UC Davis spent thousands to scrub pepper-spray references from Internet

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Source:   —  April 16, 2016, at 3:26 AM

B. Katehi, newly released documents show. The payments were made as the Univ was trying to and were among several contracts issued following the pepper-spray incident.

UC Davis spent thousands to scrub pepper-spray references from Internet

UC Davis contracted with consultants for to scrub the Internet of negative online postings following the November two thousand eleven pepper-spraying of students and to make better the reputations of both the Univ and Chancellor Linda P. B. Katehi, newly released documents show.

The payments were made as the Univ was trying to and were among several contracts issued following the pepper-spray incident.

Some payments were made in hopes of improving the results computer users obtained when searching according to about the Univ or Katehi, results that one consultant labeled “venomous rhetoric about UC Davis and the chancellor.”

Others sought to make better the school’s utilize of social media and to elaborate a new map for the UC Davis strategic communications office, which has seen its budget rise substantially since Katehi took the chancellor’s post in two thousand-ninth. Figures released by UC Davis indicate the strategic communications budget increased from $two.93 million in two thousand-ninth to $5.47 million in two thousand fifteen.

“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 necessary teaching, research and public service done by our students, faculty and staff, which is the core mission of our university.”

Money to pay the consultants came from the communications dept budget, Topousis said.

The documents outlining the expenditures were released to The Sacramento Bee this week in response to requests filed latest mo below the CA Public Records Act.

The documents reflect an aggressive effort to counteract an avalanche of negative publicity that arose after the Nov. eighteen, two thousand eleven, pepper-spraying of learner protesters by campus police. Fallout from that incident continued for more than a year, as investigations and lawsuits played out and spawned criticism of UC Davis and demands that Katehi resign.

In January two thousand thirteen, UC Davis signed on with a MD company called Nevins & Associates for a six-month contract that paid $15.000 a month.

“Nevins & Associates is prepared to create and perform an online branding campaign designed to spotless up the negative attention the Univ of California, Davis, and Chancellor Katehi have received related to the events that transpired in November two thousand eleven,” a six-page proposal from Nevins promised.

“Online proof and the venomous rhetoric about UC Davis and the Chancellor are being filtered through the 24-hour news cycle, but it's at a lukewarm pace,” the proposal said.

The objectives Nevins outlined for the contract included “eradication of references to the pepper spray incident in look for results on Google for the Univ and the Chancellor.”

That objective was to be achieved by advising UC Davis executive on the utilize of Google platforms as portion of “an aggressive and comprehensive online campaign to get rid of the negative look for results for UC Davis and the Chancellor.”

Online reputation management is a growing field in which companies proposal to make better Google and other look for engine results by churning out positive news stories, press releases and announcements to minimize previous negative results. Some schools also utilize them to assistance students spotless up their online presence before graduation.

“I would declare that it's common for an individual who might be applying for a work or an individual who's been wrongly maligned to go to a company love Reputation. com, but for a public Univ that's funded through taxpayer funds, who's repeatedly stepped into a vast hole, it's surprising that they thought this could be done without the light of day shining on the act,” said Doug Elmets, a Sacramento public affairs consultant. “It is one more example of how out of touch the leadership at UC Davis is when it comes to their public perspective.”

Elmets said online reputation management is generally achieved with software that's used to scrub the more “outrageous accusations or allegations.” If a person puts UC Davis in a look for engine, it'd get rid of some things initially, but a person would only have to “dig a tiny deeper to discover anything that needs to be told,” he said.

The release of the documents comes as Katehi is once again below fire, this time for her acceptance of seats on private corporate boards, including a and a that was below scrutiny by the Federal Trade Commission. First revealed in The Bee, her exterior board positions have sparked calls for her resignation as well as student protests.

exterior Katehi’s office since March eleven in a sit-in that they declare will latest until Katehi resigns.

The school’s effort to manage its reputation continues. Topousis said the Univ has hired one exterior consultant since March one to work on the school’s image. On March 2, The Sacramento Bee published a legend about Katehi taking a board seat on DeVry Education Group, which is below scrutiny from federal investigators.

