By Michelle Lewis Aller
Between the hours of 11:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. on Mondays, students can step up to a microphone and express their feelings to a crowd of their peers — all on a small wooden crate called the Soapbox.
“The Soapbox is a valuable outlet for students. I’m not sure if it helps students resolve their issues, but it’s a great idea,” said John Bennion, BYUSA Student Advisory Council vice president.
The Soapbox has not always been the way it is. Jake Ball, 24, a senior from Boise, Idaho, majoring in global trade, is the program director of the Soapbox and started to change it two years ago.
“It existed before, but was very weak. I get topics now and try to get students to discuss how they feel about them,” Ball said.
Students are invited by Ball to grab the microphone and vent their feelings. There are two restrictions, however.
“No foul language and no speaking against doctrines or leaders of any church,” Ball said.
So how do students feel about the Soapbox?
“I like it because it gives people a way to express themselves in an orderly manner,” said Rachel Haines, 20, a junior from Sandy, Salt Lake County, majoring in art therapy.
David Sattler, 24, a junior from Allentown, Pa., majoring in law and diplomacy, watches and listens to the Soapbox.
“It’s great. If it’s something that I’m wondering about, I’ll stop and listen,” Sattler said
Other students like the Soapbox if it’s amusing or interesting to them.
“I love the Soapbox! It’s a good place to see how sheltered BYU really is. It’s also funny to listen to,” said Ryan McDonald, 24, a senior from Lake Tahoe, Calif., majoring in human biology.
Not all students agree with Haines, Sattler or McDonald. Some students think the soapbox can be annoying.
“It bugs me a lot, especially when people get up there and have no idea what they are talking about. If someone goes up there, know what you are talking about,” said Jeremy Blackwell, 22, a junior from Roosevelt, Duchesne County, majoring in construction management.
Other students are annoyed with the Soapbox because of repeated speakers and issues.
“It’s a good thing but sometimes they should limit the people who go up there. Sometimes the same people just go up there,” said Melinda Goodrich, 19, a sophomore from Kent, Wash., who has not declared a major.
Ball realizes there are students who abuse or do not take the Soapbox seriously.
“I’d like to keep it focused on important topics – stuff that matters – but students are welcome to speak freeform,” Ball said.
Although there are restrictions with the Soapbox, Ball insists the rules are there to give freedom.
“There are minimal restrictions for maximum freedom. I always say when I’m up there that, ‘with every ounce of freedom, there’s a pound of responsibility,'” Ball said.
The Soapbox is outside at Brigham’s Square, the area between the Harris Fine Arts Center, the Harold B. Lee Library and the Wilkinson Student Center.