Humanities professor Dr. Barry Mehler was placed on administrative leave on Tuesday, Nov. 11.
This decision from Ferris’ administration came after a viral video was posted online, presumably by one of Mehler’s students. A complaint was then filed. In a statement, President David Eisler described the video as “profane, offensive, and disturbing.”
Funny enough, the truly disturbing thing about the situation was the decision to place Dr. Mehler on leave. The administration’s choice to put a tenured professor, who planned to retire within a year, on leave with threats of termination is downright ridiculous and shows the respect the university lacks for their tenured professors.
Mehler is a cornerstone of Ferris State University. He predates Eisler and his administration by 15 years, beginning his time with the university in 1988. Mehler, who had been nominated for a distinguished teacher award in the past, had his hand in the SHOAH Archives and the Just Detention International, which has been nominated for a Nobel Prize.
There’s a different Mehler once you enter his classroom. His accomplishments are reflected in how he teaches. He’s a bit eccentric, but you learn from it. You’re able to listen to the man, and you’re able to comprehend him. It begins to make you think. It’s engaging. There’s not much better you can do than what Mehler does.
As a former student of Mehler’s, I can attest to his eccentricness and his pessimism about life. You won’t ever catch yourself sleeping in his class. He says odd things, he makes his class his show and he plays his character. This is what is seen in that viral video.
If you haven’t had a class with Mehler, the video is concerning. However, that’s Mehler in character. In no way is Mehler being truly malicious. All Mehler was looking to do was make a point. Mehler is 74 years old. With a variant cropping up that has higher transmission than anything we’ve seen before, of course he’s going to be concerned.
Seeing such misunderstanding about Mehler and his beliefs is frustrating. I’d encourage taking a class with him and getting the picture that I have. Unfortunately, the administration seems to want to make this impossible.
Eisler and his flat, pre-planned statements are truly bothersome. Mehler is an accomplished, long-standing, tenured professor. He is more Ferris than Eisler has ever been. Whether you like it or not, Mehler represents what Ferris needs to be. For an institution that prides itself in being “forward,” it sure looks like every step taken by Eisler and his administration has been backwards.
Eisler had also said in his heartless statement that Mehler’s video “in no way reflects our University or its values.” I believe this to be incorrect. Mehler’s video has more value than Eisler, his administration and the university combined. Ferris State needs Mehler for that reason. I hope to see him teaching again soon.