Police Abuse

UC Davis Tries That 'One Trick' to Purge Its Reputation for Pepper-Spraying Student Activists

College censorship meets police abuse meets ... SEO optimization?


Pepper Spray
Credit: Pronoiapierce/flickr

Here's another example of colleges no longer fulfilling their roles as defenders of speech and openness, combined with abusive police behavior, with an added dash of the administrative bloat that's driving up higher education costs. That's one really gross cocktail.

University of California, Davis, achieved global Internet infamy (there were memes!) when a campus police officer responded to peaceful student protesters in 2011 with a vicious, uncalled for stream of pepper spray. The college ended up paying out $30,000 each to 21 protesters who were struck. Then, remarkably, it paid $38,000 to the abusive cop himself because of the "psychiatric injury" he suffered from the criticism he received for his behavior.

UC Davis would like to put the matter behind them. But instead they've managed to figure out how to give themselves yet another round of bad publicity. They have spent thousands of dollars trying to game the internet to try to hide the incident or reduce the chance that people looking up information about the college bring up the incident. The Sacramento Bee discovered through records requests that the college paid at least $175,000 to try to improve its online reputation in the wake of the pepper-spraying incident:

The documents reflect an aggressive effort to counteract an avalanche of negative publicity that arose after the Nov. 18, 2011, pepper-spraying of student 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 [Chancellor Linda] Katehi resign.

In January 2013, UC Davis signed on with a Maryland company called Nevins & Associates for a six-month contract that paid $15,000 a month.

"Nevins & Associates is prepared to create and execute an online branding campaign designed to clean up the negative attention the University of California, Davis, and Chancellor Katehi have received related to the events that transpired in November 2011," a six-page proposal from Nevins promised.

"Online evidence and the venomous rhetoric about UC Davis and the Chancellor are being filtered through the 24-hour news cycle, but it is at a tepid pace," the proposal said.

The objectives Nevins outlined for the contract included "eradication of references to the pepper spray incident in search results on Google for the university and the Chancellor."

That objective was to be achieved by advising UC Davis officials on the use of Google platforms as part of "an aggressive and comprehensive online campaign to eliminate the negative search results for UC Davis and the Chancellor."

If I had a dollar for every time I got a spam email offering to improve my search engine optimization or to clean up my reputation online, I might have enough money to fund the college's strategic communications office. That's the administrative bloat connection. The Bee notes that in the years since Katehi took over in 2009, the budget for the communications office has grown from $2.93 million to $5.47 million.

So we have a publicly funded institution who is extracting more and more money both from California residents and its own students in order to fund an effort to try to keep these people from stumbling across stories about the bad things that have happened on its campus. Now how much are they going to spend to try to make this round go away?

Read more here.

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  1. “” SEO optimization””

    Sort of like the CIA agency?

    1. After that went live I was like “Crap, that was redundant, I wonder how long before somebody notices?”

      1. You should try writing a resume featuring that and CMS systems.

        1. I gave up at “ATM machines”.

          1. Not SAT tests?

      2. I wonder how long before….


      3. Concealed within his mom’s basement, GILMORE sees all ? his gaze pierces cloud, shadow, earth and flesh.

        1. I know what you orthanc’n.

        2. please. I’m totally an attic person.

          1. I’m totally an attic person.

            I had no idea you enjoy “Flowers in the Attic” as much as I do.

            1. I meant more in the classic Athenian sense.

      4. I’m sure that somebody could clean up your now-sullied reputation for a small fee.

    2. *clicks stopwatch*

      Hmm, 8 minutes. TOO SLOW! Do it again!

  2. OT: So in Oakland they are having a protest right now for immigration, racism, all that crap, and to ‘end low wages’

    Do these fucktards know how economics work? Maybe instead of marching they could learn a skill to get more wages. And most of the protesters looked like fairly affluent (white) people too

    Socialism is such a failed ideology and people still fall for it

    1. And most of the protesters looked like fairly affluent (white) people too.

      Probably a lot of college students who think it’s totes unfair that they’ll actually have to pay back all those student loans they took out for their Victim’s Studies degrees and doubleplus unfair that they’ll have to do it while not earning a living wage slingin’ latte’s at a Starbucks.

