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Iowa State Daily

Letter: What will your contribution be to the ISU community?

Guest+Columnist+Tia+Blansett+reflects+on+what+it+means+to+be+a+Cyclone.
Photo by Katherine Kealey/ Iowa State Daily
Guest Columnist Tia Blansett reflects on what it means to be a Cyclone.

According to the alumni, especially those who graduated in the 1960–80s range, Iowa State is one of the best-kept secrets in the nation, and I tend to agree with them. Throughout my time of being a Cyclone, I have been afforded more opportunities, support and resources than I have had anywhere else I have ever been. This includes the previous large university I attended as an undergraduate. Given this is my first semester on campus, you might wonder how I came to such a conclusion. I have been a graduate student since fall 2020, just online, so I do know what has been happening here in Iowa, despite being in other states until this past August.

Community is the foundation of this campus, school and city. As an online student, I was frequently more connected to the Cyclone community than the ones where I was physically present. The Principles of Community are a guiding basis for all community members, young and old. After growing up in a college town that has changed to not really be a college town anymore, coming to Ames felt like going back to the 1990s, with the level of unity and support the community has for Iowa State University. Some campuses, as well as some communities, have students arranged in cliques of friends and ignore anyone else who exists. I have been on a campus and lived in a community like this. It is very isolating to be in these environments as crowds surround you but move past you as if a tree were planted where you stand. The week before school started, I was in line at the bookstore and dropped the academic planner. I have not seen one of these in a decade with the push to online virtual work environments. The two students behind me asked if I had everything and picked up the planner for me. These were two freshmen starting their Cyclone adventure. This was very strange to me after being in these isolating communities. Since that day, I have talked to many Cyclones, young and old, about various topics and learned some very interesting things. I have found this to be my home now that I am a part of a community, not just in one.

Academic and community achievement are the most important priorities at Iowa State. We see buildings named after people, as well as areas and banners placed about the campus. This is common among large organizations, especially universities. So, what is different here versus other schools then? The names placed about this campus are from those who made major contributions to building this community and scholarly discoveries. President William Beardshear was one of those influencers who now has his name on a building. I found a work titled “The First 100 Years of Residential Housing at Iowa State University 1868-1968” by J.C. Schilletter that includes the history of housing and the university community. Beardshear instituted a challenge of personal responsibility to the students and had a unique ability to catch students doing clandestine activities when he was supposedly far away. His unique understanding of students allowed him to have considerable influence over the student body. In spring 1902, there was a food riot that destroyed university property while Beardshear was away in Des Moines discussing funding with the legislature. After he hurried back to Ames, he called a convention where he changed the mood of the student body from a boisterous one to one of silence without any additional incidents happening during his administration. 

Contrast this to other schools that post the names of those who wrote the largest checks to the university. Cyclones are change-makers in the world, from engineers of the first computer and inventors of Maytag blue cheese to great athletes, such as Jack Trice in 1923 and Talen Horton-Tucker, who was the first Cyclone and youngest American to win an NBA championship, with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2020. Trice knew he had to live up to the standard placed on him as a member of Cyclone Nation. He said so in his last letter: “I will!” The student body also knew he lived up to the standard, so it became our responsibility to ensure his legacy was never forgotten, no matter how many generations of students it took, all the way up to his name on our stadium and the 100-year commemoration.

Iowa State is not perfect, as no person or organization is perfect; in contrast, is my experience in the student section of our athletic events. At the football games, the students in the upper decks throw trash down on the students in the sections below. During the last home game against Texas, they also threw trash down on the section to the north (section 28), surprising the unsuspecting fans. The students also stand on the seats, creating a safety hazard should one of the bolts come out or someone fall, as well as a section that is unusable to fans such as myself. I have injuries that require me to be on a solid surface so that I can approximate my position relative to the ground. I stood on the seats with the students during my first athletic event in Hilton and almost fell when moving down to sit. I am, therefore, unable to be in the middle of the student section since all I would see is the butt of the person in front of me. I have not and will not purchase any more athletic tickets based on the student’s behavior. 

At one football game, I found space at the end of a row in the student section and stood, instead of sitting, in that last seat before the game. I spent the first half standing in the aisle so I could see around the students on the seats. During the first half, more students came and went to the middle of the rows, thus pushing out the ends. At halftime, a girl in the middle moved to the end and put her knees into mine until I fell on her. After I managed to get up, she proceeded to tell me that she owned those seats and asked if I was even a student. I know the source of this question is based on discrimination since I do not look like I am 18 anymore and was not participating in the standing-on-the-seats activity with the rest of the students. If this girl reads this, you need to know that discrimination based on age or direct participation is horrible, along the same lines as race and gender discrimination. You know nothing about me and assume I do not belong with the student body. This student body is very diverse to include age. An RA told me there is a 50-year-old living in the towers. Cyclone Nation, please take another look at the Principles of Community and compare these to your recent actions to determine if you have lived up to them.

Iowa State is a unique experience, unlike any other place I have been. One of the guest lecturers who spoke at one of the lecture series events told me that all universities are the same. I told this person, ‘No they are not.’ As I look forward to completing my Cyclone adventure next year and reentering the workforce, I will remain forever a Cyclone. I hope that I will be able to live up to the high standard I now know and have for members of Cyclone Nation. I will strive to continue to dutifully live by our Principles of Community and values, which include being loyal to the Cyclone community. Current members of Cyclone Nation, I ask, what will you do to live up to the standard set by Jack Trice? To future Cyclones, please think about what your contribution will be to Cyclone Nation and how this contribution can change the world for the better. 

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