An appeals court ruled last week that Oberlin College, a progressive liberal arts college in Ohio, must pay a whopping $31 million to a small bakery and convenience store near the college following a protracted legal battle.
Students and officials at Oberlin falsely accused Gibson’s Bakery, a small family business near Oberlin’s campus, of engaging in racial profiling and discrimination against black students and customers following a high profile incident in 2016. One of the sons of the owner of Gibson’s Bakery confronted a group of black students who were attempting to steal wine from the store, leading to a scuffle including an assault of a store employee by one of the suspected shoplifters. Police soon arrived and charged the three with shoplifting and they eventually pleaded guilty to the charges.
However, before the guilty plea, Oberlin officials and students accused the store and bakery of racism and called for a boycott. Public protests were held outside of the bakery and college officials suspended business contracts with the bakery.
The Oberlin College student senate even passed a resolution stating that the bakery “has a history of racial profiling and discriminatory treatment of students and residents alike.” The student senate asked leading college officials to condemn the bakery, and urged students to “immediately cease all support, financial and otherwise, of Gibson’s.”
The bakery launched a lawsuit against Oberlin in 2017, accusing the college of devastating the business and baselessly smearing its reputation. Last week, Ohio’s Ninth District Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Gibson’s Bakery, ruling that Oberlin must pay the small business over $31 million in damages.
“At trial, it was absolutely clear to the jury (as reflected by the verdict) that there was not a shred of truth in the vicious statements about the Gibsons and that the College caused the devastating harm,” lawyers representing the Gibsons stated following the appeals court ruling. “The truth prevailed.”
An Oberlin media representative stated that the school was “obviously disappointed that the appeals court affirmed the judgment in its ruling earlier today.”
In the video below, David Gibson of Gibson’s Bakery reacts to the recent ruling: