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Former Oberlin College president said he tried to solve Gibson's Bakery issue

  • 052919-OBERLIN-GIBSONS-CIVIL-SUIT-KB01

    Former Oberlin College President Marvin Krislov collects his belongings before leaving the stand on Wednesday, May 29.

    KRISTIN BAUER / CHRONICLE

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ELYRIA — Former Oberlin College President Marvin Krislov “begged” David Gibson to work with the college to repair the relationship between students and Gibson’s Bakery, Krislov testified Wednesday.

Krislov was asked why Oberlin College wouldn’t issue a retraction or a statement stating that the Gibson family and the family’s bakery business were not racist or had a history of racial profiling, as Gibson requested. Those allegations were made in a flyer urging people to boycott the bakery, which was passed out by protesters in 2016, and a resolution passed by the college’s student senate after the first day of protests.

“Those were not authorized by me. Those were not authorized by the college. They did not represent our viewpoint,” Krislov said. “What we did do, and said very clearly, was that we wanted to work with him in repairing the relationship. That’s why we were working on a joint statement. That’s why I asked and begged — I begged him — to sit down with me and others.”

Krislov testified on the 12th day of the civil trial between Gibson’s Bakery and Oberlin College. Gibson’s sued the college and the college’s Vice President and Dean of Students Meredith Raimondo for libel, interference with business relationships, interference with contracts, intentional infliction of emotional distress and trespass in 2017. The bakery also is suing the college for negligent hiring, retention and supervision.

Krislov said that he and other administrators at Oberlin College reached out to David Gibson in an effort to repair the relationship with the students and resume business between the college and the bakery. Krislov said he understood the damage that had been done by the protests and allegations made by students against the bakery.

In June 2017, Krislov resigned from his position as president of the college. He is now the president of Pace University in New York City.

The rift between the bakery and the college began in 2016 when a student tried to buy alcohol with a fake ID and shoplift from Allyn D. Gibson, who is the son of the bakery’s owner, David Gibson. Allyn D. Gibson followed the student out of the store, and the two got into a physical altercation.

Two other students got involved, and police have said when they arrived the three students were hitting Allyn D. Gibson while he was on the ground.

Allyn D. Gibson is white and the students are black, and the incident escalated. All three students pleaded guilty in August 2017 to misdemeanor charges and read statements into the record acknowledging that Allyn D. Gibson was within his right to detain the shoplifter and that his actions were not racially motivated.

In the two days following the shoplifting incident, Oberlin College students protested in front of the bakery and passed out the flyers urging people to boycott the bakery because of the bakery’s history of racial profiling. Oberlin College stopped ordering from the bakery after the protests before resuming in January 2017.

The college once again ceased ordering from Gibson’s after the lawsuit was filed in November 2017.

Krislov said he was part of the decision to temporarily suspend the standing order that college’s dining services had with the bakery for baked goods until issues with the student body at the college could be resolved.

“… Discussions with students had determined that the students wouldn’t eat the food (from Gibson’s Bakery),” he said. “The question for us was why would you pay for food that people won’t eat?”

College administrators also didn’t take sides in the protests, Krislov said. Testimony from witnesses from the plaintiffs tried to say college administrators and faculty supported the students in the protests.

“Our goals were three. We wanted to de-escalate what was a dangerous and frightening situation in our small town. We wanted to make sure that the legal process could proceed cooperatively and fairly. We wanted to try to work with the students to try to repair the relationship with the Gibsons,” Krislov said. “We were not taking sides. Our goal was to try to work with these student leaders to help them have more understanding of what the Gibsons’ side was, in the hopes that our small town could repair this relationship.”

Last week, David Gibson testified that administrators from the college had asked him to meet with students, but he didn’t know how he could do that until the college had issued a statement stating the Gibson family and their business were not racist.

Krislov gave a different version of the request, though.

The college had asked Gibson to meet with two student leaders and to explain his side of the story, Krislov said. The hope was that the student leaders would go back to the student body and explain the Gibsons’ side to them and the process of mending the relationship between the two sides could begin.

Krislov said that as a parent he understood that his telling the students what to do wouldn’t work, but instead the students would listen to their peers and then change could take place.

Another allegation in the lawsuit is that due to a hostile environment created or sustained by the college, vehicles of Gibson’s Bakery employees were keyed and tires were slashed, damage was done to David Gibson’s home and Allyn W. Gibson was injured after anonymous people knocked on the windows of his apartment late at night and he fell after opening the door.

Krislov was asked to address those allegations.

“I’m really sorry that happened. I had no knowledge and nothing to do with it,” he said. “No one at the college, that I know, had any responsibility for it that I’m aware of. I certainly would have told people that was absolutely wrong. I’m sorry that that happened.”

Testimony in the trial will resume this morning.

Contact Scott Mahoney at (440) 329-7146 or smahoney@chroniclet.com. Follow him on Twitter @SMahoneyCT.

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