Watch CBS News

College professor suspended over vulgar video quits, settles for $95,000

A Michigan college professor who was suspended in January for making a profanity-filled video to welcome students settled his legal dispute with his university by accepting $95,000 and agreeing to a three-year gag order.

As part of the deal, Barry Mehler retired from Ferris State University rather than face possible termination after a judge refused to reinstate him last spring, according to a March document released to The Associated Press under a public records request.

Mehler, 75, and the university agreed not to criticize each other. If the professor speaks out over the next three years, he must pay $60,000.

Mehler taught history at Ferris State for decades. He made headlines in January after posting a provocative 14-minute video to welcome students, which got more than 500,000 views on YouTube.

In the video, he used profanities and made a sexual reference as he rambled on about his attendance policy, grades, plagiarism and COVID-19. Mehler adapted a vulgar monologue from "Deadwood" as part of making a point about plagiarism and told students he would assign grades randomly.

"There's absolutely nothing you can do—you have no control over your grade," he said. "My grading system is based on the Calvinist doctrine of predestination."

Mehler was also upset with the university over its refusal to require COVID-19 vaccinations.

"COVID-19 has already killed one out 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.

He told students, "you people are vectors of disease to me," and said they didn't need to attend class in person, because "everything you need to earn an A" was available on the class website.

University "shocked and appalled"

After the video was posted, Ferris State suspended Mehler on January 11 and started investigating his conduct.

David Eisler, who was Ferris State president at the time, said he was "shocked and appalled" by the video, which he called "profane, offensive and disturbing."

The professor said his free speech rights were violated when he was suspended. He previously told the AP his comments were irreverent and intended to get his students to think critically.

"The whole idea was to get their juices flowing," Mehler said in January. "But they also knew their grade was not based on predestination. That was simply humorous."

Ferris State is in Big Rapids, 155 miles northwest of Detroit.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.