Annette Hacker, manager,
Office: (515) 294-4777
Gregory L. Geoffroy
Since November, I have carefully considered the reports, recommendations and other input I have received concerning VEISHEA from many quarters, including the VEISHEA Task Force and Commission, open forums, meetings with many campus, student and community groups, and from many individuals.
I have also carefully reflected upon the reasons why VEISHEA was created long ago, why it exists today, and the objectives that we attempt to accomplish through VEISHEA.
VEISHEA was originally created to showcase the university and our students to the public, and that has remained a primary objective.
VEISHEA also assists our students in developing leadership and life skills through their work in organizing and managing the components of VEISHEA.
VEISHEA provides an opportunity for student clubs and organizations to generate revenues to support their yearly activities and to further support leadership development opportunities.
And VEISHEA provides important spring-time entertainment and recreational activities for students.
These are all very valued objectives, and VEISHEA has achieved them well. But for nearly two decades VEISHEA has been marred by riots and incidents. These incidents have seriously harmed the university, harmed our students, and harmed the Ames community.
Every time a VEISHEA-related incident or disturbance occurs, the university's reputation is severely damaged -- our reputation as an institution that values educational excellence is damaged, and our reputation as a university with a safe and high-quality living and learning environment for students is damaged.
That damage to the university's reputation and image harms all of us. It hurts our recruitment of future students, and it harms all alumni and future graduates by diminishing the perceived quality and value of an Iowa State degree.
In my discussions over the last several months, I have considered three options for the future of VEISHEA. I will outline those for you to illustrate some of the factors that went into our thinking.
One option was to continue the VEISHEA celebration in the spring, with important modifications designed to minimize the kind of problems we experienced last year.
A second option we considered was spreading the current VEISHEA events over several weekends in April, rather than concentrating everything around one weekend. For example, the parade and open houses could be on the second or third Saturday of April, followed later in the month with a weekend of recreational and entertainment activities for our students.
A third option was to discontinue the VEISHEA tradition entirely, and replace it with a different kind of spring celebration, spread throughout April, with a robust series of student-centered entertainment events, recreational activities and other events that showcase the talents of our students. Under this scenario, the parade and open houses could be moved to the fall to enhance Homecoming weekend.
In reaching my decision about VEISHEA, I have carefully considered the many important objectives that VEISHEA works to accomplish, the benefits that it brings our students, and the entertainment and enjoyment that the official VEISHEA brings to all who experience it.
I also considered the severe damage to the reputation of Iowa State and Ames every time a VEISHEA-related riot or disturbance occurs. I reflected upon the reports from the VEISHEA Task Force and the Commission, carefully considering all recommendations for what can be done to lessen the probability of future disturbances, but being fully aware that we cannot eliminate that risk entirely no matter what we do.
In addition, I weighed the large amount of input I received from many individuals and student groups over the last few months.
This has been a challenging issue for Iowa State, and for me personally. I have spent many very long hours reflecting upon this issue, and discussing it in meetings and with many individuals.
It is very clear that many people have very strong feelings about VEISHEA -- its excellence, its traditions, and its problems. And I know that my decision will not please everyone. But please be assured that I weighed all of the options very carefully and I reflected deeply on all of the good advice received.
I am announcing today that VEISHEA will continue, and that it will be held in 2006 on the weekend of April 22nd.
I want everyone to know that I very seriously considered discontinuing VEISHEA entirely, and moving the parade and open houses to Homecoming weekend in the fall. But in the end, I decided that I am just not ready to give up on our students.
I know that the vast majority of our students want to see VEISHEA continue, and they want it to be successful. And I know they do not support the actions of the small number of students and outsiders who instigate and participate in riots and disturbances.
I have great faith and confidence in the students of Iowa State. I want to give them another chance to work together with us to make VEISHEA work and to keep this great tradition alive as an overall positive experience for all.
But there will be changes in VEISHEA -- some that I am able to announce today, and others that will be defined over the coming months as the VEISHEA planning occurs.
