For Brittany Schultz, the graduation ceremony was not quite as special as it should have been. A little bland, even.
The problem was not a boring speech or that long litany of names, but something closer to her heart -- er, head.
"I actually was bummed when I found out that we were going to have white tassels," said Schultz, who earned a journalism degree from the University of Minnesota. "It's such a boring color. I would have liked to have had a maroon-and-gold tassel. Or even an all-maroon or all-gold -- something that made it a little more recognizable that my peers and I were U of M graduates."
Actually, it could have been worse.
In the color-coded system set up by the American Council on Education (ACE), business and accounting grads are assigned "drab" tassels for their mortarboards. (Yes, "drab" is a color and a descriptor, in this case, one and the same.)
While high schools tend to go the school-color route with their tassels, colleges and universities often follow the ACE recommendations. So the color of that flowing accessory, which might end up dangling from a rearview mirror or enshrined in a display with the degree, can vary mightily, from gray to peacock blue.
And Schultz actually should have her very own maroon-and-gold tassel. The university began handing those out to incoming freshmen in the mid-2000s. It's "a reminder," University President Eric Kaler told last fall's new arrivals, "that we're all planning to reconvene in May of 2015 at your graduation."
That's where they might have to settle for something a bit drabber in the way of tassels.
STRANDS OF HISTORY
Graduation ceremonies date to Oxford in 1432, when the gowns often were fur-lined. In the 16th century, different gowns were created for bachelor's, master's and doctorate degrees, and the tassel first appeared on skull caps.
Harvard used the nation's first cap-and-gown regalia at its 250th anniversary in 1886, but the University of Michigan's class of 1894 was the first to wear such garb at commencement. High schools started using caps and gowns in the early 1900s.
In 1959, the American Council on Education appointed a Committee on Academic Costumes and Ceremonies, which made several changes implemented the next year. Among them: moving from all-black tassels to different colors for different areas of study.
More recently, some colleges and high schools adopted a tradition of shifting the tassel from the right to the left side after the student received a diploma. Those receiving master's degrees start with the tassel on the left and flip it to the right.
Here are the colors that the American Council on Education recommends for tassels (plus gown and hood edging) for different academic disciplines:
Brown: Fine arts, including architecture
Citron: Social work
Dark blue: Philosophy
Drab: Commerce, accountancy, business
Golden yellow: Science
Gray: Veterinary science
Lemon: Library science
Light blue: Education
Olive green: Pharmacy
Peacock blue: Public administration, including foreign service
Sage green: Physical education
Salmon pink: Public health
Silver gray: Oratory (Speech)
White: Arts, letters, humanities
Copyright 2012 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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