Why not allow graduates to wear mwar mwar?

RECENT GRAD: Rose McNinch, left, and daughter Athena McNinch at the University of Guam graduation ceremony on May 20. Photo courtesy of Ron McNinch

In the next few weeks, there will be quite a number of graduation ceremonies. I have attended many over the years and I always remember that each event is special. As a student, I only attended one graduation and that was for my bachelor's degree. Because of the Army, I missed my high school graduation. For my master's and Ph.D., I had already moved away and didn't attend the festivities.

When I attended my college graduation, the ceremony was very brief. After some brief comments, the graduates lined up with a slip of paper. As we crossed the stage, we handed our form to the speaker and they called our name. We then shook hands with the dean and that was about it.


Importance of rituals

As I have said many times before, rituals are important on Guam because we don't have weather-based seasons to mark that time has passed. There is no real "rainy season" or "dry season" here. It rains all the time and it is very hot between showers. Our days blend together. I advise my students to keep a small calendar and mark the days off to keep a sense of time. I believe our government is dysfunctional somewhat because we can't seem to focus on dates and time goals.


A lot of graduation rituals are simply hand-me-downs from the past and the not-so-distant past. I am a big believer in allowing traditions to evolve. At the University of Guam, I believe that our students should be able to wear their national honors cords or regalia when they graduate. These are academic honors that are earned by students and are a part of the national or international academic community. UOG currently does not allow these cords to be worn during the ceremony.

Add some color to the ceremonies

The other thing I would like to see at our Guam graduations is that we allow our students, if they want, to wear floral wreaths, or mwar mwar, rather than mortar boards. At California State University, Bakersfield, they allow students to wear floral leis at graduation. On a tropical island, we could do better than simply give lip service to culture and island life – we could actually adopt some practices that reflect culture.