Oberlin College finally pays up, gives full $36.6M to bakery they defamed as racist

A years-long saga between Oberlin College and Gibson’s Bakery has finally ended with the higher education center paying out tens of millions of dollars for defaming the family-operated store.

In 2017, Allyn Gibson and his son, David Gibson sued Oberlin claiming the institution had harmed their business after the college facilitated protests against the bakery. A year prior, a black student had been tackled by David Gibson’s son after the young man tried to flee the store with a stolen bottle of wine. Three arrests were made in the incident, but that was just the beginning of the legal nightmare the Gibsons faced.

After approaching the brink of bankruptcy thanks in part to Oberlin’s actions, the bakery was legally vindicated in 2019 when a jury awarded $44 million to the slighted business. However, a judge would later reduce the amount to $25 million. If the college had paid out immediately, they could have saved a lot of money. Instead, they opted to appeal the decision in May of 2022, refusing to hand over any money to the bakers. In August, the Ohio Supreme Court declined to hear the college’s case, and in September the institution began making payments.

In a statement at the time, the college claimed that they were choosing not to pursue the matter anymore and would finally be handing over the money they owe.

“Oberlin’s core mission is to provide our students with a distinctive and outstanding undergraduate education. The size of this verdict is significant,” it said. “However, our careful financial planning, which includes insurance coverage, means that we can satisfy our legal obligation without impacting our academic and student experience. It is our belief that the way forward is to continue to support and strengthen the quality of education for our students now and into the future.”

Perhaps the “academic and student experience” would not have been at risk if the vice president and dean of students of Oberlin College had not actively participated in protests against the business, even going so far as to hand out fliers to students accusing the business of discriminatory behavior and racism. At one point, the college ordered the campus food provider to stop using Gibson’s Bakery goods, directly impacting the business’s bottom line.

Ultimately, the college ended up paying out $36.6 million – including interest that had been building up over the years – to the bakery. While money will not be able to heal all the wounds they sustained from the assault not only on their business, but their family name, it is a small amount of justice.

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