The University of California, starved of funds by a succession of austerian state governments, has turned to onerous tuition increases and academic prostitution as a means of keeping afloat.
Corporate funds increasingly direct the focus of research, and corporate officials and university faculty and administrators spin through the revolving door, reap hefty rewards with each spin.
But increasingly, officials and faculty draw simultaneous paychecks from taxpayers and corporations.
Nobody embodies the Global Corporate University than Linda Kathi, chancellor of the University of California, Davis, who approaches the issue of branding with more zeal than a cowboy at roundup time.
A Greco-American, Katehi came to Davis from her post as Provost and Vice Chancellor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the campus which served as the University of California’s partner in the biggest-ever corporate partnership in American university history, the Energy Biosciences Institute, funded with $500 million in cash from BP — a story we covered extensively during our time at the Berkeley Daily Planet.
One of Katehi’s Davis branding efforts has run afoul, however.
From The Young Turks:
University Spent A Lot Of Money So You Wouldn’t See This
UC Davis made headlines in 2011, when a campus police officer pepper sprayed a line of peaceful protesters, during a sit in. They have since spent a great deal of money trying to erase that incident from the internet, and using taxpayer dollars to do it. John Iadarola, Kim Horcher (Nerd Alert), and Cara Santa Maria, hosts of The Young Turks discuss.
The University of California, Davis spent at least $175,000 to improve its reputation on the internet after images of campus police pepper-spraying protestors went viral in 2011, according to documents obtained by The Sacramento Bee. The money went to public relations firms that promised to clean up the university’s search results.
One company outlined a plan for “eradication of references to the pepper spray incident,” according to the documents, and was eventually paid nearly $93,000, including expenses, for a six-month campaign in 2013. After that, the Bee reports, the university paid $82,500 to another PR firm to create and follow through on a “search engine results management strategy.” The latter firm was later given thousands more in other contracts to build a university social media program, and to vet its communications department.”
The Sacramento Bee’s editorial cartoonist took an interesting take on Katehi, combining the latest campus controversy with Thursday’s ouster of the coach of the city’s losing NBA team:
Jack Ohman: Coach Katehi
And Katehi may need a new job if a growing chorus of state legislators have their way, reports the Chronicle of Higher Education:
Three California state lawmakers called on the chancellor of the University of California at Davis, Linda P.B. Katehi, to resign on Thursday, The Sacramento Bee reports, citing Ms. Katehi’s effort to remove unflattering Internet posts about campus police pepper-spraying student protesters five years ago.
Ms. Katehi came under fire after a report surfaced on Wednesday that the institution spent at least $175,000 on public-relations consultants to scratch online references to the pepper-spraying incident and improve the college’s image.
The Democratic assemblymen Mike Gatto, Freddie Rodriguez, and Mark Stone all said they wanted Ms. Katehi to step down. Mr. Gatto told The Sacramento Bee that this was the second strike against Ms. Katehi, citing her acceptance of a seat on the for-profit DeVry Education Group’s Board of Directors. Ms. Katehi resigned the seat after critics protested, saying her position could harm the university’s image.
“Spend millions on PR while student costs soar? It is time for Katehi to resign,” Mr. Gatto added on Twitter.
The Sacramento Bee posted the web-scrubbing contracts and associated documents. Here’s one:
More from the Sacramento CBS affiliate:
“Having the chancellor on a board of a for-profit textbook company when our students are the ones purchasing those text books, that was bad enough,” Gatto said. “But then to hear the university spent hundreds of thousands on a P.R. firm – money that could be spent in the classroom – that was the last straw.”
While no one from UC Davis would talk to on camera, they sent us a statement Thursday saying their PR strategy to clean up their online image was an effort to preserve the great work of the university.
As for UC President Janet Napolitano, she remains silent on both the calls for Katehi’s resignation and the recent bad press.
Also on Friday the university released an official statement upholding their media-scrubbing efforts. Here’s the money quotes:
Communicating the value of UC Davis is an essential element of our campus’s education, research, and larger public service mission. Increased investment in social media and communications strategy has heightened the profile of the university to good effect.
As part of this overall communications strategy, it is important that the excellent work underway at UC Davis with respect to educating the next generation of students, pursuing groundbreaking research, and providing important services to the State is not lost during a campus crisis, including the crisis that ensued following the extremely regrettable incident when police pepper-sprayed student protesters in 2011. Communication efforts during this time were part of the campus’s strategic communication strategy. In fact, one of the main objectives during this time was to train staff on how to effectively use digital media to improve engagement with our stakeholders.
Communicating the value of UC Davis is among the many reasons why our campus was able to increase its endowment to $1 billion last year, garner more than $700 million in research grants, and attract the highest caliber of students and faculty from around the country, with a record number of student applications this year.
