College’s Appeal in Gibson’s Case Misguided, Avoidable

 I urge the College to refrain from appealing the Gibson’s case. Instead, Oberlin must turn inward and reflect on what led to this unfortunate state of affairs in the first place. The behavior of the College, by which I mean students and administrators alike, revolves around the false premise that Gibson’s was a racist institution. The College’s actions towards Gibson’s were arrogant and mean-spirited throughout.

My sense is that Gibson’s would not have filed suit if the College had treated them well, even if they had already suffered some losses. My experience as a physician is that, in most cases, patients do not sue unless they are disgruntled, even if the physician makes a mistake. Certainly, Gibson’s had more than enough reasons to become disgruntled.

This incident is not about systemic racism or injustice, it is about kindness and respect in human interaction. It is about the need for the adults in the room to act like adults and mentor their students positively. If such an incident is to be avoided in the future, there needs to be a little house cleaning in the administration. Furthermore, the current and future administrators need to display some courage when interacting with unreasonable students.

After the $44 million verdict, President Carmen Twillie Ambar wrote to faculty and alumni, “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.” President Ambar conflates political ideology with “core values.” That is not a formula for overcoming the arrogance that led to this incident in the first place.

Oberlin’s original motto was “learning and labor.” It bespeaks humility. As students, we labor to learn and learn to labor. That should be enough of a core value for the College to restore its reputation and thrive well into the future.