Arrrrr! MIT Pirates Certified

by Nancy DuVergne Smith on March 8, 2012 · 44 comments

in Student Life

Sophomore Jacob Hurwitz is an official MIT pirate.

Jacob Hurwitz is an official MIT pirate.

An underground novelty has surfaced into official MIT culture. Although student pirates have existed informally for some 20 years, the Department of Athletics, Physical Education, and Recreation (DAPER) has issued the first pirate certificates to six students who have completed the requirements. The arrrrr, arrrrr, arrrrr’ing must have been heard across the river because the Boston Globe just covered the news with an article and a video.

What are the requirements? Students must complete four physical education courses: pistol, archery, sailing, and fencing. There is also rumor of a secret oath.

Sophomore Jacob Hurwitz, featured in the video, says pirate lore fits nicely into MIT’s campus culture.

Rachel Clark: "I'm going for my pirates license."

Rachel Clark: "I'm going for my pirates' license."

“In geek culture, there is a big pirates vs. ninjas war,” Hurwitz says. “I’m on the pirates side. I think pirates do a lot more. They do sword fighting, sailing, collecting treasure. All ninjas do is hide.”

And what do the students receive? The certificates, authorized by the “swashbuckling” Institute, are printed on faux parchment and affirm that the named “salty dog’’ is entitled to a pirate certificate “with all its privileges and obligations thereof.” And surely they celebrate Talk Like a Pirate Day on September 19.

Don’t expect to see these newly hatched pirates commandeering boats up and down the Charles River. The certificate limits actual pirating to “entertainment purposes only.”

Official MIT pirates certificate.

Official MIT pirates certificate.

{ 39 comments… read them below or add one }

Walt Crosby March 8, 2012 at 1:23 pm

That’s fantastic — what a great idea!


Dmitry Kolosov March 9, 2012 at 6:28 pm

Do Somalia pirates get these certificates? Do you also certify murderers, thieves, other types of criminals?


Capt Blargh March 28, 2012 at 10:36 pm

Historically, pirates a lot less actual murdering than you might think. They had such great PR — that is to say that they projected such a fearsome image and were surrounded by sufficient lore — that most of their targets surrendered without shots being fired or blood being shed (it helps that their targets were usually hired crews of merchant vessels carrying plenty of insurance). It could be said that this was one of the first uses of “terror” and “terrorism” to achieve a specific goal — intentional or not.


Dmitry Kolosov April 4, 2012 at 7:26 pm

That’s a relief. So MIT is not glorifying murderers. Just terrorists.


Cael MacAyre July 6, 2013 at 10:53 am

Comedy equals tragedy plus time


Beez September 6, 2013 at 5:37 pm

Someone wasn’t hugged enough as a child.


Tom April 24, 2015 at 10:50 am

Dmitry needs to push himself away from the computer and go for a walk. The fresh air will do him good.


Chuck January 14, 2017 at 12:52 pm

You’re correct, if the wind was in David of the pirate aggressor the merchant ship would strike their colours and hoist/loose a flag of terms, once terms were agreed it was a surrendering of cargo but sparing the crews lives and in a lot of cases they could keep the ship, too much attention for British pirates to be sailing a French or Spanish man of war or privateer ship.. also just as a bonus piece of historical knowledge, the first forces to use terror, terrorism and psychological tactics were the hashashins, aka assassins who were alawhite Muslims, lived in the mountain stronghold of alamut and spared Salahadin… also pirates were notorious for dabbling in homosexuality


N.P Griffin, Quarter Master May 12, 2015 at 8:37 am

Get a grip Dimitry, it’s a joke and in good fun. There is always one wet diaper to ruin the fun…and you’d be it matey……


Chuck January 14, 2017 at 12:54 pm

Hahaha… they try, but the Navy Seals are the ones that ‘grade’ their final exams, is very tough and has a lot of bullet points in the presentation


James March 11, 2012 at 10:34 pm

False: Pirates have existed at MIT since 1912, although our letters of marque were forcibly merged after 2007. Long live XIII !
see here for proof, matey:


Nancy DuVergne Smith March 12, 2012 at 11:50 am

So MIT pirates have an even longer and richer history! Thanks for letting us know.


