Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Ralph Hexter’s message to the campus community:
I write to inform you that the protesters who had been on the fifth floor of Mrak Hall left voluntarily at around noon today. It was becoming increasingly stressful for the protesters as well as for staff and faculty. The chancellor is open to meeting with the protesters and other members of the community to discuss any concerns.
Let me also address recent stories concerning our marketing budget and the hiring of external vendors to change online search results. These stories mischaracterize the facts. The campus hired outside consultants, using no public or student funds, 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. Every day we are trying to make sure we incorporate the hard lessons we learned. Our sensitivity to and acknowledgement of the importance of free speech and protest is evidenced by the approach the campus took to the sit-in on the fifth floor at Mrak.
Tomorrow is Picnic Day, a great example of what UC Davis is all about — a unique celebration of our incredibly diverse, talented and strong community. It opens our university and our city to our Aggie family and the community at large to showcase the people and activities that make us unique. I hope to see you there.
FAQ on Strategic Communications Budget
Q: Is it true UC Davis tried to “scrub” the Internet?
A: No. The external vendors referenced in The Sacramento Bee article on April 14 were brought in primarily to improve our capacity and expertise in digital communications. We recognize that it is not even possible to remove content from the Internet, and that was not our intention.
Q: Did the consultant try to influence search rankings?
A: Yes. Search engine optimization is standard practice in any organization that has an online presence that includes tagging of online content to improve search rankings.
- Was the $175,000 contract paid for by either state funds or student fees?
- No taxpayer funds or tuition dollars were used to pay for these services.
Q: Why did the communications budget increase about $2.5 million since 2009?
Regarding a rise over six years in the campus’s communications budget, further reporting would have revealed $800,000 for increased health care and retirement costs, as well as a $1 million statewide campaign to increase awareness about our College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and School of Veterinary Medicine, both rated the best in the nation. Campaigns such as these — as well as hiring more employees with social media and web management skills — have taken on more prominence at UC Davis as we strive to increase private fundraising and philanthropy.
Q: How does UC Davis respond to PRA requests?
A: UC Davis received over 1,200 requests for records last year and we reviewed hundreds of thousands of documents. It is a time-consuming task. For example, each relevant record must be reviewed to ensure we do not inadvertently disclose protected information, such as the personal information of our students, staff or faculty. We respond as quickly as possible.
Statement from UC Davis
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.