Barry Mehler is a Ferris State University professor in Michigan who was suspended after posting an expletive-filled video for his class in which he told students they were “vectors of disease” who should “stay the f*** away from me” due to COVID-19.
Mehler’s epic introductory class video, which he posted to his YouTube page, opens with him wearing what looks like a space or motorcycle helmet. The video has had more than 200,000 views.
In the video, he repeatedly uses the “F” word, referring to students and administrators as “c**********.” He told students they would gain nothing by coming to class, said he decided their grades randomly before class started, and advised them not to get caught if they plagiarized.
Mehler’s faculty page is scrubbed. However, the snippet for it reads, “I am a historian of science and Director of two Institutes here at Ferris, ISAR (Institute for the Study of Academic Racism) and the Shoah Institute.” He’s listed as Barry Mehler, PhD.
Ferris State is a public university located in Big Rapids, Michigan.
In particular, Mehler has focused his research on eugenics. The Institute for the Study of Academic Racism says, “Dr. Barry Mehler speaks of the parallels he has witnessed between the far-right network of intellectuals and the rapid, devastating way in which eugenics research had been used in Nazi Germany, terrifying him with the possibility that the brutal atrocities of the past could happen once more.” You can find some of his archived writings here.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. In the Video, Mehler told the Students He Didn’t Care if They Complained Because ‘I’m a F****** Tenured Professor’
Mehler’s class YouTube video opens with the Mehler wearing both a mask and what looks like a space or motorcycle helmet.
“Okay, here we are Houston,” he says.
“Let me take this off,” he says, taking off the helmet and mask. “D***,” he says.
“…The intergalactic internet is all abuzz about this planet. 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. 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 then said, “At any rate, welcome to the new season of my show, more bad news, brought to you by Camel cigarettes.” He said that when he was the students’ age, doctors smoked Camel cigarettes. He then played an old television commercial about doctors preferring to smoke Camel cigarettes.
“There you go. So don’t believe all the hype that you hear about smoking being bad for you. Native Americans have been smoking the sacred leaves for thousands of years… after we arrived, they introduced it to us, and we turned around and marketed it to the world…. People all over the world smoke cigarettes, and we did that. It was one of the greatest accomplishments of American capitalism. The Indians always thought it was holy, sacred, meant to be shared on special occasions. We saw it as a marketing venture, an opportunity, a way to make huge profits off of an addictive product that will eventually kill you.”
It said it was “pure capitalism, turning death into profit.”
Mehler then said the video was designed to introduce himself to students before “we meet F2F,” which means face-to-face.
The professor said “everybody knows” that really means “f*** to f***, which really means that we’re all f*****.”
“When you see me next week, I’ll be wearing this helmet,” he said, adding that the helmet cost him $300 and contains filters so “it protects both me and you from this deadly virus that’s going around… Now, uh, I may have f***** up my life.. but I stand before you today beholden to no human c********* and working a paying f****** union job.”
He then said that “no limber d***ed c********* 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 to complain to your dean, f*** you go ahead, I’m retiring at the end of this year and I don’t give a flying f**k 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.”
Mehler then went into a long discussion about whether his introduction constituted plagiarism and revealed it was modeled on an episode of “Deadwood.” He played a video of that portion of the episode, where a character uses similar language.
He warned students that they can be expelled from Ferris if they plagiarize things, but he added, “I always encourage my students to avoid getting caught.”
He said if he was exposed “for the fraud that I am” nothing would happen, and then explained that students need to use proper sourcing and citations in their assignments.
2. Mehler Told Students, ‘None of You C********** Are Good Enough to Earn an A’
Mehler explained his attendance and grading policies.
He said students are probably wondering, “How the f*** am I going to get out of this course alive and with an A? How does this a****** professor grade.”
The professor explained, “There’s absolutely nothing you can do. You have no control over your grade. It doesn’t matter how f****** hard you work or how great your grades are. My grading system is based on the Calvinist doctrine of predestination. I figure if it was good enough for America, it was good enough for me. The Indians didn’t lose because they failed. They tried everything, and nothing worked because the universe doesn’t give a sh** about justice. It’s all about predestination, and you all are predestined to lose just like the Indians.”
Mehler told the students that the the “American colonies especially in the north were founded by the Christians who were basically Calvinists of one sort or the other and the Calvinist doctrine can be seen woven through American ideas about justice.”
He said that Calvin believed a person was either predestined for salvation or damnation, and most people were chosen for damnation.
He then segued back to his grading policy, saying, “It doesn’t f****** matter whether you go to church or give charity, your actions don’t count. That’s the way it is in my class. None of you c********** 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 sh** about you. I don’t even want to know your name. I just look at the number, and I assign the grade.”
He said “take your complaints to God.”
