by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
George Leef writes for the Martin Center about the implications of a recent court case involving Oberlin University.
Another way for college officials to get their schools into trouble is to engage in political conduct that is meant to inflict damage on guest speakers or people in the community. The latter is what occurred at Oberlin College and the jury in the ensuing case has hit the school with over $44 million in compensatory and punitive damages.
This ought to be a “teachable moment” for college and university leaders across the nation. If they don’t rein in the political zealotry of their administrators, they might also face a suit like Oberlin’s. …
… The ongoing campaign to portray the business as “racist” hit the company hard. The owners filed suit in November 2017 against the college in civil court, alleging that it had committed the torts of libel, slander, interference with business relationships, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. …
… Then, on June 13, the jury announced its verdict with regard to punitive damages—an additional $33 million (which Jacobson explains here will probably be reduced to $22 million under Ohio law). That amount might require a bit of belt-tightening at Oberlin, despite the fact that it has an endowment of more than $1 billion.
Higher education leaders around the country should learn from this case.
One thing they should learn is that the large numbers of administrators they employ who see their jobs mainly as “social justice warriors” are a danger. They can embroil the school in costly legal proceedings when they fail to separate their proper functions in an educational institution from their zeal for political change.
Perhaps trustees should insist on a training session for everyone from the president down to dorm administrators so they will understand that there is a line between education and activism (many obviously believe otherwise) and where it is drawn.