Some college students in Michigan might have expected their professor to cover the usual topics in a video kicking off the semester this week - attendance, grading, plagiarism. But Barry Mehler gave them a lot more than the basics.
Mehler, a history professor at Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Mich., told his students he didn't want to know anything about them, not even their names, because "you people are just vectors of disease to me."
The 74-year-old said it didn't matter how hard they worked in his class since he randomly predetermined their grades.
And if they didn't like any of that?
"Go complain to your dean . . . go ahead," Mehler said. "I'm retiring at the end of this year and I [don't care] any longer."
As of early Friday, the 14-minute profanity-laced video has been viewed more than 210,000 times since Mehler posted it on Sunday. Mehler has been placed on administrative leave while Ferris State University investigates the incident. In a statement to The Washington Post, university president David Eisler said he "was shocked and appalled" by the video.
"It is profane, offensive and disturbing and in no way reflects our University or its values," he said through a school spokesperson, who declined further comment.
Mehler did not respond to The Post's request for comment Thursday night.
He has taught at the university for more than 27 years, according to his page on the College of Arts, Sciences and Education staff directory, which has been taken down but was archived by the Wayback Machine. He is the director of the university's Institute for the Study of Academic Racism and said his academic work focuses on the relationship between science and racism.
Mehler is the latest example of a professor expressing concern about returning to in-person learning during spikes in the number of coronavirus cases. Professors in Georgia told The Post in September - when the delta variant sent cases in the United States soaring - that they were out of jobs after refusing to return to the classroom to teach.
The Michigan professor opened his video wearing what looks like a space helmet, although he later told his students it was equipped with filters to protect him from the coronavirus. Taking it off, Mehler introduced himself at the beginning of his video as an alien informing Earthlings that the "intergalactic Internet is all abuzz about this planet," where suffering "is through the roof."
"I don't know whether you people have noticed, but it's dangerous to breathe the air," he said in character. "Many of your experts are advising wearing masks because there's a deadly virus spreading around the planet. Your civilization is collapsing and life on your planet is going extinct."
Addressing the upcoming semester, Mehler claimed he had "no choice" but to return to the classroom to teach in person. But he urged his students not to join him because of his age and increased risk of suffering severe covid symptoms should he contract the virus. Mehler ensured them they could still fully participate in class online.
"I'm old enough to be your grandpa, and you people are vectors of disease to me," he said. "So when I look at a classroom filled with 50 students, I see 50 selfish kids who don't [care] whether grandpa lives or dies."
Mehler went on to tell his students not to worry about how remote learning might affect their grades.
"You have no control over your grade," he said. "It doesn't matter how . . . hard you work."
Later in the video, the professor explained he based his grading system on the Calvinist doctrine of predestination, which posits that God has already assigned people for salvation before birth, so no action they take in life can change that.
"None of you . . . are good enough to earn an A in my class," Mehler said, adding, "So I randomly assign grades before the first day of class. I don't want to know [anything] about you. I don't even want to know your name. I just look at the number and I assign a grade. That is how predestination works.
"And don't come . . . complaining to me. Take your complaints to God."