Graduation and commencement practices

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TERESITA TANHUECO-TUMAPON

MARCH to April, unless school calendars change, are months of jubilation for graduands (degree candidates) in the various higher education institutions (HEIs). <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graduation>. Graduands are students who have fulfilled all requirements to be conferred their degrees in a commencement ceremony. Being officially declared as graduates “with all the rights and privileges thereunto appertaining,” may be regarded as a rite of passage. Officially announced as graduates, they assume a new identity as persons who have acquired a lifetime qualification setting them apart from those who are not degree holders. Thus, commencement is “one of the most important moments in a student’s life as it marks a transition from one stage in his/her educational life to another.”

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In the Philippines and elsewhere, one’s parents, siblings, well-wishers attend the commencement. The major part of the ceremony is the distribution of diplomas to the students who march up the stage as their name and major are announced. “It is a moment of pride for a student as well as the parents who look on with a sense of achievement as an academic degree is conferred on their child.”<http://www.theholidayspot.com/graduation/what_is_graduationdayhtm>. New Zealand, Canada, Ukraine, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka use the term “convocation” for the university commencement to award degrees to students and honorary graduates. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Convocation

Procedures and traditions. Commencement exercises differ around the world. Whereas in most European countries such ceremonies usually only occur at university level, in our country, as in the US, these are held at the end of various stages of the educational system—on completion of kindergarten, of Grade 6 and until 2015, of senior high school (Grade 12). With the K-12 in full swing, completion of fourth-year high school or Grade 10is no longer marked by “graduation,” but by “completion exercises.” Thus, a student completing fourth-year high school is referred to as a “completer.”

Commencement and graduation. The founding of European universities in the 12th century with “Latin as the language of scholarship” fostered the intellectual revival of the twelfth century. “Degree” and “graduate” come from gradus, meaning “step.” “The first step was admission to a bachelor’s degree; second step was the masters, giving the graduate admission to the universitas and license to teach.” (Nowadays, CHED requires a master’s degree to teach on the collegiate level, and soon, DepEd will require the same of senior high school teachers.)Although used interchangeably, commencement and graduation are not exactly synonyms, as there are important differences between them. Commencement is the ceremony officiated by the president of the university, the climax being “the conferral of one’s academic degree usually declared by the president.” Its board of regents, senior administrators and academics “pay the graduates a special tribute” by their very presence “for the outstanding efforts demonstrated in earning their respective degrees.” Graduation is a process which begins with “one’s application for graduation, completion of all university academic requirements for the degree applied for and settling of all financial obligations.”<https://www.csusm.edu/commencement /graduates/gradvcommencement.html>. Related to this was an incident in one school where parents from abroad came home, only to find out in a day or two before commencement, that their “graduand” would not be allowed to march due to incomplete graduation requirements.

The academic regalia and commencement. Daily dress of Middle Ages university staff (gowns and hoods or hats) “were based on the attire worn by medieval clergy.” This became the typical dress for university commencement “to indicate the accomplishments of scholars.” Originating English traditions, Oxford and Cambridge, led to the development of academic regalia in the US. “The basic design of all academic costume in the US established in 1895 was first used at Emory, class of 1902.”<oxford.emory.edu › … › Commencement › About the Event › History of>. Gardner Cotrell Leonard from Albany, New York, who after initiating a system of dress and designing gowns for his 1887 class at Williams College, took an interest in the subject and published an article on academic dress in 1893. Soon after, an Intercollegiate Commission asked him “to form a system of academic apparel which led to a well-defined code of academic costume.” At present, the different academic degrees are identified by distinctive gowns, hoods andcolors.<http://www.colourlovers.com/blog/2007/11/06/the-colors-of-your-college-degree>. Hoods are lined with the official colors of the degree-issuing institution (e.g blue – Ateneo; green and white – De la Salle; red – San Beda; maroon and golden yellow – Liceo de Cagayan U, etc); outside trimming of the hoods bear the official color of the subject/degree earned. Commonwealth countries wear the gown open in front, American universities wear it closed.

Degree colors. Distinctive colors for the following degrees are: agriculture –maize; arts, letters and humanities – white; economics – copper; education – light blue; fine arts including architecture – brown; music – pink; theology, divinity – scarlet; commerce, accountancy, business – drab; dentistry – lilac, law – purple, medicine – green; forestry, environmental studies – russet, journalism–crimson; library science – lemon, nursing – apricot; pharmacy – olive green; philosophy, political science – dark blue; physical education -sage green; public health – salmon pink; social work – citron;, public administration including foreign service -peacock blue; veterinary science, husbandry – gray, engineering – orange; computer/physical science – yellow gold; criminal justice – midnight blue.

As a onetime US colony (1898-1946) and a staunch ally since, this almost a century of relationship naturally has had a large influence on our academic practices. However, UP’s sablay has indigenized the regalia as described in UP’s Handbook on Protocol.<http://osu.up.edu.ph/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Protocol.merged_files>.

The author, one of the country’s most accomplished institutional management experts, held top academic positions at Xavier University (the Ateneo de Cagayan) before heading chartered institutions. She attended topmost universities in the Philippines, Germany, Great Britain and Japan. An internationalization consultant on call, she is journal copy editor of, and Graduate Studies professorial lecturer at, the Liceo de Cagayan University. Awards include a Lifetime Professional Achievement from the Commission on Higher Education and recently, the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany (Verdienstorden der Bundesrepublik Deutschland).

Email: ttumapon@liceo.edu.ph

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