Gibson’s Bakery v. Oberlin College — Trump 2016 win stoked student protests over shoplifting incident day after election
“This is very unusual … I’ve never seen a towns-and-gowns divide like this”
I have covered the lawsuit by Gibson’s Bakery against Oberlin College perhaps more extensively than anyone else.
I even became a small part of the story when Oberlin College tried, and failed, to subpoena my records.
The lawsuit arises out of accusations by Oberlin College students, allegedly assisted by Dean of Students Raimondo and others at the college, that Gibson’s was racist and engaged in racial profiling after the arrest of three black Oberlin College students for shoplifting. Protests outside Gibson’s ensued, as did a boycott of Gibson’s by students and the college.
The students later pleaded guilty.
For more background, see our prior posts.
- Bakery targeted by Oberlin College #BlackLivesMatter fights back
- Oberlin College halted purchases from Gibson’s Bakery targeted by #BlackLivesMatter, but may reconsider
- Gibson’s Bakery sues Oberlin College over racial profiling accusations, Oberlin cuts business ties
- Oberlin College lashes out at Gibson’s Bakery, portrays itself as victim
- Court: Gibson’s Bakery lawsuit against Oberlin College can continue in full
- Oberlin College: We can’t get a fair trial in our home county
- Judge rejects Oberlin College request to move town-gown lawsuit to another county
The Weekly Standard has an in-depth story about the lawsuit, written by Daniel McGraw, Why can’t Oberlin Fix a Lingering Town vs. Gown Battle?
McGraw sheds some new light on the dispute, including interviews with local business owners.
McGraw also makes a connection I had not made before, that the timing of the shoplifting incident, coming right after the 2016 election, may have contributed to the protests against the bakery:
After the first student protests against Gibson’s happened, there was some national news coverage of the events. Most were of the “here the liberal college students go again” variety, and most missed the biggest factor at play in the protests: the Trump election.
The dates are key: the Trump/Clinton election was on Nov. 8, the shoplifting was in the afternoon of Nov. 9, and the protests started that night and continued for days after.
Eric Gaines saw the relationship between the election and the protests immediately. African-American and a longtime Oberlin resident (and who currently serves on the city’s planning commission), the retired air-traffic controller testified in a deposition filed in August that the protests he viewed “blew my mind. It was preposterous.”
“My theory is that the election occurred the night before [the shoplifting], … and Oberlin has always been ultra-liberal. So people were anxious and it was like a time bomb ready to explode,” Gaines testified. “It was a bunch of kids who were lashing out because of a national issue … [The protest] was just like throwing gasoline of a fire.”
Within a day of the incident, the Oberlin College student senate passed a resolution ceasing all support for Gibson’s Bakery, financial and otherwise. The administration even weighed in in a letter dated Nov. 11, specifically mentioning how upset the college community must be about the election and offering support for student protesters.
“This has been a difficult few days for our community, not simply because of the events at Gibson’s Bakery, but because of the fears and concerns that many are feeling in response to the outcome of the presidential election. We write foremost to acknowledge the pain and sadness that many of you are experiencing,” Oberlin College President Marvin Krislov and Vice President and Dean of Students Meredith Raimondo wrote to the faculty and students.
I was interviewed for the article, and am quoted as follows:
That this lawsuit is still going on two years after the incident has many questioning whether Oberlin College has its legal head on right. “Once the guilty plea of the shoplifter was done, you’d think Oberlin College would have smoothed things out and settled but they haven’t,” says William Jacobson, a professor at Cornell Law School and author of the Legal Insurrection blog.
“The school is going after an old town institution, saying the media is against them and trying to get the venue changed, and trying to defend a protest by social justice warrior students that has no real reason really to be done in the first place,” Jacobson said. “This is very unusual … I’ve never seen a towns-and-gowns divide like this.”
* * *
“I think the politicians don’t see much of an angle of benefit on either side of this,” Cornell’s Jacobson says. “On the one hand it is probably seen nationally as just another strange thing coming out of Oberlin. But also, the media and politicians and the activists from either side can’t seem to get their hands around anything that isn’t coming out of D.C. these days.
There is a lot of other good information in McGraw’s article. Read the whole thing.
In the end, this is a no-win situation for Oberlin College. I don’t know if there have been settlement discussions, or if so, what they are.
But it’s hard to understand why the college has not put this dispute to rest.DONATE
Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.