The University of California\’s student association has required the resignation of UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi amid revelations the university paid to remove images of a 2011 incident in which students were pepper-sprayed from the web.
It was disclosed that UC Davis paid $175,000 to get rid of photographs and references online of the 2011 episode. As documented by Rachel Gross of Slate, UC Davis payed a Maryland-based company, Nevins & Associates, $15,000 per month to clean up its reputation. The organization agreed to remedy \”the venomous rhetoric about UC Davis and the chancellor\” through \”strategic keeping online content.\” Other such contracts were awarded to many companies working to the same end.
In 2011, the Occupy Wall Street movement was percolating on college campuses; the movement was fueled by young adults angered through the rising costs of school education, proposed cuts to college budgets, and perceived?greed in the financial sector. Students linked to the movement staged sit-ins and protests. Police contend that the use of pepper spray was justified given the unruliness of students.
However, reporters from the Los Angeles Times observe that in April 2012, a school of California report asserted that the use of pepper spray violated school policy which school leaders bungled the handling of the protests. The report, compiled by a task force appointed by Katehi, rebutted the claims made by campus police in regards to the Occupy demonstrators.
The incident received widespread media coverage, and videos surfaced of police firing pepper spray right into a crowd of students in November of 2011. The officer who sprayed students, Lt. John Pike, received over 17,000 emails that included threats and harassment in the wake from the incident. Consequently, UC Davis sought online monitoring expertise to hide these images.
University officials released an argument defending their efforts being an important area of the institution\’s overall communication strategy. \”It is essential that the excellent work underway at UC Davis regarding educating the next generation of students, pursuing groundbreaking research, and providing important services to the states isn\’t lost throughout a campus crisis, such as the crisis that ensued following the extremely regrettable incident when police pepper-sprayed student protestors this year.\”
Max Lewontin of The Christian Science Monitor reports that online reputation management is a growing industry that offers to help individuals and businesses manage what appears about the subject in search engines. In doing so, companies are tasked to replace positive articles and statements in Google results to counterbalance negative results.
\”Companies and people make mistakes, and it is our job to give them another chance,\” Darius Fisher, the president of Status Labs, a monitoring company. \”Generally speaking though, the majority of our clients are companies and people who made an embarrassing mistake or received critical media coverage years back and don\’t desire to be defined by this forever.\”
The revelations only bolster the criticism already being hurled at Katehi. She has resisted calls?for her resignation for accepting paid outside board positions, including one on the board of John Wiley & Sons, a textbook publisher, from 2012 to 2014.