Ohio’s Oberlin College to Pay $36.5M After Labeling Local Bakery Racist

Local bakery Photo Source: Adobe Stock Image

Oberlin College located in Oberlin, Ohio, has been ordered to pay $36.5 million to a local bakery after the college touted claims that the bakery was racist.

The multi-million dollar payout comes after a shoplifting incident happened at Gibson’s Bakery in November 2016. At the time, three Oberlin college students were arrested for shoplifting. Student Jonathan Aladin was arrested after he attempted to steal wine from the bakery. Two other students that were with Aladin, Cecelia Whettston and Endia J. Lawrence were also arrested.

Following the arrest, students, staff members at Oberlin College, and community members began to protest and picket outside the bakery’s doors. Signs made by protesters along with fliers that were created and distributed by the college accused the bakery of being racist in their claims that the three students were shoplifting.

The three students eventually pleaded guilty to the charges of shoplifting, and Aladin confessed in a statement that he tried to use a fake ID to purchase the alcohol. Aladin also went on to dismantle the racial claims made by the protesters. His statement details, "I believe the employees of Gibson's actions were not racially motivated. They were merely trying to prevent an underage sale."

As a result of the protests, the family-owned bakery explains that they suffered severe financial losses after being labeled racist. In 2017, the Gibson Bakery filed a lawsuit that accused the college, including the Vice President and Dean of Students Meredith Raimondo, of perpetuating the narrative that the bakery was racist. Their lawsuit explained that Raimondo "handed out hundreds of copies of the flier" to students, staff, and community members throughout Oberlin. The fliers touted that "Gibson's Bakery and its owners racially profiled and discriminated against Aladin, Whettston, and Lawrence."

The fliers also explicitly accused Gibson's Bakery of being “a RACIST establishment with a LONG ACCOUNT of RACIAL PROFILING and DISCRIMINATION."

After the case was heard, a jury unanimously agreed that Oberlin College's actions had a significant financial impact on Gibson's Bakery. As a result, the college was ordered to pay 36.5 million dollars to the bakery and its owners.

Although Oberlin College attempted to file an appeal, the Ohio Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal.

Oberlin College issued a statement detailing that "the size of this verdict is significant." Their statement goes, "However, our careful financial planning, which includes insurance coverage, means that we can satisfy our legal obligation without impacting our academic and student experience. It is our belief that the way forward is to continue to support and strengthen the quality of education for our students now and into the future."

Oberlin College has also shared that it would not pursue any additional appeals in the case.

Gibson’s Bakery issued a statement of its own following the verdict. They explain that the family “will be able to rebuild the business their family started 137 years ago and keep the lights on for another generation."

Nadia El-Yaouti
Nadia El-Yaouti
Nadia El-Yaouti is a postgraduate at James Madison University where she studied English and Education. She lives in Central Virginia with her husband and two little girls. Although she considers herself a workaholic, when she’s not juggling work, you can be sure to find her traveling the world with her little family.
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