Image 01 Image 03

Gibson’s Bakery v. Oberlin College weekend wrap-up: Get in bed with Social Justice Warriors, wake up with a lawsuit

Gibson’s Bakery v. Oberlin College weekend wrap-up: Get in bed with Social Justice Warriors, wake up with a lawsuit

Based on trial motions, it is clear that what will be argued to the jury in this case is that the school catered to and dictated a message their radical student base wanted them to do

We have concluded the first several days of trial motions, with more to go, and are awaiting jury selection starting Wednesday.

You can read my reporting on the trial motions here:

In this post I’ll try to make sense of how things got to this point.

In this day and time of constant opinion in social media, and the edges of the extreme are favored over middle-ground common sense, the worst thing to be these days is one who sits on the sideline and doesn’t make accusations rather than the one who is actually being accused of some ideological and/or political impropriety.

Take any issue you want; Gun control, immigration reform, healthcare, freedom of speech, etc. On immigration, if you are part of a group that advocates for the rights of refugees trying to enter the country, your followers expect your group to yell and scream about any opposing group looking to restrict immigrant numbers in general. Likewise, if you want to slam the door on all immigrants, you are judged not by the veracity of your opinions, but how loud you yell them at the one who want more immigrants.

It’s not about right or wrong or intellectual discussion. It is who yells the loudest and the longest.

Oberlin College finds itself in this unnerving spot in the civil trial where it is being accused of libel and defamation by participating with extremists who were claiming a small, local business in Oberlin was racist.

Jury selection will likely begin this Wednesday, and as the trial begins, expect the plaintiff’s attorneys to harp  repeatedly on the fact that Oberlin basically jumped into this foray because not joining in on the racist accusations was actually worse in the eyes of its students than joining in on a protest with little factual basis to it.

It is a problem many of these small, liberal arts institutions are finding themselves in these day.  The school’s Black Student Union called out the Oberlin College administration for being racist with a 14-page letter a year before this protest action happened. This is their accusation against their school: “You include Black and other students of color in the institution and mark them with the words ‘equity, inclusion and diversity, when in fact this institution functions on the premises of imperialism, white supremacy, capitalism, ableism, and a cissexist heteropatriarchy.”

The school did not sit down and negotiate over these “imperialism” and “white supremacy” accusations. But a year later, it found itself in a position to join in with its students in accusing a small business of such similar malfeasance that the students had called them out on. As the plaintiff’s lawyers will likely point out, Oberlin jumped from being the accused to being the accuser. In this day and age, that is a more comfortable place to be.

These are the basic facts of the case. On Nov. 9, 2016, a day after the presidential elections, three Oberlin College students were arrested for shoplifting and scuffling with an employee of Gibson’s Bakery and Market, a convenience store business that had been operating there since 1885. A protest by students ensued after that, with the protesters chanting Gibson’s is “racist” for going after the shoplifters.

Gibson’s is claiming the school libeled and defamed their reputation and money earning in the community by joining the protest actively and handing out flyers saying the business was racist. We covered a lot of this in more detail in a case preview on April 29.

What has happened at Oberlin College is that the positive perception of “diversity” on campus has morphed into the unlikable impression of “tokenism.” That being, that Oberlin College, once known as one of the top small schools in the country and once nicknamed the “Harvard of the Midwest,” is thought of by many minority students now as being part of moving them to the liberal, upper middle-class, dominated by whites, which they consider part of the higher-education, societal con job.

If you are somewhat confused by all this, join the club. Over the weekend in Oberlin, I was told by a group of students at the Slow Train Café coffee shop that as an older white male, I had been “desensitized” in my lifetime, didn’t understand them at all, and had all the bad parts of “cisgenderism.”

Also, none of them wanted their names used as I was one of those lying, fake news, media people that they were experts on as well.

How this fits into the case is that the attorneys for Gibson’s will be arguing that Oberlin College was, and still is, ideologically confused and that this one of the primary reasons for their actions against Gibson’s. If students are accusing the school of “appropriating” their lives, these same students are now wearing the badge of “victimhood.” Payback can come in many formats.

If all this sounds confusing, it is. But it is part of a long transformation since the 1970s of what these small, liberal arts colleges have actually become. These changes did not occur in a tidy two-year window as the media often likes to frame things. This was a change in perception of both collegiate purpose and factual overview that happened over decades.

In short, Oberlin College isn’t what it once was, and it is trying to figure out what it is now. The joke in its early years and most of the 20th century was that it was “somewhere in the middle of nowhere.” It was about spending four years away from mainstream America, then returning with a well-seasoned and newly minted brain. That’s why you drove for hours through the corn fields to get there.

And it was special. In 1965, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke at its commencement (one of many times he did, the first being in 1957), and Oberlin College’s involvement in and commitment to the Civil Rights movement was clear to King. He challenged the graduates to remain committed to justice as Oberlin “has probably done more than any other [college] to support the struggle for racial justice.”

