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Mich. professor on leave amid 'disturbing' profanity-filled course video

Mark Hicks, The Detroit News on

Published in News & Features

A Ferris State University history professor has been suspended after a profanity-filled online video for his students went viral this month, officials confirmed Thursday.

The Big Rapids, Michigan, school's administration "is aware of a course video distributed to students, in early January, by a faculty member, believed to be Professor Barry Mehler," representatives said in a statement to The Detroit News. "The faculty member has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation. ...As this is a personnel matter, the University has no further comment."

Mehler, who was listed as a history and humanities professor at Ferris, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.

The 14-minute video posted Jan. 9 through Mehler's YouTube account began with the professor removing a helmet in what appeared to be an office, warning about "the level of suffering on this planet ... going through the roof" before mentioning he was resuming a "show" and sharing a 20th century commercial on cigarettes.

Note: Strong language and swearing:

Mehler then started an expletive-laden speech that included saying "no ... c---sucker of an administrator is going to tell me how to teach my classes because I'm a f--- tenured professor. So if you want to go complain to your dean, f--- you. Go ahead. I'm retiring at the end of this year and I couldn't give a flying f--- any longer. You people are just vectors of disease to me and I don't want to be anywhere near you. So keep your f---- distance. If you want to talk to me come to my Zoom."

The professor said his "soliloquy," modeled after dialogue in a scene from the TV series "Deadwood," helped illustrate plagiarism and citing sources in classroom work.

Mehler later discussed his grading policy.

 

"You don't have a thing to worry about because there is absolutely nothing you can do. You have no control over your grade. It doesn't matter how f---- hard you work or how good your grades are. My grading system is based on the Calvinist doctrine of predestination," he said. "...None of you c---suckers are good enough to earn an A in my class. So I randomly assign grades before the first day of class. I don't want to know s--- about you. I don't even want to know your name. I just look at the number and I assign a grade. That is how predestination works. And don't come f---- complaining to me. Take your complaints to God. He ordained this system, not me."

When addressing in-person attendance as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, Mehler read from published remarks by an educator believed to have contracted the virus while at a South Carolina campus where a vaccine mandate was not in place.

Noting he's nearly 75 years old, Mehler said: "Listen up, folks. I'm old enough to be your grandpa, and you people are vectors of disease to me. So when I look out at a classroom filled with 50 students, I see 50 selfish kids who don't give a s--- whether grandpa survives. And if you won't expose your grandpa to a possible infection with COVID, then stay the f--- away from me. If you don't give a s--- about whether grandpa lives or dies, by all means, come to class."

In a statement Thursday, Ferris President David Eisler said: "I was shocked and appalled by this video. It is profane, offensive and disturbing and in no way reflects our University or its values."

Mehler's biography noted he has been teaching at Ferris for over 27 years and is director of two institutes at the university, ISAR (Institute for the Study of Academic Racism) and the Shoah Institute.

The incident came nearly a year after another Ferris professor, Thomas Brennan, lost his job following a leave related to allegedly tweeting racist, anti-Semitic and homophobic slurs months earlier.

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