On the green turf of Stott Field, Portland State cheerleaders chanted “Go Viks!” as others applauded. But it wasn’t the Vikings football team that they were cheering on—it was PSU President Wim Wiewel, who had just undertaken the ice bucket challenge.
This viral social media phenomenon that has been sweeping the country for the past month is intended to raise awareness about amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a neurodegenerative disease. Participants agree to have a bucket of ice-cold water dumped over their heads on film. The videos are then posted to social networking sites along with invites to others who might accept the challenge.
Wiewel accepted the challenge from PSU football coach Nigel Burton, whose video was posted earlier this month on Aug. 18. Ten days after Burton’s call-out, Aug. 28, is a special day for Wiewel in relation to his time at PSU.
“As it happens, today is also the sixth anniversary of my becoming the president of Portland State,” Wiewel said.
Though Wiewel clenched his eyes shut and opened his mouth wide as the ice-cold water cascaded down over his head, he was quick to regain his composure.
“Yes!” Wiewel said. “I’m alive!”
Just prior to being drenched with frigid water, Wiewel passed on the ice bucket challenge to a trio of other people at the school.
“I would like to challenge the presiding officer of our faculty senate, Bob Liebman and the president and vice president of our student body, Eric Noll and Rayleen McMillan to do this also,” Wiewel said. “I think they’ll all be excited to do this as well and contribute to the good cause.”
The ice bucket challenge has not been without its detractors. Why raise awareness through a stunt like dumping a bucket of ice water on your head when there are groups dedicated to combating diseases like ALS?
“This is so [redacted] stupid,” writes Youtube user Juan C. Villegas in a comment on a video compilation of ice bucket challenges. “Just donate money to [the] ALS Research Foundation.”
Villegas’ post had nearly 500 “likes.”
In response to these criticisms, Wiewel agreed that there might be more productive ways to combat ALS. He did, however, see value in activities like the ice bucket challenge as avenues for community building.
“I totally agree…I’ve never liked these things where people say, ‘I’m going to walk five miles and [someone will] give me 25 bucks,'” Wiewel said. “Why don’t you do something useful instead of walking? Who cares whether you walk fives miles? So I don’t disagree with that at all. But you know, this is what people are doing, it’s a fun thing, so you know, I think it was a great way to show community spirit and bring people in.”
Watch Wiewel take on the ice-bucket challenge: