Posted tagged ‘mortar boards’

Ending the headwear discrimination

June 12, 2009

In a recent post I pointed out that Irish universities maintain a curious discrimination at graduation ceremonies, compelling female graduands to wear mortar boards while men are not required, or even allowed, to do so. Well, I am happy to report that on Thursday of this week DCU’s Academic Council has put an end to this practice, and from now on the wearing of mortar boards will be optional for all graduands, male and female.

In the overall scheme of things this is a minor matter. And yet, since I wrote the original post, I have been told by many women graduates (some of whom commented in this blog) that they were told that women had to wear mortar boards to illustrate that their undergraduate degrees ‘capped’ their education. Even though I do not believe that the practice was initiated for this reason, it is nevertheless intolerable that anyone graduating should be led to believe that this might be the symbolism.

From now on it will be a matter of individual choice. As it happens, I hope that both men and women – or at least some of them – will wear the mortar boards. DCU is not a very traditional university, but just occasionally ceremonial traditions have some value, or at least provide some colour at such important moments in a person’s and an institution’s development.

Discriminatory formalities?

May 6, 2009

Today someone brought an issue to my attention about which I have also long wondered – without ever doing anything about it. In DCU as in most (maybe even all) Irish universities, at graduation ceremonies the women graduands wear caps (mortar boards), while the men don’t. This seems to me to be a peculiarly Irish thing: in all UK universities I have experienced, both men and women wear mortar boards.

It seems to me that either we should  ask all graduands to wear them, or else nobody should have to wear them; but to discriminate between men and women in this way seems hard to justify. However, I have to admit I have no idea how this came about in the first place, and despite the fact that I have observed this practice since my own student days, today is the first time that I have ever heard anyone comment on it.

Anyway, I am taking the matter to the relevant decision-making bodies here in DCU, and will recommend that we stop treating males and females differently for these purposes.

On the other hand, although DCU is a modern non-traditional university, even here we do support the idea of certain formalities in graduations. A few years ago a colleague suggested that in these ceremonies the wearing of hoods and gowns should be optional, but received very little support from anyone. I suppose it is a rite of passage for which graduands, their families and our staff still like to see some ceremonial. However, it should not discriminate.


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