“It wasn’t so much the students speaking; it’s the institution accepting that statement uncritically”

Anemona Hartocollis:

Sometimes you have to take a step back.”

Professor Hutchens said it also made a difference that Gibson’s was a small family business, not a large multinational corporation like Walmart or Amazon, which would be better able to sustain the economic losses from such a protest.

Oberlin is a small liberal arts college with a reputation for turning out students who are strong in the arts and humanities and for its progressive politics, leaning heavily on its history of being a stop on the Underground Railroad as well as one of the first colleges to admit Black students. Tuition at Oberlin is more than $61,000 a year, and the overall cost of attendance tops $80,000 a year. The college is also very much part of the town, which is economically dependent on the school and its students. The bakery, across the street from the college, sold donuts and chocolates, and was considered a must-eat part of the Oberlin dining experience.

The incident that started the dispute unfolded in November 2016, when a student tried to buy a bottle of wine with a fake ID while shoplifting two more bottles by hiding them under his coat, according to court papers.


After the 2019 jury award against Oberlin, Carmen Twillie Ambar, the college president, said that the case was far from over and that “none of this will sway us from our core values.” The college said then that the bakery’s “archaic chase-and-detain policy regarding suspected shoplifters was the catalyst for the protests.”

But in its statement on Thursday, Oberlin hinted that the protracted and bitter fight had undermined its relationship with the people and businesses in the surrounding community.

“We value our relationship with the city of Oberlin,” its statement said. “And we look forward to continuing our support of and partnership with local businesses as we work together to help our city thrive.”


The highest-rated comment (by a lot) quotes “Archaic chase-and-detain policy” and asks “What should a storekeeper do about a shoplifter?” Good question. Is the answer that what’s not archaic is not to have any sort of shop that is open to the public?

Anyway, I’m glad the bakery is getting its money, and I hope colleges learn how to support student speech without joining the speech. Only join the speech if you stand behind it. Your speech is your speech. You’re not absolved from your lies because you were echoing what somebody else said. That should have been obvious all along.