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UNC's 'Sakai Cat' often overlooked

A screenshot of the Sakai homepage

A screenshot of the Sakai homepage

UNC’s favorite D-list celebrity is back — the Sakai Cat.

Sakai, according to UNC's academic advising website, is UNC’s online learning environment.  

Over the 2015-16 school year, Sakai scanned nearly 200,000 exams, held over 144,000 Virtual Lab sessions and supported almost 4,000 courses. 

But it's not all work. For some, the Sakai cat provides some much needed comic relief. 

If you navigate to the homepage of Sakai and look at the image posted on it, you can find the mysterious figure yourself. The cat has made its big return after going on hiatus last summer and, for some, it is a welcome addition to the Sakai aesthetic.

But while there were over 29,000 unique Sakai users this year, the Sakai cat is known to some and elusive to many. Many of the first-year students on campus do not know what the Sakai cat is; if they were aware of its presence, they expressed apathy toward the cat.

Even Varun Amesur, one of the former faces of the Sakai homepage, did not immediately see the animal on the homepage. 

“Eventually, someone may have pointed it out to me,” he said “I worked for ITS in their teaching and learning department, and they asked if I could be on the homepage with a friend.” 

Amesur said the process for modeling for the homepage of the portal was easy. 

“We took a couple pictures across campus," he said. "They wanted to have it throughout the summer and the beginning of fall.” 

For Laurel Cunningham, who used to be featured on the Sakai homepage, the modeling process was simple. While fellow model Steve Wood said they did sign a consent form, they didn't know it was going to be on Sakai, specifically. 

“A person came in and took our picture, and someone came and asked if they could use it for UNC Media,” Cunningham said.

But Amesur and Cunningham agreed whatever the background, the Sakai cat is best left alone. 

“It’s been a cat for a very long time, and I think it’s cool as it is,” Amesur said. “It’s a signature icon of UNC and Sakai.”

If anything, Cunningham suggested something more school-spirited. 

“Maybe Ramses or something more Carolina-related," he said. "But the cat is fine."

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