Blouch: The Stump is still a symbol of free speech


Collegian | Forrest Czarnecki

The Stump sits on the plaza as people walk by. The stump in the plaza is a mainstay and it serves as a place for people to hang out and speak their mind Sept. 20, 2016. (Collegian File Photo)

Cat Blouch, Collegian Columnist

Number 18 on the list of 70 things to do before you graduate from Colorado State University is to “Make a statement on The Stump in The (Lory Student Center) Plaza.” The Stump, an aptly named tree stump in The LSC Plaza, has been on campus since 1964, when two student media employees bought it for $4.50 and etched the word “Collegian” into the side as a symbol of free speech. 

The Rocky Mountain Collegian and The Stump have a long-standing, inherent relationship. It is this relationship that cements The Stump as a symbol of free speech even today. At the core of free speech is lack of censorship, which is what The Collegian strives for in providing unbiased news to the student body, and thus, The Stump can be seen as a tangible representation of not only the truth being told but also the exchange of ideas. 


You cannot ignore the presence of The Stump, not only in the symbolism of its history but in the pride the University has in keeping it as a living symbol and part of our tradition. It’s one of the first things we learn about the University, in fact. As we arrive on campus, orientation leaders are sure to point out The Stump — what it is, what it means and why it is important. 

The symbolic significance of The Stump cannot be denied, but it is so much more than just a token of free speech. It cements the whole Plaza as a physical space where free speech is encouraged on campus.

“You don’t have to get on The Stump and pour your heart out to all who can hear to understand its significance and history. Even so, I encourage you to do so — that’s what it’s there for.”

For better or worse, The Plaza has long been a place on campus for individuals to share personal opinions, for protesters to demonstrate beliefs, for businesses to market and for political candidates to campaign. The weight of The Plaza as a playground for information and opinions to be exchanged never felt more prevalent than following the recent polarizing events of preachers coming to The Plaza to promote religious ideology.

It’s no coincidence that the hub of ideas on campus is also the exact location of The Stump. It’s not in The Oval, not the Intramural Fields and not the quad behind the Clark Building but The Plaza.

While many students may not be aware of The Stump’s existence, they don’t necessarily need to be for The Stump to have significance as a symbol of free speech. The connection between the location of The Stump and the role The Plaza plays as a tangible space where students and community members can not only feel safe in expressing ideas but are encouraged to do so cement The Stump as a symbol of free speech.

In other words, even if students don’t know about The Stump itself, they know about the culture of The Plaza, and The Stump precedes this culture and, in many ways, is the catalyst. 

You don’t have to get on The Stump and pour your heart out to all who can hear to understand its significance and history. Even so, I encourage you to do so — that’s what it’s there for. Colorado State University is a place where individuals of all backgrounds and walks of life can express themselves and share their opinions. The Stump is a physical representation of CSU’s promise to encourage this exchange, a literal platform for student voices and a symbol of free speech that has stood the test of time. 

Reach Cat Blouch at or on Twitter @BlouchCat.