Iowa State University president Steven Leath today announced his decision on the future of a springtime tradition on the Ames campus. “I’m announcing today that Veishea is ended and the name Veishea is retired,” Leath said.
Veishea has been marred by violence several times in recent decades and the event was cut short this year after students and others flipped over cars, ripped out street signs, knocked over light poles, and threw rocks and beer cans at police in the Campustown area of Ames.
Leath said he understands that many people will be upset a 92-year-old tradition has ended. “But, I’m not going to continue to put students at risk so we can observe what, to many, has become a week long party,” Leath said. “I am not going to be the president who has to call a student’s parents in the middle of the night to tell them their student has been critically injured in another Veishea disturbance.” One student was badly injured this year when they were hit by a falling light pole. That student has fully recovered.
Previous violence associated with Veishea has included a young man being stabbed to death in a fight outside a fraternity house in 1997. Riots in 2004 led then-ISU President Greg Geoffroy to suspend Veishea in 2005. Today’s decision to end Veishea follows recommendations delivered to Leath from a task force that held several public meetings over a three month period.
Leath said some traditions associated with Veishea will likely continue, but the content and timeframe of any old or new events has not been determined.
“We still want to be able to showcase the wonderful things we do here in our colleges,” Leath said. “But, we’re going to take a very thoughtful approach to this as we decide how to move forward to ensure we have the right kind of festivities and we ensure student safety.”
Leath noted that he believes the money that ISU spends on Veishea could be “reinvested” to better serve students. “The university does spend, after expenses and receipts, when it’s all done, a quarter-of-a-million dollars (on Veishea annually),” Leath said. “That’s a lot of scholarships.”
According to Leath, nine ISU students have been suspended and police have filed 250 criminal charges in relation to the disturbances during this year’s Veishea. Leath said he recognizes ending Veishea won’t stop all of the problems associated with alcohol on campus. “Right now, when freshman get to this campus, they are under the impression that Veishea is the equivalent of spring break without having to leave campus. So, when you come into a campus thinking you’re going to have a week like this in the future, it incentivizes that type of behavior. So, pulling these things apart and not having a week like that will certainly help,” Leath said. “Are we naive in thinking there could be no problems? No.”
Leath said he and other ISU administrators will continue to work with Ames community leaders and police to address issues related to student conduct on and off campus.