Oberlin college and free speech debate

I dont know if this has been discussed, but I wanted to discuss the case of Oberlin college vs a local bakery. It seems that in 2016 a black student was confronted for shoplifting and him and 2 friends got into a fight with the bakery store clerk and were later arrested for it. Many students at the college started protesting the bakery because they felt the charges were racist and bakery itself was racist. The bakery eventually sued the college because it feels like the college’s administrators actively supported the protests and used school resources to accuse the bakery of racism which cost them alot of business. The jury awarded $11 million then another $33 million for more damages.

How had the college supported the protests? THIS article says an administrator from the college was there with a bullhorn egging the students on and helped by handing out flyers called the business racist. The school also sent over pizza and drinks to the students protesting. AlthoughTHIS OPPOSING article says the administrator only attended as a bystander and just to make sure everyone was safe.

FurthermoreTHIS article said the school also demanded the bakery drop all charges against the shoplifters and in the future, if students are caught stealing, to call them instead of police.

Now from what I read, this has sent a message to other colleges that they also might be sued for things their students do and they either support or do little to stop. The Oberlin college president thinks so.

This article says it also fallows a recurring “Town vs Gown” issue.
Now the question I’d like to debate is, will or should colleges be held liable if their students protest a private business?

Will this suit encourage other people to sue a college if its students protest them?

What do you all think?

I think if those are your questions you shouldn’t have brought up Gibson’s Bakery and Oberlin College.

Well, if that’s your question, then the answer is obviously no.

If all that’s happening is that the students are protesting them? Maybe, if the people considering the suit are titanically stupid and don’t mind wasting everyone’s time and money on a frivolous and unjustified suit.

I think that your OP moves the goalpost all the way from one end of the field to the other.

Friendly reminder that this particular grift is ongoing right-wing propaganda.

Do note:

“THIS article” is the National Review Online, known right-wing propaganda outlet.

“THIS OPPOSING article” is a local paper directly on the ground.

One of these sources is trustworthy. The other is not. No points for guessing which is which.

Anyways, this is one of those cases where the mask slips. As the Oberlin Review put it:

Students are being told to shut up about perceived racism from a business, and the college is facing lawsuits for supporting the students. I’m sure Dave Rubin will be on the case any day now. :rolleyes:

Well the business was not only getting protested, but called racist by flyers handed out by students with support from the college. That alone would make them pretty mad. Then add in the college demanding the bakery drop all charges and call them instead of the police if any future shoplifting occurs makes it look like the college is trying to bully the bakery.

Well the point here is that the college actively supported the students.

I mean is it really different than other cases like the Duke lacrosse case where the school was also sued, not just for actions of the students, but actions by administrators?

Finally if someone is standing in front of your business screaming at your customers and handing our flyers calling you a racist, should you be allowed to sue for slander?

If the College directly assisted in the matter, then yes, it is by extension liable. Imagine if Liberty University helped out a protest against a local Planned Parenthood clinic this way, for instance.

I don’t think the students were worried about making the shop owners mad.

And I didn’t see anything in your cite (the one that I would consider potentially truthful) about the supposed demands by the college, so I’m not convinced that happened.

I’m not convinced that the college actively supported the students in any way that moral people would hold against them. However I will concede that immoral people and liars will continue to fraudulently sue colleges over the actions of their students, because the colleges have the money.

ETA: For slander, don’t you have to prove they were lying?

While I definitely agree with you about the National Review, I hardly think that Oberlin themselves is going to be unbiased. Quite the contrary.
Better off going with multiple sources and seeing what they say, and from what I’ve gathered about this, they were indeed harassing the cafe. The Salon article doesn’t paint a very flattering picture of the students, and Salon has certainly never been a very right-wing friendly website. Quite the opposite.

The Blade’s account seemed more neutral and presented views from both sides.
The college itself? That’s debatable. IF they actually aided the students in their harassment, then I think they should be made to answer for it.
But I think there’s no question that the students themselves should be held accountable. Vandalizing private property and harassing the owners and staff is NOT simply “protesting perceived racism”.

