2 Of Oberlin’s Henhouse Foxes May Be Cornered!

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chutzpah, hype and horse manure for the Gibson Bakery appellate court decisionAn unanswered email

More than a week before Christmas, 2019, JD Nobody offered Oberlin College General Counsel Donica Varner a sit-down with her to see if she might have any additions or objections to this post. JD offered to publish any comments she might have. JD received an immediate, generic Merry Christmas-type response from her autoresponder and nothing else. Rather odd, indeed.

The ongoing litigation would constrain Varner, but that is not an excuse for her saying nothing about anything. It is also not an excuse for rudeness. What she is not saying speaks plenty about her confidence in her position.

Henhouse update

The henhouse foxes may be good soldiers who are blindly following stupid orders from the BOT. This possibility is discussed in other OberlinChaos.com articles.

Also, see At Last 2 Oberlin Foxes Explain “The Gibson Henhouse Happenings” and Listen To Your Damn Lawyers, Oberlin!

It may be a bad day for the foxes in Oberlin’s henhouse and a good day for all the hens. JD Nobody learned recently that all communications with the Board of Trustees are “filtered” through the College’s General Counsel. JD discovered this communications chokepoint when contacting the College to see if a discussion with the BOT might help resolve the Gibsons Bakery mess. The message from the alumni and development people was emphatic: all communications with the BOT must go through this chokepoint.

Not having been born yesterday, JD recognized that attempting to communicate with the BOT via a channel he could not trust would have been an exercise in absurdity. This is because the issue was about whether the untrusted communications channel was intercepting critical information. Varner was very much “in the loop” that made the disastrous legal decisions about the Gibson matter. Hence, her incentive to pass complete and unbiased information to the BOT is very much in question. Intercepted information would explain how the foxes in the Oberlin henhouse could distort the BOT’s perceptions. See, Lying to superiors can start wars.

JD recognizes that having a communications coordination point usually is a good management practice. There are exceptions, however. If the coordination point becomes a chokepoint or is used to suppress relevant information, there must be alternative communications channels for the organization to function.

A military organization needs to have communications follow the chain of command. In JD’s military experience, there were many clearly defined exceptions for when not to follow the chain of command because following it would risk blowing up the world. There were workarounds for alerting the command when there was a malfeasance issue involving someone lower in the chain of command. In general, alternate communication paths were necessary to keep the organization running smoothly. See How Not To Run A Railroad.

Something or someone tricked the BOT into blowing a lot of money and damaging the College’s reputation. Not to mention cheapening the value of every Oberlin graduate’s degree due to the national ridicule the BOT’s disconnectedness has visited on the College and all its alumni.

Talking with Dean Raimondo

Oberlin College Dean Meridith Raimondo
Oberlin College Dean Meridith Raimondo. Photo Credit: Oberlin.edu.

JD Nobody recently contacted Dean Meridith Raimondo to see if she would like to tell her side of the messy Gibson’s v Oberlin College situation. Meridith was a crucial player in the demonstrations after the Gibson shoplifting incident.

JD does not regard Meridith as innocent in the whole mess but wanted OberlinChaos to be fairer and less biased than the one-sided coverage of Oberlin.edu. JD offered to publish what she might care to say on OberlinChaos.com, recognizing that Meridith is currently being kept on a short legal leash because of the College’s ongoing litigation with Gibson’s Bakery.

If Meridith is really an ogre, she concealed it well. Indeed, she came across as a logical and decent person. In the course of our conversation, JD recounted his version of events, and Meridith listened attentively, saying nothing except that she had not demanded vigilante power over future Gibson’s shoplifters. (The truth on this point is unclear.)

At numerous points in our conversation, Meridith said she needed to get back with General Counsel Varner for guidance on how to proceed and get back to JD about what Varner had to say. There was no doubt in JD’s mind that Dean Raimondo wanted to talk with JD further. Varner is apparently a lawyer in the narrowest sense, having no visible reluctance toward needlessly aggravating an already lousy PR situation.

Meridith did not get back to JD as promised — apparently due to Varner blindly blocking all communication. [6 minutes after this article was posted, Meridith responded. JD thinks it unlikely that Meridith could have read this post before writing her response.] Varner could have satisfied both the legal and PR requirements by telling Meredith to say, “I cannot talk about anything at issue in the ongoing litigation.” Pointlessly snubbing people is hardly good PR, even though the College’s PR whitewash of the Gibson troubles is really a marketing effort for unrecycled, environmentally polluting toilet paper. Nothing wrong with that marketing; the College wanted to get top $ from a bottom wipe.

