by Levi Shaw-Faber
Photos by Emily Wissemann
On a flurrying 37-degree afternoon, over thirty students plunged into the Parliament of Reality in support of the Bard Center for Environmental Policy (CEP). Students from both the undergraduate college and the graduate school for environmental policy participated in the first Plunge for People and Planet.
Courageous contributors donated five dollars and solicited pledges to endure the near-freezing temperatures of the pond surrounding the Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson’s installment. Students and faculty jumped in and then quickly retreated out of the water, sprinting toward hot chocolate and coffee. Those who thought that they were going stay a little longer in the pond quickly learned that the body’s first reflex is to get out of the water as fast as possible. Student emergency medical technicians wielding a stretcher were on call in case someone had trouble adjusting to the frigid water.
The Plunge raised about $4300, which turned out to be the Center’s biggest fundraiser of the year. “You kind of feel like a polar bear. For about three seconds, you feel like it’s your natural habitat and then you quickly realize it’s not,” Director of the CEP Dr. Eban Goodstein said after he jumped. The money, according to Goodstein, will be used to create a new scholarship for an incoming CEP student and to assist current students with internship costs. The CEP believes that internships are essential to the degrees awarded by the school. “We believe that solutions to environmental challenges, such as climate change, are best tackled from an integrated perspective,” the CEP wrote in a statement on its website.
CEP graduate student Jeda Garofalo won the prize for most money raised, receiving a $700 stipend toward her internship. She said that over half of her class at the CEP participated in the plunge, and she was happy with the turnout. She described the dip as “invigorating.”
Carolyn Heitter ’15 said, “I felt like I was an animal swimming for dear life. I’ve never seen my life flash before my eyes like that.”
After he exited the water, Matt Needleman ’13 yelled, “I feel like my nipples can cut diamonds.”
The CEP and Dr. Goodstein’s choice to plunge into the Parliament of Reality fits with the theories behind the Eliasson piece, as the CEP explained: “We will be plunging into the pond surrounding the Parlaiment of Reality the installation by the world-renowned artist Olafur Eliasson, in front of Bard’s Fisher Center for the Performing Arts. Eliasson challenges one to question their reality by evaluating the nature of their relationship with the environment, both man-made and natural.”
When everyone was out of the water and slightly warmer, awards, including gift certificates to Red Hook Wine and Liquor and Gigi’s market, were presented. Kyle Rorah won the prize for most creative entry by, in his words, “hitting a rock with my bike and jumping in” wearing a “sequined jumpsuit.” Margot Granite won the prize for best costume as a “60s love child.” The CEP plans to continue the tradition annually.