Ferris lawyers responded to history professor Dr. Barry Mehler’s emergency motion for a temporary restraining order and temporary injunction regarding his spring semester introduction video.
Mehler filed this request in hopes of being reinstated back to his position at the university with full privileges. He also requested that the court restrain the university from prohibiting him to come to campus and have contact with students both former and current.
Judge Jane Beckering reviewed and denied the request for the temporary restraining order, but the temporary injunction is pending trial.
“Having considered the record before it, the Court, in its discretion, finds that the immediate issuance of a temporary restraining order without notice to all Defendants is not justified,” Beckering wrote in her ruling.
The university responded to Mehler’s requests by claiming that the viral class introduction video is not considered free speech.
“Speech is not protected, public speech when made only to a ‘captive audience of students’ enrolled in a university class who cannot ‘effectively avoid further bombardment of their sensibilities’ by simply averting their ears. See Bonnell v. Lorenzo,” University lawyers, Robert M. Vercruysse and Anne-Marie Vercruysse Welch wrote.
Mehler and his lawyers reaffirmed their position on his video that it was information-dense and not profanity-dense.
“As far as the profanity is concerned, there’s the first Amendment of the Constitution that gives us the right to speak freely. And the Supreme Court and every other court of the years over and over and over again rule that profanity is just a form of speech.” Mehler said.
Further, they argue that Mehler has not suffered adverse action because he is receiving full pay and benefits while he is suspended pending the investigation.
The university claims that Mehler would not suffer irreparable harm without the injunction.
“Plaintiff has also not alleged any specific damage or material loss he has suffered as a result of the requirement that he remain away from campus while the investigation is ongoing,” Robert M. and Anne-Marie wrote.
Mehler alleged he is facing harm in a previous comment to the Torch.
“People don’t seem to understand at all, I’ve been defamed, I’ve been treated like a criminal, I’ve been publicly humiliated, they took down my bio from the university as if I never worked there, they stripped my canvas pages of all the content,” Mehler said.
Mehler’s lawyer, Matthew Hoffer replied to the university’s response supporting the motion for the temporary restraining order and temporary injunction.
One of the biggest issues addressed in the document is the claim that the university failed to address Mehler’s prior restraining argument.
Hoffer references The Letter that Mehler received from the university that reportedly forbids him to speak to current or former students about his case or access the Ferris campus.
“Defendants’ purported justifications for their actions fall far short of what is required to sustain a presumptively unconstitutional prior restraint,” Hoffer wrote.
Hoffer also argues that Mehler’s speech is a matter of public concern, and the fact it was spoken in a classroom setting doesn’t change that. Hoffer also argues that Mehler’s speech was protected by academic freedom.
Mehler is taking Ferris State University to court on March 7 at 10 a.m.