Professor Resigns in Protest From Orange County Ethnic Studies Panel

A Cal State Northridge professor resigned from an ethnic studies forum sponsored by the Orange County Board of Education on Monday, one day before its much anticipated debut.

Theresa Montaño, who teaches Chicana/Chicano Studies, raised questions about the qualifications and motivations of what were to be her fellow panelists.

“Not a single person on this panel is a dedicated expert in, nor in my judgement thoroughly knowledgeable about, Ethnic Studies curriculum. In fact, my research reveals that all the panelists are vehemently opposed to Ethnic Studies and have made their positions on the topic clear,” she said in a news release.

For ethnic studies advocates, the forum appeared suspect from the start. Tuesday’s forum took place less than a week after the Orange County Department of Education held its own virtual discussion, “With Liberty and Justice for All: A Colloquium on Ethnic Studies.” This gave the impression that there were two “dueling” forums, with the Board of Education’s meeting expected to take on a more skeptical view of social justice and ethnic studies curriculum.

One reason for that assumption was the collection of panelists. They include UCLA Professor Richard Sander, a critic of affirmative action; Walter H. Myers, who teaches Science & Religion at a conservative Christian university; Brandy Shufutinsky, a core team member at the Alliance for Constructive Ethnic Studies, which takes a critical view of many ethnic studies and anti-racist education programs; and San Diego law professor Maimon Schwarzschild, a contributor to the conservative/originalist Federalist Society whose members include Supreme Court justices John Roberts, Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and the late Antonio Scalia. The Board of Education’s forum was also moderated by a former Republican congressional candidate, Joe Collins.

In addition to the conservative-leaning panelists, the board has a history of using these forums to push political agendas. Last year, it organized a forum on school closures that culminated in a recommendation for schools to reopen without any masks or social distancing. Some members of the forum later disavowed the recommendations, saying they were not consulted ahead of the final report.

The resignation of Montaño, however, has only compounded the latest forum’s lack of ideological diversity.

Tim Shaw, a trustee on the board, told Voice of OC that he was disappointed in her abrupt pull-out.

“I think the credentials of the other panelists speak for themselves,” he said. “We have a bipartisan group there’s Democrats and Republicans. They are law professors, military backgrounds — looking at their qualifications, Ph.D from Harvard. I mean it’s not like they’re slouches.”