Ferris prof who didn’t want to teach F2F suspended for video

This article contains explicit and potentially offensive terms that are necessary to report this situation.

Ferris State University in Michigan has suspended a professor for posting a provocative, and often offensive, video to students ahead of the new semester this week.

Barry Mehler said in the video that he dreads teaching in person during COVID-19 because he is already 74, and that he will retire at the end of the semester. So while taking administrative leave likely isn’t the worst outcome for him, the Mehler faculty union says the suspension is an attack on academic freedom in general.

“Back to Show”

“Back to the show,” Mahler says in a YouTube video, where he first appeared wearing an astronaut-style helmet. “I want to introduce myself before we actually meet from F to F, as we say these days, which everyone knows means fuck sex – which really means we’re all fucking.”

Mehler, a consistent historian of science and racism, tells students that when they see him in person in class, he’ll wear a $300 helmet because it has high-efficiency particulate air filters to protect “you and me alike from this deadly virus that’s going on around you.”

Mehler then gives a profanity-filled monologue about how no ‘no criminal’ would tell me to the official how to teach my classes because I’m a fucking college professor. So if you want to go and complain to your dean, damn you. Go ahead. I’m retiring at the end of this year, and he’s not back I can have sex with flying anymore.”

He adds, “You people are just a vector for me, and I don’t want to be anywhere near you. So keep your distance. If you want to talk to me, come to my Zoom app.”

Mehler later explains that his speech was inspired by a similar vulgar soliloquy from the HBO TV show. dead woodAbout life in a gold mining town, he uses the opportunity to tackle the concept of plagiarism.

Things get even weirder from here, as Mehler cites Calvinism and predestination as reasons for randomly assigning students’ grades, regardless of individual effort (he later says students can get an A, but doesn’t explicitly say he’s joking about random grades). He also says that if students want to protect their grandparents from COVID-19, they should protect him, too, because he’s old enough to be their grandfather.

“When I look at a classroom full of 50 students, I see 50 selfish kids who don’t care whether grandpa lives or dies, and if you don’t expose your grandfather to a possible COVID infection, keep the curse away from me. If you don’t care whether grandpa lives or Die, by all means, come to class.”

“Before any of you run to complain, that happens every semester,” Mahler continues. I shouldn’t come to class, said Mahler, “—let me explain my attendance policy to you.” He says professors “have complete discretion regarding the attendance policy,” and “everything you need to earn an A is available to you on our site.” [online] Canvas page.

“There’s absolutely no point in coming to class,” says Mehler. “I won’t answer questions in class, because I’m wearing this damn helmet to survive. So please come. Enjoy the show. I’ll be there regularly, because I don’t have a choice. On the other hand, you have a choice. Thank you very much.”

The show is sponsored by Camel Cigarettes, says Mehler, an example of “pure capitalism, turning death into profit.”

Collapse or breakthrough?

Some online commentators have speculated that Miller was having a “meltdown.” But his “presentation,” vividly written and rehearsed, can also be read as the essential cry of a professor forced to teach in person during a new surge in COVID-19 cases, after nearly two years of navigating teaching in an already pandemic era.

Mahler did not respond to a request for comment. It remains unclear what exactly his intentions are – or how he feels about taking administrative leave.

Charles Bacon, professor of physics and chemistry and president of the Ferris State Faculty Association, said the union views Mahler’s suspension from teaching “an attack on academic freedom and part of the ongoing attempt at the national level to impose uniformity on faculty and intimidate faculty in higher education.” intellectual.”

Asked about speculation about Mehler’s well-being, Bacon said, “I assure you, Barry did not have a breakdown. Indeed, his method, which he has developed over the past decade, will be controversial in order to challenge students’ ingrained mental models and prejudices. It is something we strive all to achieve it.”

Bacon said Mihler’s classes tend to be “very popular,” in particular because it challenges students’ assumptions and makes class so much fun. In fact, we’ve had principals visit his class and come up with phrases like, “I wish I had a professor like you when I was in college.” .”

Ferris State certainly did not commend Mahler’s pedagogy in this case, saying in a statement that it was “aware of a course video distributed to students, in early January, by a faculty member believed to be Professor Barry Mahler. Teaching is on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.

“I am shocked and appalled by this video,” President David Isler said in a separate statement. “It is vile, insulting, disturbing and in no way reflective of our university or its values.”

Sometimes professors use stunts to get students’ attention or turn their assumptions about the world upside down. Sometimes these stunts are unruly: a Columbia University physics professor stripped naked on stage and beheaded a teddy bear during the inaugural lecture of the Frontiers of Science course in 2013, for example. The professor in this case, Emilyn Hughes, said this at the time: “In order to learn quantum mechanics, you have to strip your brain, remove all the trash from your brain, and start over.”

The meaning of Mahler is less clear. But it is clearly related to the ongoing battles between administrators and faculty over mandatory face-to-face teaching during the rush of the Omicron variant in COVID-19 cases.

Bacon, of the Ferris State Faculty Consortium, said, “We have tried to get accommodations last semester for those faculty, like Barry, who have legitimate concerns to return to face-to-face confrontation. Even faculty members who are weak in the machine Mannai were denied the option to switch to the Internet.” This class, he added, “is often face-to-face, with no accommodations for faculty, like Barry, who would like to do it online.”

Ferris State started this semester in person, as planned. A university spokesperson, Jeremy Mischler, confirmed that no professors were given waivers to move assigned lessons face-to-face online. However, students enrolled in face-to-face courses can request remote accommodations.

The university encourages, but does not require, the vaccination of students against COVID-19. Masks must be worn indoors.

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