Moving forward: What’s next after VEISHEA 2014?

Just a few days after we sent the April issue of Young Alumni News, a Tuesday night riot that destroyed property in Campustown and sent one student to the intensive care unit marked an abrupt, early ending to the VEISHEA 2014 celebration we had just been promoting. In the weeks since, the campus has been working to understand the causes and impact of the disturbance and looking to the future of the more than-90-year-old tradition.

“The true purpose of VEISHEA has been overshadowed by too many acts of this nature,” ISU President Steven Leath told a packed press conference April 9, “which jeopardize the safety of our students and our community; this type of conduct is not going to be tolerated.”

The words were a chilling reality check for tearful VEISHEA organizers, dedicated alumni, and the ISU family. Ten years after then-president Gregory Geoffroy and then-GSB president Sophia Magill organized a task force to respond to a similar VEISHEA disturbance, the community was going through the motions again. On April 17 Leath announced the formation of his task force, of which Magill would again be a member, which would again work to dissect the issue and deliver a final recommendation to him by June 30. But this time, the future of VEISHEA was much less certain.

The task force conducted interviews and held several open forums to collection feedback from the community. You can view comments made at the May 13 open forum for alumni here.

On June 5, the task force voted unanimously to discontinue VEISHEA as we know it. On June 12, it voted 12-3-1 to abandon the name “VEISHEA.” However, it also voted 11-3 to craft a different overarching, university-wide celebration – the possible details of which will be discussed this Thursday at the task force’s next meeting. Stay tuned for the latest developments.

It goes without saying that young alumni were shocked, saddened, and angered by the riot and its aftermath, and that there are strong opinions on all sides about the cancellation of the 2014 event and the future of VEISHEA.  The future is now in the hands of the VEISHEA task force and, ultimately, President Leath. In the meantime, the Young Alumni Council caught up with some students and young grads to hear about their reactions to VEISHEA 2014, what VEISHEA means to them, and what they hope will happen in the coming weeks.

Jason Schuster, Current Student
2013 & 2014 VEISHEA Village Co-Chair
Zwingle, Iowa

Pictured, right

1. How did you first find out about the riot?
I first found out about the riot through social media. As a member of the VEISHEA 2014 Executive Board, I was exceptionally busy that night finishing up course projects, following up with emails, and making plans for VEISHEA events. I happened to check Facebook and saw several posts about the incident as it was unfolding. I then turned to the Ames PD scanner channel for updates.

2. What was your initial reaction?
Pure shock. For months the VEISHEA Executive Board and the VEISHEA Committees had worked very hard to put on events that Iowa State University and Ames Community could enjoy. Because of the events that took place on that Tuesday night, the hard work that hundreds of students, both within VEISHEA and students that participate in the events, was in jeopardy.

3. What does VEISHEA mean to you?

To me, VEISHEA is the only event of its kind that brings both Iowa State University and the Ames community together to celebrate our achievements and showcase everything that defines our great university. From the parade, campus showcase, VEISHEA Village, and food stands demonstrating outstanding clubs on campus to all of the colleges’ open houses, there is much to be proud of. Getting involved with VEISHEA through the VEISHEA Executive Board has been the most memorable experience of my college career. Some of the greatest student leaders on campus work together to organize the largest student-run festival in the country. It is fun to work with people who share a common passion for VEISHEA. No matter where life takes me, I will always be a member of the VEISHEA family.

4. What do you hope will come of the task force’s work?
I hope that the VEISHEA Task Force decides to reinstate future VEISHEA celebrations.

Kallen Anderson (’14 dietetics & family and consumer sciences ed)
Harcourt, Iowa

1. How did you first find out about the riot?
I found out that there were many students out in Camputown about 10:30 pm on Tuesday night. I followed Twitter, Facebook, and listened to the Ames Police Scanner until about 3 a.m. Wednesday as I was too worried about how the VEISHEA celebration may face negative consequences from the riot.

2. What was your initial reaction?
I was wondering why students are unable to control themselves, and where they learned that their actions were okay. I was worried that these students’ actions would bring negative comments to the VEISHEA celebration.