MLK added, “I can never come to this campus without a deep sense of appreciation and gratitude for all that this great institution has done for the cultural, political, and social life of our nation.  By all standards, Oberlin is one of the great colleges, not only of our nation, but of the world.”

That world greatness had faded. It is no longer in the middle of nowhere, either. Highways put it now only about 25 minutes away from the Cleveland airport, and Ohio State University in only 100 miles south – less than a two-hour drive away. But more importantly, the online world brings mainstream America into everyone’s phone. In America, the middle of nowhere no longer exists.

The result of these changes is that the individual student is now more important than the school itself. Artistic expression is not now done, it has to be approved. Controversial books have to have a “trigger” warning. And the new dirty word of accusation and social stratification is “intersectionality.”

In the end, most everything must now be “school-approved,” and run through the “diversity checklist” for that approval. That’s where the designation of white male is not a good square to have checked.

What is driving this civil lawsuit in courtroom planning is all that and a lot more.  Higher education is now fighting through this ultimate meaning and purpose of knowledge-based thinking change; part of which is now based on the acceptable supposition that the college now conforms to the individual rather than the individual conforming to the college. It is no longer about the equality of opportunity that is made available, it is about the equality of post-graduation outcomes that is measured.

Based on trial motions, it is clear that what will be argued to the jury in this case is that the school catered to and dictated a message their radical student base wanted them to do, not perhaps guiding them on what is a reasonable response and what is not. Not the old way of thinking that the college or university was sort of the high court of intellectualism — influenced by trends and eras, but not dominated by them.

What was influencing the thinking in the Lorain County courtroom last week is that the plaintiff attorneys are likely to wade into evidence that Gibson’s became collateral damage in a culture war that Oberlin College found itself involved in over what now defines liberal education. How to present that to a jury, though, is difficult. Because the big question is not whether collateral damage occurred, but how much it is worth.

What used to be the case in the university power structure, however, was that the school administration usually saw itself as the warden in the prison, and quietly made their young students/inmates get in line if the trends of the times pulled those students too far from common-sense land. That seems to exist less and less now, and a more conservative jury – which is likely to be the case in this northern Ohio county – will probably buy into that the school had abdicated their responsibility of leadership.

The married couple, Gary Kornblith and Carol Lasser, both Oberlin College history professors emeriti, wrote a book published last year called “Elusive Utopia: The Struggle for Racial Equality in Oberlin, Ohio.” One subject they brought up was how difficult historically it has been for the school to handle a controversial subject like racial equality. They pointed out that black families in Oberlin have an annual income one-fourth lower than that of white families, a poverty rate three times higher, and a lower percentage for townie college graduates compared to whites.

“While the history of race in Oberlin reminds us that well-meaning actions can have unintended consequences, amid today’s continuing struggle for the conscience and soul of America, we need the courage to envision a future of racial justice, an inclusive and productive multicultural politics, an economy of abundance widely shared, and a society of mutual respect, generosity and dignity,” they wrote.

“Dreams are dangerous, imperfect and powerful. They are also elusive, as are the utopias we imagine.”

Daniel McGraw is a freelance writer and author in Lakewood, Ohio. Follow him on Twitter @danmcgraw1


WAJ Note: We will have end-of-day wrap ups every day,and weekly wrap-ups on weekends. Of course, we will report on the verdict. The trial is expected to take one month. This trial coverage is a project of the Legal Insurrection Foundation. Your support to make this type of coverage possible is appreciated.


Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.


Oberlin once had a good reputation as a liberal arts college that specialized in teaching. It’s too bad to see it reduced to catering to the thieves in its student body.

My class at a small, liberal arts college also had its thieves. The difference is, neither the school administration nor even their friends supported such unethical behavior.

So what happened, here? Are we really to believe that word didn’t get out that these people were caught stealing? It is after all, what the business owner was saying.

This reminds me of the Seton Hall incident, where, after a semester of false fire alarms, 3 freshman students were killed in a dorm fire.

Yes, the parents held the school responsible for failure to control those dorms, and yes, a number of students transferred to other colleges.

If my kid had been at Oberlin when this happened, that would have been the end of his time at Oberlin. This would be especially true if my kid were black. What responsible parents wants to have a black kid who has graduated from a school known to cater to black punks?

It is to be hoped that punitive damages may be permitted to be argued, and that a substantial amount be awarded.

When an institution stupidly supports criminally convicted thieves, the stupid institution should pay a substantial penalty for its stupidity.

May a large jury verdict also see Oberlain’s donations dry up. Who wants to donate to a college as stupid as Oberlin?

I disagree with that author’s premise that this is about “who yells loudest and longest.” If only that were true! Shouting matches, quite honestly, rarely hurt anyone. Rather, what is happening at schools like Oberlin is much more disturbing.

