Professor who called students ‘disease vectors’ suspended

In a blasphemous intro video for a history lesson, Professor Barry Mehler wears an astronaut-style helmet with air filters, tells his students at Ferris State University they are ‘disease vectors’ and says their grades are predetermined, regardless of their effort.

“I won’t answer questions in class because I’m wearing this ‘helmet’ to stay alive,” Prof Mehler, 74, says towards the end of the video, using an expletive. “So please come to class. Enjoy the show. I will be there regularly because I have no choice.

The strange 14 minute video, which has been viewed more than 360,000 times since it was posted on its YouTube page last Sunday, resulted in Professor Mehler’s paid suspension while university officials investigate his eccentric introduction to the new semester, according to Sandy Gholston , spokesperson for the university.

David Eisler, the president of the university, which is in Big Rapids, Michigan, about 150 miles northwest of Detroit, said in a statement that he was “shocked and appalled by this video” .

“It is profane, offensive and disturbing and in no way reflects our university or its values,” he added.

Professor Mehler, whose LinkedIn page identifies him as the founder of the Institute for the Study of Academic Racism at Ferris State and says he teaches classes on “the history of science and the interface between science and racism,” did not respond to calls and an email seeking comment on Saturday, but Friday, he said The Associated Press that the video was “a performance”.

Charles Bacon, president of the Ferris Faculty Association, said in a statement Saturday that the university’s response to the video was “intimidation and coercion directed at all faculty, not just Dr. Mehler.” He added that the association viewed the suspension as an “attack on academic freedom” that suppressed intellectual discourse.

It wasn’t clear if students watching the video considered it funny, but those watching the class for the first time would have heard Professor Mehler say, about five minutes later, “I’m standing in front of you today. , indebted to no human.”

He then tells the students that if they want to complain to the dean, they can ‘go ahead’ as he ‘is retiring at the end of this year’ and doesn’t care – while mixing up six swear words.

As he shares his screen, a Word document can be seen on Professor Mehler’s computer which contains the 1,687 words of his speech, with some parts (“MORE BAD NEWS”) appearing in bold.

When discussing the rating, he gave unusual instructions: “You have no control over your rating.”

It doesn’t matter how “hard you work or the quality of your grades,” he says, adding, “my grading system is based on the Calvinist doctrine of predestination” – a theory developed by 16th-century theologian John Calvin , that his entry into heaven or hell was predetermined by God, regardless of his actions on earth.

“I assign grades randomly before the first day of class,” says Professor Mehler. Later in the video, however, he says “everything you need to earn an A is available” on an e-learning page.

Professor Mehler repeatedly brings up the coronavirus pandemic in the video and talks about his concerns about in-person teaching.

“You are just vectors of disease to me, and I don’t want to be near you,” he said.

He adds that students should contact him only via Zoom.

“Whatever you think of the risk of Covid, I live in a very different world,” he says. “My risk is much greater than yours.”

Ferris State University does not require its students to be vaccinated against Covid-19 to attend classes.

Professor Mehler tells the students that he is old enough to be their grandfather, and if they care about their grandfather, they should stay away from him. But if they don’t care, “whether Grandpa live or die, of course, come to class.”

Professor Bacon, president of the faculty association, said in a statement that Professor Mehler’s classes “are very popular, not least because he challenges students’ assumptions and makes the course extremely interesting.”

“In fact,” Bacon said, “I’ve been told that administrators have visited his class and come away with statements like, ‘I wish I had a teacher like you when I was in college. university”.

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