Academic regalia

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See also Wikipedia's article about "Academic regalia".

Academic regalia, colloquially known as the "cap and gown", is the formal attire worn by degree candidates during various ceremonial occasions.

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History

As the earliest European universities were founded as seminaries and monasteries, the earliest scholars were required to don monastic habits. This was as much practical as demanded by religious tradition -- universities were often housed in unheated castles and it could get quite cold. As medieval universities gradually gave way to secular centers of learning, the academic regalia, now known as the academic habit was retained.

Notably, at Columbia University, students were once required to don academic regalia at all times while on campus. This only ended in 1864. Now, at the University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford, academic regalia is only required during Convocation, examinations, and Commencement. At most American universities, including Columbia, it is only required during Commencement.

Tradition and hierarchy

Academic habits vary with respect to the degree conferred and the level of scholarship attained by the wearer. The bachelor's gown is a simple cotton garment that covers the entire body. The master's gown is supposed to be made of silk, though it is often made of cotton as well with the addition of longer, closed sleeves. The doctoral robe (both research and professional doctorates) is usually the most elaborate. It is made of velvet, with stripes on the arms, and includes a hood signifying the holder's area of scholarly interest. University administrators, such as the University President and various Deans, usually wear even more elaborate attire.

Headgear

Bachelors and masters usually wear the square mortarboard. Doctoral students and faculty usually wear the softer tam.

Colors and standardization

There is very little rhyme, reason, or standardization with respect to American academic regalia (though, to be fair, the European system is even worse). An effort was made in 1894, when the American Intercollegiate Commission met at Columbia University to decide on uniform attire. However, by the mid-20th century, universities had begun to go their own route once again.

For faculty and doctoral robes, however, the following holds true: the robe itself is specific to the university, while the hood indicates the academic discipline. This is why some faculty members march in NYU, Cambridge, and Harvard robes. In addition, the faculty member wears the robe indicative of his or her highest degree. If the highest degree is an honorary degree, then the faculty member has a choice on whether to wear the robe of the school that conferred the honorary degree, or the one that conferred his highest earned degree.

The specific discipline colors are as follows:

Faculty Color Sample
Agriculture Maize
Arts, Letters, Humanities White
Commerce, Accountancy, Business Drab
Dentistry Lilac
Economics Copper
Education Light Blue
Engineering, Computer Science Orange
Fine Arts, Architecture Brown
Forestry Russet
Journalism Crimson
Law Purple
Library Science Lemon
Medicine Green
Music Pink
Nursing Apricot
Oratory, Speech Silver Gray
Pharmacy Olive Green
Philosophy Dark Blue
Physical Education Sage Green
Public Administration, Public Policy, Foreign Service Peacock Blue
Public Health Salmon Pink
Science Golden Yellow
Social Work Citron
Theology, Divinity Scarlet
Veterinary Science Gray

Columbia-specific practices

Columbia's caps and gowns were once all black. Jacques Barzun, while Provost of the University, is usually credited with changing the attire to its present slate grey.

Professor Wm. Theodore de Bary wears the Columbia doctoral robe that he wore when receiving his first honorary degree (D. Litt., St. Lawrence, 1968) with the hood that he wore when recieving his last honorary degree (D. Litt., Columbia, 1994).

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