Graduates Asked to “Mime” Throwing Caps in Air, for Safety’s Sake


Law school students at Britain’s University of East Anglia have been told not to throw their mortarboards in the air upon  graduating — it’s just too dangerous. Instead, they are being asked to “mime” the gleeful tossing, with the caps to be Photoshopped in later, for an added fee of about $12.

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guess as law students, these young folk should understand better than anyone the university’s desire to avoid all the pain and suffering — and litigation — that accrue from falling hats.
That being said, the Chronicle of Higher Education found only one case in roughly a millennium of higher ed, wherein a student sued a university for cap-inflicted injuries:
Yale University appears to be the only American institution of higher education ever sued for a mortarboard injury. A motion filed in 1984 in Connecticut Superior Court describes how a commencement guest, one Mollie Levenstein, was struck in the eye by the sharp corner of a cap. The court held that “a mortarboard was neither inherently dangerous nor more likely to cause injury if improperly used than was any other angular object, thus it was not a dangerous instrumentality.”
And yet, the East Anglia cap-cap — that is, the cap on the throwing of caps — is not even the first in Britain.  The local Norwich newspaper The Tab got hold of the university’s letter to its students, which noted that another school had paved the wary way:
So hats off…er…on to Britain, for coming up with a brand new way to transform a time-honored young people’s tradition into a minefield of worry, regulation, and expense, draining the joy from a peak experience by kowtowing to inflated fears of nearly non-existent danger.
Well done.






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36 Responses to Graduates Asked to “Mime” Throwing Caps in Air, for Safety’s Sake

  1. Warren May 19, 2016 at 12:15 am #

    So after you have already graduated they say not to celebrate?

    I say screw em and toss your cap. What will they do to you? Take back your degree? Now that would open the litigation flood gates.

  2. elizabeth May 19, 2016 at 12:16 am #

    Omg…this is so stupid. But i share their pain…i wasnt allowed to throw my cap at ny high school graduation, either…stupid rule.

  3. Elin May 19, 2016 at 1:43 am #

    I would have more respect for them if they had just said: “Don’t throw the caps, it will be a better looking photo if we cheat and use photoshop.”

  4. BL May 19, 2016 at 4:37 am #

    And some folks wonder why Britain no longer has an empire.

  5. Nicole R. May 19, 2016 at 6:20 am #

    Yep, how ridiculous!

  6. JPF May 19, 2016 at 7:54 am #

    Note response of Health and Safety Executive:

    The banning of mortar board tossing on supposed ‘health and safety’ grounds is one of our most popular myths and actually appears in our Top 10 all-time worst health and safety excuses.

  7. Crystal May 19, 2016 at 8:13 am #

    I live in East Anglia….yep, this is exactly something they would say!

  8. Powers May 19, 2016 at 8:44 am #

    The example picture in The Tab article is horrific. No one is accurate miming the tossing of a cap; they just have their hands raised.

  9. Melanie G May 19, 2016 at 8:45 am #

    I’m from upstate NY and we were told the same thing at my graduation. In 1998. So this is not a new thing. The Photoshopping part might be, but not the prohibition. I’m pretty sure we did it anyway and miraculously no one was hurt.

  10. Powers May 19, 2016 at 8:45 am #

    That said… I don’t think I’ve ever been involved in a cap-tossing, and that’s just as well. Even if there’s little potential for injury, a) I wanted to keep my graduation caps, and b) I wouldn’t particularly want to get hit with one.

  11. lollipoplover May 19, 2016 at 9:02 am #

    I suggest this class mimes a single finger salute at the absurdity of dangerizing a graduation tradition.

    So they can look back on a memory that didn’t take place?
    Why not photoshop tossing kittens or hoverboards to highlight this crazy moment.
    In other words, this law school is sending graduates into the world who may handle life or death cases, but somehow the administration is worried these kids will poke their eye out?

  12. Wendy W May 19, 2016 at 9:39 am #

    How on earth can a bystander get hit? The crowd should still be in their seats as the hat-throwing generally occurs as the graduates leave the building or auditorium with the recessional.

  13. pentamom May 19, 2016 at 9:52 am #

    If a school wants to tell its students not to throw their caps, I don’t have a big problem with it, though I don’t know it’s necessary. I doubt it’s really a safety issue. But a school can set the rules it wants for decorum at its own ceremonies.

