False charges of racism earn one college a libel suit

We live in an era where the masses of Social Justice Warriors have perfected the art of mob rule, particularly when it comes to shutting down businesses which they deem to be insufficiently “woke.” We saw a lot of that during the gay marriage debate, but it crosses over into other areas of non-critical thinking as well. But when such public campaigns are based on falsehoods, nobody ever seems to have to pay a price for it. After all, how do you hold a disorganized and largely anonymous mob of people accountable?

That may (just possibly) be about to change. Last week the Free Beacon featured a story about a small bakery located near Oberlin College in Ohio. The students of Oberlin accused the shop owners of racism and began a very public campaign of protests aimed at shutting them down. (Any of this sounding familiar yet?) The accusations were based on the fact that the owners had apparently sought to prosecute some black students who had visited their shop. But as the details emerged it became clear that racism wasn’t the issue here.

Oberlin College and its vice president have been accused of libel and slander by a local bakery, the owners of which allege in a suit that administrators supported students in an unfounded campaign to paint the establishment’s owners as racist.

The suit against the college and Meredith Raimondo, who is also dean of students, was filed on Nov. 7 in Lorain County Common Pleas Court on behalf of Gibson Bros. Inc., and owners David and Allyn Gibson, the Morning Journal reported.

The complaint comes a year after Oberlin College students held a massive protest in front of Gibson’s Food Mart and Bakery, in response to three of their peers being arrested and charged with shoplifting.

So three students (one of whom was white) were charged with shoplifting at Gibson’s Food Mart and Bakery. Allyn Gibson was physically assaulted during the shoplifting incident. There seems to be no question of innocence because all three of them pleaded guilty to attempted theft and aggravated trespassing

For daring to call the police and have the thieves prosecuted they were branded as racists. Members of the college faculty, including some of the deans, participated in the protests and supported the campaign against the bakery. But police investigating the racism charges found that 40 people had been arrested for shoplifting there in recent years and only six of them were black.

Can the shop owners prevail here and make Oberlin pay up for supporting this baseless campaign and endangering their livelihood? Thomas Lifson at the American Thinker has examined the details and thinks they may have a case that will hold up.

I can very easily imagine a punitive damages award sufficiently large as to “get the attention” of Oberlin’s management. Generally speaking, poorer communities surrounding wealthy colleges are hotbeds of resentment against the privilege and arrogance on campus toward “townies.” Typically, plaintiffs’ lawyers argue that an arrogant large institution held liable for damages needs to have its net worth affected by an award that involves whole digit percentages of that store of value, if it is to be forced to change its ways. One percent of Oberlin’s endowment would be eight million dollars, for instance. If jurors want Oberlin to stop calling innocent people racists, then a punitive damages award in the millions could well be in prospect.

Lifson points out that Oberlin is sitting on an endowment of roughly $800M and they exist in a county with an 85% white population and a per capita income of around $25K. It might not be hard to find a jury that’s not only willing to bring in a guilty verdict but support some very stiff damages as an award. That might send a bit of a message to the rest of the SJW crowd.

Keep in mind that Oberlin has been in the spotlight for preposterous “wokeness” issues before. This is the same school where students complained that the cafeteria food was insufficient in terms of cultural sensitivity and demanded changes. Amazingly, the administration went along with it. The inmates have been running the asylum for a long time at Oberline. A sharp blow to the pocketbook may be the only way to wake them up.

And as is my usual habit, I’ll close with a reminder to any parents thinking of sending their special snowflakes off to Oberlin that the tuition and fees add up to around $68K per year. Is that really where you want to spend your money?