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Gibson’s Bakery v. Oberlin College — Trump 2016 win stoked student protests over shoplifting incident day after election

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.

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.


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Liberalism means stupidity to the very end.

Gibson’s had every right to detain the thieves stealing items from its store, regardless of what Trump-related idiocy motivated the thieves.

The thieves were college students, not babies. They don’t get to “act out” their frustrations over an election not going their way by ripping off a local business.

Similarly, the other students and Oberlin’s administration don’t get to “act out” their Trump derangement by defaming the business and falsely accusing it of racial profiling.

I hope Gibson’s not only wins the lawsuit, but gets an award so large that “social justice” nitwits across the globe gasp in shock and disbelief.

    C. Lashown in reply to Observer. | October 21, 2018 at 6:27 pm

    GOOD THING this wasn’t Texas, or they could be laying dead in a puddle of their own blood.

    gonzotx in reply to Observer. | October 21, 2018 at 8:28 pm

    Trump idiocy?

    You jest

    All he did was win the Presidency!

      Observer in reply to gonzotx. | October 22, 2018 at 10:03 am

      I’m referring to the students’ idiocy in thinking that their frustration and upset over Trump’s electoral victory somehow gave them license to steal and and make trouble in Gibson’s.

    pst314 in reply to Observer. | October 22, 2018 at 1:08 pm

    I suspect that Oberlin can afford to pay any award that Gibson’s is likely to win in court. And this is one reason why I strongly support going after the individuals behind Oberlin’s war on Gibson’s: Hit them with ruinous damages.

      rabidfox in reply to pst314. | October 22, 2018 at 5:03 pm

      Agreed. We need to end this alleged ‘sovereign immunity’ nonsense and force the people responsible to be accountable.

The reason you very seldom see a split between town and gown that is this bad, is that once a split like this happens, the gowns aren’t going to be around for very long after. No institution can survive long once it is loathed by the community it’s in.

Oberlin is just one of many cases of TDS out of control, the difference though being that Gibson’s took a stand.

My scenario is that the elections triggered a huge feeling of anguish on the campus, probably second only to the Reds handing it to the Sox in ’75 (a glorious night, IIRC). Frustrated students may not have been looking for a fight with Gibsons, or to act out beyond their normal whining, but an ill-advised case of shoplifting gone wrong provided both the trigger and focus for simmering anger. I feel badly for the shoplifters, not for what they did, but for being used as tools by the others. Once it had started, though, I can see a scenario where a malevolent few saw an opportunity to capitalize on the feelings to further a number of agendas, including raising Oberlin’s activist profile in the face of a floundering reputation and, as suggested by the brief, putting a financial hurt on Gibson’s so that the college could take possession of that prized location. Rather than obtain these prizes by legitimate means, the Gibsons incident provided the college with plausible cover to instead paint a picture of Gibsons being the bully. The college had a lot of muscle behind their actions and in most cases I do a believe a small business under that type of assault might have folded early. At this point, we can draw a parallel to the recent Kavanaugh Hearings and the hope by some that the RINOs would fold at the first hint of trouble. But Gibsons, like DJT, knew that they were in the right, and gave the college a good amount of time to reflect upon their actions and issue an apology, especially after the criminal case had concluded. It is not a coincidence that the suit was filed a year to the day after the incident. Gibsons gave the college a year to acquire even a minimal amount of humility, but the college showed instead that they had none.

While a contributing writer to the Oberlin College Review did not think that this was a big case, I do, mostly as it will be the first having a lasting significance. The likely positive finding for Gibsons will have the effect of telling SJWs that they they can’t scream racist and at everyone and everything willy-nilly. At the moment, the case is only against the college, but there were a whole bunch of individuals who chose to mouth the same accusations in public, feeling brave in the shadow of the college, who may experience legal action down the road. This will then multiply as precedent for future similar legal actions at other locations to take place for past events, and, it will take momentum out of future SJW protests as there will now be consequences on the legal record.

I only wish that we didn’t have to wait 1-1/2 years for Oberlin to have their day in court. We would all be better off if this was being decided now, since it would reign in other future shenanigans tout suite.

