Professor who made profanity-laced viral lecture video settles for $95K and retiresAugust 1, 2022
BIG RAPIDS, MI – A professor who sued Ferris State University after he was suspended for making a profanity-laced lecture video has settled his lawsuit with the university and agreed to retire.
Barry Mehler, who taught at Ferris State for 34 years until his suspension in January, agreed to a $95,000 settlement and a three-year gag order in his lawsuit against the university, the Associated Press reported.
Mehler and the university have agreed not to criticize each other as part of the settlement, according to March court records obtained by AP. If the professor speaks out over the next three years, he must pay $60,000.
Mehler, 75, was placed on paid administrative leave in January pending a university investigation into an introductory video that Mehler published online for one of his classes.
In the video, Mehler went over his plagiarism policies, attendance policies and grading procedures for the spring semester, which began Jan. 10.
The 14-minute video quickly went viral and drew national attention due to the profane language he used in the video, which was directed at both university officials and students.
In the video, Mehler called his students “vectors of disease” amid the coronavirus pandemic, and claimed he would not be taking questions during his class.
Mehler later told MLive that he regularly used attention-grabbing methods like strong language or profane references to keep students engaged in class. He said it was a teaching method that he was known for on Ferris State’s campus and that his students loved.
“I’ve had years of testifying from students that they love it,” he said.
In his lawsuit against Ferris State, Mehler’s attorneys argued the university violated the professor’s First and Fourteenth Amendment rights, including his right to academic freedom, by suspending him, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit claims Ferris State administrators had been well aware of Mehler’s teaching style for years, and that he had been praised for his unique instruction.
The university placed Mehler on paid leave Jan. 11 pending a university investigation into a potential violation of the university’s “dignity policy” in his lecture video, according to a letter Mehler received from university officials on Jan. 11.
David Eisler, who was president of Ferris State in January, released a statement about the video at the time, in which he said he was “shocked and appalled” by Mehler’s language.
“It is profane, offensive and disturbing and in no way reflects our University or its values,” Eisler said in a prepared statement.
Mehler’s attorney demanded that the university immediately reinstate him to his position, according to the lawsuit filed Jan. 25. But as part of the settlement deal, Mehler retired from the university rather than face possible termination after a judge refused to reinstate him last spring, AP reported.
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