Illustration by Matt Boblet.

UC Santa Cruz’s mascot Sammy the Slug is 25 years old. In honor of the slug’s birthday, at the beginning of the regularly scheduled city council meeting, Mayor Ryan Coonerty proclaimed Sept. 27, 2011 the official day of the UCSC mascot.

The mascot made a special surprise appearance at the meeting. While waiting for the mayor to introduce him, Sammy waited in the aisle against the wall, as there were no seats left in the packed council chambers.

The mayor welcomed Sammy to come forward to the cheers of the crowd.

Fourth-year math major Leila Etemadieh didn’t know there had been a mascot before the slug.

“I just know a slug’s our mascot, but I don’t know how long he’s been the official mascot,” Etemadieh said.

It all began in 1981, when then-chancellor Robert Sinsheimer, with the support of some student athletes, decided on the sea lion for the university’s official mascot. The sea lion was chosen to make the university’s sports clubs meet National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) standards, which required teams to have an official mascot.

Many students were reluctant to relinquish their hold on the beloved former unofficial mascot. An underground movement of Banana Slug supporters emerged after the change was made, and when the first Student Union Assembly met in 1986, they wanted to settle the sea lion versus banana slug issue. Their solution: a campus-wide vote. The rest is history.

“As many of you know, 25 years ago, the students rose up at UCSC and decided to change their mascot from a sea lion to a slug,” Coonerty said. “They worked many, many hours, and now our slug is a national mascot and a national symbol for UCSC … I encourage all of my fellow residents to share their appreciation for the timeless Banana Slug.”

Since its adoption as the official mascot of the university, the banana slug has garnered national attention for the school. “Pulp Fiction” fans will remember John Travolta donning the Fiat Slug T-shirt in the film, and the mascot has been recognized by ESPN, Sports Illustrated and People Magazine, among other publications.

Mayor Coonerty’s announcement was met with cheers of approval from the audience. The mayor thanked Sammy for coming to the council meeting, then proceeded to hand him an award while a few people snapped photos.

Mike Hopek, a fourth-year literature major, feels passionately about Sammy the Slug.

“Our mascot is different than a lot of other mascots,” he said. “It’s modest and doesn’t try to be any type of heroic figure.”