The Oberlin case is similar to Rev. McCaslin as well, since neither can admit wrongdoing and have spent a large amount of money on legal bills. But to me, the real similarity of not admitting wrong doing has more to do with the future than the crime at hand. If Oberlin admits that they yelled “racist” when it was not appropriate, it means that down the road the “R-word” is now no longer a part of their tool box, and for SJWs, the R-word is the 23oz California Framing Hammer of accusations. If McCaslin admits that he took signs, future sign removal means a much higher price will be paid as he now has a record. Either of these incidents could have been resolved with a simple apology and admission, but the cost that they didn’t want to pay was to be effectively neutered in protests and elections in the future. What future SJW wants to go to a college where they can’t shout “racist” at the top of their lungs? Oberlin is terrified that they will lose their reputation as an “edgy” place. That is why Oberlin cannot and will not settle. Like Fauxcahontas, they possess no humility. And for that, I do feel a little bit sad for them, but certainly not sorry.

    Massinsanity in reply to MajorWood. | October 22, 2018 at 10:47 am

    Had to down vote given the reference to the ’75 WS. Despite all the success we have experienced in professional sports in the last 18 years that one still hurts as does ’86 and ’07 (Pats near perfect season).

    Publius in reply to MajorWood. | October 24, 2018 at 10:33 pm


    I do not usually comment on these threads, but I was a freshman at Oberlin in 1975 and a hard core Reds fan. It was a glorious night!

Other than soros looking for paid mobs, who else would hire an idiot graduating from Oberlin?

    Massinsanity in reply to | October 22, 2018 at 10:45 am

    I have kids in the approaching college demo so we get tons of mail from colleges including probably 6-8 mailings from Oberlin which go straight to the recycle bin.

Oberlin is already in full image- and damage-control mode as mentioned in the article. I look at all of the changes that have taken place in the last two years and I have to wonder how many of them are related to the Gibsons issue, and also to a degree reflect that the system is out of control. But then, when I attended 40 years ago, there were known student and administrative entities which were generally accepted as being at the far end of the spectrum, to be polite. Having not been back in awhile, I am not sure whether there are more of this element in the community now, or they have moved much further to the left, or they have just gotten really loud and unchecked. Sadly, they are what is representing the college now, and not the excellent reputation for music and science when I attended. Is it a case of the silent majority suffering at the hands of the vocal minority, the latter willing to brow-beat any and all who disagree.

Someone I know was at a Dunkin Donuts the morning after 0bama was elected in 2008. The group of black teenagers in front of him demanded free doughnuts, “because 0bama”. This is the same mentality.

The Weekly Standard article pointed out that Oberlin attracts- read markets itself for- SJW types from urban areas in the East. Unfortunately, a there isn’t a lot going on in a small college town for SWJ types to focus on. Result: making a racist mountain out of a nonexistent racist molehill when Gibson’s arrested shoplifters. The Oberlin administration, in order to keep its SJW brand alive for prospective students,supported the protests.

As MajorWood points out, Oberlin also markets itself as a very good place to be educated in music and science: a place for serious students. Max Roach’s daughter saw Oberlin as a good place to further her music training.

If Oberlin lets the SJW crowd achieve increasing prominence in its student body relative to the music and science crowd, Oberlin risks going down the path of another Ohio liberal arts college, Antioch. The SWW crowd took over Antioch, leading to its closure for 3 years due to decreasing enrollment. Its current enrollment at Yellow Springs is only 135 students, a ghost of what it used to be

The bakery probably has quite a few damages in lost revenue from this, too.

All because they wanted citizens to abide by the law.

    MajorWood in reply to healthguyfsu. | October 22, 2018 at 1:10 pm

    It was a tactical error by the college to request that Gibson’s refer all shoplifting to them and not the po-po. It is never the crime, it is always the cover-up.

    I still wonder how the Gibson’s incident played into Krislov moving on. Granted, he had already had to deal with the 16 page demand list and the incidents with the two adjunct-profs speaking out on social media, but I always thought that Gibsons is what took him over the edge in realizing that things were out of control and likely were not going to get better. I think that he recognized that staying on would just mean having to endure one crazy situation after another. I also suspect that down the road a lot of blame will be shifted to him as he is “no longer there” and therefore the chain of accountability will come to an abrupt end (so no one still employed will lose their job over this). In addition to whatever the courts decide, they also have to deal with the alumni, and those who give money in large amounts are older and wiser than the current crop of PC students. I would guess that 98% of the alumni don’t even know that there is ongoing litigation between the college and Gibsons. That email to the alumni about steps that they are taking to bond the college with the town is very telling, as it looks like they are trying to form an alliance with every business in town BUT Gibsons. Our students don’t shoplift because we just gave them a flyer telling them not to, so there! I bet promises of future $$$ for being friendly are also in the works. The enemy of my enemy is my friend, for now. And the new President. Did they purposefully select a black woman knowing that any challenge to any bad decision could be deflected with counter-accusations of both racism and misogyny (half of that worked all the time for Obama)? To me, all of the past and current tactical positioning is just further evidence of them knowing that they did wrong and are still refusing to come clean. Double-down, baby. Double-down.

