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Degree Conferral Customs

  • 07-06-2003 12:27am
    #1
    Closed Accounts Posts: 10,737 ✭✭✭✭ simu


    At my degree conferring ceremony, only the women had to wear mortarboards (y'know, those silly square-on-top hats).

    This surprised me because as far as I know, these are worn by both men and women in England and the USA.

    So, I'm wondering what happens at other unis in Ireland apart from my own.(UCC)

    I'm also wondering what the reason for this custom could be.

    Finally, I'm wondering why this sexist practise still continues in the 21st century, why someone hasn't put an end to it!
    (Those hats are really hard to wear as they keep threatening to topple off and if women have to wear them, why not men too waah waah waah:))


Comments

  • Closed Accounts Posts: 4,731 DadaKopf


    UCD = no mortarboards for blokes.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 2,695 Jace Immense Seaplane


    Originally posted by simu
    This surprised me because as far as I know, these are worn by both men and women in England and the USA.

    So, I'm wondering what happens at other unis in Ireland apart from my own.(UCC)

    I'm also wondering what the reason for this custom could be.

    Yes they are worn by both sexes in the US.

    The custom behind it in Ireland for women wearing them is the cap symbolising a "cap" or "end" to their education. It used be very rare for women to go onto a Masters Degree or further so the "Mortar board" symbolises their educational glass ceiling!

    Its just one of these quirks of conferring etiquette- like for instance The gown for Masters Students has long sleaves to indicate they (supposedly!) have more knowledge!

    hth
    David


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 10,737 ✭✭✭✭ simu


    That really sucks!:mad:

    OK, Masters students having long sleeves is quirky and funny but this "educational glass ceiling" is ridiculously obsolete and insulting to women!

    Grrrr ... makes me want to burn all my graduation photos!

    Anybody else think this custom should be abolished?


  • Registered Users Posts: 464 ✭✭ pugwall


    yeah, its the same in Trinity.

    Although I heard that the reason behind male graduates not wearing them was due to the simple fact that many of them were discusted that the universities allowed women to graduate. So, to mark this discust and as a mark of protest, men broke the custom of wearing the mortarboards.


  • Registered Users Posts: 286 ✭✭ fizzy


    yeah i heard those two explanations as well - if it's true it's a disgrace!!
    so when i graduated in ucd last year i didn't wear the hat - i was the only one who didn't but i didn't care. i hope that if more females knew the reason, nobody would wear it - i don't know why nobody kicks up a fuss about it!


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  • Closed Accounts Posts: 10,737 ✭✭✭✭ simu


    How exactly would one go about kicking up a fuss about this?

    Make a complanit to the students' union?

    To the college authorities?

    To the NUI?

    Try to inform other students of this custom?

    I wish I'd been aware of this at my conferring. Grrrr!


  • Registered Users Posts: 286 ✭✭ fizzy


    i just told my friends...but some were not bothered and those that were just wore it in the end....
    nobody official said anything to me on the day but everyone on my course did - it's all they could talk about! honestly a few months out of college and people go all conservative ;)


  • Registered Users Posts: 1,731 ✭✭✭ sunbeam


    I didn't wear one either :)

    A little know fact: Women don't 'have' to wear mortarboards in the NUI colleges. They are part of NUI academic dress, but there used to be a paragraph in the official NUI regulations which stated that graduands must wear the appropriate hood and gown of the degree with which they are to be conferred. No mention of hats, hence they are optional for everyone. The regs have been changed recently, but I would imagine this remains the same. There should be a copy of the old ones at least in the official NUI calendar (not the individual college ones). TCD regulations do state that women must wear them though.

    There are many myths about why only women wear mortarboards in some colleges. The 'ceiling to educational achievement' and 'men throwing hats in the river when women were admitted' versions are urban legends, which you'll often hear attributed to Trinity, Cambridge, Durham and St. Andrews amongst other colleges.

    Perhaps the most likely explanation is that women traditionally kept hats on while indoors, but men removed theirs and simply stopped wearing them. Up to the 1940s men did wear them in the NUI colleges.

    I've also seen men wear them when being conferred with honorary degrees in the NUI, but female academic staff rarely wear them.

    Mortarboards do not necessarily signify academic achievement (hoods do), but membership of a university. Some colleges prescribe them (or used to) as part of undergraduate academic dress to be worn at formal occasions in college-Oxford would be a good example of this. These days their female students may now carry their mortarboards instead of wear them (women had taken to bowing instead of curtseying at their graduations and mortarboards had a tendency to fall off). They also have a soft floppy square hat which women may wear as an alternative-invented by their first women's colleges in the early 20th century as an alternative to the mortarboard.


  • Registered Users Posts: 87 ✭✭✭ ceewa


    we had to wear them in ul too. i've heard about the whole cap on education thing, but the girls getting masters were wearing them too.

    it didn't bother me wearing one, i think the hpss class in ul refused to wear them a coupla years back as a protest. but i dont think its any big deal really.

    everyone knows that its bull**** that women cant go any further than a degree.

    graduation was big deal for me and wearing a mortar board wasn't going to take away from the achievement. be wearing another one in december fingers crossed


  • Banned (with Prison Access) Posts: 13,018 jank


    Sorry for the bump but came across this on google and i just want to know,
    What do all the different colors and gowns mean, like each facilty has its own color associated with it but i presume the IT's are different to the NUI college's or are they

    Also I know PHD's wear a red coat while sometimes a master student wears it aswell but sometimes not

    Any more info regarding this?


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  • Registered Users Posts: 1,602 blondie83


    Thats interesting to read - I've often wondered about it myself. I'm hoping the explanation is just that, as someone suggested, women wore hats indoors while men didn't.