    But then please lose the stupid Photoshop pretense. Throwing your cap is not such an important life even that if you didn’t do it, you have to fake a picture of having done it. You just don’t do it.

  14. Coasterfreak May 19, 2016 at 10:12 am #

    When I graduated from high school in 1988, our principal begged us to not throw our caps. She said it was too dangerous and that “they go up as caps, but come down as torpedoes.” She had a strange Texas accent (like it was meshed with some other accent) and pronounced “torpdeoes” as “tar-pee-das”, which made us laugh. She also pronounced “Toyota” as “Tie-ah-tah.” She was a hoot.

    Anyway, we all threw our caps anyway and nobody was injured.

  15. Brooks May 19, 2016 at 10:41 am #

    Will they take the degrees back if they throw them anyway? Will the police arrest?

  16. JGM May 19, 2016 at 11:20 am #

    A few years ago the graduating class at a nearby high school received empty diploma covers at the commencement ceremony. The principal considered the class to be especially rowdy and flatly said that any “bad behavior” would result in punishment before the miscreant would receive their actual diploma.

    The following week the graduates reported to school, with photo ID’s in hand, and received their diplomas from the attendance office.

    As far as I know no one “misbehaved.”

  17. UPenn Grad May 19, 2016 at 11:35 am #

    Actually, at my graduation, the corner of a cap came down and hit me on the head. it left a big gauge and I was bleeding profusely, and it ruined what should have been a festive day. This was back in the 80’s and I still resent – instead of being happy and joyous, i was injured. While it may seem silly, there is an actual risk when thousands of caps (missiles) are heading toward you.

  18. Dienne May 19, 2016 at 11:45 am #

    I think “expense” is the operative word here. Just another way to make a quick buck. Or, in this case, a quick quid.

  19. BL May 19, 2016 at 12:04 pm #

    @UPenn Grad
    “the corner of a cap came down and hit me on the head. it left a big gauge and I was bleeding profusely”

    What material are they making these caps out of? Were these made by James Bond’s nemesis Oddjob? 🙂

  20. lollipoplover May 19, 2016 at 12:04 pm #

    “I was bleeding profusely, and it ruined what should have been a festive day. This was back in the 80’s and I still resent – instead of being happy and joyous, i was injured.”

    My freshman year of college(80’s), I went to my first football game wearing a burgundy sweatshirt and white scrunchie in my teased and permed hair. EVERYONE from our school wore team colors in this stadium of some 100,000 freak football fanatics. But here I was, this dumb freshman wearing the other team’s colors (unintentionally- it was more a fashion choice than school spirit), and my fellow classmates proceeded to fire marshmallows at me the entire game. They were stuck in my hair in the heat and I was completely miserable.
    I sold my student pass(for a pretty good profit) and either watched the games on TV or at a bar, if at all!
    Marshmallows + Aquanet is not a good combo. I’m pretty sure they now have a ban on the marshmallow throwing tradition (as well as the cup stacking- I also was nearly clobbered by a tower of cups at this same game!).

  21. Warren May 19, 2016 at 12:55 pm #

    UPENN Grad

    You still resent something that happened thirty years ago?

    Get over yourself. Most people I know would be laughing at it long before now.

  22. Nadine May 19, 2016 at 1:00 pm #

    Someone watched a Badboys movie and took ” ill put a cap in your arse” completely wrong.

  23. Paul May 19, 2016 at 1:33 pm #

    A more fun – and just as safe – thing to do would be to have them throw the caps and then really quickly open umbrellas. Or assume college graduates aren’t dumb enough to look directly into a falling piece of stiffened cardboard.

  24. lollipoplover May 19, 2016 at 2:07 pm #

    I have so little faith in what we call *safety’s sake* these days:

    Princess bubble gun.
    Suspended kindergartener.
    Oh, the humanity.

  25. Vaughan Evans May 19, 2016 at 3:47 pm #

    People are just sue-crazy
    In Maple Ridge(a small city in Vancouver)a lady in 1990 was learning to ice-skate
    She lost her balance-and then fell.
    She sued the city.
    Of course the judge would not give her a red cent.
    Falling down is part of leaning to skate.
    Even experienced skates sometimes fall.

