Ferris State says professor's profane viral video not protected under First Amendment

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

A Ferris State University professor's use of vulgarity in an expletive-laden course video for students that went viral last month is not protected speech under the First Amendment, the university argued this week in a response to a federal lawsuit.

Barry Mehler, a 74-year-old history and humanities professor, posted the 14-minute video on Jan. 9 to his YouTube channel as the new semester began in Big Rapids. The video depicted Mehler’s "well-known and celebrated provocative style and included criticism of the University’s COVID-19 policy along with his long-standing bits used to draw students’ attention to plagiarism and his grading policy," his attorneys wrote in a lawsuit filed against the school last month in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan.