Dr. Barry Mehler was suspended in January after his semester introduction video titled “More Bad News” went viral, amassing over 500,000 views on YouTube and over a combined 12 million views on TikTok.
The settlement was reached after Mehler’s request for a temporary injunction was denied at his March 7 hearing. The agreement reached paid Mehler out $95,000 if he elected to retire effective immediately of March 15, the agreement date, in lieu of further actions being taken that could result in his discharge.
In his semester introduction video, Mehler used a variety of profanity to express his concerns about the university’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, namely the lack of a vaccine mandate. He further goes on to describe his fictitious Calvinistic grading system, in which the students’ grades were said to be predetermined before they stepped foot into class. This tactic was used to get students thinking about theology and to reconsider the ways they think they know what they know.
Mehler filed a temporary restraining order and a request for temporary injunction. The restraining order, if granted, would have forbidden the university from barring Mehler from campus, communicating with students, both former and current, and would have allowed Mehler to continue teaching, pending the hearing for a temporary injunction. The temporary injunction would have fully reinstated Mehlers’ teaching privileges and Ferris-bound online accounts. This temporary injunction alleged that Mehlers’ First and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated when Ferris deplatformed him by way of suspension. Both requests were denied.
Mehler, along with Dr. David Eisler and Dr. Randy Cagle, were bound to a three-year gag order, in which they agreed not to criticize or disparage each other. If Mehler were to break this order, he would be fined $60,000.
“The parties have amicably resolved their differences,” Ferris said in a statement released by Sandy Gholston, Ferris’ news services and social media manager, at the conclusion of the legal proceeding.
Mehler will exit as Professor Emeritus of history and, per the settlement, will be ineligible to work for or with Ferris in the future. In his final interview with the Torch after the settlement, Mehler said that he was grateful for the controversial end to his career, and he felt honored by how many students reached out to show their support and recall how he touched their lives.
“The word that’s used repeatedly is transformative—that my teaching has really affected lives. People have said that I’m the most influential professor… I really wouldn’t have known. So, the controversy has turned out to be a blessing in so many different ways,” Mehler said.