Commencement Policy

Authority: Academic Affairs and Enrollment Management
Date Enacted or Revised: October 1, 2012; Revised February 1, 2016; July 2016; October 2017; February 2018; March 2019; October 2019


Unless stipulated otherwise, all time and/or semester references in this policy refer to the semester during which a candidate participates in the commencement ceremony.

Eligibility for Participation in the Commencement Ceremony

A candidate is eligible to participate in the commencement ceremony the semester during which all degree requirements and academic policies are fulfilled as prescribed in the catalog and after an Application for Degree has been submitted to the appropriate academic department(s). Degree completion must be certified by the Registrar’s Office before the candidate is eligible to participate in the commencement ceremony. Candidates who complete degree requirements during the summer semester are eligible to participate in the fall commencement ceremony. During the commencement ceremony, the name of each present candidate earning a degree is announced, and the candidate receives a diploma cover.

Graduating in Absentia

Any candidate wishing to graduate in absentia must submit notice online at If a candidate graduates in absentia, their diploma may be collected from Student Central in person during regular business hours after the commencement date. Upon request to the Registrar’s Office, the diploma may be mailed. Non-refundable shipping and handling fees will be assessed for mailed diplomas and must be paid in advance.

Multiple Degrees

A candidate earning multiple degrees will receive one diploma cover during the ceremony and another when the diplomas are received following the ceremony.


Diplomas are distributed immediately after commencement concludes. A candidate must have settled all obligations to the University (e.g., academic and financial holds) to receive the diploma. Diplomas not claimed within one semester after the exercises are destroyed. A fee will be assessed for reprinting a diploma after that time.


Official University-approved regalia are worn during the commencement ceremony. Candidates are expected to wear academic regalia provided by the University Bookstore. University representatives (e.g., faculty, staff, dignitaries, etc.) should also wear academic regalia, which may be rented through the University Bookstore.

Commencement is a dignified ceremony, and students are encouraged strongly to uphold the dignity of the ceremony by adhering to the guidelines below regarding decorating graduation caps. Note that only caps – not gowns – may be decorated.

Honor graduates with cum laudesumma cum laude, and magna cum laude distinctions are provided cords appropriate to the distinction to display on regalia during commencement. Cords, medallions, pins, etc. representing membership in or recognition by University-recognized societies or service in the United States military are permitted for display on regalia during exercises.

Guidelines for Decorating Graduation Caps

Please take into consideration the following guidelines when decorating your graduation cap. Failure to follow these guidelines will potentially result in removal and replacement of the cap at the ceremony. Students will not be allowed to participate in the ceremony without a cap and gown.

Decorations on the cap must adhere to the following:

  • Cannot contain any advertisement, symbols, abbreviations, initials, words, slogans, patches, or pictures that are of a sexual nature or refer to drugs or controlled substances, tobacco, alcohol, or weapons;
  • Cannot denote an affiliation with gangs or which advocate drug use, violence, illegal activity, or disruptive behavior that is detrimental to the safety and welfare of others;
  • Cannot be obscene, profane, vulgar, or lewd;
  • Cannot include numbers other than the graduation year and/or jersey number (only if a student-athlete);
  • Cannot threaten the safety and welfare of others;
  • Only the flat, top area of the mortar board may be decorated. There may be nothing besides the tassel hanging down from any of the sides of the cap;
  • Decorations must be flat on the surface of the cap. 3-D creations may not exceed a height of one inch above the mortar board surface; and
  • Graduation caps will be reviewed and approved by a member of the Commencement Committee in advance of the ceremony. The vice president for student affairs will have final approval authority.

It is appropriate to put the following on your cap:

  • Thank a parent, grandparent, teacher, or friend;
  • Recognize your college, department, major, or career field;
  • Your graduation year;
  • Your jersey number, if you are a student-athlete;
  • The branch of the military in which you have served or will be serving upon graduation; and/or
  • Your home country’s flag.


This policy is distributed via the Commencement Committee, the Academic Advisory Council, the Administrative Advisory Council, at GradFest each semester, in communications to graduating students, and the University Policies webpage.