Barry Mehler’s attorney, Matthew J. Hoffer of Schafer and Associates has sent a letter to President Eisler and Dean Cagle with an ultimatum.
The letter, sent to the Torch, gives the deadline of 1 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 19 to meet their demands before they take legal action.
“Dr. Mehler hereby demands that you immediately confirm that his suspension is lifted and that he may return to his teaching duties for all five of his classes this term. It is further demanded that you restore Dr. Mehler’s Canvas pages for each of his classes and restore his faculty page to the University website,” the letter said.
The letter also outlines how Hoffer believes the university’s actions are a violation of Dr. Mehler’s First Amendment Right to his academic freedom.
“The University’s unlawful actions include placing Dr. Mehler on suspension pending investigation, removing his course materials from their respective Canvas pages, and removing Dr. Mehler’s faculty page from the University website,” the letter said.
Attached in the letter is a letter from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). The letter requests that Ferris restore Dr. Mehler to his position in the classroom.
FIRE also provided an analysis of the viral introduction video, explaining that they view it as a performance that includes jokes, a commercial break, and other video clips.
They noted that while Mehler’s teaching style is unique, the First Amendment has been found binding over public universities and academic freedom is of “special concern to the First Amendment.”
“Professor Mehler has the freedom to stand in his classroom beholden to no human censor. His pedagogical choices, however eccentric, are protected by the First Amendment and provide no justification for administrative intervention. Any contrary conclusion can be reached only by willfully ignoring the full content and context of his lecture,” the letter said.
Hoffer’s letter also includes Mehler’s 2014 pedagogy statement which describes in-depth his style of teaching that is structured like a television variety show. The statement outlined that the primary reason for this teaching method is to challenge students to think and reach conclusions themselves.
Also included in Hoffer’s letter is a copy of the 2017 Distinguished Teaching Award nomination that Mehler received.
The university did not have a statement beyond what was initially released last week.
This is an ongoing story, and the Torch will continue to release information as we receive it.