3. What does VEISHEA mean to you?
VEISHEA, to me, means celebrating the diversity that we have at Iowa State University of Science and Technology through the past, present, and future of our colleges and student organizations. VEISHEA means taking pride in what one has accomplished and learned while at Iowa State University and showing progress and successes of the students, staff, faculty, professors, and alumni of ISU.

4. What do you hope will come of the task force’s work?
To keep the VEISHEA celebration and to make changes to university policy and student conduct. There needs to be more education and prevention work done in regards to alcohol and harmful actions like the riot.

Meredith Abbott (’10 advertising)
Minneapolis, Minn.

Pictured with friends at VEISHEA ’07, right

1. How did you first find out about the riot?
Social media.

2. What was your initial reaction?
(Expletive). College. Kids.

3. What does VEISHEA mean to you?
It’s about the community coming together — not only the ISU community, but the citizens of Ames. Businesses prosper, culture is cultivated, and nostalgia becomes prevalent.

4. What do you hope will come of the task force’s work?
Stop making this a big deal. The bigger the deal, the more it will happen. Students want attention, and if that means rioting then they are going to riot. Instead, focus on making this the best time of their lives; give them more opportunities to be involved, because if you own something you want to take care of it and see it come to fruition.

Justin Van Wert (’11 ag business)
Hampton, Iowa

1. How did you first find out about the riot?
I first heard about the riots late that night via Twitter.

2. What was your initial reaction?
My initial reaction was disbelief.  That soon subsided and I was overcome with disappointment.  At first, I wasn’t disappointed or saddened by the potential permanent cancellation of VEISHEA but rather for all of those involved in the planning of VEISHEA.  Having been on both a committee and exec during my time at Iowa State, I know firsthand the time commitment and dedication it takes to plan one of the greatest student-run celebrations in the country.

3. What does VEISHEA mean to you?  
It’s hard to put into words what VEISHEA means to me. As a fourth-generation Iowa State graduate, VEISHEA expands past just what it means to me but also my family.  VEISHEA was one of my first introductions to Iowa State, as my family would make the trek to Ames year after year to enjoy the parade and cherry pies. It’s where I first walked on Central Campus as a kid, and at that point in my life all I remember is happiness and that happiness was associated with Iowa State. As I high school senior, I spent VEISHEA weekend with the fraternity I ended up joining and saw firsthand how VEISHEA created leadership opportunities as many of the fraternity members were highly involved in the planning committee. Consequently, VEISHEA turned into a leadership and developmental opportunity throughout college as I got involved as a committee and executive member. VEISHEA has been a family reunion, a reason to attend Iowa State, an opportunity to improve my leadership skills, an avenue to make friendships, and among a thousand other reasons, a constant motive to be proud to be associated with Iowa State.

4. What do you hope will come of the task force’s work?
I hope the task force finds a way to keep VEISHEA in some form.  VEISHEA means so much to too many people to be discontinued due to riots. I fully appreciate student safety, and that should be always be held as a primary concern of all involved. That said, I challenge the task force to strike a balance and not overreact based on the decisions of a minority. Would the riots have occurred if it weren’t VEISHEA week? We’ll never know that for sure. Will thousands of proud alumni, Ames residents, current students, and other curious individuals from all walks of life descend upon Ames once a year to celebrate Iowa State and all it stands for if VEISHEA is canceled?  I hope that the task force comes up with a solution that makes us never have to answer that question.

The 1992 VEISHEA Task Force (Galloway 1992) identified nine traditional purposes of VEISHEA. Have you seen this list before?

  1. To provide an opportunity for students, faculty, and staff to showcase the academic programs of the university and its extension services.
  2. To provide opportunities for the development of student leadership.
  3. To provide an opportunity to link the university to the Ames community and to the citizens of Iowa.
  4. To provide students an opportunity for positive social interaction.
  5. To provide an opportunity for student recruitment.
  6. To provide a focal point for alumni activity and interaction with the university.
  7. To recognize distinguished alumni and friends of the university.
  8. To provide fundraising opportunities for student organizations.
  9. To affirm and sustain the traditions of the university.

Read more about the VEISHEA task force’s work at


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