OBERLIN, Ohio — Oberlin College has issued a statement following Thursday's ruling that the school must pay a local bakery $44 million in damages amid a lawsuit claiming the college hurt their business.
Oberlin College President Carmen Twillie Ambar issued the following statement Friday morning:
"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."
A jury awarded David Gibson, son Allyn Gibson and Gibson's Bakery, of Oberlin, $33 million in punitive damages Thursday. That comes on top of an award a day earlier of $11 million in compensatory damages.
Problems between the Gibsons, their once-beloved bakery and the college began in November 2016 after Allyn Gibson, who is white, confronted a black Oberlin student who had shoplifted wine. Two other black students joined in and assaulted Gibson, police said.
The day after the arrests, hundreds of students protested outside the bakery . Members of Oberlin College's student senate published a resolution saying Gibson's had "a history of racial profiling and discriminatory treatment."
When news of the protests spread online, bikers and counterprotesters soon converged on the town to jeer students and make purchases from Gibson's. Conservatives derided the students on social media as coddled "snowflakes" with a mob mentality, while students attacked the store as a symbol of systemic racism.
The Gibsons sued Oberlin and the dean of students in November 2017, accusing faculty members of encouraging the protests. The lawsuit said college tour guides informed prospective students that Gibson's is racist.
The Gibsons said the protests devastated their business and forced them to lay off workers. They said they haven't paid themselves or other family members since the protests.
The three black students later pleaded guilty to misdemeanors and read statements in court that said Allyn Gibson's actions weren't racially motivated.
The school initially stopped doing business with Gibson's, later resumed the relationship and ended it again when the Gibsons filed their lawsuit.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.