UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi hurts the entire University of California system
The revelation by the Sacramento Bee that the University of California, Davis paid “at least $175,000 to scrub the Internet of negative online postings following the November 2011 pepper-spraying of students and to improve the reputations of both the university and Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi” should outrage every person who has any connection with the University of California system and every California taxpayer. It also makes no sense from a public relations and crisis communications professional’s perspective.
Within a day of the Sacramento Bee’s publication of this PR contract, we can see a clear example of the “Streisand Effect.” That’s what happens when someone attempts to reduce attention on something that is already public in a way that actually draws more attention to it.
In fact, the number of Google searches for “UC Davis pepper spray” has jumped so much that if the present trend continues, more people will look up this incident this month than in all of 2015. Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi has also been in the news and the subject of Google searchers at least eight times more than usual within in the past month, and most of the stories recount the negative news that she tried to whitewash.
In fact, the story is putting UC Davis into the national spotlight for precisely the opposite of the PR project’s goal. Just look at how Gawker covers the story.
Following the 2011 pepper spraying of students, the campus hired consultants to improve the online reputations of UC…www.sacbee.com
Having held a role at a different University of California campus in which I was involved in emergency management and ethics compliance, I am personally offended that Katehi has not been sanctioned for her actions. If you read the after-incident reports that documented Katehi’s role in the events that led up to the pepper spray incident, you likely would share my opinion. The more recent disclosure that she took paid roles on for-profit corporate boards while serving as a UC chancellor — an unequivocal violation of UC rules — convinces me that she has poor judgement and leadership skills.
And now we learn that she hired a PR firm to try to hide the history. Hire a PR firm to promote the good work of faculty and students and everyone. Do more good things and fewer bad ones. That is how you improve an institution’s reputation, not by trying to “scrub” the Internet of negative comments. The ham-handed effort to remove negative mentions only makes those bad stories more likely to be found.
UC Davis and its students, faculty, and alums deserve better than this.
UC Davis contracted with consultants for at least $175,000 to scrub the Internet of negative online postings following…www.sacbee.com