The Morning Journal (Lorain, OH)

College president: This is just the beginning

Oberlin College will continue to fight judgment to pay local bakery millions in damages

- By Keith Reynolds kreynolds@morningjou­ @MJ_kreynolds on Twitter

In a June 14 letter to the community, Oberlin College President Carmen Twillie Ambar said the College will continue to fight a judgment that called on it to pay more than $44 million in compensato­ry and punitive damages to a local bakery.

A Lorain County jury gave the award June 13 after a month-long trial in which they ruled Oberlin College and Dean of Student Meredith

Raimondo committed libel against David R. Gibson, his father, Allyn W. Gibson, and their business, Gibson Bros. Inc., which owns Gibson’s Food Mart and Bakery, 23 W. College St.

The panel also found that Oberlin College inflicted intentiona­l emotion distress against David and Allyn Gibson and that Raimondo interfered with the business relationsh­ip between Gibson Bros. Inc. and the College.

In her letter, Ambar said the award is “just one step along the way of what may turn out to be a lengthy and complex legal process.”

“I want to assure you that none of this will sway us from our core values,” she said.

“It will not distract, deter, or materially harm our educationa­l mission, for today’s students or for generation­s to come.”

Ambar said Oberlin College will take its time in deciding what the proper course of action will be going forward and promised to update the community.

“I am confident that when we resolve this matter, it will look substantia­lly different than it looks today,” she said.

Ambar wrote that she is disappoint­ed in the jury’s decision and in the conversati­on the case has sparked across the country.

But the Oberlin College “respects” the verdict and values their connection­s to the community, she said.

“We will learn from this lawsuit as we build a stronger relationsh­ip with our neighbors,” Ambar said.

The full letter is available at current-issues-gibsons-bakery-litigation.

The lawsuit stems from an Oberlin College student protest outside of the bakery in November 2016 after three students got into an altercatio­n with a cashier at the bakery after attempting to steal some wine.

In response, the students demonstrat­ed in front of the store and dispersed a flyer claiming the Gibsons had a history of racial profiling and that the bakery was a racist establishm­ent.

Jonathan Aladin, 21, Cecelia Whettston, 20, and Endia Lawrence, 21, pleaded guilty in August 2017 to attempted theft and aggravated trespassin­g.

Aladin also pleaded guilty to underage purchase of alcohol.

They were sentenced to one year of community control, required to pay restitutio­n and to read statements explicitly stating the incident wasn’t racially motivated.

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