Despite a unanimous jury verdict finding Oberlin College and Dean of Students Meredith Raimondo guilty of libeling father and son Allyn W. and David Gibson, and their bakery, as racist, officials of the liberal arts school continue to go after the family and its store. The college is preparing to appeal the June 7 verdict and the $31.5 million damages awarded the Gibsons and their lawyers.
Oberlin College — one of the 20 most expensive universities in the country and the largest employer in the small Ohio town — is used to getting its way.
College President Carmen Twillie Ambar and other officials have toured the country, seeking media coverage of their slanders, claiming the school and the students’ “free speech” are the victims, not the Gibsons. Their disdain and class prejudice against working people and small business owners in the area shine through.
In its latest attempt at undermining the verdict and driving Gibson’s bakery and market out of business, the college filed a post-trial motion Aug. 28 to unseal and make public personal Facebook postings by Allyn D. Gibson, the son of David Gibson. Allyn D., who wasn’t a party in the suit, was the store clerk on duty who caught an Oberlin College student shoplifting.
The Gibsons’ lawsuit stems from that November 2016 incident, when three students who are Black were involved in an attempt to steal wine from the store. There is a long history of student shoplifting in the town, acknowledged and joked about in the student newspaper. Allyn D. Gibson followed the students out and attempted to stop them until police could arrive. By the time the cops showed up, the three had young Allyn D. on the ground and were beating him. They were arrested.
Over the next two days, Raimondo encouraged and organized students — giving them use of college facilities and resources and offering class credits — to protest outside the bakery. She joined in handing out flyers calling for a boycott. The flyer falsely claimed that Gibson’s is “a RACIST establishment with a LONG ACCOUNT of RACIAL PROFILING and DISCRIMINATION.”
The university canceled Gibson’s contract to provide baked goods to the campus dining hall and carried out other actions aimed at exacting maximum economic harm on the family.
The three students later pled guilty and issued statements that there was no racial bias involved in their case.
Gibson’s lawyers opposed the college’s new motion. “Unhappy with the jury’s verdict, Defendants now seek to exploit these materials,” they explained, “in a further effort to harass and smear the Gibson family.”
“They should not be permitted to do so,” the lawyers said.
Lorain County Judge John Miraldi agreed, denying the college’s motion Sept. 18, noting that Oberlin College “made no attempt to introduce these materials as evidence of the Bakery’s reputation in the community” during the trial.
Oberlin College officials try to paint the verdict by a jury drawn from Lorain County as an attack on students’ free speech and right to protest. They blame it on “prejudice” by area workers. But the lawsuit wasn’t directed at the students at all, let alone their right to protest. It was aimed at the malicious actions of college officials, who helped organize the protests and promoted the slanders of racism against the Gibsons.
Emails entered as evidence during the trial showed that Raimondo threatened “unleashing the students” on a professor who said that college officials were making a mistake in slandering the Gibsons.
An FAQ featured on the college’s official website continues to insinuate that Gibson’s is racist, violent and at fault for the 2016 incident.
Before they filed their lawsuit, the Gibsons asked the college to make a simple statement of fact that the business has never conducted racial profiling. The college refuses to this day.