Two professors at rival California universities UC Berkeley and Stanford traded accusations of racism and harassment on social media this week in a public feud rooted in disagreements over how math should be taught to students in the state, The San Francisco Chronicle reports.
As The Chronicle points out, Stanford University Professor Jo Boaler is on a mission to rewrite the state's math framework to focus on students of color and English learners. But opponents of Boaler's efforts say her approach would leave students poorly equipped for college.
One of those opponents was San Francisco high school math teacher Elizabeth Statmore, who posted a contract on Twitter that seemed to show Boaler made $5,000 an hour to train teachers in the Oxnard school district.
The post was later deleted after people pointed out that the contract contained Boaler personal information -- but that didn't stop UC Berkeley Professor Jelani Nelson from retweeting one of Statmore's posts, criticizing Boaler for “alarmingly lucrative consulting deals.”
In response, Boaler contacted Nelson and asked him to delete his tweet.
“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. I was shocked to see that you are taking part in spreading misinformation and harassing me online,” Boaler wrote to Nelson in her email.
Nelson, who is Black, then accused Boaler, who is white, of unjustly calling the police on a Black person.
“A professor just threatened me with police. After BBQ Becky, Permit Patty, Golfcart Gail, and all the memes, we now have Retweet Rachel,” he posted on Twitter. “Public advisory: don’t call the cops on black people for no reason. Black people disagreeing with you on Twitter is not a crime.”
"To be clear, what I *re*tweeted is not misinformation, not private, and not harassment. It's a screenshot from the public record," Nelson added.
The accusation sparked a flood of negative comments on the social media platform. The Stanford Review, a student-run newspaper, dubbed Boaler "Professor Karen," describing her email as a "sad attempt at censorship."
But Boaler claimed that her only objection was to the sharing of her personal information online and she denied contacting police about Nelson in particular
“I wanted him to know that the posts by a teacher sharing my address had been sent to police/lawyers, as a courtesy, because I thought it better that he did not engage with her,” she told The San Francisco Chronicle. “He changed that to say I was threatening him with police/lawyers. I was not.”
“I am really saddened by what has happened on Twitter - and the number of people who believed his claim that I was ‘calling the cops on a Black man. I wrote to him to invite him to chat, professor to professor, and am very sorry that my mentioning the police was ever perceived as a threat. That was never my intent," Boaler said, adding that she's been targeted for harassment as a result of Nelson's post.
The California state Board of Education is expected to vote on the framework in July.
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