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.