Free-Range Kids

Graduates Asked to Pretend to Throw Hats, for Safety

At the University of East Anglia, you can't be too careful.



Law school students at Britain's University of East Anglia have been told not to throw their mortarboards in the air at graduation—it's just too dangerous. Instead, they are being asked to "mime" a gleeful tossing, with the caps to be photoshopped in later, at a cost of an extra $12.

I 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 comes from falling hats.

That being said, The Chronicle of Higher Education found only one case in roughly a millennium of higher education 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 by kowtowing to inflated fears of nearly non-existent danger.