Academic Heraldry

Colors and Symbols

Academic caps, gowns and hoods date back to the Middle Ages when monks and students wore them as a shield against the dampness and drafts of 12th century castles and monasteries.

Syracuse University bachelor’s gowns have a semi-stiff yoke, a long pleated front and intricate shirring across the shoulders and back.  The gown—which may be worn open or closed—is distinguished by its long, pointed sleeves.

Master’s gowns are worn open.  The very long sleeves are square and closed at the end with the forearm coming through a slit near the elbow.

Doctoral gowns carry broad velvet panels down the front and three velvet bars on full, round, open sleeves.  This trimming may be black or a color representing a specific discipline.  Doctoral caps may be velvet with gold tassels.

In the student procession, the University’s schools and colleges are distinguished by the background colors of the banners carried by the marshals which match the colors of the tassels on the degree candidates’ black caps.

School and college colors are listed below in the order in which they process into Commencement.

Graduate School

Master’s black; Doctor’s gold

School of Information Studies


Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs (Graduate)


Martin J. Whitman School of Management


College of Arts and Sciences/Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs (Undergraduate)

B.A. White; B.S. Gold

S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications


College of Visual and Performing Arts

School of Art and Design, brown; Department of Drama, gray; School of Music, pink;

Department of Communication and Rhetorical Studies, silver gray

School of Architecture

Blue Violet

College of Law


David B. Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics


College of Engineering and Computer Science


University College

Royal Blue

School of Education

Light blue

State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry

Bachelor’s, Dartmouth green; Master’s, black; Doctor’s, gold

Bachelor’s degree candidates wear tassels on the right and transfer them to the left when degrees are awarded during the ceremony.

Graduate degree candidates wear tassels on the left.