First, I intend to implement many of the recommendations made by the VEISHEA Task Force and the Commission, as well as others that we have received. I especially want to support and promote the "one community" theme and concept discussed in the Commission report.
In addition, we will reevaluate all of the VEISHEA-related activities that occur on Welch Avenue, where there is considerable potential for a flash point. Some of those activities will likely be moved onto campus and others may be significantly modified or discontinued entirely. We will sort out those details as we move ahead in the planning for next year's VEISHEA.
We will also work to strengthen overall university programming. We will create many more alternative entertainment events and recreational activities for student engagement, not only in April but throughout the year.
We will work to broaden the official VEISHEA event. We want to achieve a much higher level of participation from academic units across the campus, to involve more student clubs and organizations, and to gain much broader involvement from community groups and organizations.
There will also be a greater role of the university and community leaders in planning VEISHEA, working in very close partnership with our students. We want VEISHEA to remain a student-focused and a student-led event, but in good partnership with the university and the city.
Following the recommendations made by the VEISHEA Task Force and other groups, our public safety leaders will work to improve procedures for preventing nuisance parties. We will identify and implement "best practices" for responding to developing situations and ongoing disturbances. As part of that effort, we will host a summit this fall to bring to campus experts from around the country to discuss and share best practices for dealing with potential and real disturbances.
We will also conduct an extensive education campaign to make sure that all students fully understand the laws of Iowa, particularly as they pertain to riots and disturbances, and that they fully understand the consequences of illegal behavior and action in such situations.
I know that most of our students believe students and others who are guilty of illegal activities in VEISHEA-related disturbances should be held accountable for their actions, with appropriate disciplinary action applied, because of the harm that those actions do to VEISHEA itself, to the reputation of the university, and to their reputation. And the university will, indeed, apply very tough disciplinary action and sanctions against any member of the university community who participates in, or abets, a riot or disturbance.
As part of this effort, we will review the student disciplinary code to make sure that it is very clear about the kind of disciplinary action that will be applied to any student judged guilty of illegal activity associated with a riot or disturbance, including "failure to disperse," and with expulsion from the university as the ultimate sanction.
And finally, we will re-evaluate the "dry VEISHEA" alcohol policy, which many believe has had unintended consequences, such as encouraging the growth of large off-campus parties.
We will consider conducting VEISHEA 2006 under the university's normal alcohol policy -- the same policy that applies at all other times throughout the year. It is already a very restrictive policy. For example, in the residence system, it prohibits alcohol in any public area, such as lounges and hallways, and allows alcohol only in rooms in which all occupants are of legal age, which is a very low percentage of residence hall occupants. Most of our fraternities and sororities no longer permit alcohol consumption on their premises at any time, and those few that do are bound by a very well-formulated and restrictive policy. Overall, this policy has worked very well for us.
In the coming months, I will ask our students to work closely with us to determine how we can make these policies effective on VEISHEA weekend, and to ensure they are tightly enforced.
In all of the studies and deliberations over the past several months, it became very clear that our students, our alumni, and many members of the university and Ames community care deeply about VEISHEA, and they do not want to let it go. Many very positive things have come out of all these discussions, and I believe we have the opportunity to take something that has largely been very positive -- for the university and for the Ames community -- for more than 80 years, and make it even better.
I want to reiterate that I have great confidence in our students. The vast majority are truly outstanding young people. I believe that by working together, we will keep VEISHEA as something special for all of us.
I want to take this opportunity to thank the many people who have been involved in this very long and difficult process. This has truly been a University Community-wide effort, and an excellent example of the kind of progress we can make and problems we can overcome when we work together. I also want to thank our student leaders of LINC -- Leaders INspiring Connections -- for their outstanding efforts in developing activities and programming in this interim year.
"I am announcing today that VEISHEA will continue, and that it will be held in 2006 on the weekend of April 22nd.
"I want everyone to know that I very seriously considered discontinuing VEISHEA entirely, and moving the parade and open houses to Homecoming weekend in the fall. But in the end, I decided that I am just not ready to give up on our students."
President Gregory Geoffroy