The lesson of the Oberlin College case

When students at Oberlin College protested the action of Gibson’s Bakery to press charges against a Black student for shoplifting a bottle of wine calling the owner racist, the store’s owner sued the college for libel (“Oberlin College Loses Its Appeal,” The Wall Street Journal, April 1). The Ohio Court of Appeals upheld the owner, even though the college claimed it was not responsible for the speech of its students.

The trouble is that some senior administrators actively participated in the protest by passing out fliers.  As a result, the court correctly ruled in favor of the bakery.  Therein is an important lesson going forward.  Colleges that don’t respect the line between free speech and defamatory speech by actively participating in protests will pay the price in the courts.

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