Pesta v. Cleveland State University

April 2021
Cleveland State University (Public college or university)
Cleveland, OH

Identity of Speakers

  • Bryan J. Pesta

    Former College of Business professor


Additional Information

  • Incident Nature:
  • Incident Political Orientation:
    Right wing
  • Incident Responses:
    Faculty sanctioned
  • Incident Status:
    In litigation Federal District Court
  • Was Speech Code incident


A fired Cleveland State University professor has filed a civil lawsuit against the university in federal court, arguing his First Amendment rights were violated.

Former College of Business professor Bryan Pesta was stripped of his tenure and fired last year after the university found he had committed “serious violations of our policies governing academic research,” CSU said in a statement this week.

Pesta was also found by the National Institutes of Health to have misused its data and was banned from its use for three years in what CSU alleged was the “most serious and longest such ban in NIH history.” Pesta used that data in a controversial research report that suggested Black people are genetically predisposed to be less intelligent than white people, part of a larger body of scholarship Pesta had authored on the topic of genetics, race and inheritance that, as the Chronicle of Higher Education reports, flew under the radar until recently.

However, Pesta in the suit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio last week alleged he was being “censored” because his research challenges “those of powerful government policies.”

Pesta alleged that his opponents “ a) identified a conclusion of Dr. Pesta’s work which happens to be at variance with government policy and is interdicted by powerful taboos; and b) instead of squarely disputing the truth or falsity of the conclusion at variance with government policies, accused Dr. Pesta of ethical violations as a means of silencing Dr. Pesta without having to refute his conclusions,” the lawsuit reads.

CSU in a statement said it wasn’t engaging in censorship in Pesta’s case.

“We strongly believe our faculty are entitled to full freedom in their research, but they must adhere to the highest standards of honesty, integrity and professional ethics,” the spokesperson wrote. “Anytime those standards are violated, we will take appropriate action.”

The scientific consensus is that there is little evidence for genetics determining IQ differences between racial groups, several researchers reported in a 2017 Vox article, partly because of how difficult it is to disentangle environmental factors that people experience after being born, factors like discrimination and poverty. Plus, they wrote, there are challenges disentangling the concept of a person’s race – which many scientists argue is a social construct rather than a biological one – from their genetic ancestry.

Pesta alleged in the lawsuit that a group of academics and students put pressure on university officials to get him fired due to his unpopular and “racist” views, a charge which he denies.

The lawsuit seeks his reinstatement, with pay, at CSU, along with $50,000 in damages and a declaration that the “hereditarian hypothesis in the long-standing racial gap in IQ is worthy of study, but is presently under assault for reasons wholly removed from valid scientific criteria,” along with a statement that those studying the issue are entitled to academic freedom.

By Conor Morris, Ideastream Public Media