Ouch! Oberlin College and its SJWs Hit with Huge Court Verdict

Discussion in 'Political Discussions' started by heirophant, Jun 10, 2019.

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  1. heirophant

    heirophant Well-Known Member

    Gibson's bakery is located across the street from Oberlin College, is family owned and has been an Oberlin OH fixture since the 1800's. It seems that in 2016 three Oberlin students tried to steal bottles of wine from Gibsons and employees, including the son of the owner, chased them across the street onto college property, calling police and having them arrested. The students later pled guilty to shoplifting charges.

    Well, the three students were black and the Gibson's people were white. By the next day the Oberlin student government had met and declared Gibson's to be "racist". Fliers were printed up and distributed around the town calling Gibson's "racist" and calling for a general boycott of Gibsons. The college canceled a long standing business relationship with Gibson's (the bakery supplied the college with baked goods).

    According to Gibson's court filings, the Oberlin dean who was adviser to the student government and other college staffers were among those passing around the fliers. The court filings allege that the college actually canceled classes so that its students could go demonstrate. Hundreds of demonstrators gathered outside chanting "fuck Gibson's" and similar things. The college allegedly provided food and drink to the demonstrators.

    Gibson's suffered huge business losses, had to lay off most of their employees, and was near bankruptcy. So a year later they sued both Oberlin College and the dean.

    The college alleged that it was all the students' work and that the college was just protecting their students' safety and first-amendment rights. An e-mail that the college's VP and General Counsel just sent out to all alumni says, "As we have stated, colleges cannot be held liable for the independent actions of their students. Institutions of higher education are obligated to protect freedom of speech on their campuses and respect their students' decision to peacefully exercise their First amendment rights. Oberlin College acted in accordance with these obligations."

    Well, a jury didn't agree, found for the plaintiffs and just slapped $11 million in compensatory damages on Oberlin. Tomorrow the jury meets again to consider punitive damages, which could total an additional $22 million.

    Of course the college will doubtless appeal...

    All of the court filings and daily trial commentary from a source sympathetic to the Gibsons here:

    https://legalinsurrection.com/2019/06/verdict-jury-awards-gibsons-bakery-11-million-against-oberlin-college/

    A short news item from a college trade publication more sympathetic to Oberlin here:

    https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2019/06/10/oberlin-ordered-pay-bakery-11-million-over-protests
     
  2. Helpful2013

    Helpful2013 Member

    I though this bit from the first article was telling. The Raimondo mentioned is Meredith Raimondo, Dean of Students.

    Roger Copeland, a retired Oberlin College professor of theater and dance, was in the courtroom and seemed ecstatic after the jury came back with their verdict. Prof. Copeland is somewhat famous in the courtroom for getting this response on a Raimondo text to co-workers after a letter-to-the editor he wrote was critical of the school for their handling of the Gibson’ affair. “Fuck him,” Raimondo responded in a text message about Copeland. “I’d say unleash the students if I wasn’t convinced this needs to be put behind us.”

    “I’m exhilarated by this verdict,” Copeland said, whose wife Michele worked at the school in food service and testified she was under orders by the school to cut the business off from the cafeteria bagels and pastries they provided because of the student unrest.

    “What is most amazing about this trial is that the public was able to see what the process really was in how the school goes about its business,” Copeland said. “It’s almost like the mask has been ripped off the face and we can now see what the face really looks like.”​
     
  3. heirophant

    heirophant Well-Known Member

    Raimondo was adviser to the Oberlin student government and was observed by witnesses participating in the demonstrations and handing out the boycott leaflets.

    I believe that particular e-mail was introduced into evidence by Gibson's and probably did more than anything to counter Oberlin's argument that everything that happened was the independent actions of the students and that Oberlin's only institutional role in the whole thing was to ensure their students' safety and that their "first amendment rights" (to defame, harass and intimidate?) were respected. Except that here's Oberlin's dean of students suggesting that she both controlled the students' "leash" and was able and willing to use that power vindictively to punish individuals that she didn't like.

