UC Davis Paid Firms Thousands to Clean up Bad Online Image After Pepper Spraying of Student Protesters
Records reveal the University of California, Davis hired consultants and paid thousands to clean up its bad image on the internet after student protesters were pepper sprayed on campus in 2011.
The documents show the university hired consultants for at least $175,000 to get rid of the negative search results related to the incident and Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi. Others sought to come up with a plan to improve the school’s use of social media.
“We have worked to ensure that the reputation of the university, which the chancellor leads, is fairly portrayed,” said UC Davis spokeswoman Dana Topousis.
“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,” she added.
The documents addressed the pepper-spraying of student protesters on Nov. 18, 2011, which received national attention. Since then there have been calls for Katehi to resign. The chancellor has also faced criticism for joining the boards of a textbook publisher and a for-profit university.
The records show a contract between the institution and the Maryland-based Nevins & Associates in which the college agreed to a six-month contract that paid $15,000 a month for the services.
Documents obtained by the Sacramento Bee shows the university paid the firm $92,970 through July 2013, including travel and lodging costs for Nevins associate Molly White.
“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,” said Nevins in the contract.
“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,” it added.
In June 2014, the university hired Sacramento-based ID Media Partners to “achieve a reasonable balance of positive natural search results on common terms concerning UC Davis and Chancellor Katehi.”
In an $82,500 contract, the company, also known as IDMLOCO, was hired to “design and execute a comprehensive search engine results management strategy.”
During February of 2015, IDMLOCO was awarded a contract of a monthly fee of $8,000—up to a maximum of $96,000—to develop an “integrated social media program for executive communications.”
In September 2015, IDMLOCO received a third contract for $22,500 a month or a limit of $67,500 to “provide an assessment of the University’s Strategic Communications redesign.”