General Commencement History and Information
The colorful regalia worn by academicians is steeped in tradition, dating back to the ecclesiastical garb of the Middle Ages. Adaptations from ecclesiastical to academic dress began in early European universities, which were founded by the church. University faculty and students wore the adapted robes for distinction and warmth. The University of Cambridge is cited as the first to use the academic gown.
Representatives of American universities met in the early 1890s and agreed upon a standard style of academic attire. The Intercollegiate Code revised in 1932 and again in 1959, is followed today by American colleges and universities, except for a few schools, which continue to use the styles of England.
Gowns are traditionally black; however, some universities have authorized use of a color symbolic of the institution. Bachelor’s gowns have pointed sleeves and are designed to be worn closed. Master’s and Specialist gowns have long, closed sleeves with an arc near the bottom and an opening for the arm. Doctoral gowns are faced with wide velvet panels and have bell-shaped sleeves with three horizontal velvet bars.
Caps, originally round, are typically square mortarboards. Some universities have adopted a doctor’s cap, which traditionally has a gold tassel, with a soft crown instead of the mortarboard.
At Western, the tassel color of bachelor degree candidates indicates the college or program from which students graduate:
- College of Arts and Sciences, white for bachelor of arts and gold for bachelor of science;
- College of Business and Technology, sapphire blue;
- College of Education and Human Services, light blue for bachelor of science and bachelor of science in education, and citron for bachelor of social work;
- College of Fine Arts and Communication, brown for bachelor of arts, bachelor of fine arts, and bachelor of science, and pink for bachelor of music;
- Board of Trustees Bachelor of Arts program, white; and Interdisciplinary Studies, white for bachelor of arts and gold for bachelor of science.
- Master’s tassels are black.
- Doctoral tassels are old gold.
Hoods, which originally were attached to the gown and could be slipped over the head for warmth, are the most colorful articles of specialist, master’s and doctor’s clothing. The color of the lining of the hood represents the university awarding the degree. The color of the facing of the hood reflects the academic discipline of the wearer’s highest degree. At Western, the colors awarded for doctoral and graduate degrees are:
- Light blue - education doctorate, education specialist, and master of science in education
- Gold - specialist in school psychology and master of science
- Gold and white - master of liberal arts and sciences
- Sapphire blue - master of accountancy and master of business administration
- White - master of arts and master of liberal arts and sciences
- Pink - master of music
- Brown - master of fine arts
Colors which may be seen among the marching faculty and their corresponding fields of study include: brown (fine arts), crimson (journalism), dark blue (philosophy), golden yellow (science), lemon yellow (library science), light blue (education), yellow brown (commerce, business, accountancy), pink (music), purple (law), sage green (physical education), scarlet (theology), and white (arts, letters, humanities).