Commencement Traditions: Academic Regalia

Katie Nash
May 11, 2012

Faculty wearing academic regalia, Commencement 1987

Academic regalia has been worn by faculty and students at Elon during Commencement and selected Convocations since the first Commencement at Elon in 1891. The wearing of academic regalia at modern colleges and university’s originated in medieval European universities and has not changed much since the 16th century. It signifies the wearer’s academic accomplishment and includes a robe, head covering, and hood. The baccalaureate robe at Elon is maroon, representing one of the school colors. It is a simple design, with full sleeves. The master’s robe at Elon is black, and has a closed or glove sleeve that is open at the wrist. The doctoral gown is very different from the baccalaureate or master’s gown, with velvet panels down the front and velvet chevrons on large bell-shaped sleeves. Additionally, the head covering for those who hold a doctorate is a velvet Tudor cap with a tassel. Both the baccalaureate and master’s head covering simply have a tassel.

Commencement 2002

In addition to these various distinctions between different levels of academic accomplishments, the hood also adds meaning to the academic regalia. The hood falls from the shoulders down the back of the gown, and displays different colors based on established disciplines. The hood is usually black with a colored edge that represents the discipline of the wearer’s degree. The color in the silk lining represents the degree being awarded by the college or university.

An Intercollegiate Code was adopted in 1895, matching colors with disciplines. Below is a listing of the colors and disciplines:
White: Arts, letters, and humanities
Drab: Business
Rust: Economics
Light Blue: Education
Brown: Fine Arts
Crimson: Journalism and communications
Purple: Laws
Lemon: Library Science
Pink: Music
Dark Blue: Philosophy
Golden Yellow: Science
Citron: Social Sciences
Scarlet: Theology

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