The University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC or UC Santa Cruz) is a coeducational public university located in Santa Cruz, California. It is one of the ten campuses of the University of California. UCSC has a long history of student activism and experimental art.

UCSC has the smallest student body of all the UC campuses and is the second youngest along with UC Irvine, which opened at about the same time as UCSC. (As of 2005, UC Merced is slated to open in the fall of 2005 and has already begun accepting students.) Majors and graduate degrees are offered in a broad range of academic fields.

Oakes College

Oakes College, one of UCSC's residential colleges

The undergraduate program is organized around a residential college system. The ten colleges—Cowell College, Stevenson College, Crown College, Merrill College, Porter College, Kresge College, Oakes College, College Eight, College Nine, and College Ten—provide services such as housing, academic assistance, activities and a selection of college-related coursework.

Letter GradesEdit

Until 1997, most classes did not assign letter grades, using written evaluations instead. Letter grades are now given, as at other UC campuses, but in many courses grades are still supplemented with evaluations. Students may still take some of their courses on a pass-no pass basis, but each academic program has different policies regarding how this may be done, and a few majors do not permit pass-no pass grading.



Cowell College with the Monterey Bay in the background

The 2000 acre (8 km²) UCSC campus is located 75 miles (120 km) south of San Francisco and has an elevation change of about 900 feet (275 m) from the base of campus at 285 feet (87 m) to the upper boundary at 1,195 feet (364 m). The lower portion of the campus primarily consists of the Great Meadow, and most of the upper campus is within a redwood forest. The campus is bounded on the south by the city's upper-west-side neighborhoods, on the east by Harvey West Park and the Pogonip open space preserve, on the north by Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, and on the west by Gray Whale Ranch, a portion of Wilder Ranch State Park

The northern half of the campus, while originally intended to house ten colleges in addition to the ten that currently exist, has remained in its undeveloped, forested state aside from hiking and bicycle trails. Some students live in tent communities and treehouses in the denser parts of the woods, despite restrictions against camping on campus and in the surrounding state parks.


Although the original founders had outlined their plans for the University in the 1930s, the opportunity did not present itself to build such a unique educational experiment until the City of Santa Cruz made a bid to the University of California Regents in the mid-1950s to build a campus in the mountains outside town. The formal design of the Santa Cruz campus beGun in the late 1950s and construction started in the early 1960s. The campus was originally intended to be a showcase for contemporary architecture as well as a place for learning. The first building on campus to be completed was Hahn Central Services. Not long after opening, Hahn Central Services was subject to a devastating fire that gutted the building. It was then rebuilt using the undamaged concrete structure.

Until recently, most of the buildings on campus have been named after people of great worth: educators, writers, philosophers, and alternative thinkers. This tradition has slowed recently in favor of selling naming rights to buildings and colleges (for example, Kresge College received its name from an endowment by K-Mart founder Sebastian S. Kresge's Kresge Foundation). The roads on campus are named after the UC Regents who voted in favor of building the campus. Clark Kerr Hall is named after the then-President of the University of California, who imagined building a university as several Swarthmores (i.e., small liberal arts colleges) in close proximity to each other. (As such, each college was originally intended to be primarily educationally self-sustaining.)

When UCSC opened, student protests on college campuses across the United States were not uncommon. According to popular myth, the campus was designed on a decentralized plan, with no central quadrangle or central administrative buildings to serve as rallying points for protests. However, the architectural plans and layout for the campus were already completed by the early 1960s, so this legend is generally regarded as untrue. According to the founding chancellor, Dean McHenry, the purpose of the college system was to combine the benefits of a major research university with the intimacy of a smaller college.

The Banana SlugEdit

UCSC's mascot is the banana slug. In 1981, when the university began participating in NCAA intercollegiate sports, the then-chancellor and some student athletes changed the mascot to the "sea lions," which they considered more dignified and suitable for intercollegiate play. Most students disliked the new mascot and continued to root for the Banana Slugs. In 1986, students overwhelmingly voted to return to the Slugs as UCSC's sole mascot, a vote the chancellor refused to honor, on the grounds it was the athletes who should choose the mascot. When a poll of athletes showed that they also wanted to be "slugs", the chancellor relented. A statue of sea lions remains in front of Thimann Lecture Hall, and a popular prank pulled by students involves painting the seals yellow to represent the university's current mascot.

The Banana Slug mascot was celebrated in an unreleased 2003 song by the Austin Lounge Lizards. The Austin Lounge Lizards have often played Santa Cruz, and this is their tribute to their home away from home. This 52 second faux collegiate "Fight Song" creates an entirely new image of the Slugs "leaping toward a dunk...oozing lots of spunk," "zipping through the grass....gonna kick your ass," "...slather you with slime...we win another time." It even includes the requisite crowd participation cheer.


A noteworthy annual tradition on campus is First Rain. Traditionally, during the first autumn rain, students strip down and run the span of the campus nude (nearly one mile), gathering more participants as they pass through each residential college. The run usually begins at Porter College and ends there once again with students congregating in a drum circle.

Another campus tradition is the full moon drum circle. On the eve of every full moon, students congregate in the Upper Meadow to drum or simply relax.

See alsoEdit


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