Most of the growth in the communications budget is tied to raising the visibility of our College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and the School of Veterinary Medicine, both rated the best in the nation.
In a 2014 Chronicle of Higher Education Report titled, “Higher Ed Marketing Comes of Age,” the mean amount that universities spend on marketing was reported as $3.7 million, with the highest at $25 million. We believe UC Davis compares favorably with other institutions of higher learning. Communications spending represents a small fraction of the $4.3 billion operating budget of UC Davis.
Meanwhile, an ongoing protest against the chancellor ended as a result of the web-scrubbing uproar, reports the local CBS affiliate:
The students who staged a sit-in outside UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi’s office have ended their protest.
After five weeks camping out, the student protesters say they achieved their goal of bringing local and national attention to what they say is Katehi’s unethical behavior.
The students vacated the building around noon and walked in silence, with tape covering their mouths, around campus.
As CBS13 in Sacramento reported in March, her eagerness to pad her payroll drew some legislative umbrage:
The chancellor of UC Davis is being asked to step down by a Sacramento Assemblyman who says her service on two for-profit boards is a conflict of interest in her leadership role.
Chancellors are allowed to serve on for-profit boards, and it’s encouraged and can be beneficial. But those board seats must be approved, and many call Chancellor Linda Katehi’s choice of companies questionable.
“These positions help her financially, but I have no idea how it benefits the people of California and the students at UC Davis,” said Assemblyman Kevin McCarty.
The Sacramento Democrat and former city councilman says Katehi made poor choices in accepting paid board seats with DeVry Education Group and John Wiley and Sons, a college textbook publisher.
“Serving on boards that have very questionable benefits to the taxpayer and sometimes negative benefits, DeVry is being sued by the federal government for being a diploma mill,” he said.
On 18 March 18 Kathei responded to the outrage over her dubious corporate profiteering:
My acceptance of the position on the DeVry Education Group board of directors did not comply with UC policy. I made an error in accepting it. I take full responsibility for that error, and I have resigned from the board. I accepted the position because I believed I could help DeVry better evaluate its procedures for delivering a sound curriculum and for measuring students’ performance and progress post-graduation. Nevertheless, I apologize for my mistake and the distraction this has caused for our university community.
My service on the board of John Wiley and Sons from 2011-2014 complied with UC policy. My goal in accepting that position was to help Wiley improve the quality of its educational materials, while making them more accessible and affordable for students. While I recognize and appreciate the concerns raised by many in our community about my service on the Wiley board, my work on the board had no impact on UC textbook purchases.
I served on an unpaid advisory panel of King Abdulaziz University from 2012-2013, which included the former president of Ohio State University; however, I did not participate in any meetings. My appointment complied with University of California policies. My goal was to increase student diversity. To further our work together on behalf of California students, here is my commitment to our UC Davis community: I will establish a $200,000 scholarship fund for California undergraduate students at UC Davis from my Wiley stock proceeds.
Service on private and public boards is widely recognized as a responsibility of academic leaders. As a woman and a STEM scholar, my service has helped to correct the chronic lack of diversity on a number of boards. My pledge to the UC Davis community is to more carefully vet such invitations and to meticulously follow UC approval procedures in the future.
Kathei inspired another editorial cartoon on 20 March, this one posted on the Fire Kathei Facebook page:
We leave the last word to legendary columnist Will Bunch of the Philadelphia Daily News:
Somehow, Katehi kept her job after the pepper spraying — a mistake that was compounded by this caper lifted straight from the pages of George Orwell, inventor of “the memory hole.” True, $175,000 isn’t a lot in the multi-million sinkhole that is today’s American university, but hey, maybe two or three lower income kids could have gotten their sheepskin, instead. Just my crazy idea.
Of course, UC Davis being a public university and all, Katahi’s Orwellian crusade came out in the media. That meant the launching of 1,000 new articles and blog posts like this one, not to mention a slew of negative commentary about the school on social media. So that now, kids thinking about applying for admission to UC Davis for 2017 will learn that, as in the headline of this SEO-optimized blog post, that UC Davis is the place for all your pepper spraying needs.
I rarely ask for things, and God knows I don’t get paid by the pageview (because I’d be broke if I was) but please do your part to make this post — or articles like this — go viral. Not just for the initial crime, but now for the cover-up, Linda Katehi has got to go as chancellor of this warped institution. For one more spurt of nostalgia, here’s the video of an amazing protest that the kids at UC Davis conducted in 2011…leading to Katehi’s infamous “walk of shame.”
UC Davis Chancellor Katehi walks to her car