Recently released documents show that University of California-Davis has spent $175,000 to have consultants scrub any postings relating to the Nov. 18, 2011 incident of a police officer using pepper spray on protestors.
During an Occupy Wall Street protest at UC Davis, UC Davis Police Lt. John Pike pepper-sprayed protestors as they sat peacefully. Fortunately for the movement, this instance of police brutality was well-documented with video and photos which went viral online. Rather than accept the negative attention this would bring to the campus, UC Davis hired the company Nevins and Associates to try to make the incident disappear down the memory hole in 2013.
As reported by the Sacramento Bee, Nevins and Associates promised in their contract with UC Davis the “eradication of references to the pepper spray incident in search results on Google for the university and the Chancellor.” Chancellor of the school, Linda P.B. Kaheti personally wanted to have online criticisms removed as she had received heated calls for her resignation after the debacle.
Unfortunately for Kaheti, she is now again under fierce scrutiny for her acceptance of seats on two private corporate boards while remaining the chancellor of a taxpayer-funded university. This conflict of interest has led to a student sit-in, where protesters have stated they will remain until Kaheti resigns.
UC Davis Katehi protesters say they will end their sit-in today https://t.co/gF0vmNmFuH
— CBS Sacramento CBS13 (@CBSSacramento) April 15, 2016
During Linda Kaheti’s time as chancellor, the strategic communications budget shot up from 2.93 million in 2009 to 5.47 million in 2015. Much of this spending, reports say, was to strengthen the school’s use of social media. This large increase also neatly coincides with the 2011 scandal and to address the anger towards Kaheti.
As UC Davis Chancellor Kaheti walks to her car, hundreds of students line the streets in a silent show of disdain http://t.co/5sUfYGkN
— Pallavi Gulati (@PallaviGulati) November 20, 2011
In 2013 the university settled a lawsuit with the protestors by paying them one million dollars, to be divided between the 36 victims. Even the cop who pepper-sprayed the Occupy demonstrators took action against the school. UC Davis police officer John Pike was paid $38,055 in workers compensation that same year due to his claims of suffering in the aftermath of the event.
With these payments as clear recognition of guilt, it appears the university simply wanted to erase the incident from public consciousness to avoid having it damage its reputation any further.
To make matters worse, a Google search for “UC Davis” still leads to the pepper spray incident as the first search result.
This brazen attempt to cover up the injustices inflicted on the protestors has now backfired. Instead of UC Davis salvaging its reputation it has instead sunk to new lows and inadvertently brought out into the open its own misdeeds, reopening old wounds for many and disturbing many taxpayers with its poor use of funding.