Boycotts and extortion aren’t right to support thieves.

Secondly, colleges need to get their noses out of law enforcement. Many can barely make their students economically viable what makes them think they can also be judge and jury?

There’s nothing illegal or wrong about a boycott, for any reason. Nobody is required to shop at a place.

Illegal no? Wrong? Very much so. Especially under the ridiculous terms the college was demanding.

Discuss away! I’d never heard of the incident until I started clicking your links and immediately got sidetracked. It seems the N.Y. Times — the venerable New York Times for God’s sake! — has hired two right-wing liars so that it can be “fair and balanced” also. Bahhh! I want to throw up.

So … some of us are outraged that the bakery was given a mere $33 million because some Americans exercised free speech? Is this the biggest injustice underway in the U.S.A. today?

I’ll ask OP and other thread participants what they think of armed militants shutting down the Oregon state government with active encouragement from the GOP. Answer that question; THEN I’ll take time to study the latest bakery incident and comment on that.

Thanks in advance.

That’s a pretty thorough example of threadshitting septimus.

You don’t like a thread topic? Don’t post in it. You want to discuss something else? Start a thread.

What you don’t do is denigrate someone else’s thread because it’s not the thread you wanted to start.

Warning issued. Don’t do it again.

Ok, thanks for your comments. I would like to answer you response “I’m not convinced that the college actively supported the students in any way that moral people would hold against them.”

I looked around again and found THIS article by The Atlantic.

Here are some quotes:
_ Oberlin employees were among those who distributed a boycott flyer, and they allowed it to be copied for free on school machines. It declared without evidence that the bakery was a “racist establishment with a long account of racial profiling and discrimination” and called its behavior toward the three students who broke the law there “heinous.”

_ Reed, Raimondo, and some Oberlin professors “raised their fists in support of the demonstration,” with some of them “shouting the defamatory statements on a bullhorn, thereby assuring that a large audience would hear their defamatory statements.”

_ Credit was given to students who attended the protest in lieu of classes, and administrators bought them food to support them."

Does that imply the college supported the protesters?

Furthermore it was pointed out the bakery owners and Oberlin attempted to have a sit down and talk this over but Oberlin administrators just went on the attack:

The lawsuit goes on to allege that when David Gibson sat down with administrators to tell them about the devastating effect that defamation, boycotts, demonstrations, and refusal to do business with Gibson’s were having on his family’s store, Oberlin administrators sought to negotiate special treatment for shoplifting students in exchange for resuming relations with the bakery.

The complaint described the meeting as follows:

Gibson requested that Oberlin College immediately retract the defamatory statements and reinstate its contracts … Defendants represented that they would consider reinstating business … but only if Gibson’s Bakery would agree that “Gibson’s would not push criminal charges against first-time shoplifters” … Gibson’s Bakery already loses thousands of dollars a year due to stolen merchandise, and such losses would certainly multiply if students learned they could steal without repercussion.


Sounds pretty darn arrogant to me. The college administrators showed no compassion to the bakery and were clearly in attack mode.

And your other question: " For slander, don’t you have to prove they were lying?"

Well it seems they were lying. In the article it points out several examples by current and former black employees that the business was NOT racist. Even the student who was arrested for shoplifting said it wasnt racially based.

Yes I totally agree. I’m guessing every college in the country right now is reviewing how it should handle such matters and sending out emails telling staff that if students want to protest something, they should stay far away from it.

There’s one part I’m missing from all the coverage of this story: I have heard from former Oberlin students that Gibson’s was known for racism for many, many, many years before this shoplifting incident. The shoplifting is merely the thing that broke the camel’s back. These former Obies cannot understand how the college can defame the family if the accusation is well-founded.

I, too, have a hard time understandning how Gibson’s could be entitled to $11 million in compensatory damages. Shit, their whole store and everything in it isn’t worth $11 million!

