By Katie Weitkamp/Managing editor

Powell Plaza is a designated free-speech area; however, Jayne Violette, an assistant professor in the communication department, thinks it isn’t used as much as it should. She came up with an idea that not only tests her SPE 210 classes but may also revitalize this area on campus.In lieu of a final exam, her students have the option to give a two-three-minute speech on any topic, except hate speech.

“It was just one of my wild hare ideas,” Violette said. “It has the potential to fly or flop.”

The project is inspired by Hyde Park in London, an area where anyone can speak on any topic they choose.

She said she thinks the speeches will go well, though. When she first presented the idea to students at the beginning of the semester, she could tell they were concerned about getting up in front of so many people. But as the class went on and the more they talked about it, she said they warmed up to the idea.

Violette said she hopes passers by will interact.

Tim Shipp, said he is hoping for reaction from the crowd.

“It would release the tension to have people cheering,” Shipp said.

He is planning on talking about Eastern’s policy on teachers tenure, but he is trying to think of another topic that would me more fun to talk about.

“I certainly don’t want people heckling my students,” Violette said.

She said the speeches may spark individual conversations with others once a student is finished speaking.

William Case, a senior parks and recreation major, said he is excited about the project. He said he picked the topic of gay marriage; he will argue that it should be allowed.

“I’m a little worried about heckling,” Case said. “We’re right at the buckle of the Bible Belt. Hopefully the Republicans won’t come out and start heckling.”

Case said he isn’t very worried; the way the stage will be set up will discourage people from bothering the students giving speeches.

While Case has had the opportunity to speak at meetings for Colonels Who Care, he said this will be the first time he will speak in front of this type of audience.

“I’m really pretty excited about it,” he said. “I have a lot of opinions to give.”

Sheri Rogers said she is planning to speak about how to keep a five-year relationship while attending different colleges.

“I’m afraid my friends will come along and laugh and distract me,” Rogers said.

Rogers said her only other experience speaking in public is with the NOVA program, where she spoke in front of 200 people in her class and in front of zoo people. She said she gets nervous having to speak in front of the 30 people in her class and this assignment will be tough.

Students will speak Friday, Monday and Wednesday; next Friday has been set aside as a rain date. They will be in the free-speech area 11:15 a.m.-1:15 p.m. A podium with a microphone will be set up and chairs will be reserved for students in the SPE 210 class.

For those who still are unsure she has provided an alternate assignment.

“Of over 50 people in the class only four or five chose the alternate assignment,” she said.

Violette said if the project goes well this year, it may be expanded for next year.

“It may become an annual spring event,” she said.

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