Graduation season for Irish universities is coming to an end now. I couldn’t wait for mine in October, new dress, dinner with the family, seeing the crew again and getting a shiny degree! (whats not to love eh?!) A question did play on my mind though when it came to the traditional graduation dress, this was ‘to mortarboard or not to mortarboard?’
A mortarboard, also known as a square academic cap or a graduation cap, is the square cap with the tassel that students wear at graduation. We’ve all seen them in friends/family photos and TV shows and films (cheesy student American movies aren’t complete without the classic ‘caps thrown into the air’ graduation freeze frame). However the mortarboard tradition is a bit unusual in Ireland.
In the US and the UK both men and women don these caps at graduation. However, in Ireland it’s just the cailíní that wear them. That was all fine and well to me until I heard the supposed reason behind this tradition here. Apparently us girls wear them as a sign of ‘capping’ our education, as traditionally girls could not progress any further.
When I heard this I initially laughed. However, coming up to graduation there were a few playful jibes going around from my male classmates and friends about us ladies reaching our educational limits. I soon realised if there was truth in these tale I was not wearing a mortarboard! (Ain’t no cappin’ this young ones education!)
So I set out to research whether this tale was fact or indeed fiction. Reasons online for men not wearing caps included that the graduation robers decided not to give men caps as they lost or damaged them frequently unlike women (believable ;)). Another was that men were so disgusted women were allowed to graduate that they boycotted wearing them.
I also stumbled across some articles on DCU past president Ferdinand Von Prondzynski blog from 2009. At the time it was mandatory in DCU for women to wear mortarboards and optional for men, which he too found ridiculous. What I like about Ferdinand is he’s not a man to sit around and do nothing. He recommended that DCU stop treating males and females differently regarding the cap and one month later DCU’s Academic Council made the wearing of mortarboards optional for male and female grads. Even though this change was brought in he or anyone else online was unclear as to why there was a distinction in Ireland between men and women wearing them.
In the end I was just so confused by the whole thing! It really seems funny to me that only women would wear them when there is no solid reasoning as to why except ‘its tradition’.
But I did infact don the mortar board, I liked the look of them, I was too afraid to ask any lecturers if they knew the real meaning and I couldn’t find anything that concreted it as a sexist-education-capping-symbol!
So did anyone else hear these mortar board tales? Do you think there’s any truth in them? Ladies and gents did you or do you plan on wearing a mortarboard come graduation?