We previously covered the bitter town/gown dispute between Gibson’s Bakery and Oberlin College.

The short version is that three Oberlin students were arrested for shoplifting at Gibson’s bakery. Oberlin students claimed racial profiling, and mounted protests and a boycott supported by college student groups, administrators and faculty. The boycott continued even after police released data showing there was no racial profiling in shoplifting arrests at the bakery, and the three students pled guilty.

See these posts for background on the dispute:

Gibson’s sued the college and its Dean of Students, Meredith Raimondo, for defamation and multiple other claims. Oberlin moved to dismiss some of the claims, for trespass on a parking lot and for the negligent hiring, retention, or supervision of Raimondo.

Please see these posts for full background on the legal proceedings:

The Court just denied Oberlin’s Partial Motion to Dismiss. Here is the court docket entry:

“it is the order of the court that the defendants’ partial motion to dismiss is hereby DENIED. IT IS SO ORDERED.”

It’s not clear yet if there is a separate written order or opinion. If so we will post it when available.

This is a huge setback for Oberlin. While the lawsuit was going to continue in some format, this makes clear that the lawsuit continues in all its aspects, including as to the hiring and supervision of Raimondo. Almost everything Raimondo did on the job, and her interaction with the social justice activists on campus, now is subject to discovery.

The blame-the-victim defense strategy of Oberlin makes no sense, as I noted earlier, and could be used against Oberlin if this case ever gets to a jury:

Perhaps equally surprising was that Oberlin and Raimondo include an allegation in their court filings that didn’t need to be in the papers, but must be a signal as to the defense strategy. That allegation is that Oberlin and Raimondo merely were looking out for the safety of students after the students were assaulted by Allyn Gibson….

Thus, Oberlin and Raimondo seek to portray the College as the victim in this scenario, including the confessed shoplifters. I can’t image, based on what is publicly available, this will work.

Moreover, the boycotts and protests against Gibson organized by students, and allegedly encouraged and coordinate with Oberlin administrators, were not primarily about a supposed assault on a student. Certainly, that was part of the mix, but the primary attack on Gibson’s was and still is that it allegedly engaged in racial profiling and unfairly targeted three black students with false claims of shoplifting. The guilty pleas put the lie to that line of protest, yet it it the defense laid out for Oberlin and Raimondo in their court filings. The Answer being a pleading of Oberlin and Raimondo, constitutes admissions that can be used against them. Unless discovery turns up something beyond what’s publicly known, Gibson’s lawyers should have a field day cross-examining Oberlin witnesses about the language quoted above.

Gibson’s pushed back in its own court papers in a narrative that likely signals how it will present the case to a jury:

“In doing so, the Defendants double down on their victim-shaming,” the filing said. “There is no dispute that three Oberlin College students pleaded guilty to attempted theft and aggravated trespassing at Gibson’s Bakery. Following the arrests of those students, an orchestrated defamation campaign was waged against Plaintiffs, which damaged Plaintiffs’ reputation and financially devastated their business.”

In a recent post on another lawsuit against Oberlin, we noted the importance of these legal proceedings, Lawsuit: Oberlin College sexual assault hearing process rigged, 100% conviction rate:

Oberlin College is suffering financially and in enrollment after several years of negative publicity regarding racial, gender, anti-Semitic and social justice activism on campus.

I documented that history in September 2017, Radical fallout: Oberlin College enrollment drops, causing financial problems. Those financial and enrollment problems also more recently received attention at Inside Higher Ed.

If Oberlin were smart, it would cut its loses and accept fighting with a local bakery is a no-win situation. Since the original dispute erupted during the term of the previous Oberlin president, a settlement could be written off as cleaning up someone else’s prior mess.

But I don’t expect that to happen, considering that doing the right thing vis-a-vis the bakery likely would result is protests on campus by social justice activists against the administration.