The University of Michigan, an encyclopedic survey ... Wilfred B. Shaw, editor.
University of Michigan.
Academic Gowns

The class of 1894 of the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts was the first to wear academic gowns at a Michigan Commencement. The students of the Law School and the Medical School opposed the idea. When told that it was an old English custom to use academic dress on important occasions they replied: "I suppose then that if someone told you it was raining in England, you'd turn up your trousers." The debate raged for weeks. Finally, some of the "Lits" bought gowns, and the "Laws" and the "Medics" served notice that anyone appearing on campus in such garb would be forcibly disrobed. That was the last year in which morning chapel was held in University Hall in what later became the offices of the recorder and of the dean of students.

The gown-wearing "Lits" set the day on which they were to appear, and the turbulent senior "Laws" prepared for a fracas. The dean of the Law School, learning of their designs, scheduled an Page  1770examination in order to keep them fully occupied during the danger period. The junior "Laws" then took up the cudgels. The "Lits" met in University Hall, donned their robes, and went to chapel in a body. All was calm until they started to leave after the service. The junior "Laws" were waiting at the door. As the procession approached, with Dean Martin L. D'Ooge and President Angell at the head, the "Laws" flashed into action. Dean D'Ooge demanded, "Young gentlemen, young gentlemen, what does this mean?" His question was ignored, and the invaders reached for the first gown. Just then "Prexy" went into action. Beaming upon the vandals with his most genial smile he inquired, "Can I do anything for you, gentlemen?" The enemy sheepishly disappeared. Later, however, a formal challenge to a "rush" was sent to the gownites and as formally accepted. The same evening the "Medics" and the "Laws," robed in nightshirts, met the "Lits." The battle was long and furious, but the "Lits" won. The next morning the fraternity houses on State Street were all aflutter with white streamers torn from the back of the enemy. This was the origin of the famous nightshirt parade which became an annual feature greatly enjoyed by the youth of the University community until the night when the leaders lost their heads and invaded the Library, creating such a disturbance that the parade was abolished.

In later years Swing-out was staged in connection with the vesper services held at four o'clock on Tuesdays and Thursdays in University Hall. These services, which replaced the old chapel services, were well attended by students and townspeople; in those days the Columbian organ was still new and people flocked to hear it.

Once the custom of wearing gowns was established in the Literary College, it was soon adopted by all the senior classes, resulting in part, no doubt, because of the strong contrast between the simple dignity of the black robes and the fantastic garb worn by some of the other students.

The student habit of flipping the tassel on the mortar board from left to right upon completion of graduation is without legitimate grounds; the American Council on Education has ruled that the custom is a mere "superstition."

Gowns for all bachelor's degree candidates should be black serge or worsted, with pointed sleeves; for the master's degree, black silk, serge, or worsted, with long closed sleeves; for the doctorate, black silk, with open round sleeves, faced down the front with velvet, with three velvet bars across each sleeve. The velvet should be black or a color that corresponds to the college or department which is granting the degree. All hoods should be of the same material as the gown and lined with yellow and blue. The edging of the hood should be of satin, silk, or velvet, the color indicating the department named in the diploma. Bachelor's, master's, and doctor's degree hoods should be distinguished by length and width of edging. Mortar board caps of black serge or worsted covering are worn with all robes, with tassel of black or the color of the department granting the degree. Recipients of doctorates may wear tassels of gold thread on the regular cap. While tassels may hang on any side, the cap is an integral part of academic dress and should not be removed except during prayer. Colors distinctive of the various schools, colleges, and departments to which degrees pertain are: arts and letters, white; philosophy, dark blue; science, golden yellow; engineering, orange; fine arts and architecture, brown; law, purple; medicine, green; pharmacy, olive-green; dentistry, lilac; forestry, russet; education, light blue; Page  1771business administration, drab; library science, lemon; public health, salmon pink; music, pink; public administration, black; nursing, apricot; and social work, citron.