UC Davis Chancellor spent $400K+ to scrub her online reputation after pepper-spray incident

Back in April, we learned that UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi had hired a sleazy "reputation-management" company to scrub her reputation and that of the university after the 2011 incident in which university police lieutenant John Pike hosed down peaceful protesters with pepper spray, jetting chemical irritant directly into their open mouths and eyes.

The bill for that "scrubbing" was over $175,000. But turns out that she hired two other companies to try to prevent the taint of scandal from landing on her, spending more than $400K in all on the fruitless exercise.

This isn't her first terrible adventure in "reputation management." At her previous job at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, she forced her aides to edit her Wikipedia entry — over their protests — when it emerged that children of big-ticket donors were given admission preference to the university.

Katehi's quest to get rid of online references to the pepper-spray incident led to the hiring of Nevins and Associates, a Baltimore company Katehi found after seeking help from a social media consultant, the report stated. Nevins promised to "expedite the eradication of references to the pepper spray incident in search results on Google for the chancellor."

The company collected more than $92,000 before UC Davis decided to replace it with a firm called Purple Strategies, a Virginia company that was paid $44,600 over three months to focus "on improving Chancellor Katehi's personal narrative and online identity, primarily through her Wikipedia page," the report found.

That company produced a "UC Davis Bible" filled with suggestions on how to "create a personal narrative for the chancellor" and "engage the Wikipedia community."

"Notably, the proposal did not include a strategy to manage UC Davis' Wikipedia page; it was exclusively focused on Chancellor Katehi's page," the report stated.

After that contract ended, the school hired Sacramento firm Idmloco "at the behest of Chancellor Katehi," the report says.

That firm was paid $270,000 under three contracts to enhance the school's and Katehi's images and to provide "listening reports" on how online news reports and social media were referring to both.

'Get me off the Google,' UC Davis Chancellor Katehi urged communications staff [Diana Lambert and Sam Stanton/Sacramento Bee]

(via Techdirt)

(Image: STEM Interview: Linda Katehi – Chancellor, UC Davis (2)
, CaSTEMLearning, CC-BY