So, allegations of diversity were merely an excuse for leftists of a kind to run amuck.

Part of the ideology of Progressive Fascism is that the criminal justice system is racist because of the huge percentage of blacks in prison. Arresting blacks is thereby racist and must be opposed.

Part of the ideology of Progressive Fascism is that the criminal justice system is racist because of the huge percentage of blacks in prison. Arresting blacks is thereby racist and must be opposed.

Oberlin and its loud mouth Dean “RANTmondo” both shall be found liable by the jury in the Gibson trial, and it shall award substantial damages against both defendants.

Has Oberlin “no sense of dignity?”

Has Oberlin “no sense of shame?”

Will non SJW Oberlin students, who enrolled in good faith to study music or science be able to successfully recover damages from Oberlin after it loses the Gibson lawsuit?

    CaptTee in reply to dystopia. | October 22, 2018 at 8:42 am

    Recover damages? They will get hit with higher tuition fees to help pay the Gibson’s award and lawyer’s fees.

“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 …”

This assumes they are acting in good faith. For it is possible to “win” a lawsuit even if one fails to prevail; as they say, “the process is the punishment.”

Oberlin can afford to pay the ongoing legal expenses far better than can the bakery, and to the extent the bakery loses business from the university community the business may be permantently damaged, perhaps to the point of failure.

There are more ways to win a conflict than to prevail in a court of law.

    …and Oberlin will continue to churn out students indoctrinated to believe that it’s raacist to arrest blacks when they commit crimes.

    MajorWood in reply to Albigensian. | October 22, 2018 at 1:39 pm

    This makes me wonder what a graph of settlement cost v time would look like. In the beginning, the college wasn’t looking at $$ to settle, they were looking at the cost to their reputation, and, I bet in the first few months the college actually believed that they were making money off of this incident. For the cost of some time and flyers, they might have recruited a half dozen students with the publicity of being uber-woke. But that short term gain quickly dropped below zero at the one year mark when the suit was filed, because now there was a potential direct $200K loss plus any above and beyond punitive damages, plus legal fees and now a loss rather than a gain in reputation. Being liberals, it was decided to go in a direction that makes it way worse financially, perhaps because they were still in the “Obama will save us and Trump really isn’t President mindset.” I also wonder if the trial will reveal when they retained the outside counsel. I bet it was well before the the suit was filed, and that is also potentially damning for the college, because it would indicate that they were aware that they might be in the wrong and still chose to not rectify the matter while it was still small. So now we are in year two, where costs on both side are mounting, and as it drags on, I am certain that the amount which Gibsons would settle for is steadily increasing, somewhere between linear and exponential. My SWAG (scientific wild ass guess) is that right after the suit was filed, Gibsons would have settled for $1M. Now, a year later and with several failed double-downs to their credit, the college would need to pony up $4M to make it all go away, and Gibsons would throw in the store as well. A settlement will have non-disclosures, while a judgement at trial won’t. At this point there are likely a lot of people at the college who will not want their stupidity widely known for all time, and that costs $$$. But I suspect the college will run with it, and the final tally at year three will be $9M out of pocket ($200K direct, 1% of the $880M endowment as a message to not do it again). And even then that might not get their full attention. 🙁

It is controlled and populated by leftists. They do not apologize to those they intend to rule, AND THEY INTEND TO RULE.

Nonsense, Professor.

It can’t be a no-win situation, as the college is winning.

That will remain true as long as it suffers no consequences, which I predict will continue.

When I was in college in the 1970s not far from either Antioch or Oberlin, if you were on the lunatic fringes of the left coming out of high school, Antioch or Oberlin offered a curriculum where all of your pre-conceived prejudices would be exclusively confirmed in the classroom. You had the luxury of never having to face an opposing viewpoint or philosophy, as you might at most colleges and universities. Two campuses with a herd of independent minds. But that was then and this is now. Why spend $70,000 per year today to go to one of these two educational gulags, when you can have all of your left-wing prejudices learned K through 12 confirmed at any college or university, all at a fraction of the cost.

“But it’s hard to understand why the college has not put this dispute to rest.”

Because the mindless invertebrates who run the asylum:

A. Agree with mob, which is why they created in the first place; and

B. Were afraid the mob they spawned but can’t control turning on them with their baseball bats and Molotov cocktails.

It all breaks my heart.