When students were on the UC Davis quad two weeks ago, the school became an international headline for all the wrong reasons.
Will those reasons define UC Davis for years to come? Vote in the poll below this story.
Local Twitter user @kbradnam counted 40 UC Davis stories on Google News the morning after the pepper spraying. Almost 3,000 sources had covered it by the end of the weekend. That number is much higher now, and it continues to climb.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a story out of Davis that has garnered that kind of international attention. And although UC Davis is a respected school with a solid reputation, it’s no Harvard or Stanford. It just doesn’t have that level of name recognition worldwide.
For that reason, some will likely remember UC Davis as “that school in California where the cops are with the pepper spray.” This can already be seen in the form of hundreds of posts on the UC Davis Facebook wall.
Here are a few historic examples to think about for a second:
- When you hear about the city of Waco, Texas, you likely think about a crazy cult and a large death toll.
- When you hear about Bill Buckner -- a professional baseball player -- you likely think about a First Baseman who blew the World Series for the Boston Red Sox.
- When you hear about Joe Paterno, you likely now think about a Penn State football coach who failed to report sexual acts on children.
But there's plenty more to each of those stories: Waco is home to well respected Baylor University, Buckner was an amazing baseball player with a storied career and Paterno is one of the most successful and (previously) respected coaches of all time.
Casual outsiders won't bother to seek out those details when forming their perceptions. The negative developments are far more compelling to the casual observer.
I’m not comparing the gravity of child molestation or death to the pepper spraying at UC Davis. Let me be clear about that. The comparison lies in the defining nature of the incident. Those have been consumed by millions, and "UC Davis" is in the headlines of nearly all of them.
Many people, including Chancellor Linda P. B. Katehi, have said that Davis will be defined , but by the way the university responds to them. Protestors have also said that they hope to use the incident as a catalyst for change.
What do you think? Will UC Davis be defined by pepper spray for years to come?