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October 8, 2019

News release: Oberlin Appeals Verdict that Sets Troubling Free Speech Precedent

Oberlin College’s Board of Trustees announced today that it voted to appeal the jury verdict that held it and the college’s Dean of Students liable for a protest organized independently by students.

Read the full release


June 19, 2019

To: Members of the Oberlin Community

From: President Carmen Twillie Ambar

Subject: Addressing Questions About The Lawsuit

Date: June 19, 2019

Dear Members of the Oberlin Community,

As the public discourse around the lawsuit from Gibson’s Bakery continues, many of you may have questions. It is important, as we engage in these discussions both internally and externally, that we have a shared set of facts. Oberlin has been scrupulous over the last two and a half years in its efforts to honor the legal process. As part of that deference, we have avoided any public comments that could be seen as an attempt to prejudice the legal process or litigate our case through the media.

Now that a jury has rendered its verdict and the legal process has entered a new stage, it is both more appropriate and important that we be as transparent as we can about the events at the heart of this lawsuit, the suit itself, the path that lies ahead, and the values at stake — for Oberlin and for higher education more broadly. In that spirit, we would like to offer a Frequently Asked Questions document that begins to address some of your concerns and brings to the fore the facts. I would encourage you to read them thoroughly.

We will have much more to say as this process moves forward, and we will continue to listen closely to your questions, addressing them as best we can.

While the below link to the FAQs gives you more details, cutting through the noise, this matter is about an incident that occurred at Gibson’s Bakery which resulted in students choosing to protest. The students may have been right or they may have been wrong about the details surrounding the incident, but demonstrating is their constitutional right.  As always, the College insisted that the demonstrations be supervised, to protect all sides and the entire community from violence and property damage. While we deeply value the jury’s work, we do not believe that case law supports the jury’s determination that Oberlin should be held liable for the speech and actions of its students. To do so is to erode a fundamental constitutional right.

Despite this belief, we also know that there are lessons to be learned from this verdict and areas where the College can improve. This lawsuit has been hard on Oberlin College and Conservatory, the Gibsons, our students, faculty, and staff, our town, and all who care about us. We will take this moment in our history to absorb the valuable lessons it imparts. We also recognize that we have a great deal of work to do to heal these scars and build trust throughout our extended community. We approach that imperative with humility. We approach it, too, with optimism that we will emerge from this episode stronger—stronger as an institution, stronger in our relationship with our neighbors, and stronger in our service to the region, the nation, and the world.

Frequently Asked Questions

Carmen Twillie Ambar
President


June 14, 2019

To: Members of the Oberlin Community

From: President Carmen Twillie Ambar

Subject: Understanding Yesterday’s Legal News

Date: June 14, 2019

Dear Members of the Oberlin Community,

By now many of you will have heard about the latest development in the Gibson’s Bakery lawsuit, a jury’s declaration of punitive damages against Oberlin. Let me be absolutely clear: This is not the final outcome. This is, in fact, just one step along the way of what may turn out to be a lengthy and complex legal process. I want to assure you that none of this will sway us from our core values. It will not distract, deter, or materially harm our educational mission, for today’s students or for generations to come.

We will take the time we need to thoughtfully consider the course that is in Oberlin’s best interests. I will update the community as we make these decisions. I am confident that when we resolve this matter, it will look substantially different than it looks today.

We are disappointed in the jury’s decisions and the fragmentary and sometimes distorted public discussion of this case. But we respect the integrity of the jury, and we value our relationship with the town and region that are our home. We will learn from this lawsuit as we build a stronger relationship with our neighbors.

This has been a remarkable year for the college and conservatory. There is unprecedented unity around an ambitious new vision for Oberlin. The work of fulfilling that vision is already underway. Long after this lawsuit has receded from memory, that work will shape Oberlin’s future. I appreciate the contributions so many of you have made, your perspective at this important time, and the commitment you have shown to what matters most for Oberlin.

Sincerely,

Carmen Twillie Ambar
President


May 13, 2019

The claims being made against Oberlin College and Dean Raimondo are disappointing. We believe the evidence is clear. Neither Oberlin College nor Dr. Raimondo defamed a local business or its owners.

Colleges cannot be held liable for the independent actions of students. Employers are not legally responsible for employees who express personal views on personal time. The law is clear on these issues.

The College values its long relationship with the town of Oberlin and its businesses. We will continue our commitment to the economic uplift of the local businesses that make this community, county, and region a destination of choice.

The claims in this case conflict with the obligations of higher education to protect freedom of speech on college campuses. The College respects the rights of all individuals to express their personal opinions and to peacefully exercise their First Amendment rights.


November 8, 2017

Oberlin College and Dr. Raimondo deny and reject all claims asserted in the lawsuit filed by Gibson Bros., Inc. in the Lorain County Court of Common Pleas. The allegations are untrue and we will vigorously defend against them.

The College values its long relationship with the town of Oberlin and its businesses, including Gibson's Bakery. We are saddened that the Gibson family has chosen to pursue litigation. As this is now a legal matter, the College will suspend, effective immediately, its business relationships with Gibson's Bakery until such time as a mutually productive relationship may be re-established.