Students mouth off with Soapbox

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    By SARA GILES

    All is quiet on in front of the Wilkinson Student Center. A form slowly rises from the brick and positions himself on a wooden box. A banner waves in the distance. The crowd watches aghast as his shirt is slowly raised and masses of flesh gyrate to the accompaniment of the grunts announcing it as the “Truffle Shuffle.”

    So begins another illustrious chapter of the BYUSA soapbox. Every Wednesday, dozens of students gather in the quad and express their opinions on anything from dating to nuclear bombs.

    The soapbox is a free speech platform sponsored by BYUSA. “The purpose of the soapbox is to make students aware that there is a world beyond their own noses,” said program director Jake Ball, 23, a junior from Boise, Idaho, majoring in global trade.

    However some students feel there are not enough international topics discussed due to a lack of education in the general BYU population.

    “A lot of times students just don’t know about international issues,” said Gavin McCaleb, 24, a senior from Boise, Idaho, majoring in psychology.

    The majority of opinions expressed are those that deal with dating, the battle of the sexes and the Honor Code.

    Some students are optimistic about the impact the soapbox brings into the lives of students.

    “We’re trying to get them educated. It’s not what opinion is expressed, it’s that an opinion is expressed. We’re trying to get them to read the New York Times and watch CNN for ideas,” said Brian Henderson, 23, a junior from Salt Lake City, majoring in public relations. Henderson is also one of the three mediators for the soapbox.

    However, Bradford Johnson, 22, a junior from Los Angeles, Calif. said he has other ideas about the effectiveness of the soapbox.

    “The majority of people going up have logical fallacies in their remarks on whatever issue they were on. It seems like a general trend. There were probably people there who knew of these fallacies who didn’t go up for whatever reason whether it was because they might be heckled or otherwise. They just don’t care enough to go up,” Johnson said.

    James Eagar, 18, a freshmen from Belmont, Mass. majoring in construction management is well known to soap box fans as the “Truffle Shuffle guy,” by his own admission.

    “I love the soapbox. I like to argue and start arguments. The only thing that is disappointing is when not enough people start arguing back,” Eagar said.

    While students are enjoying the commentary on the soapbox, others are there simply enjoying the view.

    “It’s a form of entertainment for people to take a break. And plus, I get to scope out all the nice young ladies,” said Glen Rusche, 24, a junior from Richmond, B.C. Canada majoring in zoology and another of mediators.

    Reasons for the popularity of the soapbox range from the full-hearted support to outright criticism. The importance of the soapbox is not necessarily the ideas that are spoken but the concept of an open forum for students.

    “I think students need a venue where they are able to express opinions even if they are just mouthing off,” said Betsy Hite, 19, a sophomore from Brawley, Calif., majoring in elementary education.

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