Student riot prompts cancellation of Iowa State University tradition

by Kate Hayden

Iowa State University president Steven Leath announced Veishea’s cancellation on Wednesday after an early morning of rioting took down light posts and overturned parked cars along Welch Avenue in Ames.

The Iowa State Daily confirmed one student was life-flighted to Des Moines after being hit in the head by a falling light pole early Wednesday morning. He is reported to be in stable condition at an intensive care unit.

An ISU sophomore who asked not to be named was walking home with friends among the crowd on Welch around 11 p.m. Tuesday night.

“We were probably out for fifteen minutes. For the most part it seemed like a harmless night,” the student said. Then they saw other students flip the first car.

“It was just the strangest thing. We were across the street and watched in horror,” the student said. She and her friends left the scene quickly. “We didn’t want anything to do with it.”

By the end of the night, two cars were flipped and two light poles and stop signs were torn down, The Des Moines Register reported. City officials said police officers were also pelted with rocks and full beer cans.

Veishea, which is meant to celebrate the Iowa State colleges, has had trouble in the past. President Leath acknowledged in his Wednesday conference that violent behavior on the weekend is traditionally attributed to non-students.

“This time it was us,” President Leath said.

Simpson College students have joined the celebrations in the past, to varying degrees. Madison Boswell, ’13, has visited the community celebrations with her family for years and experienced the night celebrations for the first time last year.

“It was kind of a shock,” Boswell said. “Those scenes from last night were just escalated from what I saw last year. It was completely insane to me.”

Senior Rick Blake remembers seeing crowds during his visits but never felt uncomfortable.

“Both times I’ve been there it’s been pretty crazy. But it wasn’t like I ever felt unsafe,” Blake said.

“What I remember most [from last year], people were just kind of goofy,” the ISU student said. 

She said she briefly felt unsafe last year walking along Welch, but this year was different.

“We felt really uncomfortable being out once we saw property destruction. That’s not something we condone. We came back home and listened to the police scanner for the rest of the night. I could see from my apartment the couch fire [that was lit in the middle of the street].”

Simpson junior Caitlin Dicus has been visiting friends during Veishea for a few years, and thinks cancelling the day celebrations won’t stop problems for the campus.

“I think students are not going to react very well,” Dicus said. “A lot of professors don’t give out homework during Veishea week. Students are free and let everything out. And now they’ll still be drunk, reckless, crazy but get more drunk, more reckless, and more crazy. I understand they needed to do something.”

Blake and Boswell also see problems.

“What worries me is even though they cancelled Veishea, it’s just going to give students anger to party harder and try to top last night,” Boswell said.

“They won’t have the ‘PG’ things to go to, like the concerts,” Blake said. “But they definitely had to do something.”

Students are bracing themselves for the future.

President Leath said he would appoint a task force to review the events and decide by the end of the year if Veishea would continue next spring.

“Tonight will show if [bringing Veishea back] is going to be possible. I can guarantee the majority of students didn’t want last night,” the ISU student said. “The true tragedy of last night is not that it doesn’t exist for the rest of the week. The vulnerability of the student body last night is not ok.”