When it comes to reputation there are few things worse than attempting to conceal or manipulate internet coverage of an adverse incident of your own making.- as happened at UC Davis.
Students pepper-sprayed by campus police at the University of California at Davis have reacted in anger at the “vastly inappropriate” and “insulting” decision by their university to use consultancy Nevins & Associates to systematically erase mentions of the story on the internet and “eliminate” Google search results.
UC Davis now stands accused of censorship after quietly seeking to hide web references to a widely reported incident in which campus police sprayed student activists from the then nascent Occupy movement four years ago.
Videos of the incident, which have been viewed millions of times online, show a campus police officer pepper-spraying students who were peacefully protesting on the university campus. The photographs and video went around the world, prompting a major backlash against the California University and its chancellor Linda PB Katehi, who was accused of using heavy-handed tactics against peaceful activists Following this expose UC Davis students are once again calling for Katehi’s resignation.
The pepper spray incident was videoed by multiple bystanders and quickly went viral, becoming the top trending topic on Google and broadcast on TV news programs across the world.
Details of the attempt to remove references of the pepper-spraying incident were revealed by the Sacramento Bee, which reported that UC Davis hired a communications firm on a $15,000-a-month contract with a goal of eradicating “references to the pepper spray incident on Google”, including “negative search results” for Katehi. In total Nevins and Associates received $175,000 (£123,000) in fees from UC Davis.
The information was obtained through a Public Records Act request.
Multiple media channels are now running the cover up story, ensuring that far from hiding the pepper spray incident it is now once again trending and is set to permanently tarnish the reputation of UC Davis.
The consultancy firm was paid by the university’s communications department. Whose budget has increased from almost $3m in 2009, to $5.5m in 2015 It can now be only a matter of time before the chancellor Linda Katehi resigns over this unmitigated PR disaster.
As Groucho Marx once said, “Learn from the mistakes of others. You can never live long enough to make them all yourself.”