A woke Stanford University professor is being labeled as “Professor Karen” after threatening to call the cops on a professor at the University of California, Berkeley. The battle between the academics escalated when it was revealed that the Stanford professor was being paid handsomely for consultations about teaching math.
Jo Boaler – an education professor at Stanford – clashed with Jelani Nelson – a computer science professor at UC Berkeley. The altercation began on March 31 when Nelson wrote on Twitter, “The proposed CA Math Framework states improving math learning for black students as central motivation and has 0 black authors.”
Boaler is one of five authors of the latest draft of the California Mathematics Framework – “curriculum framework that provides guidance to educators, parents, and publishers, to support implementing California content standards.”
Part of the math framework is incorporating social justice into learning mathematics.
“I can tell you that the social justice angle is one that has been blown up,” Boaler said in November, 2021. “It’s not a huge part of what we’re recommending, but what we’re saying is, ‘Of course, mathematics can be used to highlight issues in the world.’”
KXTV reported, “The wage gap, for example, could be a math problem: Women earn only 82% of men’s wages for the same work.”
In his tweet, Nelson also pointed out that Boaler makes a fortune from teaching sessions.
“Instead, one author has alarmingly lucrative consulting deals with school districts with large minority populations, charging $5,000/hr,” Nelson wrote.
“I’ve spent 1000+ hours setting up/contributing to educational programs for the benefit of black kids for free,” he added. “Total I’ve made: $0 (actually negative, since I sometimes spent my own money). Representation matters.”
Nelson referenced how Boaler was reportedly paid $40,000 from the Oxnard School District in 2021 for “four two-hour sessions at the rate of $5,000 per hour for a total of $40,000.”
Boaler told the San Francisco Gate that Nelson was spreading “misinformation.”
“He was spreading misinformation – that is not my hourly rate, or anything close to the rate paid by Oxnard and as a fellow academic he knows this to be the case,” Boaler told the outlet. “If we conservatively assume 11 hours per hour, then the rate of pay would be $454.00 per hour, If you ask academics you will find that is a very reasonable rate – actually on the low end.”
— Jelani Nelson (@Jelani Nelson)
Boaler emailed Nelson on April 1. On Twitter, Nelson posted a screenshot of the email with the alleged threat to call the police.
“As a courtesy to a fellow faculty member I wanted to let you know that the sharing of private details about me on social media yesterday is now being taken up by police and lawyers,” Boaler reportedly wrote.
“I was shocked to see that you are taking part in spreading misinformation and harassing me online,” Boaler added, despite Nelson not tagging her or writing her name in the original tweet.
Nelson compared Boaler’s threat to other infamous white women who have called the police on black men in the past.
Nelson tweeted, “A @Stanford professor just threatened me with police. After BBQ Becky, Permit Patty, Golfcart Gail, and all the memes, we now have Retweet Rachel.”
“Public advisory: don’t call the cops on black people for no reason,” he continued. “Black people disagreeing with you on Twitter is not a crime.”
— Jelani Nelson (@Jelani Nelson)
Boaler told the San Francisco Gate, “I would never even think of threatening a black man with the police, I know how serious that is in our society and there could be nothing further from my intent.”
“It goes against all of my life work which has been to support and elevate the needs of marginalized students,” she said. “I have publicly stated that I am sorry for the way it read — that I did not intend it to be threatening.”
Boaler claims that the “misinformation” has caused her to receive “threatening, hateful and misogynistic emails and texts.”
“The naming of me as ‘retweet Rachel’ has been picked up by right wing news media, and is horrible,” she stated.
Boaler said that she had apologized to Nelson, but he has yet to respond.
“What must not get lost in this troubling incident is the much larger issue of K-12 math education in this state: the California Math Framework (CMF) proposal is a misguided revision of state guidelines on math education that will negatively affect tens of millions of Californians, including my own two children,” Nelson said. “This pathway leaves students unprepared for quantitative four-year college degrees via a newly proposed pathway for teaching mathematics that lacks essential content.”
Police were involved in another situation involving Boaler and a fellow professor in 2003.
Wayne Bishop – a professor of mathematics at California State University – reportedly made a hyperbolic statement that allegedly made Boaler feel unsafe.
In 2012, Boaler said of the incident, “In 2003. Bishop discussed Schools of Education in the US and suggested to readers that they ‘nuke ‘em all dammit.’ This, alongside his personal attacks on my work, prompted Stanford’s police department to travel to LA to speak to Wayne Bishop.”
Bishop reportedly confirmed having the police called on him for his remark, but noted that he received one phone call and no authorities visited him.