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Oberlin College To Pay $31M For Accusing Bakery of Racism



Gibson's Bakery on College Street in downtown Oberlin | Oberlin College To Pay $31M For Accusing Bakery of Racism | featured

Progressive Oberlin College lost its appeal against a lawsuit brought by Gibson's Bakery. Now, an appeals court ordered the college to pay Gibson $31 million, which it accused of racism in 2016.

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Gibson’s Bakery Falsely Accused of Racism By Oberlin College

Memorial Arch, made of Indiana limestone in 1903 | Gibson’s Bakery Falsely Accused of Racism By Oberlin College 

Oberlin is a progressive liberal arts college and music conservatory with approximately 3,000 students. It charges annual tuition of nearly $60,000.

Meanwhile, Gibson's Bakery is a 135-year old establishment on College Street in Oberlin, Ohio. In 2016, the owner’s son allegedly confronted three black Oberlin College students for allegedly shoplifting wine.

This resulted in one of the students assaulting a store employee. Later, the three students pleaded guilty to attempted theft and aggravated trespassing. As part of the plea agreement, they state that “their actions were wrong and that the store wasn't racist.”

However, the Oberlin College student senate saw the matter differently. Instead of just treating the incident as a petty crime, the student body passed a resolution to condemn Gibson’s Bakery.

It claimed that Gibson has “a history of racial profiling and discriminatory treatment of students and residents alike”.

It then called on all students to boycott the bakery and asked Oberlin College President Marvin Krislov to condemn Gibson’s. 

Gibson’s Bakery Fired Back At Oberlin College With Lawsuit

Gibson’s fired back with a lawsuit, alleging that Oberlin College painted them as racist without any evidence.

In 2017, the owners said that the college’s campaign ruined the bakery financially, even as it used unfounded accusations.

Two years later, Lorain County Judge John Miraldo ordered Oberlin to pay $40 million in damages. Later, Miraldo reduced the damages to $25 million in damages plus $6.2 million in lawyer’s fees. The award became the largest defamation judgment in Ohio. 

Last Thursday, Ohio’s Ninth District Court of Appeals upheld the judgment. It said that Oberlin College must pay Gibson’s Bakery more than $31 million.

The decision cited “the active role that Oberlin played in the publication of the Senate Resolution”. This publication called for the boycott of the bakery, which led to the loss of income.  

No Evidence To Back Claims of Racism

“The truth prevailed,” according to the law firm representing the Gibson family. The trial showed that Oberlin College did not have any evidence in their accusations that the Gibsons were racist. The judgment proved that Oberlin caused “devastating harm” to the business.  

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the college issued a statement reacting to the verdict. The school was “obviously disappointed that the appeals court affirmed the judgment in its ruling earlier today.

We are reviewing the court’s opinion carefully as we evaluate our options and determine the next steps,” the spokesperson added.

Oberlin College To Reconnect with the Community

Oberlin Director of Media Relations Scott Wargo also noted the aftermath of the case filed by Gibson’s Bakery. “We recognize that the issues raised by this case have been challenging,” he said.

Not just for the school, but for the entire Oberlin community. As a result, the school will renew its focus on its partnership with the city, downtown businesses, and its residents.

“We will continue in that important work while remaining focused on our core educational mission,” he said. 

Watch the Vanguard News video reporting that the Appeals court upholds a $25M judgment against Oberlin College:

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