A group that represents 240,000 University of California students statewide called for the chancellor of UC Davis to resign Friday over the school’s public relations spending to scrub the university’s 2011 pepper spray incident from internet search results.
The UC Student Association wants Chancellor Linda Katehi’s to quit, joining seven state lawmakers and student protesters who say she must go, The Sacramento Bee reported.
The demands come after the newspaper reported earlier this week that UC Davis paid image consultants at least $175,000 to repair the damage online to the university’s reputation after campus police pepper-sprayed student protesters in 2011. Video of the altercation gained nationwide attention.
"The students ... are free of course to express their opinions, and I appreciate it," Katehi said Saturday at the campus' annual Picnic Day festival. She said the Bee misrepresented the facts, but she didn't elaborate.
Other companies were also paid to help improve UC Davis’ online image, using a strategic communications budget that almost doubled in the six years after Katehi became chancellor in 2009.
"It's inconceivable that they thought this was either a good idea or something that wasn't going to be seen or recognized eventually," a PR expert told CBS Sacramento Wednesday.
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.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.