The Veishea Void: Faculty, students reflect on the loss of an ISU tradition


Iowa State Daily

Members of the Ames Police Department watched over a large crowd of people near Campustown to help keep individuals at bay as they moved toward Lincoln Way. 

Eric Wirth

Though the traditional Veishea celebrations are gone, ISU administrators, students and local police departments realize all Veishea traditions have not died. 

While opinions on the discontinuation of Veishea are varied, the administration at Iowa State sees the end of Veishea as somewhat of a shame, but also an opportunity to try something new and different that better fits the ISU community in 2015.

Tom Hill, senior vice president of student affairs, said the end of Veishea has allowed the administration, faculty and students the ability to look at the needs of modern day students and figure out activities they want at Iowa State in the absence of the spring celebration.

“It won’t be done overnight, and I hope that it does take a little time,” Hill said in reference to new ideas and programs that will be created to fill the Veishea void.

Hill said the aim of the administration and students he’s spoken to is not to replace Veishea, but rather to think outside the box and create something new and fresh that may bear little to no resemblance to the former celebration.

“When you talk about replacing something, whatever you come up with looks like what was discontinued,” Hill said.

Though many anonymous social media groups like Freeishea have crept up attempting to keep the tradition alive, creating a celebration that is similar to Veishea is something that some would like to avoid.

ISU alumni responses to the Veishea Task Force decision to disband the celebration were mostly in agreement, said ISU President Steven Leath. About 90 percent responded positively saying discontinuing the celebration was a shame, but was necessary due to concerns about safety in recent years.

The history and legacy Veishea had was filled with traditions, which some people have expressed should not fall to the wayside. The future of events such as the Veishea parade and the cherry pie sales are currently up in the air.

“Someone came up with the idea of having cherry pies linked to Valentine’s Day,” Hill said, adding that it didn’t happen this year due to a concern the turnaround was too quick and would have resulted in a poorly composed event.

As for the parade, both Leath and Hill said some students have come forward suggesting it be held during Homecoming rather than during what would have been Veishea. Once again, Hill said that while the idea seemed good, more consideration was needed before a final decision could be reached.

Funding that was previously earmarked for events such as this and others that occurred during Veishea week is still going to the students.

“We expanded a student organizational funding program to put more resources into that program to address issues that [students] have,” Hill said. “We now have a significant source of funding that is open to over 800 student organizations.”

This program, the Student Organization Sponsorship Request Program, allows student organizations to request funding to enhance their organizations. This funding would help the groups provide experiences for students they may not have been able to have outside of the club or group.

Hill said the money that has been earmarked for the requested program — between $150,000 and $300,000 — has allowed for some organizations and clubs to receive funding that may have never had a chance to before.

“Now instead of you having to go to another student organization, you can go right to the trough,” Hill said.

The request program expansion is also giving more students an ability to gain leadership experience that they may not have been able to when Veishea was still around.

“Only about 200 students were involved in [the organization] of Veishea,” Leath said.

Hill said this low number of students was due in part to the machinery behind the Veishea leadership and the need to get involved early in one’s academic career to rise through the ranks.

The final piece of Veishea funding, the Veishea scholarships, will still be around in one form or another. This is because the money for the scholarships is in an endowed account and therefore will be given to students regardless of the appearance of a Veishea celebration.

Though the traditional events will not take place, ISU and Ames Police said they realize students still carry a torch for the unofficial events, many of which revolve around alcohol.  

Jason Tuttle, the investigations commander for the Ames Police Department, said that regardless of the lack of Veishea celebration, the department is still prepared for the unofficial celebrations characterized by Veishea.

“After this weekend, Easter, the following three weekends in April, we’ll have enhanced staffing on both Friday and Saturday nights,” Tuttle said. “We have all these weekends now. We’re not going to have one weekend. We’re not doing that because this is so spread out. If we have a need a specific night, we’ll call them and ask for assistance.”

This advanced staffing, which aims to keep the peace should any troubles arise, will consist of up to six additional officers and a supervisor along with an extra four officers on graduation weekend.

“We’ll continue to monitor the Freeishea pages and all those other social media sites,” Tuttle said. 

The Ames Police Safe Neighborhood Team has already been door-to-door in Campustown hot spots to talk to residents about how to have safe parties, as they do before Veishea each year.

“We’re trying to be proactive where we get to these places before we see the 400-person party in the backyard, and that’s where we’ve had problems in the past,” Tuttle said. 

The department also works closely with the Dean of Students Office to keep them updated on arrests made “so there’s accountability not only from the criminal side, but if a student gets in trouble on those weekends, we’re going to be passing that information along,” Tuttle said.

ISU Police and Ames Police are still working closely to keep students and the Ames community safe during the last of the spring semester and went through their annual crowd control training last week. 

“We have to look at each situation as different. Last year, we chose not to bring in those riot teams either way. People are going to see that and say, ‘oh, it’s a riot,’ and they start to have more of that mob mentality,” Tuttle said about the departments’ strategies last year.

“But when that light pole hit that kid last year, that really kind of soured the mood of the crowd. I think at that point they realized this is a very serious incident. He could have been killed, and we saw the mood change to ‘we should just leave the area.’”

Tuttle said each night, they will monitor the situation and respond accordingly.

“We prepare for the worst and hope for the best,” Tuttle said. “We’re hoping that people can have some self-discipline, that they think about what happened last year and make good decisions.”

As for the long run, Hill said it’s time to look forward rather than backward.

“Let’s move on,” Hill said. “The student body will not be able to do anything of significance if it keeps hanging on to something that is no longer.”