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University diplomas now printed on paper

Ann Marie Jakubowski | Thursday, October 6, 2011

Sheep of the world are breathing a sigh of relief, now that the University will no longer be printing diplomas on sheepskin.

As of last year, Notre Dame was one of only five schools in the nation who printed diplomas on sheepskin. Beginning in 2012, the University will change to printing diplomas on high-quality paper. University officials knew that this change would come in the next few years, but the official decision for the immediate switch was finalized earlier this week, catalyzed by the closing of the company that supplied the sheepskin prints, according to Associate University Registrar Chuck Hurley.

Hurley said that the switch will benefit Notre Dame in the long run.

“If you look back at Notre Dame’s history, both sheepskin and paper diplomas have been offered since the turn of the century,” Hurley said. “It has varied from time to time when sheepskin was unavailable, so we’ve had kind of an odd history where we went back and forth between sheepskin and paper.”

At times, the spotty availability of sheepskin has caused problems with the uniform printing of diplomas.

“In the 1960s, you’d see students with same degree at graduation, but some would have it on sheepskin and some had paper,” Hurley said. “In the late 1960s, Notre Dame switched to a sheepskin default but offered paper as well upon request.”

The sheepskin vendor used by the University is the last of its kind remaining in the United States, a fact that speaks to the decreasing popularity of the material. Last week, the vendor told University officials that it will no longer be printing sheepskin diplomas.

“The unique printing process [for sheepskin] involves lead type, and industry regulators were very concerned,” Hurley said. “The company told us that due to lower order volumes and to avoid causing problems for their employees, they decided to no longer make sheepskins.”

The switch coincides with the trend observed by the Office of the Registrar that more and more students have been asking for paper over sheepskin over the years. According to Hurley, the new paper should prove far more durable than the sheepskin.

“Each year, the registrar’s office gets requests from students for reprints of diplomas that had been damaged by the sun, humidity, etc.,” said Hurley. “Sheepskin, as a biological entity, can fade, shrink, and wrinkle, but paper is less inclined to do those things.”

The overall expense of printing diplomas should remain fairly constant — the paper itself costs slightly less, but now the Office will invest in software and high-quality printers to prepare the diplomas. An added bonus for the University is the shifting of resources from paying a third-party printer to using printers inside the Office of the Registrar.

“We worked with student government last year to select a new paper diploma for the University,” Hurley said. “It uses the same typeface, the same seal and looks exactly the same to the untrained eye, but now it will be on the same high-quality paper that is used by Harvard, Princeton and Oxford to print diplomas.”

The change has been finalized and will be in effect in time for the graduation ceremonies in January 2012.