Stanford lecturer dubbed ‘Professor Karen’ when equity battle with Berkeley professor goes off the rails

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A white Stanford University professor has just been dubbed “Professor Karen” following a protracted online feud with a black computer science professor at UC Berkeley over the prospective lowering of math standards in the state.

A lecturer in education, 58-year-old Jo Boaler drew the attention of Jelani Nelson after she announced her support for new math programs in California schools aimed at spreading “equity” at the expense of excellence. Critics say the proposed changes in curriculum would “question the concept of student giftedness,” according to the Daily Mail.

Evidently Nelson, 37, has been a longtime critic of Boaler and her work in revising the California Mathematics Framework, accusing her of ignoring black academics and earning $5,000 an hour while working for a school district in Oxnard, California.

In addition to his retweet of the filing concerning her Oxnard monies, Nelson also retweeted a post that reportedly included Boaler’s address. The original poster deleted the tweet, but Boaler was incensed.

She emailed Nelson to let him know she had contacted authorities over his postings – an email which he then posted with a screen shot in which he also alluded to the 2021 NYC Central Park incident when a hysterical woman called police on a black man she thought was harassing her.

“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.”

Boaler rejected Nelson’s interpretation of her email to him, saying she had no intention of calling the police on him, but rather she wanted authorities involved over the original and now-deleted tweet that contained her address.

Nelson insists he is innocent of any such violation.

Nelson told the outlet he didn’t believe Boaler.

“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,” he said.

Since then, the moniker of “Professor Karen” has been applied to Boaler by the university’s conservative Stanford Review paper.

She reached out to the SFGATE with an email in her defense.

“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 Nelson was lying about her earnings from her work in the Oxnard 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.

Boaler reiterated her apology to Nelson for which he has yet to respond. “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 told outlet.

Nelson, for his part, acknowledged he misrepresented how much Boaler actually made from her lecturing and consulting, and he referred SFGATE back to his initial statement of concern over proposed reduction in standards of the math curriculum.

“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,” he told the outlet.


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