  26. Ann in L.A. May 19, 2016 at 4:08 pm #

    I wonder if they will remind the graduates to take off and put down their actual mortarboards before miming the throwing of them. It would look strange if everyone in the picture is both wearing and throwing a mortarboard.

  27. Carrie McMerry May 19, 2016 at 9:17 pm #

    I’d have been the only one who actually didn’t bother listening and would have thrown mine anyway in the excitement of the moment. Then I would have looked embarrassed afterwards being the only one to do so. After all, aren’t young people supposed to think in terms of YOLO ( you only live once), not BSTS (better safe than sorry)? Or is the whole YOLO thing over? Too bad that’s what they’re conditioned to believe, even as young adults and not children. I guess the term ‘hats off to the grads’ is no longer viable.

  28. K May 19, 2016 at 10:04 pm #

    They told us not to throw our caps at my HS graduation. We didn’t listen. There were neither injuries not repercussions.

  29. hineata May 20, 2016 at 6:16 am #

    Nothing to do with injuries. ..this has to do with keeping the mortar boards in good condition. If you don’t mind paying for any damage, or own your own, then go for it and toss the thing. I didn’t throw mine this last graduation because I was lucky enough to be wearing a traditional feather cloak (korowai) over the top of my gown and I had to move with care….was worried about damaging the feathers and incurring the wrath of the family ☺.

  30. Vicki Bradley May 20, 2016 at 8:20 am #

    Art, thanks for the link. What an awesome mother! My daughter has been told by a few busybodies not to climb trees, which really irks me (of course, it never happens when I’m around; it’s only ever happened when she’s been on her own or with friends). I have always encouraged my kids to climb trees and always will. Even at almost 50 years old, my husband still climbs trees with the kids (for fun, not because he feels he has to).

  31. Donna May 20, 2016 at 9:05 am #

    We didn’t throw our caps in the air at my law school graduation. I don’t remember anyone telling us not to do it; it simply wasn’t something we were interested in doing. Or high school graduation and that was in 1988. (I didn’t attend my undergrad graduation, but I’ve never seen any indication that it is done and a stadium of 5,000+ caps flying around may actually be dangerous).

    I agree with pentamom. If the school doesn’t want the students to do it for any reason, tell them not to do it. It is not a necessary part of graduation. But don’t couch it in stupid safety reasons or fake a picture. Just don’t do it.

  32. Papilio May 20, 2016 at 10:32 am #

    I’ve never understood this tradition in the first place. You throw something straight up, you KNOW it’s going to fall down again and possibly hit you. How does ignoring gravity make you look educated? It’s like pissing against the wind…

  33. Emily May 20, 2016 at 11:03 am #

    Does anyone else find it ironic that the university came up with this litigious rule for a gaggle of newly-minted lawyers? I don’t agree with it either, but I can’t help but find it a little bit funny.

  34. Jill May 20, 2016 at 6:42 pm #

    What are they supposed to do with their mortarboards while they’re pretending to throw them in the air? Hide them behind their backs?
    When I graduated from college I got a paper cut from putting signs up directing people where to go for the various receptions afterwards. The cut bled and required a band-aid. I am still traumatized thirty years later just thinking about it. It ruined what should have been a joyous occasion. Paper should be banned from college campuses. It is just too dangerous.

  35. Library Momma May 21, 2016 at 3:25 pm #

    It’s unlikely they could “take back” the degree itself (that is the conferring of it, not the paper diploma) because once you finish your last class and it’s processed, your degree is reflected on your transcript. Of course, they could delay that process if you “misbehave” at the ceremony, but I doubt they could deny you it (and I’m sure someone would sue over that as they’ve completed all the requirements. The school could require you pay some sort of fine to process your transcript, however).

    And at every graduation ceremony I’ve participated in, I’ve always received a “dummy” (pun intended) diploma and then the real one was mailed a few weeks later because the school needed time to print them for each graduate.

    As far as not throwing graduation caps, as far as I know, they are made with cardboard. Perhaps someone could design a new cap that has semi-rounded corners so no one would be hit in the eye with it? But the Photoshop idea is just plain cheesy.