UC Davis apologizes for trying to bury pepper spray incident

Chancellor Linda Katehi pins the blame on an 'unrealistic' PR agency.

After leading UC Davis through some admittedly hard times, the school's chancellor Linda Katehi has issued something of a mea culpa for the way her communications department handled the fallout from the widely reported pepper spray incident in 2011. In her official release, Katehi takes "full responsibility" for the university's futile attempt to prevent it from showing up in search results, while also trying to shed some light on just what the heck they were thinking.

"The university's identity has been shaken by a series of highly publicized missteps," Katehi explained in her statement. "Consultants were brought in after the highly regrettable 2011 incident," she continues, referring to Maryland PR firm Nevins & Associates, which the university paid at least $175,000 for the internet cleanup job.

But as any good academic should know, it is always a smart idea to scrutinize claims that appear too good to be true. Like the one where Nevins & Associates promised the "eradication of references to the pepper spray incident in search results on Google," for example. From Katehi's statement:

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. What might be accepted industry hyperbole in the private public relations world falls far beneath the high standards of a public institution of higher learning.

Finally, just so we know she understands how the internet works, Katehi reassures her students and critics alike that, "none of our communications efforts were intended — or attempted — to erase online content or rewrite history."