    She was individually named in the complaint and some of that $11 million judgement was against her personally, but apparently she has an employment agreement with the college where they pay any work-related court judgments against her, so that she pays nothing out of pocket.

    Yesterday, the jury was to reconvene to consider punitive damages. But right before the jurors were to enter the courtroom, Oberlin's attorneys made a motion to declare a mistrial. The jurors were dismissed for the day and the judge took the motion for consideration, later issuing a decision denying it.

    The judge also made a separate ruling that the jurors could decide whether to assess Oberlin additionally for Gibsons' attorney fees. These attorneys are probably 'on contingency' rather than being paid by the hour, and will get a percentage of whatever jury award they win. So adding that to the compensatory and punitive damages (which could total as much as $33 million) could amount to millions more.

    Of course Oberlin can handle the judgment no matter how large it is, their endowment is near $900 million. So at the very worst, it will only cost them some 4% of their endowment. But expect them and all of American (and international) higher education to start shrieking about how the college is being murdered. (And expect the "news" media to run with that narrative.)

    We also have a tip-off about what Oberlin's future strategy will be. They will appeal, claiming that this trial was tainted, and asking appellate courts to reverse it. All for the furtherance of justice, of course.
     
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2019
  4. heirophant

    heirophant Well-Known Member

    The jury just returned its verdict on punitive damages and they hit Oberlin with both barrels, assessing $33 million in punitive damages. In Ohio, punitive damages are generally (but not always) capped at 2x compensatory damages, which were $11 million in this case, so the punitive damage award may be trimmed back to $22 million. The jury also awarded the Gibsons attorney fees, to be paid by Oberlin and to be determined by the judge. So Oberlin appears to be out $33+ to 44+ million. (Couldn't happen to a more deserving college.)

    It looks to me like the jury was angry and wanted to send a message loud and clear.

    https://legalinsurrection.com/2019/06/oberlin-college-hit-with-maximum-punitive-damages-capped-at-22-million-by-law-in-gibsons-bakery-case/

    http://www.chroniclet.com/cops-and-courts/2019/06/13/Gib.html

    The media are already starting to howl. Yesterday, Forbes ran an opinion piece (by a university professor who is an Oberlin graduate) who argued that holding colleges liable for the actions of their students will end up having a chilling effect on "free speech". Today, the New York Times ran an opinion piece saying the same thing.

    Never mind that 1. "Free speech" doesn't include or in any way justify defamation (libel and slander). 2. Oberlin was hit for aiding, abetting, joining in with and (arguably) even inciting their students in that defamation. And 3., the "free speech" that our media and professors are so concerned about protecting has already ceased to exist on many college campuses today (probably including Oberlin) for anyone accused of "racism", "sexism", any number of "-phobias" or even support for the democratically elected President of the United States.
     
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2019
    Helpful2013 likes this.
  5. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly

    Sounds like the sort of award that prompts settlements to avoid appeals. But I suppose we'll see.
     
  6. Helpful2013

    Helpful2013 Member

    One of the items missed in most reaction pieces is that one of the Gibson family was battered by the three students.

    I found it very heartening that people have come from all over the state of Ohio to shop at Gibson's and show support, many of whom are Oberlin graduates.
     
  7. Kizmet

    Kizmet Moderator Staff Member

  8. FTFaculty

    FTFaculty Well-Known Member

    Sure, I've done it before back when I was the corporate counsel. Just automatically appeal, then settle. Probably can get it cut in half, move on. Bigger issue here is the dangerous tendency of colleges and universities to hire people who are malignant narcissists in administration, it seems. That dean of students or whatever she is should be fired twice, run out of town on a rail, whatever.
     
  9. Ted Heiks

    Ted Heiks Moderator and Distinguished Senior Member Staff Member

    Oberlin College got exactly what they deserved.
     

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