Michigan professor who wore space helmet in profanity-laced video assigned Osama bin Laden Nobel Prize paper

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EXCLUSIVE: A Ferris State University professor assigned a paper to students asking them to explain “Why Osama bin Laden should be considered for a Nobel Peace Prize.” 

Ferris State University History Professor Barry Mehler has assigned the 2,000 word term paper to students multiple times since 2014 in a class titled “The Middle East in the Modern Era,” according to a public records request obtained by Fox News Digital.

“Term Paper: Why Osama bin Laden should be considered for a Nobel Peace,” a copy of the spring 2014 semester syllabus states. “This is a 300 level history term paper which must conform to certain standards. The paper must have a clear argument and use both primary and secondary sources, Chicago Style footnotes and a bibliography with primary sources listed separately from secondary sources. Further instructions and sample student papers from past years will be available on our class page.”

Mehler assigned the term paper asking students to explain Why Osama bin Laden should be considered for a Nobel Peace” multiple times since 2014, the documents show.

This image from video provided and taken by Barry Mehler shows Mehler during a 14-minute YouTube video at the start of a new term at Ferris State University. 
(Barry Mehler via AP)

The professor told Fox News Digital that he assigned the paper to give students a view of history “from an unusual angle.”

“I often give assignments like this. The idea is to view history from an unusual angle. By the way, I had a student who was in an Army reserves intelligence unit and he had just completed a paper in defense of Saddam Hussein. The intelligence service wants their officers to be able to understand why Osama bin Laden might be seen as a great hero instead of a great villian. You want the student to be able to step out of their own comfort zone and explore the way other people view the world,” Mehler said. “As a Jew and a lifelong human rights advocate,  I can assure you I wasn’t recruiting for Al Qaeda.”

In several classes taught by the professor, he also wrote in the syllabi that the class grading policy is based on “the Calvinist doctrine of predestination, which postulates that an individual’s destiny is predetermined.”

Several syllabi from Mehler’s classes state that “your grade may be based completely on classroom discussion,” stating that someone who fails “every exam” but contributes to classroom discussions in “outstanding and unusual ways” might be worth more than a “poor showing on a multiple choice exam.”

“On the other hand, you [sic] grade might be completely dependent on your exam grades, but this might not be the case, since according to Dr. Mehler, your grades are really assigned to you before you enter the class, that is, your grades are predestined and nothing you can do will alter your predestined grade. Some students walk in the door with an ‘A.’ Some students walk in the door with an ‘F.’”

Several syllabi for classes Mehler teaches also state that one student from the class could receive the “predestined for an A” prize, “given out each semester to a student, chosen completely at random.”

Mehler did not respond to questions from Fox News Digital about his grading policies.

Barry Mehler
(Credit: Ferris State University)

The professor came under fire in January for telling students in a video that students that “civilization is collapsing” and “life on your planet is going extinct,” before telling students that they are “vectors of disease.”

“You people are just vectors of disease to me and I don’t want to be anywhere near you, so keep your f–king distance. If you want to talk to me, come to my zoom,” Mehler said.

Mehler also told students that he is beholden to “no human c–ksucker” and has a “paying f–king union job.”

Ferris State University Campus.
(Credit: Ferris State University)

“I stand before you today beholden to no human c–sucker and working a paying f–king union job and no limber d–k of an administrator is going to tell me how to teach my classes because I’m a f–king tenured professor,” Mehler said.

He had a message for students who wanted to file a complaint with their dean: “F–k you.”

“If you want to go complain to your dean, f–k you, go ahead, I’m retiring at the end of this year and I couldn’t give a flying f–k any longer,” Mehler said.

He later said that the speech he gave was adapted from an episode form HBO’s Deadwood and used it to address the issue of plagiarism.

A university spokesperson at the time condemned the language Mehler used and said he is under administrative leave, pending the outcome of an investigation.

The professor filed a lawsuit against the university in late January, claiming it had violated his First Amendment right, according to Mlive.com.

Mehler later told the Associated Press that he was performing in the video when speaking to students.

“If a professor comes in and he’s all high and mighty and using words they don’t understand — that doesn’t help them relax and think,” Mehler said.

Multiple syllabi from Mehler’s classes, obtained by Fox News Digital, contain a “trigger warning,” which states, “Dr. Mehler takes on many personas, some of them are racist and some of them are sexist. As a result, Dr. Mehler uses profanity and what are ordinarily unacceptable racial and gender slurs. It is important for students to understand that Dr. Mehler is never expressing his ‘own’ opinions in class. He is always performing and always presenting opinions of others.” 

“In discussing Jim Crow, the ‘n’ word is inevitable. In fact, it is essential for the student to understand the power of words to define reality and since profanity was so much a part of the American frontier, the mining camps, sea ports and urban centers, a student who is easily offended ought to take another class or come and talk to me. I may be able to make some accommodation to individual sensibilities. With all that said, it is clear to me from student’s reactions to my methods over the years, that some student simply hate the way I teach. If you need to have clear instructions and an orderly presentation, this class is going to be very frustrating for you,” the syllabi add.

Ferris State University declined to comment when Fox News Digital reached out for comment.

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