During this decade’s still-ongoing “racial reckoning,” assaults by university administrations on the academic freedom of tenured professors have gotten ever more blatant. Beside the Amy Wax case at Penn, Charles Negy was fired from his tenured post at the University of Central Florida for retweeting my Taki’s column from the first week of the Mostly Peaceful Protests in which I concluded:
Instead, the Establishment views blacks as our Sacred Cows, above criticism, but beneath agency.
An arbitrator later reinstated Professor Negy.
And Cleveland State fired tenured professor Bryan Pesta after he co-authored a breakthrough study of one of the oldest and most controversial questions in psychology: Is the racial gap in IQ between whites and blacks narrower on average among self-identifying blacks with more white genes?
Pesta has now filed a lawsuit against Cleveland State, and let’s just say, he doesn’t pussyfoot around or rely on a lot of legal technicalities, but instead calls out the huge issues raised by his case:
Case: 1:23-cv-00546 Doc #: 1 Filed: 03/16/23 1 of 38. PageID #: 1
IN THE U.S. DISTRICT COURT FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF OHIO EASTERN DIVISION
BRYAN J. PESTA,
– against –
CLEVELAND STATE UNIVERSITY,
LAURA BLOOMBERG, HARLAN M. SANDS, BENJAMIN WARD, CHRISTOPHER MALLETT, CONOR McLENNAN, and WENDY REGOECZI, in their individual and official capacities;
COMPLAINT FOR MONEY DAMAGES AND DECLARATORY AND INJUNCTIVE RELIEF
1) This case presents claims based on the Defendants’ violation of Dr. Pesta’s First Amendment rights to academic freedom, freedom of speech, and freedom of association.
2) It involves a flagrant violation of First Amendment rights in the heart of an institution which by its very nature is supposed to be “peculiarly the marketplace of ideas.” Instead of that marketplace of ideas, Defendants herein threw a “pall of orthodoxy” over speech which is both controversial and critical of government policy.
… FACTUAL BACKGROUND
14) Dr. Pesta holds a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Akron; an undergraduate and master’s degree in psychology from CSU, and a master’s degree in human resource management and labor relations, also from CSU.
15) For over 36 years, from 1986 until March 4, 2022, Pesta was associated with Defendant CSU, first as a student, and then later as a faculty member for well over two decades.
16) Dr. Pesta was granted tenure at CSU in 2010, and promotion to full professor in 2016.
17) Indeed, Dr Pesta was, at the time of the events herein, not only a tenured full professor, but he was also the most senior member of his department, with excellent student evaluations.
18) As a psychologist, Dr. Pesta has conducted research and published peer-reviewed papers on the subject of human intelligence (IQ).
19) Some of Dr. Pesta’s research has focused on questions relating to the hereditability [heritability?] of IQ—the extent to which individual differences in human intelligence can be attributed to either genetics, environmental factors, or both.
20) This area of research is well founded, with IQ in particular being one of the most rigorously investigated metrics in psychology, and with racial differences in average IQ being well documented for over one hundred years.
21) Indeed, among the most replicated findings in social science is that the mean IQ of American Blacks (M = 85) lies about one standard deviation below the mean IQ of American Whites (M = 100). We note that these are averages and say nothing necessarily about any given man’s IQ, whether he is White or Black.
22) Nevertheless, in the field of statistics, a one standard deviation difference between two groups is widely accepted as being “very large.”
23) Moreover, the average IQ difference here between Blacks and Whites is unfortunately stubborn and has persisted in the research literature for well over one century.
24) In various research articles, Pesta and colleagues have shown that these gaps correlate strongly with critically important life outcomes, such as income and education levels, propensity to engage in criminal activities, and even a person’s levels of health and overall well-being.
25) But despite (a) the gravity of race / IQ gaps, (b) the critically important consequences that they predict, and (c) a century’s worth of research, their cause(s) remain unknown.
26) And yet researching and discussing the cause of the gaps is difficult in part because controversy is generated by even asking questions about this subject.
27) Indeed, controversy has so consistently followed inquiry in the area of race, genetics and intelligence that many psychometricians have recognized that phenomenon with a shorthand term—to wit, the “Gould Effect” which refers to the deliberate “controversialization” of intelligence research, which then chills not only the specific subject of race, genes and intelligence, but also more generally the willingness of writers to tackle even less controversial issues related to intelligence research, such as those related to behavior genetics in general.