FMehler then read a letter to the New York Times in response to an opinion piece titled, “Republicans Cry Freedom While People Die.” The letter was written by a professor at another university who tested positive for COVID. The letter blamed Republicans and the university administration.
“Our situation here at Ferris is about the same as described in this letter,” said Mehler. “The only difference is I’m going to be 75 years old in March, and Covid has already killed 1 of every 100 Americans over the age of 60. In other words, whatever you think of the risk of Covid, I live in a very different world. My risk is much greater than yours.”
He said the students’ first assignment would be to describe how the last two years were for them. He said in the past students said they missed their grandparents at Christmas because they didn’t want to “expose grandma and grandpa to a disease that could kill them.”
He continued: “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 sh** whether grandpa lives or dies, and if you wouldn’t expose your grandpa to a possible infection with Covid, then stay the f*** away from me. If you don’t give a sh** about whether grandpa lives or dies, by all means come to class.”
He then clarified that “before any of you go running to complain and it happens every semester, ‘Dr. Mehler said we shouldn’t come to class,’ let me clarify my attendance policy to you.” He said professors have complete discretion over attendance policies.
“My classes are all designed to be taught remotely. And everything you need to earn an A is available is available to you on our Canvas page,” Mehler said. ‘There is no benefit whatsoever from coming to class. I will not take questions in class because I’m wearing this f***ing helmet in order to stay alive. So please come to class, enjoy the show.”
He noted, “I will be there regularly because I have no choice. You on the other hand have a choice.”
The caption with the video says it is for “Week I Gen Intro 010922.”
3. Ferris State’s President Declared He Was ‘Shocked & Appalled by This Video’
In a statement emailed to Heavy, Ferris State University wrote that it “is aware of a course video distributed to students, in early January, by a faculty member, believed to be Professor Barry Mehler. The faculty member has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation.”
Ferris President David Eisler provided the following statement, “I was shocked and appalled by this video. It is profane, offensive and disturbing and in no way reflects our University or its values.”
“As this is a personnel matter, the University has no further comment,” the university responded.
4. Some Students & Another Professor Defended Mehler
In interviews with WZZM13.com, some students defended Mehler.
“I’m going to be more engaged in class to a professor that’s swearing at me than someone who talks to me like I’m a kindergartener,” one Ferris State student told the news outlet.
Aaron Wisner, a former Ferris State student who once had Mehler as a profession, told the outlet that Mehler tries to inject humor into his classes.
“He has his own way of teaching,” says Wisner. “And he’s vulgar about it. But ultimately, it’s his way of keeping everybody’s attention.”
Wisner added to WZZM13: “I think all the all of his issues are addressed in the video, and I think they’re all reasonable. I just hope that in the light of all this, that message gets across and he doesn’t end up losing his career because of this.”
5. Mehler Is an ‘Expert on Eugenics’ & ‘the Use of Race Science to Support Racist Views & Policies,’ a Bio Says
A PBS article gave this bio for Mehler:
Barry Mehler is a professor of humanities at Ferris State University in Michigan and the founder and executive director of the Institute for the Study of Academic Racism. The Institute monitors campus racism and serves as a resource center for legislators, civil rights groups, and journalists. Mehler is an expert on eugenics and the use of race science to support racist views and policies. A member of the Behavior-Genetics Association, NAACP, Society for the Study of Social Biology, B’nai B’rith, and the Coalition for Human Dignity, Mehler has a B.A. from Yeshiva University, an M.A. from CCNY, and a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois.
The book, “Raped in Prison: A Horror Story” by Russell Dan Smith says that Mehler was previously a professor at Washington University in St. Louis. He was the founder of the International Committee to Free Russell Smith.
According to liquisearch, “Smith was one of the ‘Marion Brothers,’ a group of prisoners kept in long-term segregation and illegal solitary confinement in the Control Unit of the U.S. Penitentiary in Marion, Illinois. Smith and the rest of the Marion Brothers proved that they were illegally locked down due to their political activities in prison.”
A 1999 article in the Tampa Bay Times about another professor who believed Blacks are genetically inferior to whites, Mehler was quoted talking about academic freedom.
That article calls him “Barry Mehler, director of the Institute for the Study of Academic Racism,” and said that he believed firing the professor in question would turn him into a martyr, but he said the professor could be rebuked.
“Institutions can say while we respect his freedom of speech, he does not speak for this university. We do not agree with what he is saying. We believe what he is saying is wrong,” Mehler said to the newspaper.
Mehler wrote an article on this professor and others who he believes are racist for the Southern Poverty Law Center, which called him “a leading authority on the modern eugenics movement.” The article argues, “Some academic professionals use the ‘genetic inferiority’ argument to legitimize the white supremacist movement.”
His dissertation was called, “A History of the American Eugenics Society, 1921-1940, University of Illinois Ph.D. dissertation (Urbana 1988). Advisor, Richard Burkhardt, Jr.” You can read it here.
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