Bizarre Video to Students Gets Professor Suspended

Ferris State's Barry Mehler called them 'vectors of disease,' says he predetermines their grades
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 14, 2022 2:50 PM CST

He begins the video by wearing an astronaut-ish helmet and speaking as if he were an intergalactic traveler. Things get weirder—and more foul-mouthed—from there. As a result, a history professor at Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Mich., has been placed on administrative leave, reports the Washington Post. A post at Inside Higher Ed calls the video by 74-year-old Barry Mehler "part performance, part protest," the latter because he objects to returning to the classroom amid the pandemic. Among the reasons the professor is in hot water:

  • “You people are just vectors of disease to me, and I don’t want to be anywhere near you," he says in his introductory video to students. "So keep your f---ing distance. If you want to talk to me, come to my Zoom.”
  • “None of you … are good enough to earn an A in my class,” he says. “So I randomly assign grades before the first day of class. I don’t want to know [anything] 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."

  • “Go complain to your dean … go ahead,” Mehler said. “I’m retiring at the end of this year and I [don’t care] any longer.” The full rant in this case was filled with expletives, and Mehler explains that it was modeled off a scene from the TV show Deadwood. This leads to a discussion of plagiarism.
  • Ferris State president David Eisler was not amused. “It is profane, offensive and disturbing and in no way reflects our university or its values,” he says of the video. MLive notes that Mehler is no longer listed as a faculty member in the school's humanities department.
  • Lots of commenters feared Mehler was having a breakdown. But Colleen Flaherty of Inside Higher Ed isn't so sure. "His 'show,' which was clearly scripted and rehearsed, may also be read as the primal scream of a professor forced to teach in person during a new surge in COVID-19 cases, after nearly two years of navigating pandemic-era teaching already," writes Flaherty.
(More professor stories.)

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