Chris G March 28, 2012 at 8:36 pm

Can pirates receive their certificates retroactively? I’ve completed all of these courses and would very much like to be rewarded for my harrd work.


Chunmeista August 7, 2012 at 6:04 am

They need a “Ninja” certification too! (would focus more on physical endurance/agility):
*Some sort of Martial Arts course*
Ultimate Frisbee (yeah, it doesn’t sound that impressive, but closest thing I could think of to throwing something)


Ninja Ambassador August 2, 2013 at 11:32 pm

Of course there’s a ninja certificate. We just like to keep it a secret.


future ninja March 23, 2016 at 11:30 pm

how do I obtain such ninja certificate


Jeff Plum August 7, 2012 at 2:17 pm

I’d just like to point out that there are three different types of pirates:

1) Treasure Island variety (see article)
2) Terrorists (including Somalian sea-terrorists)
3) Torrenters


Jeremy August 7, 2012 at 4:48 pm

@ Jeff, except that torrent does not automatically equal pirating.


Dylan November 21, 2012 at 11:09 am

Ahhh the perils of alliteration…


Jbrem August 8, 2013 at 10:41 pm

Well that, and the Barbary and French Corsairs.


FGH December 13, 2013 at 11:46 pm

You forgot the fourth kind of pirating… butt pirates…

Max August 7, 2012 at 4:58 pm

Nice to see that parents and grantors money being well spent, after graduation the students will be well set for a life in high finance, politics or perhaps lobbyists


John Smith November 8, 2015 at 10:47 pm

Student life is important too. With such notoriously rigorous academics, without silly things like this to take the load off, most of the MIT students would probably go insane.


Chuck January 14, 2017 at 12:55 pm

Well these days there are a lot of vocations that are making comebacks


nizma October 19, 2012 at 2:47 am

do you have to be an MIT student to enroll in the pirate program?


Marvin Murdock May 3, 2013 at 2:34 pm

i would like to become a pirate


Chuck January 14, 2017 at 12:59 pm

You definitely need to pick a cool pirate name, Marvin Murdock – Murdock the Murderdeck Master, or something more bad arse


mordantkitten July 6, 2013 at 8:51 am

What about distillery? Rum must be made.


Chuck January 14, 2017 at 12:45 pm

You raise an excellent point, also the art of wenching mustn’t be forgotten nor ignored


David Bodman August 8, 2013 at 8:58 pm

Do they do correspondence courses? or Proficiency tests?


John Chase October 25, 2013 at 6:01 am

Is there a way to MOOC this??


Iara La Sirena July 21, 2015 at 9:51 pm

Arrrr! Is this offered in OpenCourseWare? 😀


Shawn August 27, 2015 at 3:29 pm

Can I get Pirate certified online?


Randall Garriott September 14, 2016 at 6:56 pm

The “Sailing” part of this kept me SANE in 1958-9 —- Thank you Sailing Master…


Jesse labbe January 4, 2017 at 12:56 am

Hi I would like to acquire a certificate, how much is it and where are you located?


Chuck January 14, 2017 at 12:43 pm

I’m very interested in becoming possibly the first international correspondent student who was born in a country where the first police forces members were the best behaved criminals


Shawn January 25, 2017 at 2:02 pm

Is there an option to complete the certification online? For activities in shooting, boating etc, students could upload video as evidence of them completing the requirements.

Or, there are things like conceal and carry permits that show evidence of firearm training and competence.


Yorick February 15, 2017 at 9:03 pm

OMG these comments are HILARIOUS!


Lady Cas May 10, 2017 at 12:01 am

No business, language, history, explosives, or literature classes required? As fun as the listed classes may be, I’d think it would be a little more in depth than a few phys ed classes.


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