> "Fuck him. I’d say unleash the students if I wasn’t convinced this needs to be put behind us."
Oh wow. That's a very interesting and scary quote. They think the students are their little minions to brainwash and "unleash" on someone.
Are these people still employed there? Because it would seem they have severely damaged the reputation of the school for years to come. I wonder also how the students who participated in the protests feel. Did they realize they were manipulated, do they regret showing up or even graduating from the school altogether.
> “Think one person can change the world? So do we,” has been Oberlin’s official motto for quite some time.
Well these administrators did change the world, so the motto is true. The only problem is, it doesn't seem like they changed it for the better.
Edit: There's apparently no legal advantage to firing her:
> Despite being found guilty of libel, Meredith Raimondo won’t have to pay any of the $44 million settlement out of pocket. The state jury ordered the college to pay the entirety of the settlement. It’s unclear if Raimondo will remain on staff moving forward after the court decision on Thursday.
She was found guilty of libel by supporting & being part of the student protests/boycotts/misinformation campaign. It's hard to say what students think that weren't immediately at the protests or printing flyers, but insofar that the only public statements of larger numbers of students were those protesting, it seems they did share those opinion, and might even go much further than that.
So there's a tendency to take shortcuts. In a good way, makin g intuitive leaps. In a bad way, getting stuck with our preconceptions.
And then, as you say, there's the social aspect, identifying with our tribe, hunting pack, or whatever. Wanting acceptance and approval from our peers.
While IANAL, I suspect that, if there were no stipulation from the jury, Oberlin might just cut her loose. So the jury wanted to ensure that someone with adequate resources would be on the hook.
There's also the issue that she's hugely popular among students, graduates, and donors. And generally, among people who care about "social justice" (as they see it). So firing her would have some negative PR consequences. Maybe even financial consequences, albeit not as much as $44 million.
Comment is free, but facts are sacred. The facts of the case can only be interpreted to make Oberlin look heroic if the Gibsons were in fact racist; a jury found that they weren't. If we accept that the jury were correct in that judgement, then the actions of Oberlin are inexcusable - the college administration were actively complicit in libelling the Gibsons. I see no reason to doubt that the jury came to a conclusion that was justified by the evidence.
If we accept the facts of the case, what possible alternative explanation is there? That it's OK to try and ruin a business based on the mere suspicion that they might possibly be racist? That accusations of racism should be believed uncritically, regardless of the evidence? That the law of libel is an unjust restriction of speech and that anyone should be able to make false accusations with impunity?
I'm genuinely looking for a steelman argument, but I can't find one. The closest I could find to a defence of Oberlin are the articles below, which argue that a) Oberlin should not be culpable for merely failing to rein in the actions of students and faculty and b) accusing someone of being racist is merely an opinion, so cannot by definition be libellous. On the first point, I think the evidence is clear that senior administrators acting in an official capacity were far more than passive bystanders. On the second point, while an accusation of racism in the general case may possibly be mere opinion, an accusation that the Gibsons engaged in racial profiling is actionable.
I would be very surprised if the legal definition of racism in this context is anything but the colloquial one. In English or Commonwealth law that would be the “reasonable man” test. The attempt to elide the difference between the sociological concept of structural racism and a person being racist as a description has not had enough success to be able to pass the reasonable man test.
There is no legal definition of racism. There are legal definitions of unlawful discrimination
> I wouldn't take the jury's decision here as a 'fact'
You don't have to agree with the jury, but the very purpose of juries is to decide "facts". If a jury decides that something is true, then legally, it is true, even if you personally disagree. Giving such weighty authority to a collection of people from society is not a bug of the system, it's a feature.
In addition to whatever racial undercurrents are present there's a strong students vs townies tension in the town of Oberlin and the store, again not surprising with a very activist liberal school in the middle of nowhere. Car ownership is actively discouraged and most students don't have other options for shopping so despite there being no love lost neither party really had other options. Students needed the store and the store needed business. General consensus among my friends is that the university's egregious missteps gave Gibsons an opportunity to cash out of a business they didn't particularly enjoy being in and they took it.
Unless someone can point to some pre-November 2016 documentation of Gibson's racially profiling I'm going to be extremely skeptical of that claim. The article even notes that Gibson's is conspicuously absent from a discussion of racial discrimination by Oberlin businesses during the civil rights era.
> David Gibson brought statistics from the Oberlin Police Department to the college showing that of the 40 people arrested for shoplifting at Gibson’s over the previous five years, 33 were students of the college, 32 were white, six were African American and two were Asian, which almost perfectly matched the racial makeup of the city.
There seems to be some legitimate dispute over that. And keep in mind that this was a libel case over fliers that claimed the Gibsons were racist. Truth is an absolute defense for libel, and racial profiling sounds like pretty strong evidence of racism.
So if it was easy to prove that the Gibsons had a history of racial profiling...well, why wasn't it done during the trial? :)
It’s not the most unfair historical maneuvering ever, there is at least some culpability taken though. But for people outside of the distortion field...
I can’t in good consciousness link to any of the parallel viewpoints, but mostly they center on “chilling free speech effects” of the case, and the vast majority are college-associated interests posting. Apparently oberlin has trouble with the concept of objective reality, but I do not, this story has one bad actor.
