HAT BAN: University Deems Mortarboards ‘Unacceptable Risk’ At Graduations After Students Suffer Facial Injuries

Students throw their mortarboards in the air during their graduation photograph at the University of Birmingham degree congregations on July 14, 2009 in Birmingham, England.
Christopher Furlong/Getty

A university has reportedly ‘banned’ new graduates from throwing mortarboards after students received facial injuries over the past few years.

The BBC reports that students have been told they must instead mime the action, and that for a fee of £8, caps could be digitally added to the photographs.

The University of East Anglia (UEA) described the tradition of throwing the hats as an “unacceptable risk,” claiming the action had caused a number of injuries to graduates over the years.

The guidance sent out by the photography company, which informed the students of the instructions to mime throwing their hats. said: “As well as being safer, the added advantage [is] that even more of the students’ faces will be seen in this photograph.”

Student Jonny Wright told Radio 5 Live that last year someone had spent the day in A&E with a cut to the face as a result of a falling mortarboard, but suggested a ban is “over the top,” as such injuries are “one in a million.”

A statement released by the university said: “The decision to not have the traditional ‘hat throwing’ photo opportunity for all students this year follows a number of injuries over recent years to graduates hurt by falling mortarboards. This is an unacceptable risk, and we want to ensure no student’s graduation day is ruined by the potential for avoidable injury.”

The BBC reported that the Health and Safety Executive said the chance of being injured by a flying mortarboard is “incredibly small” and suggested the ban had not actually been implemented on the basis of public safety but instead out of concern for the garment’s condition.

A representative for UEA said the ban was agreed by academic dress suppliers who had complained of “damaged mortarboards” after graduations.

Third year English Literature student Alice Cachia told The Tab: “This is health and safety gone mad.

“Students should be given the choice and told that if they don’t want to throw their hats then they can leave the group photo.

“I really want to throw my hat as it’s the pinnacle of being an undergraduate student and yet again UEA are ruining the experience of what should be a really brilliant day. I’m so angry.”

The Guardian reported that the University of Birmingham and Anglia Ruskin University have also attempted to stop students throwing mortarboards at their graduation ceremonies, both citing health and safety reasons.

Having been ridiculed for the policy on social media, the university rowed back, insisting: “UEA has not introduced a policy banning the throwing of mortarboards – we have simply asked our photography supplier not to encourage it during large group sessions.

“We have taken this step because in each of the last two years students have suffered facial injuries. Last year a student needed treatment in A&E.

“If individuals or small groups want to throw their mortarboards they can but we don’t think doing it in groups of around 250 students is sensible.”


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