Fixing the problem

Oberlin College has had its organization chart deeply challenged by the recent court encounter with tiny Gibson’s Bakery. The BOT is legally responsible for the college’s actions and appears to have been oblivious to the danger of ignoring the brewing litigation storm cloud. Considering that the BOT is not comprised of stupid people, even though they act that way, one is forced to conclude someone fed them distorted stories about the growing legal dangers.

The Oberlin Board has 35 members — cumbersome when it comes time to act quickly and decisively. Surprisingly, the other institutions reviewed here have even more cumbersome board sizes, so that is not the likely explanation for why things ran off the rails while the Gibson mess developed.

The paramount issues in the court case were whether or not the Gibsons had engaged in racial profiling and whether the College slandered the Gibsons. In talking to people in Oberlin, many non-college people of color insist that this is not true, while others claim that it is true. In any case, Oberlin did not submit any relevant evidence of racial profiling to the court. At the same time, the Gibsons produced overwhelming evidence that the College had slandered them.

JD Nobody feels that the most likely explanation for this FUBAR fiasco happening is a combination of the BOT being lied to and hidden agendas within the BOT, the Administration, or both. Therefore, JD believes it urgent that the BOT hire an outside, unbiased management consulting firm to review both the College’s administrative structure and its communications channels with the BOT.

The consultants should determine if Dean Meridith Raimondo’s contribution to the troubles was encouraged by those around her who might have seen an opportunity to manipulate her “sucker spot.” Meridith is known to feel deeply about social and racial injustices and could easily have been fed, and unquestioningly believed, the hearsay slander about the Gibsons.

Faced with such an unsuspected hidden agenda, she would be the perfect unsuspecting sucker to leave twisting in the wind should events run amuck.

The consultants should also attempt to determine if there is truth in the credible rumor that George Soros has funded or promised to pay for “making an example” out of the Gibsons. Considering that Board Chair Canavan has worked closely with Soros, it would be reasonable to presume that Soros and Canavan could have been suckered into believing a string of lies, assuming that both of them are part of this mess. The Gibsons episode will remain an unhealed sore until the roles of Soros and Canavan, if any, are clarified.

Whatever the consultants might recommend, a solution to the situation must be found that does not create a racial firestorm within the college. Revisions to the organization chart without firing people might be all that is needed to straighten things out. It may not be possible to clean things up without making some heads roll, though.

Trustees and governance at nearby colleges

OberlinChaos has done a quick study of how the alumni at other colleges in the area communicate with their trustees. This study had several questions for each institution, which are:

  • How many people are on the BOT? this is important because a BOT of more than 10 people becomes unwieldy and will have difficulty making quick decisions.
  • Do the alumni and development people let an alumnus or college official obtain the email addresses of BOT members so that he (or she) can communicate directly with the BOT?
  • Is there a communications chokepoint that all communications to the BOT must pass through?
  • Is there a drone video on the college website home page? This is not an overly important question but could indicate a need to conform to the fad of the moment. It appears that college website drone videos are suddenly quite the thing.

Governance questions

Baldwin-Wallace University, Berea, OH

Could not contact. (440) 826-3623

  • Number of BOT members: 30-45
  • BOT email addresses available to alumni:
  • Chokepoint for communicating to the BOT:
  • Drone video on website home page: yes

Berea College, Berea, KY


  • Number of BOT members: 33
  • BOT email addresses available to alumni: only via general counsel; bypass may be available
  • Chokepoint for communicating to the BOT: General Counsel; bypass may be available
  • Drone video on website home page: yes

College of Wooster, Wooster, OH

Could not contact. 330-287-4399

  • Number of BOT members: N/A
  • BOT email addresses available to alumni:
  • Chokepoint for communicating to the BOT:
  • Drone video on website home page: yes

Hiram University, Hiram, OH


  • Number of BOT members: 37
  • BOT email addresses available to alumni: yes, after review
  • Chokepoint for communicating to the BOT: no
  • Drone video on website home page: no

Kenyon College, Gambier, OH

Could not contact. (740) 427-5583

  • Number of BOT members: 42
  • BOT email addresses available to alumni:
  • Chokepoint for communicating to the BOT:
  • Drone video on website home page: no

Oberlin College, Oberlin, OH

  • Number of BOT members: 35
  • BOT email addresses available to alumni: no
  • Chokepoint for communicating to the BOT: General Counsel; no apparent bypass under any conditions
  • Drone video on website home page: yes

Ohio Wesleyan, Delaware, OH

Could not contact.

