Commencement ceremonies hold a lot of tradition, and we’ve previously discussed a few of them, including the history of the attire right down to why graduates toss part of that attire in the air. But there’s one little, yet defining tradition that happens right before the caps fly in the air: the turning of the tassel.
At the start of the ceremony, graduates (then technically candidates) are typically asked to wear their tassels on the right side of their cap, towards the front. At the end of the ceremony when all of the degrees have been conferred, students are instructed to switch their tassel from right to left on the cap, usually by the president of the institution (though, some schools choose to have graduates switch right after he/she receives the diploma on stage). The American tradition was born as a substitute for individual hooding which is typically done for master’s and doctoral candidates on stage while receiving diplomas, which can take up quite a bit of time for larger schools. The act of moving tassels serves as a visual representation of candidates officially being recognized as a graduate and recipient of his/her degree.
About to walk in the processional and can’t remember which side to place your tassel? A jokey way to remember is that students may start school as conservatives (right) and leave as liberals (left).
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