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A Few UCSC Facts

UCSCcovIn honor of the university’s 50th anniversary, five odd tidbits

It’s official: Santa Cruz has been a university town for 50 years. And while the relationship between UCSC and the city of Santa Cruz is complicated, so are all great marriages. There have been highs and lows, but words of love and divorce threats aside, it’s clear we’re both in it for the long haul.

Fiftieth anniversary alumni celebrations take place this week, and there will be plenty of accolades to go around. UCSC graduates have won Pulitzer Prizes, MacArthur Genius Grants and Fulbright Awards. Its researchers were the first to assemble the DNA sequence of the human genome. Its astronomers came up with the theory of cold dark matter, which is now considered the basis for the structure of the universe.

We can’t top that.  But we can offer a toast to the city on the hill (and a shout out to City on a Hill, whoo!), and point out a few random things that make UCSC unique.

+ The banana slug has been the UCSC mascot for 25 years. There was a brief attempt by a pushy sea lion to usurp the slimy yellow forest dweller, but it did not end well—for the sea lion. When the men’s tennis team played in the NCAA finals, their T-shirts read: “Banana Slugs—No Known Predators.”

+ “The Squiggle” is the current nickname for the famous sculpture near Porter College. It was created in 1974 by Kenny Farrell. We prefer its former nickname, “The Flying IUD.”

+ Tree Nine is a 150-foot Douglas Fir located on the upper campus, famous for being climbable from bottom to top, where there’s an ocean view. Climbing it was considered a rite of passage until buzzkill arborists, concerned with the impact of so much foot traffic, removed the first 25 feet of its branches. Now, of course, it will live a longer, healthier life. Whatever.

+ If you like dark, creepy caverns with endangered spiders, check out the Porter caves, three underground chambers located between Porter College and Empire Grade Road.  Banana slugs love ’em.

+ The Grateful Dead scholarly archive, located in the McHenry Library, is called Dead Central. It contains 600 linear feet of paperwork, plus a staggering amount of artifacts, recordings and artwork. It has its own archivist, a counter-culture historian selected from 400 applicants for the job.


Top photo caption: An aerial view of UCSC in 1975.

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