In 1978 UCSC’s fourth chancellor, Robert Sinsheimer, responded to the crisis of the mid 1970s by reorganizing the campus along more conventional lines. The colleges, deemed too expensive to function as robust educational centers, were transformed into social and residential units. The dispersed “boards of study” became “departments.”
A Decisive Moment
For many, this was the moment when UCSC lost its soul. For others, it was when the campus finally grew up.
A contradictory time, a period of transition, of loss and gain. Henceforth the original vision of individualized education in interdisciplinary colleges would recede. There would be no way to recapture the pioneering ethos, the (relatively well-funded) freedom of the extraordinary first decades.
A New Path Towards Growth
Enrollments eventually returned, and with them a newly diverse university. Construction resumed. New pressures on the physical space brought traffic jams, stop lights, and an ingeniously designed parking structure in the trees.
All the new growth has unfolded within the spatial layout and aesthetic philosophy established during the intense first decades traced by this exhibition. Much of the original vision of the campus remains preserved in its landscape and development:
// The Great Meadow is still respected with an unimpeded view of the Monterey Bay.
// The core/periphery map has been maintained—in the intensive development of the sciences and engineering cluster, in the arts complex, in the siting of new colleges.
// Trees are removed with care and integrated into building designs. The redwoods, taller now, have propagated.
// The winding paths remain enchanting—if frustrating to those in a hurry. There has been no clearing of sightlines. Lighting is discreet. The beautiful footbridges still inspire.
Special places are gone—like the lovely hillside below Baskin Art Studios, or “Elfland” (now occupied by Colleges Nine and Ten). But meditative sites, marked by random chairs, tree forts and cairns abound.
The Legacy of the Old Cowell Ranch
While everyone can think of changes they regret, the vision of the early planners has worn well through fifty years of transformation. The old Cowell Ranch is now home to a major university.
17,000 students, ten colleges, a major research infrastructure, and miles of sewers and conduits occupy a dramatic forested terrain without major damage.
UC Santa Cruz’s most unambiguous and enduring achievement is its campus. This uncommon place still stops us in our tracks, inspiring us to think and dream differently.