People around the country should learn from this, that you can use the legal system to right the wrongs, even if the one doing the wrong is some huge institution who thinks they can do anything they want.”
It’s that last paragraph that should have the students at Oberlin seriously scrutinizing the adults who are teaching them and leading them during these crucial years of education and growth. Because as much as it sounds like Oberlin bent to the will of certain students, the college itself may have been guiding those students in their misapplied outrage.
Dean Meredith Raimondo “was held liable on the libel and interference with business relations, but not intentional infliction of emotional distress” for helping stoke the protests against the bakery. This is likely a miscarriage of justice based on her statements to co-workers about a former Oberlin professor’s critical letter to the editor regarding the case (emphasis mine).
Roger Copeland, a retired Oberlin College professor of theater and dance, was in the courtroom and seemed ecstatic after the jury came back with their verdict. Prof. Copeland is somewhat famous in the courtroom for getting this response on a Raimondo text to co-workers after a letter-to-the editor he wrote was critical of the school for their handling of the Gibson’ affair. “F*ck him,” Raimondo responded in a text message about Copeland. “I’d say unleash the students if I wasn’t convinced this needs to be put behind us.”
Raimondo seems to have little problem inflicting emotional distress and using the students to do it. She admitted, in that statement alone, her willingness to use young and impressionable students to carry out her own activist activities against an innocent bakery. And she places the blame squarely on the shoulders of the kids.
Oberlin students should be embarrassed they were foolish enough to be taken in by the likes of Raimondo, and there’s little excuse for their stupidity and hate. But perhaps now these young people at Oberlin will appropriately apply their outrage at the people they trust to guide them responsibly, and who instead use them, rather than focusing their rage on innocent businesspeople in the community just trying to earn a living.