Dress Codes and Convocation

Martin Grant, Dean of Science

Martin Grant, Dean of Science

Convocation is a special time for our students, their families, and all who work at McGill. To understand the significance of convocation, certain aspects of the ceremony of the event are worth a closer look. This is an odd focus, but a powerful one as it reveals our values as a University.

Consider the dress code. All the graduating students, all the professors, are dressed in robes. Some professors have very colourful robes, depending on their University of graduation and their degree. I have heard one Dean remark that his red robe requires only a red clown nose to complete the picture (OK, I said this). All the undergraduate students wear black robes.

The reason for the black robes is well known. The black robe is a leveller. We recognize that all our graduating students have achieved a BSc, for example. It does not matter if the students wear fancy clothes or rags under the robes.  It does not matter what their shoe size is, or their hair colour. All that matters to the University is what they have achieved: success in an academic program.

Universities have standards, and we take them very seriously. There is no relativism at our core: an A is an A and an F is an F. At our core there are only hard-edged standards forged centuries ago during the Enlightenment. If those standards are achieved, our students are, for us, indistinguishable from others who have reached those same heights.

It is true that we recognize some special individuals at convocation, but there are no Mr. or Ms. Congeniality awards. Instead, we recognize exceptional achievement.

To be a University is a big boast of a name. It speaks to universal access—as I have said, regardless of shoe size or hair colour—to universal knowledge, and the all-encompassing universal values of inclusion, empowerment, and impact.

To achieve at a University, to be successful in a rigorous academic program, is something in which to take pride. When we wear the robes, professors and students alike share a common status. Professors look at students in their black robes and tap into the drive, ambition, and motivation we had as students—which led us to become scientists and scholars.

For students, the dress code is a “welcome” to the cadre of achievers who are McGill graduates.

Comments are closed.

Blog authors are solely responsible for the content of the blogs listed in the directory. Neither the content of these blogs, nor the links to other web sites, are screened, approved, reviewed or endorsed by McGill University. The text and other material on these blogs are the opinion of the specific author and are not statements of advice, opinion, or information of McGill.