Shreyas Banerjee/The Observer
When students returned to Case Western Reserve University in the fall of 2020, they went back to a campus very different from that of a typical semester. Gone were the student activity fairs, orientation events and club activities that usually dominated the Case Quad and Freiberger Field. These departures, along with the switch to almost completely online classes, have made mass social interaction an impossibility. Of course, with a pandemic raging across the country, the lack of large gatherings was the exact point of the restrictions, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t an event-sized hole in all of our collective hearts.
That’s where Thwingo stepped in. Every Thursday from 7 to 8 p.m., bingo was played in the Thwing Center ballroom, filled with fun and prizes galore. Though most clubs were forced to adhere to a strict 15-person limit for in-person gatherings, Thwingo regularly drew in crowds of up to 70 students a week, every week. Set up by the Office of Thwing Center Engagement and Operations professional staff, the event was meant as a way to bring students together despite all the distance.
“We were hearing and seeing the desire for our on-campus students to gather and socialize, and we feared that if we did not provide opportunities for students to be in-person in low-risk ways, they would seek out high-risk ways. Bingo at Thwing, which eventually became known as ‘Thwingo,’ allowed students to remain distant, but together, and connected without sharing any physical items,” Kristen Urig, the associate director of the Thwing Center said, adding, “It was imperative that we keep COVID-safer guidelines, our ‘rules of the road.’”
Indeed, despite the high volume of students, proper COVID precautions were paramount to the entire conceit of the event. Featuring spaced-out desks, sanitized stations, individual plastic-wrapped bingo packs and, of course, a mask mandate, the Thwing Ballroom is retrofitted to properly accommodate everyone safely. Arrivals and departures are also coordinated to prevent crowding. There, students are able to enjoy a social atmosphere while remaining safe, a rarity these days.
But a social atmosphere may not be enough to get people to come out, so Thwingo regularly features prizes for winning, ranging from CWRU apparel, to Amazon Gift Cards, to a mini George Foreman grill, to Apple AirPods. Smaller prizes, whether they be succulents or donuts, are also featured in a raffle dependent on seat number. In order to get the funds for these many prizes, the Thwing center relies on partnerships with student organizations.
“We thought it would be fun to provide an opportunity for student organizations to get involved, so for our first series last semester, we partnered with the University Media Board (UMB), and this spring we are partnering with the Undergraduate Diversity Collaborative (UDC), both of which have their main offices housed in the Lower Level of Thwing Center,” Urig said, before noting that the student organization boards sponsors all of the prizes given out each week. In return, Thwingo features advertising for a club operating under the main board umbrella, whether it be UDC’s Minority Business Alliance, or UMB’s 91.1 WRUW radio station.
Of course, all of this is just dressing for the main event––the bingo. Featuring ten games, ranging from normal, straight-line bingo, to more out-there versions like “last man standing,” where if you actually get a bingo, you’re eliminated, the energy is electric as people yearn for the proper numbers to be called. All this is fuelled by the staff’s infectious enthusiasm, including Uring and student employees, who create a fun atmosphere. With reliable tropes and in-laid jokes during the number call-out, students know what to expect when it comes to Thwingo, but that’s what makes it so appealing. A consistent event full of actual human interaction is worth treasuring, and Thwingo delivers the goods.
Now Thwingo is back for a second semester, once again in the Thwing Ballroom on Thursday evenings at 7 p.m., much to the delight of CWRU students. Though Thwingo was born out of the pandemic and student’s need for interaction, Urig hopes that the event will continue.
“We would love to see Thwingo be a staple weekly program for our CWRU undergraduate as well as continue to work with the various boards on campus to spotlight their organizations. Ultimately, the decision is up to the students!”
I, for one, hope to see Thwingo become a new CWRU tradition. To partake in it now, register on CampusGroups ahead of time because seats fill up quickly.