University presidents are the black suit-wearing overseers who sit at the back of every school event while silently staring at everyone with looks of disapproval. Except they’re not like that at all. They’re vibrant and full of personality and they’re breaking the stereotype of the university president. My favorite example of such continues to be MIT President L. Rafael Reif, who always surprises students by doing quirky things in an otherwise formal job, like taking a selfie before giving his speech at the 148th Commencement.
On Friday, August 22nd 2014 at 11am, President L. Rafael Reif was doused with ice water from a ten foot tall wooden contraption built by MIT Fraternity Phi Delta Theta. Then he was doused with ice water from another ten foot tall wooden contraption built by MIT Fraternity Pi Lambda Phi. Reif was nominated twice for the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, one by Harvard President Drew G. Faust and the second by MIT’s Edgerton Center. He was joined for his first drench by Chancellor Cynthia Barnhart SM ’86, PhD ’88 and Provost Marty Schmidt SM ’83, PhD ’88, as well as by volunteers in the audience.
The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is a viral social media trend aimed at raising awareness of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, aka Lou Gherig’s disease. The challenge is to dump ice water on yourself, donate $100 to the ALS Association, or do both, and then publish the video onto social media with a list of new nominees and a link back to the ALS Association donation page. The trend has been questioned by many as people and celebrities began doing the challenge while neglecting linking to the cause but the challenge has no doubt raised over $80 million, according the ALS Association’s website.
Reif dedicated the event to Karolina Fraczkowska ’01, whose husband, Thomas Phelan, passed away from ALS earlier in the summer. Reif challenged Undergrad Association President Shruti Sharma ’15, MIT Graduate Student Council President Kendall Nowocin SM ’13, Caltech President Thomas F. Rosenbaum, UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas B. Dirks, and Brown University President Christina Paxson.
When I arrived to the event I saw fancy cameras all over the place, so I knew if my video was to compete, I would have to get a great view. Shuffling my way through the crowd, I got the front row on the left side where I could see all of the action. Someone was in front me but he was crouching down so I didn’t worry about it. That is, until…