28) Thus, the causes of racial gaps in IQ have been controversial for decades.
29) However, in the last 15 years or so the whole-genome revolution (driven by the advent of low-cost DNA testing) has made it possible to do scientifically compelling tests on this topic.
30) Dr. Pesta’s research, which resulted in the paper referred to below as “Global Ancestry and Cognitive Ability” (a/k/a “Lasker et al. 2019”), was the first to do so with a large sample size (over 9,421 subjects) of excellent data provided by the National Institute of Health.
This 2019 study used the excellent Philadelphia Neurodevelopmental Cohort database. I later wrote about a second, quite similar study of racial ancestry admixture and IQ conducted upon the nationally representative Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) database that replicated the first study’s findings. My 2021 write-up in Taki’s Magazine “A Matter of Tone” is likely the easiest introduction to these landmark but intellectually challenging admixture studies.
For generations, it has been understood that the debate over the causes of the racial gaps in average intelligence—Is the cause solely Nurture or is it both Nature and Nurture?—could be advanced dramatically by reliable admixture studies. In the mid-20th century, both sides offered conflicting admixture studies, but the methodologies for inferring genetic admixture, such as measuring skin color, were obviously dubiously crude.
Now, we are past all those hindrances. We now have more than one representative database of 10,000 individuals such as the PND and ABCD for whom we have their self-identified race/ethnicity, their complete genome scans, detailed socio-economic status data, extensive cognitive tests, and even brain scans.
31) It was the first known study using actual DNA samples (as opposed to measures utilized in the past, such as estimates of probable genetic material inferred from family relationships) while also controlling for the socio-cultural “baggage” of self-identified race.
32) Indeed, “Global Ancestry and Cognitive Ability” (a/k/a “Lasker et al. 2019”) might rightfully be regarded as landmark study for several objective reasons:
a) First, an entity called “Altmetric (www.altmetric.com”) evaluates articles (across all of science) and ranks them on how impactful they are. The Lasker et al. paper scores in the 99th percentile for “High Attention,” and in the 95th percentile for all research outputs that Altmetric tracks, across disciplines in both “hard” (e.g., chemistry) and social science (e.g., psychology).
b) Second, the journal that published Lasker et al. (Psych) reports that the article has been individually viewed by 53,174 persons to date. This count represents the most in the journal’s history.
c) Third, Google Scholar reports that the Lasker et al. paper has already been cited 25 times, further illustrating the paper’s relative impact and importance.
33) Like all science, Dr. Pesta’s research is not the last word on the topic, but it is far more sophisticated and revealing than previous research and should be seen as a landmark of sorts. Instead of being greeted as an academic landmark, Dr. Pesta’s research has been the occasion for violations of academic freedom and First Amendment outrages.
34) Pesta’s research and publishing herein constitute attempts to communicate his views about a public matter.
35) Furthermore, Pesta’s research herein contains premises which challenge those of powerful government policies.
36) On August 30, 2019, Dr. Pesta (along with three other individuals) caused to be published an article entitled “Global Ancestry and Cognitive Ability” (a/k/a “Lasker et al. 2019”) in the peer reviewed journal Psych. A true and accurate copy of “Global Ancestry and Cognitive Ability” is attached hereto as Exhibit 1.
37) “Global Ancestry and Cognitive Ability” proved controversial.
38) “Global Ancestry and Cognitive Ability” proved to be controversial because it openly included data showing that European American (EA) and African American (AA) populations differ in mean general cognitive ability (or general intelligence, “g”) by about one standard deviation—a fact which has long been established among expert psychometricians, but one which has nevertheless been interdicted by powerful taboos, such as those related to the “Gould Effect.”
39) More controversial still, “Global Ancestry and Cognitive Ability” cited earlier studies showing reasonably strong evidence that genetics played a role in the mean differences in general intelligence between White and Black Americans, and concluded that the data supported those earlier studies, viz.:
“Rushton and Jensen called for modern genetic studies to test the hereditarian model. They predicted that ‘for those Black individuals who possess more White genes, their physical, behavioral, and other characteristics will approach those of Whites (, p. 262). In the present study, we confirmed that this was the case for general cognitive ability. Moreover, we showed that the association between European ancestry and g was substantially mediated by eduPGS [a genetic estimate of IQ] rather than skin color PGS. These results provide support for a hereditarian model…
“…We found that European ancestry was a consistent predictor of cognitive ability, even after entering various controls into our models.” Exhibit 1, pdf. p. 23 “4.4. General Conclusion.”
