To The Iowa State VEISHEA Rioters, I Just Have One Question

veisheaI opened my Facebook newsfeed this morning to see devastating news. Another riot broke out at VEISHEA. Another student was injured, seriously. Another year of planning, hard work and preparation would go to waste. Again.

Back in 1998, I was elected to serve as the VEISHEA General Co-Chair, the year following the death of Uri Sellars. I’ve lost track of the hours my fellow co-chair and I spent, along with the president, faculty and staff, other student leaders and elected community officials, to change the course of VEISHEA. To rebrand it, rebuild it, refocus it.

And, I have to wonder. I have to ask the question to those 1,000 rioters.

Was it worth it?

What do you say to the five-year-old who had been waiting weeks, if not longer, to scope out the perfect parade route spot for optimal candy collection? Who would most certainly stand with his mouth open admiring all those floats, tapping his shoe to the beat of the drumlines and cheering when the big balloons blew in the wind. Imagine the look on his face when his parents tell him, “sorry, honey, the parade’s been cancelled.” Was it worth it?

Or, what about the prospective high school senior who comes from a long line of cardinal and gold? She’s been counting the weekends until she gets to experience college life before she steps foot on campus this fall. Her parents would’ve no doubt stopped by to pick up a cherry pie before admiring all the department demonstrations and displays. Now, she’ll likely sit in her bedroom, adorned with Iowa State paraphernalia, wondering if this is the place she really wants to attend. Was it worth it? 

Then there’s the alumni, many of whom served on a VEISHEA committee, planned an organization event, built a float, marched in the parade, acted in Stars Over VEISHEA, staffed a booth, baked a cherry pie or hosted an open house. It’s been years since they set foot on campus. Surely they were planning to meet classmates and old friends to reminisce, enjoy the beautiful spring day and pay homage to the state, and the place, that gave them their start in life. Was it worth it?

Let’s not forget about the Ames residents. They’ve seen years of VEISHEA glory. Watched it grow and struggle, seen it prosper and witnessed students practicing leadership, community service and school pride as they showcase the best ISU has to offer. This week, they look around and wonder, do students even care about their alma mater anymore? Was it worth it?

Most importantly, there are the current students. You know, the other 24,000 who fell on the good choices side last night. They had bought tickets to events, selected the food vendors to visit on Welch Avenue, designated meeting spots for friends, secured hotel rooms for family and had crammed early for that test so they could fully experience VEISHEA. Now, it’s just another weekend full of empty stages, quiet venues and cancelled events. Was it worth it?

Was that beer you drank, that car you flipped, that young man who was emergency transported to the hospital – was it worth it? A city is left to clean up your mess, a university president is left with no choice, thousands of students harbor disappointment and you – you are just sleeping off your hangover and all you’re thinking is “that was epic.” Thousands of people’s lives were negatively affected all because you couldn’t muster respect. Control your liquor consumption. Or, act like an adult.

When your sober self awakens tomorrow and someone asks you ‘why?’, will your answer be worth it?






  1. Chris Walter Cornelius (AJ's daughter) says

    You nailed it. I was sick to my stomach when I learned of the cancellation decision this afternoon. My husband, sons and myself have all served on VEISHEA committees during our Iowa State careers. I had to hold back the tears.
    Aside from that, I LOVE reading your insights to faith, family and your quotes of the week are by far my favorite. :)
    I lift you and Scott up in prayer for a safe delivery of your little one.
    Go State!
    Chris C.

  2. Alexa says

    From a current Exec to a past Gen-Co, we can’t thank you enough for what you did for this organization and your support this week. Years and years of people who are a part of this family shows me that it will never mean anything else to me than what it already did when I woke up yesterday. Thank you!

    • Kathryn says

      I wish I could rewind the past 24 hours Alexa. It is incredibly senseless and devastating and I know it must be especially so for those that have spent hours planning it.

  3. says

    I know you’ve mentioned it before but I forgot you spent some in Iowa–we’re in Dubuque! :)

    Great post, as you’re alluding to I don’t think they had any idea the weight of their poor choices. It must be so heartbreaking for you to hear what went on!

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