Oberlin College is losing its appeal

A unanimous panel of three judges from the Ohio Circuit Court of Appeals made a long-awaited decision in the case on Thursday Gibson’s Bakery vs. Oberlin College. The court dismissed all of Oberlin’s appeals and upheld the jury’s finding that the college, a small private liberal arts institution in rural Ohio, was liable for defamation, willful infliction of emotional distress and willful disruption of a business relationship. It then upheld the trial jury award to Gibson’s Bakery of $11.1 million in compensatory damages, $33.2 million in punitive damages and $6.3 million in attorneys’ fees.

When the original verdict was delivered, as evidenced by the Friends of the Court briefs filed in the case, Oberlin and much of the academic community generally hyperventilated as if academic freedom was at stake. Carmen Twillie Ambar, Oberlin’s president, told a CBS reporter at the time that the jury falsely blamed the college for its students exercising their right to protest the First Amendment. She claimed the real question should have been “whether a college should be held accountable for the speech of its students.” When confronted by the reporter with Gibson’s attorney’s argument that the First Amendment was not up for debate in the trial, she blithely replied that those claims “misrepresent what the jury found.” In its verdict, the Court of Appeals agreed with Gibson. Oberlin College is losing its appeal

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