    2. Philadelphia too. They’ve lumped in living wages, gentrification, stop and frisk, charter schools and the proposed site of the new Temple Football Stadium.

      1. “All purpose butt-hurt rally.”

      2. Can that be considered stockholm syndrome? How could you protest against charter schools if you have a kid in any urban school center.

        The keep electing politicians that keep them poor and promise to make them rich (or at least screw over the ‘other guys).

        1. I wish I could explain it. My guess is every penny that goes to charters should go to traditional public schools even though basically all of those in the City suck. Philly is so messed up.

        2. I’m sure the DNC this summer is going to be a debacle wrapped in shitshow inside a fustercluck

          1. I’m betting they will divert most of the Protest-American Community to the RNC convention.

          2. would that be a deshitcluster or a bacleshowfuck?

      3. So everything except the .03/ounce soft drink tax that Philly’s leftist (redundant) mayor is trying to pass?

        1. Pretty much. But there have been TV spots against the soda tax. Glad I live in the suburbs

          1. Wait so are you for Stop and Frisk? Because you can sign me up for stopping that bullshit any day of the week. Kinda of a yuge violation of the 7A.

          2. Stop and Frisk is total BS. But the kitchen sink nature of the protest today is kinda silly to me. They need to pick a lane.

            1. they have, they picked all of them at once!

  3. The hilarious irony is that the pepper spray incident from five years ago now was probably already off of the first page of results when searching for “UC Davis” or related terms. It would still come up if people were searching specifically for the incident, but a generic search would probably yield just the school site, social accounts, and media coverage of sports and research. But if you do a search today, this story about how dumb they are is front and center.

    1. Streisand effect. I now where I’m applying to grad school.

      1. But I’ll be rejected for lack of an edit button.

        1. editing? check your privilege…

    2. if you do a search today, this story about how dumb they are is front and center.

      Yep, pretty much. BWAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!11!!!!!!1!!

      Also, when you type “UC Davis” into the google search bar the first suggestion that comes up in the list is “UC Davis pepper spray”.

  4. I remember when this happened and there were conservatives arguing they had to pepper spray the kid because it would be hard for the police officer to escape because he would have to step over them

    1. Why did he even need to “escape” in the first place?

      1. Then, remarkably, it paid $38,000 to the abusive cop himself because of the “psychiatric injury” he suffered from the criticism he received for his behavior.

        Well apparently Officer Butthurt is easily triggered.

        1. So’s his can of pepper spray.

        2. We are distressingly close to cops getting paid for the number of people they harm.

          1. Piecework, instead of salary, with a bounty for wool scalps?

    2. The video

      i still think it was pretty funny

      1. Not that it wasn’t already a ridiculous justification but he literally steps over them to start the video.

    3. And I remember the apologists insisting that the crowd of angry, screaming students attached to a movement known for its violent fanaticism, circling the officers and screaming to “peacefully advance on them” posed no threat.

      Fuck you and people like you for making me defend cops.

      1. The cop casually pepper-sprayed a group of people sitting on the ground.

        There is pretty much no justification whatsoever for that.

        1. we don’t need no stink’n justification!

        2. And 38 grand added to pay, perks and impunity as a bounty for chemical aggression is no small incentive.

  5. Still pushing the lie that it was “peaceful”, huh?


    1. maybe/maybe not, doesn’t matter, there’s NO excuse for how that fat fuck behaved.

  6. Mad props on the photoshop, BTW.

  7. Oh man those are some great memes!

  8. the college paid at least $175,000 to try to improve its online reputation

    Remember folks, nothing left to cut.

  9. Watering the Hippies

    1. Those are communists. Hippies at least had something to bring to market.

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  13. I wonder how much they’ll pay themselves for the psychological damage they’ve suffered from being criticized.

    It’s only fair!

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  16. So all those cops in videos shooting unarmed brown people in the back should get a $30 grand psycho bounty in addition to the paid vacations and promotions? And people actually VOTE for their political parties?

  17. Their efforts were fruitless. I typed in the wrong school and still got pages and pages of links on this subject.

  18. Don’t forget to mention the name of the thug, John Pike. Fuck him, and fuck the police union that got him 38 grand as a consolation prize for his crime.


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