The Story of the Web's Favorite Mascot

For many years, the banana slug (ariolomax dolichophalus to the world of science) served as the unofficial mascot for the University of California at Santa Cruz campus. It represented many of the strongest elements of the campus: contemplation, flexibility, non-agressiveness and, perhaps above all, an iconoclastistic challenge toward the status quo. Besides, the Banana Slug is indigenious to the region and shares a symbiotic relationship with the California Redwood that populates the scenic campus.

In 1986 students demanded that the Slug be blessed with official mascot status. Five years previous to this, the Chancellor at the time had named the Sea Lion to this distinguished post -- this in an effort to make the campus more mainstream.

Well, students would have none of that. They demanded to be associated with the mollusk. They produced t-shirts bearing the Fiat Slug logo (still produced today by Oxford West) and the newly established Student Union Assembly prepared for a vote to see which mascot students prefered. While attending Cowell College, the founders of Oxford West, Peter Blackshaw (UCSC/Cowell '88) and artist Marc Ratner (UCSC/Cowell '87), collaborated on a number of slug designs during the pro-slug movement, including the wildly popular Zen Slug, the Fighting Banana Slug, Santa Cruz Athletics, Sleepy Slug, and of course the Fiat Slug

The Chancellor, in his infinite wisdom, refused to have campus money spent on the student referendum; in his mind, the issue was moot. There would be no official Santa Cruz Banana Slugs.

Students, however, would not be deterred. They raised the money for the referendum themselves and put on the election anyway. As it turned out, the Banana Slug bested the Sea Lion by a 15 to 1 ratio. Students received nationwide press as word of the story spread. Leaders of the pro-slug movement even appealed to late night czar David Letterman in their case (slugs being nocturnal creatures, of course).

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