Thursday, February 22, 2018
Calif. University Finds Deleting Online Links to Unpleasant Events a Quixotic Task

WASHINGTON, D.C. April 14 (DPI) –  The University of California at Davis has spent at least $175,000 contracting firms to help expunge online references to a 2011 campus pepper-spraying incident. But that effort hasn’t done much to eliminate the 116,000 results when Googling “Pepper Spray UC Davis” – not to mention the incident’s own 1,500-word Wikipedia page.

In fact, a Sacramento Bee report this week further embarrassed the state university by disclosing the consulting contracts with PR and online reputation-management firms. The high-audience trending site Reddit picked up on the story as well, triggering a wave of comments, almost all mocking the university for its attempts to expunge negative references online.

In November 2011 campus police pepper-sprayed members of an Occupy Movement on its campus after protesters, upset about a tuition hike, refused to disperse their tent city. Video of the pepper-spraying went viral and blemished the reputation of the state university, which is located 15 miles west of Sacramento.

The whole incident and its aftermath were in many respects secondary to other facts that the Bee revealed in its investigation, such as confirmation that the university’s chancellor sits on the board of a textbook publisher that uses famously heavy-handed tactics to force students to pay up for the latest editions.

Readers were also upset that a state school largely dependent on taxpayer dollars would use funds on a quixotic effort to eliminate references to an unpleasant incident – online references that are virtually impossible to eliminate.

As one Reddit post read: “Maybe UC Davis should just stop … pepper spraying their students.”

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