The custom of wearing academic dress stems from the Middle Ages when scholars were also clerics and wore the costume of their monastic order. Their cassocks were easily adapted into long-sleeved, heavy garments with a hood that was originally a cowl attached to the gown, which could be slipped over the head for warmth. Lay students adopted this garment as a matter of practicality. By the end of the 15th century, the cap had replaced the hood as headgear. Originally the cap was round, but varieties have evolved. The distinctive mortarboard became more popular. The mortarboard may have symbolized the master workman's mortarboard of the 1400s, the scholar's books, or perhaps the famed quadrangles of Oxford University's campus.
The hood retains its symbolic function, and the colors of its silk lining represent the institution granting the degree (blue and gold at Western New England University). For this reason, the procession of faculty is so colorful--their hoods carry the college at which they earned their highest degree. The color of the border of the hood indicates the field of learning.
The bachelor's gown is simple, with long, pointed sleeves. The master's gown has longer, oblong-shaped sleeves. The doctoral gown has velvet bars stitched across the upper arm. Faculty who hold doctorates often wear gowns distinguished by the primary color or colors of the institutions that awarded the degrees.
The cap's tassel generally serves different functions depending on the type of gown being worn. For the bachelor's gown, because there in no hood, the tassel's color indicates the degree earned. For the master's gown, the tassel is usually black; for the doctoral gown, the tassel is usually gold. The tassels of the caps are worn on the left side by those who already possess a bachelor's degree.
Some of the graduates in our processions will be wearing braided cords, ribbons, or sashes that are indicative of high academic achievement or membership in various honor societies. Gold cords signify the achievement of summa cum laude, magna cum laude, and cum laude honors, or "with honors" for transfer students.
The official colors of fields of learning represented in academic processions are:
Government, History, Law Enforcement,
Fine Arts, Architecture
Arts, Letters, Humanities
Science, Political Science
The origination of the mace dates back to medieval times when it was first used as a weapon. Medieval European bishops forbidden the use of the sword were allowed to enter battle with a mace, often an iron or steel club designed to split armor. By the 16th century, the mace, a symbol of authority, was embraced as a ceremonial object by colleges and universities. Traditionally, the mace is carried as part of formal academic occasions by the Grand Marshal.
The mace of Western New England University was designed and crafted by master wood sculptor Dimitrios Klitas on the occasion of the inauguration of President Anthony Caprio in 1997. The mace is four feet long and sculpted from a solid piece of walnut. The carving at the base of its shaft resembles spirals representing the spiraling knowledge to be gained through education. The upper portion of the mace features four petals under the round Seal of Western New England University. The base, created as a stand for the mace, also includes four petals. They represent the University's original four Schools and depict their firm position and strength as a resting place for this institutional symbol of authority.