Darkness at Oberlin


by Lou Binninger

“Oh, how the mighty have fallen.”  Out of the Second Great Awakening when more than 600 colleges were founded in the Midwest, Oberlin College was established in 1833 by Presbyterian ministers John Jay Sipherd and Philo P. Stewart to promote Christian values.

In 1835, Oberlin became the first white collegiate institution to admit African American male students and two years later it welcomed all women as well, becoming the first co-ed college in the country. 

Oberlin continued to be a premier institution for blacks for the next century.  By 1900, one third of all black professionals in the U.S. had undergraduate degrees from Oberlin.

In 1858, more than 30 Oberlin students and townspeople invaded a city nearby and freed a male slave held in captivity to be returned to his owners in Kentucky.

Oberlin’s commitment to the abolition of slavery made it a welcoming and safe environment for 19th Century black students.  As part of the Underground Railroad, Oberlin’s intricate network of back road routes and safe houses, the college and town provided refuge for fugitive slaves bound for Canada with Lake Erie being just 15 miles away.

To this end, the school appointed one of its faculty Charles Finney, America’s greatest revivalist and also a fervent abolitionist, to be their second President. Finney routinely denounced slavery from the pulpit and advocated the end to servitude through all means possible.

However, intolerance, “politically correct” group think and racism have consumed and now shamed this once amazing institution. The college is full off anti-frackers, socialists, gender activists, and social justice warriors touting government hand-outs. Oberlin College’s unofficial slogan is clear: “We put the liberal in liberal arts.”

The day after the 2016 election victory of Donald Trump, a black male Oberlin College student was caught shoplifting wine at Gibson’s Bakery and Market in downtown Oberlin, OH. Shoplifting by college students is a big problem in the town. You know, the poor take from the rich.

Gibson’s had been in existence since 1885, was frequented by students, and also provided baked goods to the college dining halls. A scuffle ensued that day and was joined by two black female Oberlin College students accompanying and assisting the male shoplifter. All three eventually would plead guilty to shoplifting and aggravated trespassing, and would avow that Gibson’s was not engaged in racial profiling.

However, prior to the guilty pleas, students at the college declared that Gibson’s was guilty of racial profiling, and large protests were organized outside the bakery. Flyers were circulated saying the Gibsons were “racist” and had “a long account of racial profiling and discrimination.”

Oberlin’s Dean of Students Meredith Raimondo allegedly participated in handing out the flyers in front of the bakery. Oberlin College Student Senate passed a resolution claiming Gibson’s “has a long history of racial profiling and discriminatory treatment of students and residents alike.” The college administration allegedly helped circulate the student senate resolution.

Students launched a boycott of the bakery, initially joined in by the college. The college eventually resumed business with the bakery, but then terminated that business once the bakery owners filed a lawsuit.

Gibson’s owners sued the college and Raimondo for libel, tortious interference with business relationships and contracts, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and trespass. Gibson’s alleged long-term damage to its business and reputation for the allegedly defamatory accusations and other torts. The plaintiffs in closing argument asked the jury to award $12.8 million in compensatory damages.

Last week, the jury awarded $11 million to the Gibson family. Allyn W. Gibson was awarded $3 million, David Gibson $5.8 million, Gibson Bros. $2,274,500. Next, there will be a separate punitive damages which could be a double award (meaning tripling the $11 million to $33 million).

Lee Plakas, who handled much of the month-long trial and who gave the closing argument, said this case “is a national tipping point.”

“What the jury saw is that teaching students and having them learn how to be upstanding members of the community is what colleges are supposed to do, not appease some students who they are afraid of,” Plakas said. “People around the country should learn from this that you can use the legal system to right the wrongs, even if the one doing the wrong is some huge institution who thinks they can do anything they want.”

Oberlin started-out shining brightly as a city on a hill, but like most all colleges today has descended to a place of philosophical and moral darkness.