When some people picture the young people who comprise the student body at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, they probably envision boring and nerdy scientist and engineering types with thick glasses and plastic pocket protectors.
But late last year it was disclosed that a secret society has existed at the institution for decades, and to become a member, one must become proficient with a bow and pistol, as well as learn modern fencing techniques and open-water sailing skills.
The reward? You’re named an official MIT Pirate!
Can you say “shiver me timbers?”
The “Boston Globe” reports that MIT requires undergrads to take four physical education classes in four years, not unlike many other colleges across the country. Back in the 1980s, some students who enrolled in the decidedly unconventional course lineup comprised of archery, air pistol, fencing and sailing decided they deserved some kind of official recognition for passing the eclectic combination. As a result, Carrie Sampson Moore, MIT’s director of physical education, said for more than 20 years, those who complete the four-course regimen have been presented with an official parchment declaring them a pirate.
The certificates are authorized by “Swashbuckling MIT,” making each recipient an official “salty dog,” and granting them “all the privileges and obligations thereof.”
Further, the certificates proclaim that the recipient “is no longer a lily-livered landlubber.’’ Adding, “Ahoy, Avast, and (of course) Arrrrrrgh!’’
Beginning last fall, the pirate-proclamation process became an official MIT-sanctioned practice, with the physical education department formally and publicly conferring pirate status on students, printing certificates on faux parchment with diploma-esque calligraphy. And, while the pomp and ceremony involved in the presentation is still kept under wraps, at least one MIT Pirate, Stephanie Holden, was willing to divulge some portions of the secret ceremony.
“It was pretty creative,’’ the sophomore studying brain and cognitive science told the Boston paper. “I remember it saying I swear to run from any fight I can’t win. To win any fight I cannot run from. Also, to sing ‘yo-ho-ho’ at the top of my lungs.’’
So, if you’re a college-age student with the desire to wear an eye patch, hoist the Jolly Roger, drink kegs of rum and shout “arrrrrgh!” in your best raspy voice, well, look no further than the physical education department at MIT.
Oh, and it won’t hurt to be pretty good at math, too.