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Venn diagram and update on Oberlin College – Publications – AEI

Summary:
AEI Venn diagram and update on Oberlin College It’s been widely reported that Oberlin College was recently “forced to check its woke privilege” when an Ohio jury awarded million in compensatory damages (and another million in punitive damages) to a family bakery for being defamed and smeared by Oberlin College students and administrators. Here’s some related commentary from Jonathan Turley writing in The Hill “Oberlin College case shows how universities are losing their way“: For many who lament the shift from academics to activism across college campuses in the United States, Oberlin College in Ohio is the equivalent of the “China syndrome” during nuclear accidents, a point where chain reactions become impossible to stop or control. Oberlin students often find new issues to

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Venn diagram and update on Oberlin College

Venn diagram and update on Oberlin College - Publications – AEI

It’s been widely reported that Oberlin College was recently “forced to check its woke privilege” when an Ohio jury awarded $11 million in compensatory damages (and another $33 million in punitive damages) to a family bakery for being defamed and smeared by Oberlin College students and administrators. Here’s some related commentary from Jonathan Turley writing in The HillOberlin College case shows how universities are losing their way“:

For many who lament the shift from academics to activism across college campuses in the United States, Oberlin College in Ohio is the equivalent of the “China syndrome” during nuclear accidents, a point where chain reactions become impossible to stop or control. Oberlin students often find new issues to protest, even on one of the most liberal campuses in the world, like objections to serving sushi as cultural appropriation. As on other campuses across the country, these protests are encouraged by an array of faculty members and ever accommodating administrators.

This week, however, the bill came due for Oberlin when a jury awarded over $11 million in damages to a family bakery for being defamed as racist by its college students and officials. That motion was later followed by a whopping $33 million punitive award. It is only the latest example of how faculty members and officials are driving their institutions toward financial and intellectual bankruptcy, thanks to their advocacy or acquiescence.

We are reaching a critical point in higher education in the United States where leaders are ceding control to a small group of activist students and faculty members. Too often, those challenges are met not with acts of conscience but with cowardice. Professors fear being labeled as either insensitive or racist for objecting to protests or changes on campus. Meanwhile, the costs mount with no reflection from administrators. Even with $44 million in total damages, Meredith Raimondo remains dean of students, and the college remains unapologetic.

David French writing in National Review explained the verdict this way:

An illiberal virus has entered the American system. It was only a matter of time before the liberal antibodies began to emerge. And thanks to the brave proprietors of Gibson’s Food Market and Bakery, victims of hate and malice now know that they have the tools to fight back.

And yet Oberlin administrators remain stubbornly obstinate and unapologetic, as demonstrated by a statement from the college that was quoted by the New York Times:

Gibson Bakery’s archaic chase-and-detain policy regarding suspected shoplifters was the catalyst for the protests. The guilt or innocence of the students is irrelevant to both the root cause of the protests and this litigation.

Which elicited this response from Steve Hayward on the Power Line blog:

So chasing down thieves is considered an “archaic” policy? Suggestion to an enterprising Oberlin student: decline to make your tuition payment, because tuition is an “archaic” policy, and college education is a fundamental human right now.

Or see my variation in the Venn diagram above illustrating Oberlin’s apparent double-standard when it comes to shoplifting and theft of personal property. I’m pretty sure that shoplifting in the college bookstore and theft of personal property on campus would not be tolerated. And yet the college is apparently trying to shift the blame for the criminal behavior of its students to Gibson’s Bakery’s enforcement of Ohio’s shoplifting laws. Before it excuses the illegal, criminal behavior of its students and instead blames a local merchant, perhaps administrators at Oberlin should review its own Student Conduct System which says in the Preamble (italics added):

The goals of the conduct system are to: create an environment that promotes excellence within and outside of the classroom, educate students about the relationship between their personal freedom and their responsibilities to their community, support the orderly functioning of the community, hold all members of the community accountable for their behavior, and encourage habits of effective and engaged citizenship.

And “acts of theft, misappropriation or malicious damage to the private property of other college community members” are mentioned on page 4 of Oberlin’s Student Conduct System as “Abuses pertaining to community or personal property,” and subject to discipline.

As Rich Lowry concluded in his article (linked above in the opening sentence):

David Gibson, an owner of the store, repeatedly asked Oberlin College to make a statement that Gibson’s isn’t racist as a gesture toward reconciliation. The school arrogantly refused. It is now set to pay dearly, and justifiably, for its woke privilege.

This may not be the last example of intellectual bankruptcy in higher education being followed by, or at least threatened by, financial bankruptcy….

Venn diagram and update on Oberlin College
Mark Perry

Mark Perry
Mark J. Perry is concurrently a scholar at AEI and a professor of economics and finance at the University of Michigan’s Flint campus. He is best known as the creator and editor of the popular economics blog Carpe Diem. At AEI, Perry writes about economic and financial issues for American.com and the AEIdeas blog.

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