A Michigan professor who was suspended after telling his students they were “vectors of disease” in a profanity-laced video has settled a legal battle with the university by accepting a $95,000 payout and agreeing to retire.
Barry Mehler, a former professor of humanities at Ferris State University, also agreed to a gag order that would see him have to pay the school $60,000 if he criticizes it over the next three years, according to the settlement documents, recently obtained by the Associated Press.
Mehler, 75, sued Ferris State after he was suspended for posting a wacky 14-minute rant on YouTube at the start of the semester in January that touched on COVID-19, plagiarism, academic performance, Native Americans, cigarettes and the HBO series “Deadwood.”
A judge refused to reinstate him, leading Mehler to retire as part of the settlement reached in March, rather than face possibly being fired.
Mehler’s vulgar video, which then-Ferris State president David Eisler called appalling, racked up more than 500,000 clicks on YouTube.
“You people are just vectors of disease to me,” he said in part of the clip. “and I don’t want to be anywhere near you.”
Mehler, who wanted a COVID vaccine mandate at the school, said he would not take questions in class in order to keep a $300 astronaut-like helmet with air filters on “in order to stay alive.”
“I don’t know whether you people have noticed, but it’s dangerous to breathe the air. Many of your experts are advising wearing masks because there’s a deadly virus spreading around the planet,” Mehler, who taught history, said in the video.
“Your civilization is collapsing, and life on your planet is going extinct. Maybe you just didn’t notice, but the level of suffering on this planet is going through the roof,” he continued.
He also told students he didn’t want to know their names and warned they had no control over what grade they earned in the class.
Mehler dared students to complain to their dean, noting “I’m retiring at the end of this year and I couldn’t give a flying f— any longer.”
Eisler, the former school president, said he was “shocked and appalled” by the provocative video.
Mehler was told he was being investigated for breaking his faculty contract and the university’s employee dignity policy.
In a federal court filing in late January, Mehler’s attorney argued the professor was speaking to matters of public concern.
“These were irreverently made for the purpose of informing the public debate — making his students think critically about the issues of the day,” lawyer Matthew Hoffer wrote.
Mehler told the AP back then he was performing when he used expletive language and was only joking when he claimed he did not want to know students’ names or he would hand out grades randomly.
“If a professor comes in and he’s all high and mighty and using words they don’t understand — that doesn’t help them relax and think,” Mehler said.
With Post wires
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