University of California, Santa Cruz

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The University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC or UC Santa Cruz) is a coeducational public university located in Santa Cruz, California, USA. It is one of the ten campuses of the University of California.

University of California, Santa Cruz

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UCSC Unofficial Seal

MottoFiat Lux
(Latin, "Let There Be Light")
Established 1965
School type Public
Chancellor Denice Denton
Location Santa Cruz, CA, USA
Enrollment 13,669 undergraduate,
1,344 graduate
Faculty 614
Endowment US$773 million
Campus Suburban, 3,008 acres (12 km²)
Sports teams Banana Slugs

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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.

The undergraduate program is organized around a residential college system similar to Oxford and Cambridge. 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. Each college has a distinct architectural style and student housing, along with at least one resident faculty provost. Each provides a mandatory "core course" for incoming freshmen centering on a central topic, or "theme," that is unique to each college. College sizes vary, but roughly a half of students live on campus within their college community. Upon enrollment, students select five colleges they want to join in order of preference and are assigned to a college based on a lottery system. Most students get into their first college choice, and nearly all are assigned to at least their second or third choice. Students choose their colleges based on a variety of factors, such as the college's physical setting, perceived social atmosphere and core course. Coursework, academic majors and general areas of study are not limited by college membership, though colleges "host" the offices of various departments and faculty.

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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. To graduate, students must "have no more than 25 percent of your UCSC credits graded on a Pass/No Pass basis." (UCSC general catalog, under "Graduation Requirements")

As of 2004, UCSC's faculty includes two members of the Institute of Medicine, twenty members of the Academy of Arts and Sciences, eleven members of the National Academy of Sciences, and one MacArthur Fellow. The University spent $54 million on research for the 2002-2003 academic year, and holds claim to 79 active inventions and 18 patents (2002). The young Baskin School of Engineering, UCSC's first professional school, and the Center for Biomolecular Science and Engineering are garnering recognition, as has the work UCSC researchers have done on the Human Genome Project. UCSC has prestigious science departments in Astronomy/Astrophysics and Ocean Sciences, as UCSC administers Lick and Keck Observatories as well as the Long Marine Laboratory. Furthermore, according to a 2003 Thomson Institute for Scientific Information (ISI) report, UCSC ranked 1st in the nation for academic research impact in the field of space sciences. UCSC also ranked first in the nation for its academic research on physics and second in the world for most influential research institution in the physical sciences, according to two 2001 ISI reports.

In September 2003, the NASA Ames Research Center took a bold step towards increasing the science output, safety, and effectiveness of NASA's missions through the infusion of new technologies and scientific techniques. A ten-year task order contract valued at more than $330 million was awarded to the University of California to establish and operate a University Affiliated Research System (UARC) [1] ( UCSC manages the UARC for the University of California.


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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 [2] ( and the Pogonip open space preserve [3] ( [4] (, on the north by Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park [5] ( [6] ( [7] ( in the town of Felton, and on the west by Gray Whale Ranch, a portion of Wilder Ranch State Park [8] ( [9] ( 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 common. 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 1960's, 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. [10] (

UCSC has a long history of student activism. Protracted demonstrations in the 1970s and 1980s, some of which culminated in the occupation of the Chancellor's Office, were organized in opposition to the expansion into formally neutral countries of American hostilities in Southeast Asia, the United States Supreme Court's Bakke decision, and apartheid.

The substantial population of UCSC alumni in Santa Cruz has helped to change the electorate of the town from predominantly Republican [11] ( to markedly left-leaning, voting nearly three to one for Democrat John Kerry over Republican George W. Bush in the 2004 U.S. presidential election [12] ( Mike Rotkin, a UCSC alumnus, lecturer in Community Studies, and self-described 'socialist-feminist,' has been elected Mayor of Santa Cruz several times, and the City Council of Santa Cruz recently issued a proclamation opposing the USA Patriot Act.


