18 December 2017 • HOP, Irene Schoenmacker
Pastafari not permitted to receive his doctoral degree dressed in a pirate’s costume
The Netherlands Institute for Human Rights has determined that Delft University of Technology has not discriminated against Michael Afanasyev by not permitting him to appear at his PhD ceremony dressed in a pirate’s costume.
The doctoral candidate claims that he is a priest of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Members of this religion, also known as pastafari, sometimes wear a colander on their head and, upon special occasions, a pirate’s costume.
Afanasyev wanted to appear in costume during his PhD ceremony at Delft University of Technology but the university would not allow this. Typical of this academic ceremony, said a university spokesperson last month, is its ‘serious character’. ‘Such an occasion requires officially accepted garments. A pirate’s costume, according to the Delft University of Technology, would be inappropriate for this occasion.’
In response, the doctoral candidate turned to the Netherlands Institute for Human Rights but this agency decided against him yesterday. Afanasyev failed to provide a substantial reason for why the PhD ceremony should be seen as an occasion in which the teachings of the church should be promoted by the wearing of a pirate’s costume.
The doctoral candidate could name only one other example in which pastafari priests have worn a pirate’s costume: during a wedding ceremony in New Zealand. The institute found this insufficient. ‘Furthermore,’ wrote the institute in its ruling, ‘although he claims to have been a pastafari priest for more than a year, he does not own a pirate’s costume and has never worn such a costume while attending a ceremonial occasion.’
According to Delta, the university’s newspaper, Afanasyev sees this as ‘an unfortunate decision’. But he also sees the positive aspects: ‘My request produced chuckles among many people. It has also inspired many people to actually consider basic human rights such as freedom and equality, about the place of religion in our society, and about the privileges commanded by existing powers.’