Oberlin College in Ohio is refusing to pay over $30 million in damages that it owes to a small family-owned bakery that the dean accused of racism in 2016.
The liberal arts school was ordered by Ohio’s state appeals court to pay Gibson’s Bakery the massive settlement by April 1, but they have not complied.
On November 9th, 2016, the day after President Donald Trump’s election, three black Oberlin students shoplifted a bottle of wine and a brawl broke out with the employee who caught them. Naturally, the worker called the police.
Gibson’s was soon targeted by Black Lives Matter protesters who claimed that the bakery had racially profiled the shoplifters and had a history of doing so.
Out of forty people arrested for shoplifting from Gibson’s in the five years prior to this incident, only six were black.
Activists were swarming the small 137-year-old business on a daily basis and Oberlin’s Dean of Students at the time, Meredith Raimondo, helped them by distributing pamphlets echoing the racism claims. She even joined in one of the protests and spoke out against the bakery using a bullhorn.
A resolution condemning the bakery was placed in a display case in the student center and the campus food provider was ordered to stop all purchases from the shop — despite having had a contract with them for decades.
The administration told the bakery that they would restore the business relationship only if they stopped prosecuting first-time shoplifters and notify the school instead. Owner David Gibson declined the offer, citing the difficulty in determining who is a first time offender and the high cost of stolen goods.
The shoplifter who took the wine, Jonathan Aladin, had been chased down the street and put in a headlock by store employee Allyn Gibson. He happens to be black and she happens to be white.
Aladin’s friends Endia Lawrence and Cecelia Whettstone, who are also black and were with him for the theft, soon jumped in and the altercation escalated.
“Aladin, Lawrence and Whettstone, would later plead guilty to misdemeanor charges of attempted theft and aggravated trespass, and themselves said Gibson’s actions were not racially motivated,” the Daily Mail reports.
In 2017, the bakery sued the college for the massive loss of business that the dean had contributed to. Two years later, the court ruled in the bakery’s favor and Oberlin was ordered to pay Gibson’s a whopping $25 million plus $6 million in legal fees.
“The unrepentant college has dragged the case out for so long that two of the plaintiffs died while waiting for the cash,” the Daily Mail report noted. “And the college issued a mealy-mouthed statement when contacted by DailyMail.com on Monday, saying: ‘Oberlin is obviously disappointed that the appeals court affirmed the judgment in its ruling. We are reviewing the Court’s opinion carefully as we evaluate our options and determine next steps.'”
“In the meantime, 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,” the statement continued. “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.”
Raimondo was not fired or asked to step down over the incident. She left in 2021 to take a job at Oglethorpe College in Georgia.