Graduation Traditions


My sister recently graduated from Syracuse University. It was the first graduatation I’ve been able to actually attend. I didn’t go to the actual graduation, but I did attend their University Convocation. There was a nice program that described the ceremony and it was beautifully captioned. But I noticed how many things I translated to my parents.


Some background, I guess, is needed first. My dad has some sort of Bachelor’s degree, my mom has some college classes and a bunch of certificates but no degree. I didn’t attend the May ceremony for my undergraduate degree, but I did walk across the stage for my Master’s.


Some items I found interesting

  • So, the program stated that the robes that were being worn date back to monks or some nonsense. I could go get my history of higher ed book, but I remember pretty clearly that part of class. This “regalia” we wear is made up. We’ve made it up. We have no idea why we wear it, we just do. I did explain the difference between the Master’s hoods and the Doctoral robes, along with the three bars that mark a Doctoral robe. Also, since I know Cornell’s robes are always red, I guessed that was why some of the faculty robes were non-traditional colors.
  • Banners. I don’t ever remember banners at any of my graduations, but apparently they exist for each school at Syracuse. I had no explanation other than the law school one, which was purple with a scale.
  • The mace thing the leader of the marshalls carries. Once again, I have no idea.
  • Ropes and sashes. I wish, I really, really wish these were explained more clearly in the program. I know some of them are for Greeks and other student societies, I know certain ropes are for honors of some kind, but I had no answers for the rest of them.
  • Some type of alumni relations speaker. “Welcome to the alumni family!” That’s all you need to say, really.
  • Student/peer speakers. Before the graduatation ceremony I worked this year, I have never heard a speech I enjoy given by someone graduating. The one I did love focused on thanking family and people who helped him succeed. He moved people to tears.
  • Bringing in outside speakers. The one at convocation was pretty painful to listen to. His stories were good, his message would have been great, but it was depressing and violent, not something graduates, or families, need on that day.
  • Killing beach balls. Yes, I am charged with collecting them for work during graduation, but why. The students have worked hard, some of them have overcome unbelievable obstacles, let them have a beach ball. I wish I had gotten a video of what happened during Syracuse’s convocation, it was hilarious. The students successfully kept a beach ball away from the faculty marshals, and the audience cheered, several times.


Anyway, for those of you who have never attended a massive graduation ceremony, here are some pictures (from the almost nosebleed section).

The set up




The marshals are lined up

Someone with a Master's degree

A variety of robes

The Law School banner

Captioning,  although I thought for the size of the venue the speaker was very clear

Another banner, I think this one was Accounting



Another banner, but it's harder to see

Robes, sashes, painted hats...




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