University of California Paid $175,000 in Attempt to Erase Pepper-Spraying Scandal from the Internet


The University of California at Davis shelled out some $175,000 to consultants to clean up the school’s online reputation following a 2011 incident in which campus police pepper-sprayed student protesters, according to documents cited by the Sacramento Bee.

The newspaper reported Wednesday that the documents — including proposals and purchase orders — reveal that the school paid to have negative Internet search results scrubbed to help the reputations of the university and its chancellor, Linda P.B. Katehi.

The university has since confirmed that it tried to improve its reputation following the pepper-spraying scandal.

“We have worked to ensure that the reputation of the university, which the chancellor leads, is fairly portrayed,” UC Davis spokeswoman Dana Topousis told the Bee. “We wanted to promote and advance the important teaching, research and public service done by our students, faculty and staff, which is the core mission of our university.”

The incident occurred Nov. 18, 2011, when Occupy demonstrators ignored orders to leave the UC Davis campus and university police started spewing pepper spray into the crowd. The police response prompted massive protests on campus, which gained national media attention and ignited a debate about police brutality and use of excessive force against peaceful protesters.

The Sacramento Bee reported that the backlash lingered for more than a year as the university became embroiled in investigations and lawsuits that soiled the school’s reputation.

In January 2013, UC Davis signed a contract with Nevins & Associates in Maryland for “eradication of references to the pepper spray incident in search results on Google for the university and the Chancellor,” according to the proposal. The cost: $15,000 a month for six months.

“Nevins & Associates is prepared to create and execute an online branding campaign designed to clean up the negative attention the University of California, Davis, and Chancellor Katehi have received related to the events that transpired in November 2011,” the proposal said. “This campaign also includes consultation services from David Nevins, founder and President of Nevins & Associates, to provide further support to the reputation enhancement efforts of the university and Chancellor Katehi, as desired. Online evidence and the venomous rhetoric about UC Davis and the Chancellor are being filtered through the 24-hour news cycle, but it is at a tepid pace.”

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SOURCE: Lindsey Bever
The Washington Post