Ethiraj: ‘Official’ Veishea participation needs emphasized

Raghul Ethiraj

Like many of you, I was very upset when Veishea 2014 was canceled. I was upset because as a student leader, I understood the yearlong hard work and time that the Veishea committee invested in planning Veishea. One could relate this to a mother going through nine months of pregnancy, carefully planning every single detail from toys to the color of the paint in the baby’s room and the child being taken away from her as soon as it was born. It was devastating.

As a community adviser, I knew a lot of freshmen who were excited for their first Veishea experience. We all knew many graduating seniors who stayed up late to work on their assignments and homework early in the week so they could take part in their last Veishea.

That is why I was upset when Veishea was canceled. And that is why I printed and handed out more than 150 flyers outside of Parks Library encouraging students to take part in unofficial student organized Veishea events.

These are some of the reasons why I decided to attend as many Veishea Task Force meetings as possible — to raise concerns, enable students to have their first and last Veishea experience, and ask questions.

In the last three meetings, I have seen a lot of healthy and productive conversations taking place. Yet there are some with which I completely disagree. In the meetings, Hill has stated that the task force is in its “fact-finding” phase and encouraged everyone to stay objective, leaving behind their emotional ties to Veishea.

Hill expressed his opinion multiple times that we need to understand how Veishea in its current form is becoming irrelevant and deviating from its original mission. He constantly asked the task force to refer back to the “nine traditional purposes of Veishea,” compiled 22 years ago, to gauge the current relevance.  

He also gave out a worksheet that had all of the 2014 events on the left and the traditional purposes on top and asked the task force members to mark which category they felt the events came under to gauge current relevancy.

There is a problem with this approach. From 1992 until 2014, the general consensus from the task force and others is that not many students take part in the “official” Veishea activities but rather in the “unofficial” ones. Past task force observations, 1992 reports and surveys clearly say, “When the weather is warm, crowds want something to do.” They further add, “Alternative activities are needed to keep students busy and draw genuine interest.”

Most alternative forms of activities from the survey responses were music or sporting events. Concerts, bands, single entertainers, magicians and comedians were mentioned often.

So the more than 10 sporting events and more than 15 social and student talent show events of Veishea 2014 gave students an opportunity to get involved and do something throughout the day. Therefore Veishea in its current form is facilitating these events and is therefore is not making the traditional purposes irrelevant. It is giving a platform for students to feel more included and trying to prevent problems by giving people something to do.

Though it might look like more than 25 events falls under the “social category” in the worksheet, we need those events to draw interest and give an incentive for students to come out of bars and take part in Veishea.

Another topic discussed extensively are the punishments for offenders during Veishea. Some argued that we need stern punishments such as expulsion, higher fines and publicly displaying the names of offenders. One member candidly mentioned that we need to think about the time and investment a college senior could have put before trying to expel him for one night’s bad choice.

I agree that there should be consequences for action, but those consequences should not be extreme. We should not try to set an example out of a student’s mistake. We should rather try to help him or her realize and learn from the mistake. We need to educate the students about the consequences beforehand instead of punishing students severely for actions that many didn’t know were wrong.

The university is to be partially blamed for the riot. The central administration, as mentioned in the task force meeting, did not send out the email that has been sent out the past two years that explained the penalties for getting involved in riots. 

Alex Andrade, graduate student in business, explains from his experience that “sending out an email is good, but the university could also reach out to students in more engaging ways as well.”

I hope that the Veishea Task Force focuses more on trying to come up with means to encourage student participation, ways to inform students about consequences and instill student commitment for a violence-free Veishea instead of focusing on severe punishments. I also hope that the task force identifies “unofficial” activities of Veishea, which are problematic, and try to officially and formally include them within the organization so that they receive increased oversight from the central administration.