40) These premises conflict directly with those which underly the civil rights policies of the government at all levels, which civil rights policies are based on the premise that the observable differences between Blacks and Whites in general intelligence are due primarily or even exclusively to environmental factors.
… 53) There is thus a direct conflict between the speech of Dr. Pesta and powerful government policies.
54) Yet criticism of government and government policy is not simply a right, but even a duty in our constitutional order.
55) Furthermore, criticism of government actors and government policy is at the very core of the First Amendment.
56) Consideration of Dr. Pesta’s point of view is necessary if we would uphold the fundamental First Amendment right of canvassing public men and public measures and maintaining (in Madison’s words) “the censorial power” of “the people over the Government, and not in the Government over the people.”
57) Furthermore, government policies tend to generate both vested interests and even taboos, and the civil rights policies of our government are no exception.
58) Open discussion of race is confined by powerful taboos—the very opposite of the “uninhibited, robust, and wide-open debate” our First Amendment supposedly fosters.
59) Notable examples of the taboo at work in popular culture go back decades and include… Professor Amy Wax at University of Pennsylvania’s Carey Law School, who had, for several years prior to the incident herein, incurred censure and harassment from the UPenn Dean and Administration over her remarks concerning race and intelligence.
62) Upon information and belief, these and similar incidents were known and understood by the hierarchy at CSU at the time of the events herein, including President Sands, Provost Bloomberg, and others, including Dr. Benjamin Ward, Dr. Christopher Mallett, Dr. Conor McLennan, and Dr. Wendy Regoeczi.
63) Thus, the controversial nature of openly discussing intelligence differences among the races and the evidence for an innate or genetic explanation for such differences was well known to the above individuals.
64) Turning back to Dr. Pesta’s controversy, in response to “Global Ancestry and Cognitive Ability,” individuals from both inside and outside of the CSU community claimed said article was “racist,” and launched a campaign to have him fired over the said article.
65) Four such individuals who complained to CSU are Dr. Jedidiah Carlson, Dr. Cathryn Townsend, Kevin Bird, and Os Keyes.
… 104) Indeed, on September 30, 2021, Kevin Bird and his colleagues repeatedly acknowledged that there is in fact a “racial IQ gap,” but made clear to the CSU agents that what they took issue with was any probing of the point of view that such “racial IQ gap” was caused by genetic as opposed to environmental factors, e.g.:
“something like the hereditarian hypothesis, kind of a long-standing racist theory, would probably not be within their purview of ethical research.”
… 105) Kevin Bird and colleagues made clear that they wanted no testing of “the hereditarian hypothesis” of “the racial IQ gap,” meaning that they expected CSU to throw a “pall of orthodoxy” over this subject.
… 132) By decision dated January 13, 2022, which was effected March 4, 2022, Provost Bloomberg accepted the recommendation of the said committee and terminated Dr. Pesta’s employment at CSU.
… 135) In taking such action, Provost Bloomberg knew that she was taking part in viewpoint discrimination, which she understood was an egregious First Amendment violation.
136) President Sands was aware of the actions taken against Dr. Pesta, as he had been monitoring Dr. Pesta’s situation at least since October 7, 2020, when he received two letters from the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) sent on behalf of Dr. Pesta, which defended Pesta’s First Amendment rights with respect to the controversy being instigated by the likes of Pesta’s would be censors over “Global Ancestry and Cognitive Ability.” ….
175) Moreover, in Pesta’s case, the anti-intellectual forces have progressed (or declined) from an atmosphere of suspicion to outright persecution, which now holds sway at CSU.
176) What is at stake is not simply Pesta’s point of view, but the viability of all scholarship and education in this field at CSU, and likely elsewhere.
… 186) Accordingly, Pesta seeks a declaratory judgment:
a) Declaring that the hereditarian hypothesis into the long-standing racial gap in IQ is worthy of study, but is presently under assault for reasons wholly removed from valid scientific criteria; and
b) Declaring that to those, like Pesta, who advance a hereditarian hypothesis in the study of race, genetics, and intelligence are entitled to academic freedom; and
c) Declaring that CSU in particular must extend full academic freedom to any, such as Pesta, who advance a hereditarian hypothesis in the study of race, genetics, and intelligence; …
Goshen, New York March 16, 2023
Frederick C. Kelly, Esq.