The geology and history of the campus are closely tied. The campus is built on a portion of the Cowell Family ranch, which was given as a gift to the University of California. The original living quarters for ranch employees are mostly still standing at the base of campus, as is the stonehouse which served as the paymaster's house. The stonehouse was home to the campus newspaper, City on a Hill Press, from the 1970s to the mid-1990s. Many of the other original ranch buildings have been renovated to be comfortable modern offices despite their antiquated appearance.

The Cowell Ranch was a part of the Henry Cowell Lime and Cement Company. The limestone that runs under most of campus was pulled from one of several quarries, the most notable being the Upper Quarry, which is popular with students that wish to smoke cannabis away from the patrolled colleges despite its central location. There is an amphitheater in this quarry that is used for most of the large gatherings on campus. Many visiting dignitaries have addressed crowds here, including George McGovern and Cesar Chavez. It also was used for an outdoor introductory psychology course commonly called "Sunshine Psych". The original campus plan indicated a stadium in the Lower Quarry, but this plan never was realized. (Indeed, the Lower Quarry is now home to The Village, a student housing community, ending any forseeable possibility of a stadium there.) Once the limestone was quarried, lime was extracted by burning it in limekilns adjacent to the quarries. The fires were fueled by the redwood trees that were logged from adjacent land. Although most of these kilns are fenced off, they are still visible in several locations on and around campus and in Pogonip.

Another interesting feature of UCSC are the creeks traversing the campus within several ravines. Footbridges span these ravines on pedestrian paths linking various areas of campus. These footbridges make it possible to walk to any part of campus within 20 minutes despite the campus being built on a mountainside with varying elevations. At night, fog shrouds the ends of these bridges, so that one can be in the center without being able to see either end or the bottom of the ravine below, with only the orange lights along the path twisting away into the woods providing any sense of place.

There are a number of caves on the UCSC grounds, some of which have challenging passages.

One unfortunate result of the combination of porous limestone bedrock with torrential coastal winter rains is sinkholes, and there are two large 'bottomless' pits right across from the Science Hill complex. The Jack Baskin Engineering Building, formerly known as the Applied Sciences Building, began inadvertently sinking shortly after being built, and in the late 1970's hundreds of tons of concrete were poured beneath its foundation to prevent it from sinking.

Athletics and student traditions

UCSC competes in Division III of the NCAA as a member of the NAIA's California Pacific Conference.

In UCSC's early years, intercollegiate competition was rare or non-existent. Popular intramural sports included fencing, ultimate frisbee and disc golf, many of which are still popular today.

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. [13] (

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 'expletive deleted'," "...slather you with slime...we win another time." It even includes the requisite crowd participation cheer. This surreal blend of Texas rah-rah and Santa Cruz ironic detachment is now considered the unofficial UCSC fight song.

A favorite trick played on new students is to claim that banana slugs actually smell like bananas (they do not). Another is to convince them to lick a slug (the slime contains a mild anesthetic). Although some students claim the slugs are hard to find, and even go their entire college career without seeing one, during the wet early spring they are hard to avoid just a little ways out in the surrounding woods.

In the 1970s there was a huge wooden labyrinth in the area where College Nine is now, north of the Campus Health Center, an abandoned 'Senior Thesis' project. A popular tradition was to take new students to this maze in the dead of night when the moon was new and have them find the center of the maze in the dark. On the way, the initiated would tell a ghost story about a student who hanged himself center of the maze: "and now...his ghost sometimes appears on moonless nights." While not hazing exactly, some people actually freaked out trying to accomplish this task. The maze was torn down quietly by the administration because it was becoming a hazard, or possibly because of the emotional breakdowns.

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.

Notable alumni

* Attended but did not graduate.

Notable faculty

Points of interest

External links

University of California
Berkeley | Davis | Irvine | Los Angeles | Merced | Riverside
San Diego | San Francisco | Santa Barbara | Santa Cruz
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UC seal

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