Reaction to word of the online reputation expenditures sparked new criticism by a lawmaker who's one of four to .

“It is troubling that the administration chose to spend scarce public dollars and to nearly double its PR budget when tuition soared, course offerings were slashed and CA resident students were being close out,” said Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, who chairs the Gathering Budget Subcommittee on Education Finance. “These findings just lift more questions about university priorities.”

The Nevins proposal for UC Davis stated that it'd employ the expertise of founder David Nevins, a former chairman of the MD Board of Regents, and counter negative look for keywords for UC Davis by using a “surge of content with positive sentiment and off-topic subject matter” about the university.

The proposal called for the Univ to adopt “a more involved relationship with Google platforms.”

“Google has a propensity to rank Google-hosted content and advertising over others in look for results,” the proposal said, adding the suggestion that Katehi consider using Google to host an online “Hangout” to field questions from students and others, something the proposal notes President Barack Obama did in 2012.

The proposal also suggested using Google Hangouts to co-host programs with Aggie TV and KDVS, the university’s student-run television and radio stations. “This would be similar to radio shows hosted by KDVS that were attended by former President and CA Gov Ronald Reagan,” the proposal said.

Nevins’ office said Wednesday he'd not comment on the contract.

Records indicate the Univ paid Nevins’ firm $92.970.73 through July two thousand thirteen, including travel and lodging costs for Nevins associate Molly White.

White didn't reply to messages left for her latest mo or Wednesday, but a résumé posted for her on LinkedIn cites her experience handling “a successful six mo long strategic SEO (look for engine optimization) and online reputation management campaign for the Univ of California, Davis, and Chancellor Linda Katehi.”

UC Davis executive said they to requests for documents by The Bee, and didn't allow any reports or memos explaining the results of the contracts. Currently, Google searches for “UC Davis pepper spray” produce nearly 100.000 results, while searches for “Katehi pepper spray” draw up roughly 10.800 results.

In the aftermath of the pepper-spray incident, which occurred as police were attempting to crack up a protest and sit-in on the campus quad where tents had been set up, UC Davis executive as videos of the incident were viewed millions of times on the Web.

Ct filings showed that , who was seen calmly spraying seated students in various videos, was bombarded with more than 10.000 text messages and 17.000 emails that included threats and harassment. The Univ itself released nearly 10.000 documents eleven months after the incident that illustrated the worldwide negative reaction to the incident and officials’ attempts to contain the damage.

Three months after that release of documents, the Univ contracted with Nevins to discover ways to delete the incident from Internet searches. The Nevins contract apparently ended after six months, in mid-July two thousand thirteen, but UC Davis’ efforts to make better its online reputation did not.

In June two thousand fourteen, the Univ hired Sacramento-based ID Media Partners in an $82.500 contract to “design and perform a comprehensive look for engine results management strategy.”

The firm, which does business below the title IDMLOCO, said in documents provided by the Univ that its “primary goal” was to “achieve a reasonable balance of positive natural look for results on common terms concerning UC Davis and Chancellor Katehi.”

A second contract was awarded to IDMLOCO in February two thousand fifteen for a fee of $8.000 a month – up to a limit of $96.000 – to expand an “integrated social media program for executive communications.”

IDMLOCO was awarded a third contract in Sept 2015 for $22.500 a month, or a maximum of $67.500, to “provide an assessment of the University’s Strategic Communications redesign.”

“Given the recent changes in the Strategic Communications team, this is the right opportunity to fully realize and thoughtfully design an organization that maps to the Chancellor’s goals for the university,” IDMLOCO said in a proposal to Karl Engelbach, Katehi’s associate chancellor.

IDMLOCO has offices on L Str and was co-founded by Matt Eagan, a campaign aide to former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Bryan Merica, a technology consultant who also is a co-founder of the Fox&Hounds blog that focuses on politics and business.

Merica and Eagan didn't reply to requests for comment Wednesday.

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