The University of California, Davis, is perhaps best known around the world for the 2011 incident where a UC Davis police officer pepper-sprayed Occupy demonstrators who were peacefully sitting down.
The public research university would obviously prefer to be known for other things, and it has now emerged that it paid at least $175,000 to consultants to help achieve this. It wanted help in downplaying the incident in search results, when people search for UC Davis or Linda Katehi, its chancellor.
According to the Sacramento Bee, UC Davis also instructed consultants to “improve the school’s use of social media and to devise a new plan for the UC Davis strategic communications office.”
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The newspaper filed requests under the California Public Records Act to get the documents that detailed the expenses. UC Davis said it had “worked to ensure that the reputation of the university, which the chancellor leads, is fairly portrayed.”
The documents showed the school had asked for “eradication of references to the pepper spray incident in search results on Google(GOOG) for the university and the Chancellor.” It wanted to combat what it called “online evidence and… venomous rhetoric.”
The incident sparked a debate about the militarization of campus police. John Pike, the officer who casually sprayed the protestors, ended up getting over $38,000 in workers compensation for the “psychiatric injury” he sustained by launching a thousand memes.
Kamran Loghman, who helped develop weapons-grade pepper spray, apologized for his creation thanks to this incident.