  • Number of BOT members: 57
  • BOT email addresses available to alumni:
  • Chokepoint for communicating to the BOT:
  • Drone video on website home page: no

So who is the Secretary and General Counsel of Oberlin College?

Donica Varner, General Counsel
Donica Varner, Oberlin College General Counsel (from oberlin.edu)

JD Nobody has checked oberlin.edu to learn who General Counsel Donica Varner is and what the PR people say about her. The College website did not say much, but it did contain an interesting note about her recent career:

Donica Thomas Varner was a featured speaker [before the Gibsons Bakery Trial] for a webinar that explored how to manage the risks and liabilities of student organizations. Presented by the National Association of College and University Attorneys, Varner co-facilitated a conversation which examined how to best manage risk through formal recognition systems, conduct expectations and enforcement mechanisms, and strategies for managing financial, travel, reputational, and other risks. [emphasis by Oberlinchaos]

If she applied her specialty — “managing risk through formal recognition systems, conduct expectations, and enforcement mechanisms, and strategies for managing financial, travel, reputational, and other risks” — in the Gibsons Bakery matter, it does not show in the outcome.

BTW, what on earth is a “formal recognition system?” It sounds like just so much pretentious and obfuscating gobbledygook to JD.

One can only conjecture what the General Counsel might have told the BOT about many developments in the college, including the Gibsons Bakery matter. For instance, it appears that she did not convincingly warn the BOT about the overwhelmingly damning evidence against the College that the Gibsons would present in court. The magnitude of this damning evidence would have been known to the college legal team after the pre-trial discovery process and well before the trial.

College President Ambar, oberlin.edu.henhouse.
College President Carmen Ambar

President Ambar is an ex officio member of the BOT, so she could have been an alternate information source for the BOT and an accuracy cross-check on the General Counsel.

Ambar does have the advantage of not having been the person who created the Gibsons Bakery mess, but she did help compound the chaos. Ambar and Varner, both lawyers, should have been aware of the growing legal perils and should have seen the need to explore a realistic settlement that did not involve de facto vigilante justice.

Through whatever means or mechanisms, the College Administration’s twisted ideas of social justice became a sick form of social injustice for the Gibsons. It is unclear whether or if either Varner or Ambar used their positions to filter, distort, or omit critical information that could have kept Gibsons Bakery’s troubles and other matters from compounding.

Sedentary management plagues the BOT

Incomplete or distorted information plus a failure by members of the BOT to exercise due diligence by walking around explains how tragedies like the Gibsons Bakery situation could have happened. JD learned the importance of “management by walking around and talking to people” when he was a junior Air Force officer. There is no discernible evidence that the BOT used this simple test to verify whether messages coming through the General Counsel’s information chokepoint were blocked or distorted.

A recent CEO of the Ford Motor Co., previously a Boeing executive, practiced management by walking around when he worked for Boeing. The old CEO’s ability to ferret out misinformation was his secret for making Boeing’s and later Ford’s manufacturing and engineering as good as any in their industries. After he left Boeing, the new CEO and his financial engineers began telling the aeronautical and software engineers how to design and build airplanes like the 737 Max 8.

Boeing’s new Board of Directors got their information from sycophants and sociopaths once they were no longer walking around! The result of trusting the wrong people was predictable: the Boeing 737 Max 8. Trusting the wrong people may be what allowed the Oberlin College BOT, among other things, to turn tiny little Gibson’s Bakery into Oberlin’s Max 8. The all-knowing (and ignorant) financial engineers at Boeing appear to have become the role models for building Oberlin College’s version of a trouble-prone organization.

JD has done a little “management by walking around” in Oberlin and has encountered a common hearsay theme among the apologists for the College’s colossal clumsiness. According to the story, there was much “secret evidence” against the Gibson’s that the College would not introduce at the trial for some inexplicable reason. This evidence was apparently gossip, which would explain why it could not be presented in court.

