December 8, 2019

DISPATCHES FROM GROUND ZERO OF THE EDUCATION APOCALYPSE: On the Passing of Oberlin Plaintiff David Gibson.

As I reported at the time, David Gibson testified that the school had offered to allow the bakery’s food back in the university cafeteria on two conditions: that Gibson’s drop the shoplifting charges, and agree to report all future instances of theft by students to the university and not the police. Gibson refused. “They didn’t want to move forward until we agreed to special treatment for students shoplifting,” he told the jury. “But I kept telling them that we have to be consistent and call the police no matter who is stealing.” Only later did he realize that the school administrators might be using the controversy to launder their own reputations. “[The school administration] had been accused of being racists by students in the previous year,” he testified, “and I think they used us to deflect from that problem they had. I believe they were using us as a target so that their racial problems with their students would go away.”

In December 2015, Oberlin College’s black student union had published a 14-page, 58-point list of demands, in which they accused the university of “anti-blackness” following four separate race-based controversies in a single year. At the end of May, the New Yorker published a long essay about Oberlin College entitled “The Big Uneasy,” examining unrest at the college, in which one student interviewee complained, “I literally am so tired of learning about Marx, when he did not include race in his discussion of the market!” When Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton on November 8, 2016, the students thought their world was ending. “Part of the inconceivable quality of the election is, I don’t know a Trump voter personally, and I can’t imagine someone voting for Trump,” an Oberlin College senior told the campus newspaper. “I don’t know how to reach across that line. I don’t even know who they are.”

When three African American students attempted to steal three bottles of wine the following day, the protests against the Gibson family’s allegedly racist decision to call the police became a vehicle for election anxiety. David Gibson knew immediately that the timing was going to bring trouble. “They’re going to be trashing us,” he told police an hour after the crime occurred. The row which ensnared the small family business was a proxy for national and college political battles in which it had no part, and over which it had no control.

Read the whole thing.

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