Meredith Raimondo is the Vice President and Dean of Students at Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio. She has been with the college since 2003 when she was hired as a professor in the Department of Comparative American Studies. She worked her way up and eventually became one of the leading voices and decision makers at the university.
Raimondo has been in the news for a lawsuit based on a protest she was involved in back in 2017 against local business Gibson’s Bakery. The bakery drew the ire of university students after an incident occurred where Allyn Gibson, the owner’s son, got into an altercation with a black Oberlin University student after he caught him shoplifting and attempting to use a fake ID. 2 other black students were involved in the altercation and the trio was later arrested for shoplifting and assault. The students eventually pled guilty to misdemeanors and read statements that claimed Allyn Gibson’s actions weren’t racially motivated.
Despite the verdict, Oberlin students began to protest the business, claiming that the attack was racially motivated and the students were being profiled. Meredith Raimondo was allegedly involved in organizing the protests and passing out flyers that claimed the bakery had a history of racist behavior.
Gibson’s Bakery, a family business in its 5th generation, sued the university, claiming that their reputation had been tarnished and sales of their business plummeted following the protests.
A jury in Lorain County found Meredith Raimondo guilty of libel and found the college guilty of intentional infliction of emotional distress. They awarded David Gibson, son Allyn Gibson, and Gibson’s Bakery $11 million in compensatory damages and $33 million in punitive damages.
The university disagreed with the verdict and continues to deny any wrongdoing in the case. “Neither Oberlin College nor Dean Meredith Raimondo defamed a local business or its owners, and they never endorsed statements made by others,” said Donica Thomas Varner, the college’s general counsel. Meredith Raimondo is still employed by Oberlin College.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. She has a history of supporting Social Justice Causes
Throughout her college and professional career, Meredith Raimondo been an advocate for social justice causes. While attending school at Emory University, she won The Ralph Henry Gabriel Prize, which is awarded annually “to the best doctoral dissertation in American studies, ethnic studies, or women’s studies”, for her dissertation titled “The Next Wave: Media Maps of the ‘Spread of AIDS'”.
She started out at Oberlin College teaching courses on subjects including gender and sexuality, race and ethnicity studies, social justice, and HIV/AIDS and soon became a prominent voice for social justice issues. In 2014, she received the Excellence in Teaching Award and was appointed Special Assistant to the President for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and Title IX coordinator, where she oversaw all of the University’s policies to ensure students needs are being met in compliance with Title IX guidelines.
She’s been an advocate of several social justice issues including putting warning labels on literature which she called a “responsible pedagogical practice,” and spearheading the reform of how Oberlin handles sexual assault accusations.
2. Meredith Raimondo Passed Out Flyers Claiming Gibson’s Had a History of Racist Behavior
Meredith Raimondo was named specifically in the lawsuit from Gibson’s Bakery due to her alleged involvement in the protest. She was spotted handing out flyers that said about Gibson’s that read, “This is a RACIST establishment with a LONG ACCOUNT of RACIAL PROFILING and DISCRIMINATION.”(caps on flyer). In an email sent to the Oberlin Alumni Association, The University claimed that Raimondo was at the protest to “ensure that students’ freedom of speech was protected and that the student demonstrations were safe and lawful,”
Local reporter Jason Hawk of the Oberlin News Tribune testified during the trial that Raimondo blocked him from taking photos of the protest with his phone and handed him one of the aforementioned flyers. In court documents obtained by Legal Insurrection, Hawk also alleges that protestors were cursing at him and insulting him.
3. She Won’t Have to Pay any of the $33M in damages
Despite being found guilty of libel, Meredith Raimondo won’t have to pay any of the $44 million settlement out of pocket. The state jury ordered the college to pay the entirety of the settlement. It’s unclear if Raimondo will remain on staff moving forward after the court decision on Thursday.
4. She’s Been Criticized for Her Views on Israel
In 2016, Raimondo received some backlash for her support of author Jasbir Puar. News outlet Haaretz reported that Raimondo utilized Puar’s paper “Citation and Censorship: The Politics of Talking About the Sexual Politics of Israel,” numerous times in the courses she taught. Puar’s paper accuses Israel of “pinkwashing,” “redirect[ing] focus away from critiques of its repressive actions toward Palestine” by utilizing “its relative ‘gay-friendliness’ as an example of its commitment to Western ‘democratic’ ideals.”
The articles quotes Melissa Hare Landa, leader of the Oberlin chapter of Alums for Campus Fairness who described a “”pervasive and extreme prejudice against students [who are] unwilling to completely condemn Israel.”
5. She’s a Literary Critic
Back in 2012 when she was still a professor at Oberlin College, she posted literature reviews in addition to her essays. She reviewed the book “Relocations” by Karen Tongson in 2012 for the website Society and Space. She reviewed the book as a member of an author-meets-critics panel organized by Jasbir Puar at the 2012 Association of American Geographers meeting in New York.