I spent some months at Oberlin years ago in close contact with student organizers there. Nothing about this case is too surprising. It's a boring town with arguably the nation's most progressive politics and many students looking for something, anything, to organize around.
i think you will have a hard time finding anything besides letters to alumni that make them sound like 'good guys', though
Kameron Dunbar, also a fresh Oberlin graduate, said he had “uncomfortable experiences” along racial lines in Gibson’s, including times where he was asked to take off his backpack in the store when other, white customers weren’t asked to do the same. He remembers feeling “watched in ways that may not manifest the same for a white audience.”
“I never wrote a review on Yelp, I didn’t write to Better Business Bureau — I just decided not to patronize there anymore,” Mr. Dunbar said.
This article and Mr. Dunbar’s potential bias are discussed in TFA, with the clincher:
“Neither the New York Times, nor Rolling Stone, nor any of the other media outlets that quoted Dunbar noted that he worked alongside Jonathan Aladin in the Office of the Student Treasurer and was a paid blogger for Oberlin’s Office of Communications.”
Not exactly star witness material, but precisely the kind of person who might subtly push an agenda in the media, facts be damned.
Let’s assume the Gibson store does racially profile customers, and does it in a way that doesn’t quite bubble up to the arrest statistics. Even so, why would you make your “hill to die on” out of a case where their suspicions were majestically justified, where the customer was not only shoplifting, but willing to assault the shopkeeper and kick him while he’s down?
I am, however, suspicious that there have been so very many editorials about this when so many people in conservative circles love to talk about "far left academia" who are "stiffing free speech" and are taking the terrible actions of a small number of people as representative of all of academia.
There is a certain extent at which one might say it's institutionalized, in which case the bad actors can no longer be excused as only a few bad actors, but part of a system that enabled it. In all those cases (and this one with Oberlin), many more people were aware of what was going on, but chose to turn the other way or even silently go along with it. So this seems "worse" than a case where an employee is acting on their own accord while hiding it from the institution.
If we take a position that academia is not at fault because of these more extreme bad actors, then I don't see how we can be upset at the Catholic Church, Enron executives, conservatives, etc.
I'm sure that's not what you meant, but this sounds like you're suggesting it shouldn't be reported on (in depth) because it gives critics ammunition.
I think the most pro-Oberlin spin you can get that doesn't completely ignore the factual record would be something like:
"The Gibsons did nothing wrong, Aladin and his friends were shoplifitng and did assault Allyn Gibson, and the resulting student protests were utterly groundless. However, Oberlin College itself was merely a hapless bystander. The internal emails, although they sounded terrible, were taken out of context; a small number of administrators may have mispoken, but phrases like "unleash the students" were utter hyperbole. The guilty verdict against the college hinged very strongly on the extent that Raimondo was directing the protests and, especially, to the extent that she was distributing the flyers, and there was a legitimate factual disputes about this. Yes, a jury determined that Raimondo had distributed the fliers, and her contention that someone had merely passed her a flyer which she had unwittingly passed on to someone else, perhaps without realising the content, and certainly without endorsing it was not deemed credible. Still, it's not implausible that the jury got it wrong, and Raimondo was right. In that case, Oberlin was merely guilty of incompetence and poor phrasing in internal emails, neither of which is strictly speaking a tort."
I don't entirely agree with that take, but it's plausible. A lot hinged on the actions of Raimondo during the protests. Had she simply avoided touching the pamphlets (and even better, not been there with a bull horn at all), presumably all the events would have still taken place (the boycotts, the harassment, the protests), but Oberlin wouldn't have been found liable.
I mean, that doesn't make them the "good guy", but maybe they're not the Machiavellian villians of the piece, but just idiots, and unfairly were hit by the guilty verdict. That's about as good as you can hope for I think. :)
What I found the most interesting was the fact that the original arrests happen the day after the election of Trump. That actually explained a lot to me about why a young man who was the student treasurer of the college would do something like this and why the campus would react they way they did. (though college students tend to shoplift a lot more than you'd expect in my experience)
Unfortunately, people have a way of acting out their anger and fear about things that are to big or to far away for them to touch on their local communities. Sometimes twisting parts of them them into mistaken effigies of larger events or people they truefully have no connection to.
I hope Oberlin has to pay every penny the jury awarded, though I doubt it will.
I think it's important to note that the biases Oberlin showed are something we can all do if we're not careful.
How do we hurt "structures and people" that have done nothing wrong by, for example, being angry at Oberlin's administrators in the here and now?
> I think it's important to note that the biases Oberlin showed are something we can all do if we're not careful.
We can all do any number of things, but to be this committed to knowingly being wrong out of tribalist ideology, that's not that common.
I see no facts presented in this article that align with your claims. This is pure speculation and ideological projection on your part.
This kind of overwrought rhetoric is exactly the problem with what went down at Oberlin. Start and stop with the facts: a man attempted to shoplift from a liquor store. When caught, he and his companions physically beat the clerk.
If I recall correctly, times were heated after the election and many people (especially on the left) were pretty outraged at the prospect of living in a more racist America for 4 years.
Other than that, you are right: Facts people, stick to the facts.
Sorry, maybe I am being stupid today, but can you explain your reasoning here?
You seem to be saying there is a causal link between a particular candidate being elected and an underage minor shoplifting, stealing alcohol, and assaulting a shopkeeper? Further you assert the former justified the latter?
Hopefully, Oberlin ceases their dispute as soon as possible.