Death to the Mortarboard!

There are no grades of vanity, there are only grades of ability in concealing it.  –Mark Twain

It’s the season of graduations.  Over the years, I’ve walked in about 20 – as a graduate, an administrator, and this year (most proudly) as a faculty member.  I would say that I have the greatest respect for tradition, but that would be untrue.  I have trouble with tradition, but as I’ve aged, I’ve learned to honor some of them.  Commencement is one of such traditions that should always remain and be treated with respect.  However, I do believe it is time to update the academic regalia or “garb.”  The robes are fine; I like to look at the colors and bars of the varying disciplines and degree levels.  In fact, I was elated when I received my master’s gown, as I can easily carry my office keys (and lip gloss) in the sleeve!  Revelation!  No cumbersome purse or keys to lose under the chair.  I even managed to fold up my 12 page program this Saturday and conceal it in my sleeve. (Never mind that my arm seemed to have sprouted some kind of an odd growth within a two hour period).  The program listed the history of the regalia, and I learned that in the earlier days (as early as the 1200’s) faculty carried “refreshments” in the sleeves of their gowns.  Now, if one needed refreshment, the graduation ceremony must’ve been pretty long.  In fact, these gowns were worn for multiple occasions, so maybe a breakfast biscuit or small flask of spirits was needed to get through the day….I, of course, stored no such refreshments, but a peppermint or two may be in order for next year.

As Twain so aptly said, I cannot hide my vanity, and I’m not even going to attempt to conceal it.  I feel like I look goofy in my mortarboard.  I am proud to wear it, but it is simply not flattering.  I want to know if the mortarboard can evolve into a newer shape….Let’s face it, even Jackie O (queen of the pillbox hat) wouldn’t look good in a mortarboard.  Why?  Because if one wears the mortarboard correctly (which I’m a stickler for even though it is NOT flattering), it sits flat on one’s head, the V of the front north and centered between the eyebrows.  I cannot find the answer to this, but is the mortarboard’s goal to mimic a book being carried flat on one’s head?  Because that’s what it is like.  Except I look better with a Norton’s anthology balanced on my head than I do with a mortarboard.  But that’s not an option.  Maybe we should commission Lady Gaga to do a rendition of a mortarboard.  Can you imagine what that would look like?  I’m sure it would be way too crazy….So what does that leave us with?  Here’s an idea:  holographic mortarboards.  With technology today, surely we could turn on a switch and superimpose a mortarboard on everyone’s head.  Then all those bobby pins disappear.  Young female graduates would be unable to pin their mortarboards on the back of their heads in order to save their hairstyle.  Instead, we would all wear them correctly and have no “hat head” afterwards.  The tassel of the graduates could be moved from right to left with a simple flip of a switch.  Surely one of my techie pals can invent this, and give me some of the proceeds, please.

As I lamented my goofy state, one colleague told me to consider a tam, since my degree is terminal (and if anything about me is terminal, I hope it is always my degree….).   A good thought to consider.  But, remember Goldie Hawn in Private Benjamin, when she asked if the uniform came in any other colors?  I wonder, then, if we can talk about the color brown?  That’s the color of my discipline, fine arts…and, well, it’s just not my favorite color….

For a more serious approach to academic regalia, check out this link.  And congrats to all the graduates!!!


2 thoughts on “Death to the Mortarboard!

  1. Thanks for a good laugh this morning. Brown. What are they trying to imply about us fine artists with the color brown? Hmmm. Yes, the color indeed needs to be rethought. lol.


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