alate last week, an Ohio jury reached a verdict that sent shockwaves through the American higher-education establishment. It ordered Oberlin College to pay a business called Gibson’s Food Market and Bakery a stunning $11 million in compensatory damages for defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and intentional interference with business relationships. And that number will rise, significantly, if it decides to impose punitive damages as well.
The case represents an important moment — the moment when the American legal establishment learned that it can potentially impose steep costs on institutions that participate in the kind of cruel, malicious, and vicious mob tactics that have become an all-too-familiar part of the American political landscape. It turns out that the law can indeed offer an answer to the worst forms of illiberal behavior.