    As for the different colours on the gowns - NUI colleges use black gowns and green hoods with the faculties colour on the lining of the hood, see below link for more detail

    http://www.ucd.ie/confer/

    Bachelor graduands simply wear the gown and hood (and morterboard if female). Masters wear the same thing, but the hood has white in it as well for some reason, and the sleeves may be longer. Doctorates wear a red gown with a soft black felt hat thingy. I'm looking forward to my graduation anyway, was at my brothers last year and it was a lovely occasion :cool:


  • Moderators, Regional Abroad Moderators Posts: 26,929 Mod ✭✭✭✭ rainbow kirby


    If what's been said above is true, then I'm definitely not wearing the mortarboard at my graduation. But that's still 2 years off, so I'll make a decision closer to the time.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 6 ✭✭✭ stewarpm


    My girlfriend and I, who graduate this Thursday, heard this rumour about the glass ceiling and she was adamant that she was not going to wear a mortar board. I spoke to Prof. R.B McDowell who was TCD junior dean for many years and has been in tcd since 1932 about the topic and he said he wasn't aware of the rule, had never heard the story of the glass ceiling but also, unaided, came up with the explanation that at formal occasions it was normal for men not to wear hats while women did. It's unfortunate that he couldn't nail the matter but I think if it was a sexist rule it would have come to his attention as Junior Dean (chief disciplinarian) during the sixties. My girlfriend has since seen a friend's graduation picture and thinks she looked lovely with mortar board so is perhaps changing her mind. Which maybe adds more weight to the idea that it was a seperation that came more from formality and choice rather than oppression.


  • Registered Users Posts: 1,731 ✭✭✭ sunbeam


    Hope you both enjoy your day stewarpm. :)

    I could be imagining this, but I think I remember looking up a few 1960s TCD calendars once and not seeing any mention of caps for women. As I recall it was from the 70s that this was included in the academic dress regulations in the calendar (though obviously they were worn before that). At any rate mortarboards have been around since at least the late seventeenth/early eighteenth century, long before women were admitted to universities, so the glass ceiling theory isn't very credible.

    At this stage I have seen the new NUI regs (or at least those in the latest calendar) and though they are included, there's still no mention of women having to wear mortarboards or men not wearing them. I happened to be passing by as some grads were walking in to their ceremony in NUIG a few weeks ago and counted at least three hatless women and surprisingly one guy with mortarboard. And of course as they are listed as part of NUI AD any guy who wants to wear one is perfectly entitled to do so.
    jank wrote:
    Also I know PHD's wear a red coat while sometimes a master student wears it aswell but sometimes not

    Any more info regarding this?

    As far as I know the only masters in Ireland who wear anything other than black are Open University grads who wear bright blue gowns. I don't know the origin of red for doctors but it's another of those things that goes back hundreds of years. In a lot of the newer colleges, especially outside Ireland, the UK and some former UK colonies, doctors tend to wear black or other colours. PhDs in some of the nordic countries don't have hoods or gowns at all, just evening wear worn with a top hat and sword.


  • Administrators Posts: 33,521 Admin ✭✭✭✭✭ dudara


    I know that I wore the mortarboard at my graduation, and I personally don't give a feck if others consider sexist. As far as I know, men can wear them if they want, they just don't.

    Anyhoo, next time round, I'll be wearing red, and a floppy velvet hat. I'd nearly prefer the mortarboard.


  • Registered Users Posts: 1,044 Andrew 83


    I'm also intrigued by all of this. My girlfriend did some investigating of the origins to try and see if it's definitively sexist but the best explanation to be found was the one about men not wearing hats indoors while women did.

    I had another idea on top of this. I went to Trinity and during my graduation ceremony there were a couple of points where Amen is said (the ceremony is in Latin). I was thinking that perhaps graduation in Ireland was conducted in something of a religious ceremony and therefore, like how men cannot wear a hat in church, they could not do so for graduation. Just an idea.


  • Registered Users Posts: 4,933 ✭✭✭ Stabshauptmann


    simu wrote: »
    How exactly would one go about kicking up a fuss about this?
    [The custom behind it in Ireland for women wearing them is the cap symbolising a "cap" or "end" to their education. It used be very rare for women to go onto a Masters Degree or further so the "Mortar board" symbolises their educational glass ceiling!]

    Make a complanit to the students' union?

    To the college authorities?

    To the NUI?

    Try to inform other students of this custom?

    I wish I'd been aware of this at my conferring. Grrrr!
    Sorry for the bump (came across this via google) but some things are so stupid they have to be nipped in the bud.

    The Academic Cap is worn by women only because thats the decorum, it has to do with Religious practice (specifically Corinthians 1:11 for Christians I think and there are similar references in the Torah and Koran).

    You might notice older women at Church, particularly on big days like Christmas, Easter and Weddings still wear hats. It has largely gone out of fashion though since Vatican II.

    It does not symbolise a "cap" on women or a protest by men, it is just the etiquette surrounding the wearing of hats, an etiquette with its roots in Irelands Christian past.

    So the only thing to complain about, is how you managed to get a degree. Someones not doing their job right...


  • Registered Users Posts: 1,731 ✭✭✭ sunbeam


    For what it's worth, the new illustrated NUI academic dress regulations (PDF) published since the original discussion state:
    Caps are an integral part of academic dress for all those being conferred with the Degrees of Doctor and Higher Doctor. For all other qualifications the wearing of caps has become optional, although in practice many conferees choose to wear caps.
    Bonnets are worn at doctoral level, so mortarboards are optional for all other graduands.


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