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UC Davis Chancellor Acknowledges Missteps, Promises Forums

Rich Pedroncelli / AP

University of California, Davis, Chancellor Linda Katehi, in a file photo from 2011.

Rich Pedroncelli / AP

(AP) - University of California, Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi said her office hired online image consultants to ensure searches showed the university's achievement and not to erase online content.

Katehi promised to hold a series of public forums and media events to answer questions.

In a statement released late Monday, Katehi apologized for "a series of highly publicized missteps" and said the university should have carefully reviewed the "ridiculous" claims made by public relations firms.

"In hindsight, we should have been more careful in reviewing some of the more unrealistic and ridiculous scope-of-work claims in the written proposals of our outside vendors," she wrote.

UC Davis spent at least $175,000 on image consultants who promised "to create and execute an online branding campaign designed to clean up the negative attention the University of California, Davis, and Chancellor Katehi," documents obtained by the Sacramento Bee show.

"None of our communications efforts were intended - or attempted - to erase online content or rewrite history," Katehi said. "At UC Davis, we live with the lessons of 2011 every day. We are a better university because of it."

The firms were hired to make sure a complete picture of UC Davis and its "hard-earned prestige" turned up for those doing online searches, especially philanthropists, Katehi said.

"Because of the importance of philanthropy to UC Davis and the need to make sure those searching for information about our university get a complete picture, we needed to do a better job telling the world about the university's extraordinary achievements," she wrote.

The association that represents 240,000 University of California students statewide and seven state lawmakers have called for her to step down over the school's public relations spending to clean its online image.

Katehi, who became chancellor in 2009, has also been under fire for joining the boards of a textbook publisher and a for-profit university. UC Davis students held a five-week sit-in at the chancellor's office that ended last week to demand her resignation.

She said she will hold public forums "to answer any and all questions people have about these issues or our future."