Trials and Tribulations
Although VEISHEA is is one of Iowa State University's
best loved traditions, it is not without its share of problems. Over the
years, VEISHEA has had to contend with student apathy, wars, riots, and even a
In early October 1940 the VEISHEA
Committee voted to abolish VEISHEA due to student apathy and too many leaving
campus during the celebration. Students and alumni were outraged and called for
the celebration to remain. Some students felt that this was just a ploy to end
student apathy and that VEISHEA was never in any danger. Be that as it may, on
October 8th the VEISHEA Core Committee reinstated VEISHEA.
Headline from the October 8,
1940 Iowa State Daily Student
VEISHEA, like the rest of the country, felt the impact of World War II. Labor was hard to find due to many young men going into military service. Material shortages made float making, exhibits, and stages difficult; people had to scrounge to get things put together. Gas shortages caused many to stay home.
The 1943 festivities were shortened to two days and VEISHEA Vodvil, the parade, and Stars Over VEISHEA (SOV) were cancelled. A War-Fair Carnival was held and raised $1,800 bringing the total to 4,000 in war stamps. The military's influence was everywhere, the queen was escorted by sailors from the Naval Training School, military songs were sung at the opening ceremonies, and four $25 war bonds were given to winning entries at the carnival. In 1944, resources became even more strained and VEISHEA was almost cancelled. It was again shortened, this time to one day without the parade, SOV, and many of the open houses. Events that did occur included Motor Board Tapping, open houses in women's dormitories and sororities, a modern dance show, a debate, and the VEISHEA dance. The students held a war bond and stamp drive to purchase a jeep for the war effort. They raised enough to purchase two jeeps. The 1945 celebration was back to two days and the mood had improved although the parade and SOV still did not take place. The open houses had been reinstated and a canoe race was held.
The 1970 VEISHEA was scheduled to take place on what turned out to be the weekend following the tragedy at Kent State. VEISHEA organizers met with students leading the campus war protests and decided to continue with the event, but banned all weapons from the parade, included a "March of Concern" open to all, and added a venue for 24-hour discussion of current events. David Susskind was scheduled to appear for a question and answer forum. Weapons were not allowed to be carried by anyone during the parade - not even the military.
In the 1980s and 1990s the popularity of VEISHEA increased, however, the original purposes of VEISHEA became overshadowed by the unofficial parties that dominated the weekend. Students from all over flocked to Ames during the weekend in an effort to participate in what was known as the largest party in the Midwest. The traditional activities of the weekend, such as the parade, open houses, and concert, continued as usual, but they were no longer the focus of the celebration. Little was done to revitalize the original intent of VEISHEA. In fact, the concert was ended in 1980 because of the perception that they no longer a needed to provide entertainment for all these people because they were able to find their own forms of "entertainment". VEISHEA carried on as usual, but each year it became less a about celebrating Iowa State's achievements and more about attending an enormous party. In 1988, this atmoshpere culminated into a full scale riot. Thousands of students gathered in the south block of Welch Avenue and a bonfire was started in the middle of the street, which created a hole several feet deep. Police were not able to control the crowd and they eventually called in basketball coach Johnny Orr and football coach Jim Walden. The coaches were able to calm the crowd and convince them to disperse. This was the first VEISHEA riot to rock the campus. Another riot in 1992 also threatened the future of VEISHEA.
In 1997, after what was considered a successful celebration a tragedy occurred. Harold "Uri" Sellers was fatally stabbed on the lawn of Adelante Fraternity early that Sunday morning. The two men convicted of the crime as well as the victim were from out of town and not connected to Iowa State University, except for their participation in the VEISHEA weekend activities. A task force was quickly created to scruntinize the events that led to the tragedy. University President Martin Jischke and the task force decided that the celebration must become alcohol free or end. The 1998 VEISHEA became the first to be celebrated without alcohol. Although off campus parties had continued, no alcohol was allowed on campus. VEISHEA remains an alcohol-free celebration.
VEISHEA 2001 and 2002 were not without opposition. Much like the situation for the1941 VEISHEA, students were upset with the quality of the celebration. There was an unsuccessful petition created by a group of students with the goal of creating a student referendum to vote to end the funding of VEISHEA by the Government of the Student body.
In 2004, VEISHEA experienced another riot, which not only caused a great amount damage to property, but also to the reputation of VEISHEA and Iowa State University. University President, Gregory L. Geoffroy, decided to suspend the celebration for 2005. After the formation of another taskforce to examine VEISHEA, the celebration resumed in 2006.
Through it all, VEISHEA has come out stronger and
better. The students, administration, faculty and staff, and the Ames
Community have come together in order to preserve this celebration and truly
make it Iowa State's rite of spring.