A white Stanford educator has been nicknamed ‘Professor Karen’ after carrying out a protracted battle with a black computer science professor at UC Berkeley over a proposal to change the school’s math curriculum. 

Jo Boaler, 58, a lecturer in education at Stanford, first drew the ire of Jelani Nelson for her support of a new recommended math program in California‘s schools. 

The controversial suggestions, which would have lowered the rigorousness of the state’s curriculum in an attempt to increase ‘equity,’ have made some angry because in part they ‘question the concept of student giftedness.’

Nelson has long been critical of Boaler’s work on the new ‘California Math Framework’ saying Boaler was charging $5,000 an hour to peddle controversial theories while black academics were ignored.

Nelson even retweeted a filing showing Boalar was paid $40,000 in total – $5,000 an hour – for her work with a school district in Oxnard, California.

Boaler then grew angry over another retweet of Nelson’s, which amplified a user who had made her address public. The person who wrote that tweet later deleted it.

Jo Boaler (pictured), 58, a lecturer in education at Stanford, first drew the ire of Jelani Nelson for her support of a new math program in California’s schools

Jelani Nelson, a computer science professor at UC Berkeley, retweeted a filing showing she was paid $40,000 - $5,000 an hour - for her work with the school district in Oxnard

Jelani Nelson, a computer science professor at UC Berkeley, retweeted a filing showing she was paid $40,000 – $5,000 an hour – for her work with the school district in Oxnard

Nelson has been critical of Boaler's work on the new 'California Math Framework' saying Boaler was charging $5,000 an hour while black academics were ignored

Nelson has been critical of Boaler’s work on the new ‘California Math Framework’ saying Boaler was charging $5,000 an hour while black academics were ignored

Nelson claimed via an email screenshot that Boaler had threatened to call the police on him

Nelson claimed via an email screenshot that Boaler had threatened to call the police on him

The alleged email Boaler sent Nelson, which he took as threatening to call the police

The alleged email Boaler sent Nelson, which he took as threatening to call the police

On Tuesday, Nelson sent out a screenshot of an email Boaler sent him from last week.    

‘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 wrote to Nelson. ‘I was shocked to see that you are taking part in spreading misinformation and harassing me online.’ 

Nelson then claimed that Boaler ‘threatened me with police’ and compared her to other instances of white women who have called the authorities on black people. 

‘After BBQ Becky, Permit Patty, Golfcart Gail, and all the memes, we now have Retweet Rachel,’ he said. ‘Public advisory: don’t call the cops on black people for no reason. Black people disagreeing with you on Twitter is not a crime.’

Boaler denied the accusation and said she merely mentioned the police ‘as a courtesy, because I thought it better that he did not engage with’ the person who wrote the original tweet.      

Boaler's initial apology, in which she claims she had no intention of referring him to the police

Boaler’s initial apology, in which she claims she had no intention of referring him to the police

Nelson told reporters he thought she was full of it: ‘The accusations came immediately after a sentence invoking police and lawyers, a sequence that could only be read in context as a threat against me specifically.’

Since then, the conservative Stanford Review has referred to Boaler as ‘Professor Karen.’

Boaler, in an email to SFGATE Thursday, continued to deny the accusation.   

‘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,’ she wrote. ‘It goes against all of my life work which has been to support and elevate the needs of marginalized students. I have publicly stated that I am sorry for the way it read – that I did not intend it to be threatening.’

She also claimed that Nelson was lying about Boaler having made $5,000 an hour for the school district.    

‘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,’ she wrote.

Logo printed on a fence blocking off a construction site on the campus of Stanford University

Logo printed on a fence blocking off a construction site on the campus of Stanford University

'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

‘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

Boaler was then asked about the filing Nelson produced saying she made exactly that amount. She argued this was only for ‘contact hours with teachers’ and didn’t include time she spent preparing, saying she could take 10 to 15 hours to prepare her presentations, which she also billed them for.  

She does not dispute having made $40,000 from the Oxnard School District.   

Boaler said she apologized to Nelson, though he has yet to respond, and adds that: ‘the result of his posting was that I received threatening, hateful and misogynistic emails and texts’ and ‘I have even received graphic threats to kill my daughters, it is terrifying.’

She added that she feels being called ‘Retweet Rachel’ among other threats is ‘hugely damaging, to my work, to my well being and to my family. My email to him was an invitation to talk, professor to professor.’

Nelson said that accusations he knew about both her hourly pay and the harassment are ‘incorrect’ but made no further comment.  

He pointed reporters back to a prior statement: ‘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.’



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