Undergraduates may don red caps, gowns

Students may soon be able to display their red pride during their final moments as undergraduate Cardinals – as they walk across the stage in the O’Neill Arena to receive their diplomas.

Beth Darling, an elementary education major set to graduate in May and member of Forever Red’s board of directors, has proposed changing the graduation cap and gown colors for undergraduates from black to a subtle red.

According to Brian Copenhaver, director of the University of California, Los Angeles, Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, the graduation gown is traditionally black but has been subject to colorful makeovers in recent years.

While attending her brother’s graduation from Michigan State University in 2010, Darling was inspired by the graduates’ green gowns that, to her, reflected pride in their institution.

“I think the red gowns will really portray a more encompassing view of our Cardinal pride,” Darling said.

Other universities have academic regalia that reflect their school colors.

Central Michigan University graduates wear maroon, Michigan Technological University graduates wear black and gold, those from Grand Valley State University wear royal blue and those from Northwood University wear navy.

Graduates of Eastern Michigan University, Michigan State University and Northern Michigan University wear green gowns and robes.

To gauge student opinions on her initiative, Darling conducted an online survey during a two-week period in December 2014 with assistance from the Office of Institutional Research.

She asked 1,800 students about their preference for the color of their academic regalia and received 415 responses.

About 58 percent of respondents said they would prefer red caps and gowns, 35 percent said they would prefer black and 6 percent said they had no preference.

She has presented her proposal to President Donald Bachand and Joe Vogl, chairman of the commencement committee for graduation, both of whom she said were impressed with her idea.

“It’ll lighten up the scene at graduation,” Darling said. “I’m a huge advocate for spreading red pride, for being proud of where you come from.”

Now, all graduates wear black gowns and the color of the tassel on their cap corresponds to the college from which they received their degree.

Graduates of the College of Arts and Behavioral Sciences earning their Bachelor of Fine Arts wear brown tassels; those earning their Bachelor of Arts wear white.

Graduates of the College of Business and Management wear drab tassels. Graduates of the College of Education wear light blue tassels.

Graduates of the Crystal M. Lange College of Health and Human Services earning their Bachelor of Science in Nursing wear apricot tassels; those earning their Bachelor of Science in Occupational Therapy wear gold.

Those earning their Bachelor of Social Work wear citron tassels.

Graduates of the College of Science, Engineering and Technology earning their Bachelor of Science wear gold tassels and those earning their Bachelor of Science in Engineering and Technology wear orange.

Bachand and Vogl will assemble students and faculty members to form a committee to address lingering questions and concerns.

Darling estimates the final decision will be made by the end of February. She hopes that May graduates will be able to sport the red academic regalia.

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