Michael Knowles: Oberlin learns high price of 'social justice'

Gutfeld on Oberlin College losing $11 million to a bakery

When a story about racism falls apart, the activist media slinks away without addressing their own role in magnifying the lies.

“Social justice” has lost a round to actual justice.

An Ohio jury on Friday ordered Oberlin College to pay $11 million in damages to a local bakery the school wrongly smeared as “racist.” The verdict in a lawsuit stemmed from a 2016 incident in which three Oberlin students were arrested on an accusation of attempting to “steal wine or otherwise illegally obtain wine” from Gibson’s Food Mart and Bakery.

Such behavior is commonplace on college campuses and if the story ended there would likely have attracted little attention. But because the students in question were black, the social justice warriors in the Oberlin administration leaped into action.

OBERLIN COLLEGE TO PAY BAKERY $11M AFTER FURTHERING RACISM ACCUSATIONS: JURY

Oberlin Vice President and Dean of Students Meredith Raimondo coordinated a protest with other deans, professors, and students in front of the store. They handed out hundreds of copies of a flier that accused the store’s owners of racially profiling and discriminating against the black students.

“This is a RACIST establishment,” the flier read, “with a LONG ACCOUNT of RACIAL PROFILING and DISCRIMINATION. DON’T BUY.

“This unfortunate incident was triggered by an attempt to purchase alcohol,” one of the students admitted. “I believe the employees of Gibson’s actions were not racially motivated. They were merely trying to prevent an underage sale.”

The flier also listed 10 of Gibson’s competitors and encouraged students to patronize them instead. Later that month, the college cut all business ties with Gibson’s Food Mart and Bakery.

Nine months later, the truth caught up with the leftist college administrators’ narrative. In August 2017, the students accused in the incident pleaded guilty to attempted theft and aggravated trespass, according to court documents.

“This unfortunate incident was triggered by an attempt to purchase alcohol,” one of the students admitted. “I believe the employees of Gibson’s actions were not racially motivated. They were merely trying to prevent an underage sale.”

The students’ overdue honesty offered little consolation to Gibson’s owners, whose business had long since cratered thanks to the college’s persistent campaign of defamation and boycotts.

Increasingly, unjust campus “social justice” crusades harness the power of the lynch mob as judge, jury and executioner of their targets’ reputations.

Due process has all but disappeared on campuses around the country, as university tribunals substitute for courts of justice in doling out punishments for alleged crimes ranging from “hate speech” to rape, and universities rarely bear any cost for their mistakes.

At Yale, administrators suspended Afghani student Saifullah Khan over unproven allegations of rape in 2015. When the case went to trial, a jury of his peers found Khan not guilty. Ten months later, Yale expelled him anyway.

A New York Times report on the Oberlin verdict bemoaned the jury’s decision.

The Times quoted First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams as saying: “The notion that uninhibited student speech can lead to vast financial liability for the universities at which it occurs threatens both the viability of educational institutions and ultimately the free speech of their students.”

But “uninhibited student speech” didn’t spark the boycotts and libel. The college’s own administration spread the lie. Oberlin’s vice president and dean of students defamed Gibson’s as “racist” and encouraged students to boycott.

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At long last, an American college will pay a price for its “social justice” smears. If Oberlin hopes to recoup some of that $11 million judgment, it might start with the salaries of its ever-expanding pack of reckless, leftist administrators who exist to stir up these problems in the first place.

Administrative bloat has caused tuitions to skyrocket even as the quality and integrity of our colleges and universities has collapsed. An Ohio jury has taught Oberlin an expensive lesson. Let’s hope Oberlin – along with every other university in the country – learns from it.

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