The civil court case was limited to issues of libel and slander. If there was any evidence exculpatory to the College that was not hearsay and fell within that scope, the College was foolish not to have used it.

If JD’s sources are correct, the College’s statement that they had evidence which they could not use was accurate but misleading because hearsay is inadmissible in court.

Has the BOT been duped?

Acting on cooked legal advice could explain the oversight oversights made by the BOT in the Gibsons Bakery situation. Let us hope that the in-house legal counsel did not supply the Board with self-serving advice via suppressed information or misinformation.

We know from the evidence introduced in the Gibson’s v Oberlin trial that there were some very “woke” people running around loose in the Cox Administration Bldg. Did their blind righteousness subvert both facts and reality?

Lying to superiors can start wars.

No less a person than President GW Bush was fed cooked information by trusted staffers so that they could trick him into starting the Second Gulf War. There was no punishment for manufacturing the lies that caused a very unnecessary war.

If trusted subordinates have duped the Oberlin Trustees, let us hope that said Trustees will have the guts not to repeat Bush’s mistake — allowing the villains to get off scot-free.

By JD Nobody

JD Nobody, OC '61, has a 54-year career in developing software. This involved IT application design and maintenance, software engineering, bank operations, and article composing software for The Business Torts Reporter. He was an administrative officer and ICBM launch officer in the U.S. Air Force.

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You wrote:

“If Meridith is really an ogre, she concealed it well. Indeed, she came across as a logical and decent person.”

With all due respect, although she may have come across as a “decent” person, you are apparently forgetting her email response to Roger Copeland’s letter in the Oberlin Review.


If you recall, it began “[f]u__ him”

Vulgar Invective is hardly a sign of decency, at least regarding College Deans

JD Nobody

Corky Jung

8:59 PM 2020/02/19

to whistleblower@oberlinchaos.com
Yes, it is a stellar resume. I was focusing on his professional affiliation, which suggests to me his political, theosophical inclinations.

With the previous president, Krislov, a non-educator, the school began a shift away from pure academics. With the new chair in 2007, and the other apparently liberal trustees, the president had enablers. He left town after he made a mess of things.

The BOT is not responsible for the administrative aspects of the school, but certainly owns the policies of the school.

[All very true; the BOT does appear to have been packed. This is compounded by the Chair not only lacking a law degree, but having a grade school level of legal smarts. JD.]

JD Nobody

Comment received from an OberlinChaos reader: The following is published as food for thought only. The content of the comment is unverified. ChaosReader’s comment is consistent with what many are thinking at this point. ed. From ChaosReader 2:56 PM 2020/02/19 to whistleblower Foodservice and custodial services are only the first College functions to see replacement by contract services. Landscaping, general labor (on-campus trucking and deliveries), maintenance and repair of the motor pool, and even security are being looked at, too. This is not public knowledge, though. You constantly mention that the Oberlin BOT has to wise up, stop the nonsense with Gibsons, etc. But it is a powerful sect of the BOT that is controlling it all. It’s not mentioned a lot but Chris Canavan, Chair of the BOT, personally paid the legal fees for the three students arrested in the Gibsons matter. He footed all their legal bills from… Read more »

JD Nobody

Comment received from an OberlinChaos reader:

On 2020-02-19 15:27, Corky Jung wrote:
> Have you read the bio of the Chair.

Yes, I have, and his bio is most impressive indeed. And thank you for speaking up. I will post your question and my response.

It is unfathomable how someone with Canavan’s fabulous credentials (which conspicuously lack a law degree — a common expectation for someone in his position) could have allowed such colossal incompetence to happen.

Have you read any of the evidence introduced in the Gibson trial? Based on the evidence presented by both sides, how would you, as an impartial juror, have ruled if you had been on the jury?

JD Nobody

Comment received from an OberlinChaos reader:

Just went through your blog. One connection that has been overlooked is that Varner worked for Krislov when he was general counsel at Michigan and she was likely brought from Michigan into her position at Oberlin as a reward for being a loyal trooper. I suspect one could learn a lot about the Oberlin strategies here by looking at their previous lives.

Keep in mind that Michigan is going through its own legal mess now with affirmative action policies and it would not surprise me in the least to see Krislov’s and Varner’s thumbprints all over the planning and execution of those policies.

Also a bit curious as to whether Krislov is mucking up his current institution or has learned to just step back and collect $1M for doing nothing.

yours in the struggle,


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