This is a small skirmish in a war – yes, war! – where the Left not only has pretty solid control of the faculty and administration and is in a position to squelch ideas they don’t like, but also the “muscle” to back it up. Students and professors who publicly disagree with the Leftist worldview will not only find the deck stacked against them (in terms of exercising academic freedom and free speech), but also in physical danger. Violent terrorist groups such as Antifa and BLM enjoy a quasi-legal status on many campuses: so long as they don’t shed too much blood or cause too much damage the school authorities can often be counted on to look the other way.

That is the larger picture, not a supposed shouting match. A budding Stalinist movement on many campuses is flexing its power and actively hunting “counter-revolutionaries”. Gibson’s Bakery is a rarity in that one of the victims decided to fight back rather than quietly fold.

In Proverbs as well as other places in the Bible we are constantly told that only the fool/wicked refuses to listen to and respect one’s parents and elders for they have the experience the children do not have that can help prevent the children from making the same (some disastrous) mistakes children have made before them.
Watching the debacle known as higher education today where ignorant, uneducated students show up to college and end up dictating to the college and those professors there on how to behave and what to teach is simply mind boggling. Yes, it shows a huge population of children who were raised poorly just as it shows a faculty and administration made up of utter cowards who have no clue as to their role or purpose in life as an educator.
It is my fervent hope that the courts find in favor of the bakery with a withering toll placed upon the college if for no other reason than to send a message to the college and its faculty to grow the h*ll up and start doing your job or else we’ll go someplace else to get our children educated. It takes a special kind of arrogance and wickedness to show up at an institution charged with educating you and then demanding to be in charge of everything just as it takes a special kind of dishonesty and incompetence to think this behavior is in any way justified and then enabling the students to misbehave as has been the case.

    MattMusson in reply to Cleetus. | May 6, 2019 at 6:34 am

    “The heart of the wise inclines to the right, but the heart of the fool to the left.” Ecclesiastes 10:2

The kids got caught shoplifting and since they plead guilty I imagine it was caught on tape. Why would the school back the crazy assumption that this had to do with race? I worked in a small store as a kid. The margins are always tight and the one thing they can’t afford is being ripped off. The bakery prosecutes, because if they don’t, they will be a target for more. The school didn’t care about anything but appearing woke and now they are going to pay. I’m surprised the school didn’t settle this quietly. The publicity they are getting is terrible. Lawyers cost a fortune. They should have settled and moved on.

The school did not sit down and negotiate over these “imperialism” and “white supremacy” accusations.

Why the hell should the school “negotiate” over bullshit accusations like these? And “negotiating” in such circumstances just means caving in to the shake-down demands of the real racists for more special rights and privileges for black students.

No, the school should have told the Black Student Union to pound sand. Nobody forced them to enroll at Oberlin. If they really believe the school is “imperialist” and “white supremacist” (whatever they mean by those terms), they’re free to leave and find themselves a “historically black college” more to their liking. There are more than a hundred to choose from (in this horribly raaaaacist, “white supremacist” country of ours) so there is no reason for them to be voluntarily matriculating in a racist, ableist, cissexist heteropatriarchy cesspool like Oberlin.

If school administrators would grow a spine and stop caving in to the ludicrous demands of these self-important, race-baiting a-holes, perhaps the schools could actually devote more time and attention to the job they’re actually supposed to be doing: educating students.

The students didn’t want their names used for two reasons.

1. they are cowards who don’t REALLY believe in what they are shouting about.

2. They know all too well what ramifications the SJW mob will have on a named individual when the tide turns in any random direction. Cultural Revolution 2.0, we have arrived.

Although I am sympathetic to #2, I think it’s more of #1, because these kids can’t spell Cultural Revolution, much less understand it’s ramifications.

I certainly hope the three shoplifters, who were able to plead guilty to misdemeanor charges with no fines and only a short probation period, are named as defendants.

This isn’t enough to pound a lesson into their heads that their supine college as well as their families should have taught them. I used to work in retail. When we caught shoplifters, no matter how young, we always made sure to teach them a lesson they’d never forget. I recall one sixteen year old girl who shoplifted a pair of panties because she had decided to sleep with her boyfriend and wanted to look sexy for him. It was years ago but I remember it well because it was a weird scene. I’m there as a witness. The loss prevention officer is filling out the forms, and she’s sitting in front of his desk crying. It was just before Christmas and, “Have a Holly, Jolly Christmas…” is being piped in by the Muzak system.

I bet she really cried when she found out that pair of panties was going to cost her $2,000.

That wouldn’t be enough to satisfy me in this case. The wine they stole would have to cost those students $5,000 at least.

Finally these liberal professors may have to held responsible for hiding behind so called academic freedom to instigate all sorts of mischief.

Social justice anywhere is injustice…

” Likewise, if you want to slam the door on all immigrants, you are judged not by the veracity of your opinions, but how loud you yell them at the one who want more immigrants.”

Your moral-equivalencies are a bit silly, I have seen none of the radicalism from the conservatives over any of these issues quite like the brainless screaming coming from the cultural-marxist left.