Oberlin College refuses to fork over $33 million awarded to bakery owners after smearing them as racists

While professing a committed partnership with the “business community” a progressive Ohio college continues its refusal to pay damages to a local bakery after an appellate court decision once again ruled in favor of the family-owned business.

On March 31, a panel comprised of three judges ruled unanimously that Oberlin College would have to pay Gibson’s Bakery following their suit which found the school was “liable for libel, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and intentional interference with a business relationship,” as it pertained to a Nov 2016 incident.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the appellate judges upheld a lower court decision to award Gibson’s Bakery $25 million in damages and $6.2 million in legal fees, a reduction from the jury’s original award of $33.2 million in punitive damages with $11.1 million in compensatory damages.

The college, which has pushed back against fulfilling their legal obligations since the Gibson family originally won their suit in 2019, says they are considering their options.

“Oberlin is obviously disappointed that the appeals court affirmed the judgement in its ruling. We are reviewing the Court’s opinion carefully as we evaluate our options and determine next steps,” the college said in a statement obtained by the Daily Mail.

“In the meantime,” the statement went on, “we recognize that the issues raised by this case have been challenging, not only for the parties involved in the lawsuit, but for the entire Oberlin community.”

This claim by Oberlin dramatically diminishes their involvement in what happened to Gibson’s Bakery in 2016 and what has happened to the family since.

As reported, in Nov 2016, three black students, Jonathan Aladin, Endia Lawrence and Cecelia Whettstone, were caught attempting to steal wine from the bakery. When confronted about the theft, the students assaulted Allyn Gibson, the son of the bakery’s owner David Gibson.

Those students claimed that they were the victims of racism only to later recant such accusations under oath. By then it was too late, as Oberlin stood behind the students and facilitated protests against the bakery. They even permitted a defamatory resolution to be published by Oberlin’s Student Senate that accused Gibson of “a history of racial profiling and discriminatory treatment.”

The bakery that had been in operation since 1885 had to lay off the majority of their staff and nearly shut down as the family neared bankruptcy because of the loss of clientele from the smear campaign. As their attorney Owen Rarric said at the time, “Oberlin College went out of their way to harm a good family and longtime business in their community for no real reason.”

There were no consequences for Meredith Raimondo, Oberlin’s dean of students at the time, who helped distribute leaflets that libeled the bakery as racist. She reportedly messaged another dean about wanting to do more to harm the bakery writing, “F*ck him. I’d say unleash the students if I wasn’t convinced this needs to be put behind us.”

The Mail reported that she only stepped down in 2021 to take a position in Georgia at Oglethorpe College. Meanwhile, since the original court ruling, two of the plaintiffs have passed. David Gibson died at the age of 65 and his father Allyn passed at 93.

As the family has suffered these losses with no restitution, Oberlin claims, “We remain committed to strengthening the partnership between the College, the City of Oberlin and its residents, and the downtown business community. We will continue in that important work while remaining focused on our core educational mission.”

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Kevin Haggerty

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