Guide to Academic Garb – Harvard 2013

They’re still reprinting this piece I wrote back in the early 80s
Guide To Academic Garb
Pumps and Circumstance: A Guide to Academic Garb

By E.B. Boatner ’63

Tassels: Dexter or Sinister?
What is the status of nylon rabbit’s fur?
Does your tippet overlap your liripip?

While these questions may not loom large in the minds of today’s graduates, they are of the utmost importance to expert observers of that short-lived phenomenon, the annual display of Doctoral Plumage.

Mason’s Sackcloth

Research dates the origins of Old World academic dress to the mid-12th century, at the University of Paris, where it evolved from ecclesiastical garb into the varied and colorful regalia that we know today.

Early on, the most splendid costumes were reserved for the higher-ranking degrees. An Oxford Bachelor of the 15th century was allowed only lamb’s wool or badger’s fur to line his academic hood; sendal (silk), miniver (ermine), and tartaran (tartan) were the trappings of Masters and Doctors.

In 1882 the Reverend Thomas William Hood, Vicar of Eldensfield, tried to list the burgeoning costumes of the time in his slender (although little-read) volume Degrees, Gowns (etc.) of British, Colonial, Indian and American Universities. A sampling of the hoods listed therein shows little order, but a rich and varied selection.

The University of Glasgow, for example, specifies for its B.Sc.-a hood of “black silk lined with gold colored silk (color of Whin Blossom-Ulex europae),” while its LL.B. requires a black silk hood, Cambridge pattern, lined with Venetian red (color of Clove).

Fur Controversy

Fur became a topic of conversation at Oxford when horrified dons discovered that tailors had begun using nylon fur instead of ermine or rabbit for fur linings and trim during World War II.

Appalled, the head clerk of the University Registry and the proprietor of an Oxford Tailor shop collaborated on a compendium of sartorial statutes. Handwritten on parchment and accompanied by swatches of materials, their leatherbound volume now reposes in the University Archives. It is their considered opinion that “any fur on an academic hood ought to come from an indigenous animal.”

New World Order

In contrast to the Old World profusion of colors, furs, and furbelows, the New World Order of the toga scholastica, while not easily recognized, at least has some order in its speciation.

In 1895 an intercollegiate conference on academic gowns was held at Columbia University (with Harvard abstaining). Certain standards were set then and, while there were some revisions in 1932 and again in 1959, the complexities of the doctoral gown, Genus americus, can now be unraveled.

Harvard did finally conform to the academic code. The Corporation suggested in 1897 that all Harvard hoods should be lined in crimson.. Because of President Eliot’s antipathy to academic finery, the suggestion was not adopted until 1902. The crimson Harvard Doctoral gown was not voted in by the Corporation until 1955.

The New World rules enable the viewer to tell the college conferring the degree, the level of the degree, and the faculty awarding the degree by a glance at the costume. The colors (one or more) of the hood lining represent the conferring college; the color of the velvet border designates the branch of knowledge; the length of the hood and the width of the velvet border indicate the level of the degree. The borders may be two, three, or five inches wide on the corresponding hoods of three, three and a half, and four feet respectively for the B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. degrees.

Tassels to the Left (or Right)?

The scholar recognizes 28 separate varieties of faculties designated by border colors, including Nile green for Podiatry-Chiropody and lilac for Dentistry. For those naturalists with a quick eye it should be a simple matter to tell that the gentleman with a three-and-a-half-foot hood with a black lining with a three-and-a-half-inch trim is a Forestry major M.A. from Multonomah School of the Bible.

Further clues exist in the construction of the gowns, which come with three specific cuts of sleeve denoting the three degree levels. Some colleges use the soft beret or biretta, but the prevailing style of cap is the traditional square mortarboard, decorated with a long tassel.

Contrary to popular belief, it matters not whether the tassel is worn to the left or the right of the hat. As a spokesman for the specialists Cotrell and Leonard pointed out, “A gust of wind could change your academic standing in a moment.”

Doctors may wear a gold tassel, although they are seldom used at Harvard. Harvard presidents in the past have worn gold tassels.

While observers may not be able to identify each species of the doctoral regalia in today’s Commencement, they can reflect that student and professor alike are paying homage to more than 700 years of academic tradition.

Changes in Time Information

Changes in Time PR

My trilogy of one-act plays, “Changes in Time,” Produced by Twenty Percent Theatre Company and directed by Claire Avitabile, will have it’s (world) premiere on ay 11, 2013, and will run through the 25th.
A first set of cast photos by Rebecca Jean Lawrence was released today, and will be added as soon as I figure out how…

