Campus Wokesters with boundary problems got “woke” for real on Thursday when an Ohio jury laid an additional $33-million for punitive damages on top of $11-million in compensatory damages already awarded against Oberlin College for running a “social justice” campaign to ruin the business of a four-generation small-town bakery that followed the shoplifting arrest of three black Oberlin College students there in 2016.
The precipitating incident happened the day after the presidential election when the Oberlin College campus suffered a collective emotional breakdown over the election results. Gibson’s Bakery and Food Mart, on the Oberlin town square, also sells wine and deli products and has been a fixture in downtown Oberlin for generations. The three students first tried to buy wine with fake ID and, failing to do that, attempted to walk out with two bottles. They were followed outside by one of the Bakery family members, Allyn Gibson. A fight ensued. Police arrested the kids. The college’s attempt to steer the case out of the court system failed. The three students eventually pleaded guilty in August 2017 to theft and aggravated trespassing, and were required by their plea agreements to declare that they had behaved wrongfully and that the bakery was not a racist establishment.
In the event, Oberlin College Dean of students, Meredith Raimondo, had organized students, faculty, and staff to mount days of demonstrations outside Gibson’s Bakery, accusing it of racism and systematic profiling of black students. At times, Ms. Raimondo appeared to lead the demonstration with a bullhorn, and handed out leaflets labeling Gibson’s as “racist.” The college also dropped its business arrangement with Gibson’s, which had supplied the college with donuts and bagels for decades. Gibson’s then sued both Oberlin College, and Ms. Raimondo in particular, for libel and for attempting to ruin its business.
The Oberlin case is of a piece with the widespread dishonest, despotic, and sadistic behavior syndrome that has roiled college campuses all over the country, and infected every corner of national life, including the giant social media companies, the corporate HR departments, the entire Democratic Party, virtually all show business, and the US Military. Wokesterism employs the same tactics used by Mao Zedong’s Red Guard during China’s “cultural revolution” of the 1960s — an epic fiasco of mass coercion in which millions of innocent people were imprisoned, tortured, and executed to consolidate the ageing and ailing Mao’s power and purge all dissenters. Even the Chinese communist party got sick of it and quashed the hysteria after Mao’s death.
Oberlin’s lame defense in the penalty phase of the court case was to plead poverty despite a nearly one-billion-dollar endowment — at a school which charges $70,000-a-year to attend. The punitive damages required the jury to find actual malice in the college’s behavior. In fact, the jury’s award of $33.2-million exceeded a statutory Ohio damages cap of double compensatory damages (the $11-million).
In many cases like Oberlin’s around the nation — such as the mob that attacked author Charles Murray (The Bell Curve) at Middlebury College, the mobs that drove out biology professor Bret Weinstein at Evergreen College, the mob that bullied Nicholas Christakas at Yale, the serial mobs that disrupted many speakers at UC Berkeley — the mysterious common denominator is the acquiescence of college presidents and other campus authorities to the hysteria of the moment. The truth is, they were AWOL at best and often complicit in the action. The uproar at Oberlin may have been “triggered” by the dismaying election results of 2016, but a lot of this quasi-religious hysteria has been going on since long before the much-reviled Mr. Trump came on the scene. Campus deans and presidents have a lot to answer for. Until now, they have all skated neatly from scrutiny, with the help of an amazingly incurious news media. The hefty dollar judgment against Oberlin may be a caution to other college admins across the land that there actually are consequences for their cowardly and dishonorable behavior.
Note: The New York Times did not even report the final disposition of the Oberlin libel suit the day after the jury’s punitive damage award. They don’t want to know about it, and they don’t want youto know about it. The omission tells you everything you need to know about the descent of the old liberalism into a maw of delusion and bad faith and the appalling failures of institutional leadership across the USA.