Aug 272003
Authors: Carmen Filosa

After years of deteriation and decay, the maintenance department for the Lory Student Center restored the tree stump in the Lory Student Center Plaza and preserved a CSU tradition of freedom of speech last July.

“We felt it was important to preserve the stump and the tradition behind it,” said Tamene Abebe, director of operations for the student center.

Abebe said the tree stump had a large hole in it and had become a safety issue for people who stood on it to give speeches.

Though Abebe said it would have been easier to buy a new stump, it was more important to repair the original stump, which has been in the Plaza since 1994.

“It is a keepsake item,” Abebe said.

The tradition of the stump started in 1964 when former Collegian employees purchased the stump from a lumberyard for $4.50. With the word “Collegian” carved in the side, students were able to stand on the stump and express their thoughts on topics such as politics, religion and foreign policy.

On several occasions the students brought the stump to the state capitol in order to protest political decisions.

Though the stump was stolen and returned several times during the 70s, the tradition of free speech was never forgotten.

The Associated Students of CSU bought the current stump on their 75th anniversary in 1994, said Michael Ellis, executive director of the student center. It replaced the original, which disappeared in the final attempt to steal the stump.

Merle McElwain, student center maintenance supervisor, said the process of restoring the stump involved cleaning the stump and filling the hole with sawdust and epoxy, a two-part formula used in construction to bond wood. McElwain said it took several layers to fill the hole and maintain the look of the wood.

“It was unsafe and was condemned to the landfill,” Ellis said.

Ellis said he was happy the maintenance department was able to preserve the original stump instead buying a new one.

Ellis said given its location in the plaza, which is the designated free speech area, the stump is an important symbol for students to see they are allowed to speak their views.

“It’s a lasting tradition,” Ellis said.

James Kador, a CSU education doctoral student, believes it is important students feel confident their views can be expressed and replacing the stump would have taken away that assurance.

“If you replace (the stump), it would take away a set value,” Kador said.

According to the CSU alumni Web site, hearing a speech on the stump is number 27 on the “50 things a CSU Ram must do before graduating.”

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