Letter: Veishea cancellation was too hasty, unjustly decided

Veishea is an iconic festival with a rich tradition and history that Iowa State is proud of. At Veishea, students, alumni and Ames residents come together in celebration during the first warm spring days after a long harsh winter. Student organizations give showcases on everything from horticulture to physics, as well as organize fundraisers for charity and sell the beloved mini cherry pies. Over its eight decade tenure, Veishea has brought speakers, lecturers and entertainers to Iowa State’s campus, hosting notables from Bob Hope to Ronald Reagan. Veishea is an opportunity for students to learn and mature as they organize and participate in the largest student-run festival in the nation. 

Unfortunately, this years events have been marred in controversy. On April 8, the second day of Veishea, a large group of students converged onto the streets of Welch Avenue in the heart of Campustown. Around 11:30 p.m., parts of the crowd became unruly, leading to two cars being flipped, light poles being shaken down and the unfortunate injury of a student. Fortunately, Ames Police were prepared and were able to disperse the crowd without further incident, having the streets entirely cleared by 1 a.m. The crowd, though lively, could not have been described as violent: no fights broke out and no one was purposefully injured or assaulted. Strangely, the university chose not to use its ISU text alert system to communicate with the Ames community or try to disperse the crowd. The following morning the university President Steven Leath held meetings with his council and summarily suspended the rest of Veishea celebrations. 

While there is no doubt that the students have misbehaved, the choice of canceling Veishea due to activities outside of the organized structure has left many students understandably upset. Sources have suggested that the university felt that in not canceling Veishea they would be prioritizing money over human safety. However, while Veishea may bring Ames and Iowa State business, the spirit of Veishea is not profit in the students’ or the community’s eyes. What Veishea is really about are the families in Ames who bring their children to the parade, the alumni getting a chance to come back to Iowa State to revisit their time here and the students who get a chance to celebrate, showcase what they have learned and give back to the greater community. 

President Leath in suspending Veishea has taken away the students’ ability to show their good side — in effect, punishing the good majority for the mistakes of a small minority. Wisdom suggests that you give the student body a chance to prove they do not condone the behavior displayed on Tuesday night, organizing a work day to clean up Campustown of the damage or asking for donations from Veishea attendees to help with medical costs and to repair the damage done to the city of Ames. In fact, a set of students have already raised $5,000 to help pay for damages to Ames property and medical bills for the injured student. 

For me, it is sad to see that all of the effort, the passion and the time put into preparations for Veishea have been dismissed at the hasty decision of the university’s leadership. Especially in an age of social media where it easy to identify the perpetrators, instead of pressing charges against the individuals, the leadership has decided to cast the entire student body as delinquents. President Leath should not have labeled this incident as a riot, and instead framed the situation to show that the ISU student body is more than a group of drunken partiers. Unfortunately, he was not able, or willing, to do that and as a result there will be no cherry pies and no funnel cakes for the rest us.