I’m also puzzled as to how the college could be put on the hook for such vast sums, for what seems to be a second-fiddle role in the boycott. Does this imply that the student protesters themselves, had they been sued, would have been subject to even greater penalties?

The jury found that it did, and it sounds that way to me as well.

Oberlin seems to suffer from the common desire to make “free speech” mean “speech that is free from consequence”. That’s hardly limited to the left.

Things don’t always work the same outside the bubble as inside. “It’s racist when you complain to the police when people steal from you” doesn’t resonate the same when you are talking about somebody else’s money.


Maybe the Obies you talked to are full of it? Is this “well founded accusation” based on actual practices of the business or some vibe people got off the owners? Because in that last Atlantic article linked above:


Good points.

According this article:

David Gibson – $17.5 million punitive damages

Allyn W. Gibson — $8.75 million punitive damages

Gibson Bros. Inc. (the Bakery) – $6,973,500 punitive damages

Also to address your statement that the bakery wasnt worth it the article says:

"“Oberlin College tried to sacrifice a beloved 5th-generation bakery, its owners, and its employees, at the altar of political correctness in order to appease the campus ‘social justice warfare’ mob. The jury sent a clear message that the truth matters, and so do the reputations and lives of people targeted by false accusations, particularly when those false accusations are spread by powerful institutions. Throughout the trial the Oberlin College defense was tone-deaf and demeaning towards the bakery and its owners, calling the bakery nearly worthless. The jury sent a message that all lives matter, including the lives of ordinary working people who did nothing wrong other than stop people from stealing.”

As to your point “I have heard from former Oberlin students that Gibson’s was known for racism for many, many, many years before this shoplifting incident.”

Well no, the college itself has admitted that there was NO history of racism from the bakery. The college itself admits this in a letter shown in this article sent out from the college:
Dear Oberlin College Community,

Many of you are aware of an incident involving three Oberlin College students at Gibson’s Bakery on November 9, 2016. These three students have been charged with robbery, simple assault and attempted petty theft-shoplifting. Their cases are now being prosecuted in the criminal justice system.

We would like to reaffirm that Oberlin College respects the rule of law and believes that no individuals should expect, nor receive, special treatment, regardless of their affiliation with any institution, their gender, their skin color, or any other grouping.

Oberlin College has enjoyed a very long term relationship with Gibson’s Bakery and the Gibson family **and we have no indication or record of any complaints or history of racism or racial profiling by the Gibsons.**

Therefore, we urge all of you to not rush to judgment and say or do things that can harm others before all the facts are established.


Marvin Krislov, Oberlin College President
Meredith Raimondo, V.P. & Dean of Students

So the college itself admits the bakery wasnt racist.

They had several current and former black employees testify for the Gibsons.

Also in this article it points out that it was a black student who saw the college administrator standing outside with a bullhorn egging the students on.

Clarence “Trey” James, an African-American who had worked at the store since 2013, first denied that any racism existed in either the store’s treatment of its customers, or how he has been treated. “Never, not even a hint,” James said. “Zero reason to believe, zero evidence of that.”


James said he was working at the store during the protests and could see Raimondo directly outside the front door, as he was working the cash register near the front windows and store entrance. Raimondo has claimed she was merely at the protest because it was her administrative duty to oversee the safety of the students and to keep the event “lawful.” She has repeatedly said she was not an “active participant.”

But James said he saw Raimondo “standing directly in front of the store with a megaphone, orchestrating some of the activities of the students. It appeared she was the voice of authority. She was telling the kids what to do, where to go. Where to get water, use the restrooms, where to make copies.”

The copy making was needed to get more flyers for the students to pass out. These flyers said Gibson’s had a long history of racial profiling, had assaulted the shoplifting students, encouraged a boycott of Gibson’s, and gave a list of other stores to shop with.

James said Raimondo was taking part in the distribution of these flyers. “She had a stack of them,” James testified, “and while she was talking on the bullhorn, she handed out half of them to a student who then went and passed them out.”