M-o-t-h-e-r Reviewed in PW

Publisher’s Weekly on M-o-t-h-e-r

Veteran journalist and photographer Boatner brings murder, mystery, and family dysfunction to the fore in this fast-paced, entertaining debut novel. In 1980s Boston, Elinor MacGowan is the victim of a brutal murder at the retirement home where she lived. Her daughter, Gwendolyn, is shocked to learn of the murder of her mother, with whom she’s had a difficult relationship. An Atlanta socialite, Elinor despaired when Gwendolyn moved to Boston, and even followed her daughter there after the death of her husband. When searching through her mother’s papers, Gwendolyn learns that Elinor may have had an affair years ago and that her father had a child with another woman. When her father’s former mistress arrives in Boston, Gwendolyn comes face to face with the half-brother she never knew. As the murderer strikes again, detectives must work quickly to find the killer before Gwendolyn becomes the next victim. Mystery continues unabated as police search for the murderer, while the puzzle behind Elinor’s secrets is cleverly revealed.
Reviewed on: 02/18/2013

Review of M-o-t-h-e-r Spells Murder

Review in Lavender issue 462: E.B. Boatner’s “M-O-T-H-E-R Spells Murder” Thrills and Intrigues | Lavender Magazine…

Lavender columnist E.B. Boatner has added another accomplishment to his long list of achievements with the recent publication of his first novel, M-O-T-H-E-R Spells Murder, a mystery novel that explores the devastating effects of scandal in a Southern family severed by secrets and greed.

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Minneapolis Book Launch and Party

I’ll be reading from “M-o-t-h-e-r Spells Murder” at Magers and Quinn Booksellers, 3038 Hennepin Avenue S., Mpls., on Wednesday, February 13, at 7:30 PM. Reading and discussion. Come join in and pick up a Whydunnit for your Valentine, or put a chilling something away for Mother’s Day

An Omen for the New Year?

Omen for the New Year? Received a residuals check today for my “Monster”s episode, “Satan in the Suburbs,” back from 1989. Probably a midnight screening in Ultima Thule… $60.39 reduces, after fees, to $35.67. Hey, I’ll take it. Maybe predicts good things for “M-o-t-h-e-r Spells Murder” sales in 2013. You can help make it happen… ;-)
A happy, healthy, prosperous New Year to all!

Amazon review “M-o-t-h-e-r Spells Murder” December 14, 2012

Tense, touching, literate thriller
By Nancy Weber (NYC)
Rare and precious the murder mystery that obeys the rules (body on page one, endearing narrator in jeopardy) & yet offers singular pleasures. Boatner has given us a heroine we really want to hang out with, take strength from. Aside from merely staying alive as she plays cat-and-mouse with her mother’s killer, Gwendolyn MacGowan has to find the moral courage to dig up & transcend creepy family secrets. The truth makes her free, & she is able to love her parents the better for seeing their worst. And so maybe now she’s ready for love with the widowed cop who’s on the case? Hope this is the start of a series….

M-o-t-h-e-r Spells Murder

My new psychological mystery novel, “M-o-t-h-e-r Spells Murder” is now available!
Check it out on Amazon, B&N, iUniverse or order from your favorite bookstore.

E.B. Boatner's new psychological mystery novel now available

Lying With Statistics–Or Whatever’s at Hand

It’s obvious bigots and hate-mongers rarely consider what they’re going to say, other than requiring it have the ability to instill fear and loathing for – whatever. Reason, science, facts–Jesus’s teachings–be damned.

It starts young. I recently read a piece quoting a high school student assuring the reader gays were going to hell for flouting Jesus’s teachings. I believe the Bible verses usually cherry-picked to damn homosexuals are plucked from the Old Testament, written centuries before Christ, by non-Christians. Jesus himself never uttered and anti-gay word.

Then we have the adults: Alabama State Senator Shadrack McGIll (R), has claimed that low teachers’ salaries are God’s will. Speaking at a prayer breakfast, and reported in the Times-Journal, he argued against raising teacher salaries because “It’s a Biblical principle. If you double a teacher’s pay scale, you’ll attract people who aren’t called to teach.” Besides, low pay for educators offsets the necessary high salaries for politicians, whose inflated salaries, he explained, will prevent bribery. “There needs to be a balance there,” McGill concluded.

Beyond what one McGill can accomplish, skewed thinking in the aggregate creates entities like One Million Moms (OMM). These ladies are boycotting JC Penney for welcoming Ellen Degereres as company spokeswoman. Their site states: “Degeneres is not a true representation of the type of families that shop at their store. The majority of JC Penney shoppers will be offended and choose to no longer shop there.” Well-dressed, successful families don’t shop at Penny’s?

Brian Fischer, of the American Family Association, affiliated with OMM, asserted that JC Penney will now be responsible for an increase in breast cancer, depression and suicide ideation among their women shoppers. Fischer’s reasoning stems first from his belief that lesbians qua lesbians suffer a wider spectrum of physical and mental ailments and second, that heterosexual women, by merely entering the now tainted emporia, will be tempted to “try out lesbianism,” and thus fall ill.

How counter willful ignorance and hate? I don’t know, but we’ll be seeing more of it as November approaches. One voice of reason is Degeneres herself who responded, “I stand for honesty, equality, kindness, compassion, treating people the way you want to be treated, and helping those in need. To me, those are traditional values.”

Originally appeared in Lavender Magazine 437  A Word in Edgewise