On the way to class across the Mather quad, it is extremely hard not to notice that the new Tinkham Veale University Center has recently taken the shape of a real, functional building. This is probably most exciting to different student groups, currently residing in Thwing Center, who will receive completely new spaces in the state-of-the-art building. As the university adds the finishing touches to the new center, however, the question of Thwing Center’s future remains unanswered.
As we go to print, the planning process has not started yet. So far, a steering committee has been formed to weigh different alternatives. There have been talks about repurposing Thwing Center to senior administration, but this plan is far from being finalized and is only being looked into at this point. But when the planning actually does kick off, the parties involved should reconsider where the heart of campus lies. Right now, there is no such thing. The university center will supposedly be the heart of the university, but it will not necessarily be the heart of campus. Perhaps Thwing Center could fill this role; maybe it should be turned into a student academic center, a one-stop shop for students to access academic resources. That way, Case Western Reserve University would ensure that the university center would not entirely steal the spotlight from Thwing Center.
We are optimistic to see how many parties are involved in the planning process: There are representatives from Thwing Center administration, the College of Arts and Sciences, the Office of Student Activities and Leadership and Auxiliary Services. While reaching the final plan may take longer with such a big and diverse group of decision makers, it is highly advantageous to include a wide variety of viewpoints and input in the repurposing project. However, no student representatives are listed among the involved parties in the plans. It goes without saying that turning Thwing Center into a functional student center would require dedicated planning that also takes student input into consideration. As it turns out, the students of CWRU certainly do have a few things to say about how they imagine the future of Thwing center.
In their most recent newsletter, the Undergraduate Student Government asked for the opinions of students on how they would like to see Thwing Center used after the opening of the new student center. The responses were overwhelmingly consistent. Most students expressed hopes for Thwing center to be first and foremost a meeting space for students. Some even suggested employing some of the spaces as classrooms. Others talked about giving the ever-growing Greek community the facilities they currently do not have. These are all reasonable ideas, but it is not definite whether they will significantly affect the planning process. Sure, students can contact all the different groups involved in the planning process to give feedback, but again, no student representation is included in the project.
While it is admirable that the university is trying very hard to not make Thwing Center redundant, there is always a possibility that the pull of the Tinkham Veale University Center will be too strong to allow Thwing Center to flourish as a hub for the student body. The new student center will include all of the facilities Thwing Center currently offers—and they will be significantly improved versions. On top of that, over 160 student groups will migrate to the new student center—some of them, like the Flora Stone Mather Center for Women, from Thwing Center itself. The new center will even be the home for dining services, which will certainly not positively affect the traffic in Thwing center’s Bag-It.
While the Tinkham Veale University Center will surely provide a much-needed improvement to the current facilities at CWRU, the university will, at the same time, have to make sure that Thwing Center does not become a gloomy skeleton of a building that is the home for only a few remaining student groups and formal sorority recruitment events. Perhaps the university could consider relocating Access Services to Thwing Center so that the service would actually live up to its name and be more accessible for students. It would be remarkable if Thwing Center was turned into a full-on student academic center with collaboration areas, study rooms and ready access to academic-centered offices like ESS, Counseling Services, Undergraduate Studies and SAGES writing resources. At the moment, these services are scattered, making access difficult. Combining these academic-centric services would be a boon to student productivity, with help from the university’s considerable resources just a step away.
These are all potential repurposing options, but whatever the university decides to do, the functionality of Thwing Center will only be proven with time. Hopefully, with student perspectives and savvy planning, it won’t be forgotten in the wake of its monolithic neighbor.
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