In a modern twist on an Orwellian concept, the University of California Davis paid consultants at least $175,000 to scrub an unpleasant story about the college from the internet and rehabilitate their online image.
The stunning expenditure was discovered by the Sacramento Bee in documents they secured under the California Public Records Act. The event they attempted to sweep under the digital rug occurred in November 2011 when a UC Davis police officer pepper-sprayed students who were protesting tuition raises with civil unrest on campus. The video of the act went viral, prompting the university chancellor to seek out a remedy for their tarnished online reputation.
The protesting students overstayed the permit they were given to protest by a few days when the police were called in to remove them and their tents. The students later settled a lawsuit with the university for $1 million, which cost upwards of $2 million with other expenses. The UC Davis police officer also later settled for $33,350 with the university to soothe his damaged "psyche" over the harassment he suffered from sympathizers with the protesters.
On official defended the expenditure to bury the pepper spray story:
UC Davis Provost Ralph Hexter said in a statement to the campus Friday that the university used no public or student funds when it hired consultants to "optimize search engine results in order to highlight the achievements of our students, faculty and staff."
"Even if such a thing as eliminating stories and images from the Internet were possible, 'pepper-spray' will always be part of UC Davis' history," the statement said.
Of course, this begs the question of why they paid for online services that they didn't think were possible.