UPBack to School Bash returns to ring in the academic year


Courtesy of Margaret Zimmer

CWRU students gather at East Bell Commons in preparation for headliner Paris Texas and special guest Forrest Nolan.

Shreyas Banerjee, Executive Editor

There’s nothing like the beginning of the academic year at Case Western Reserve University. The days are warm and bright, classes haven’t gotten too overwhelming yet, new people are everywhere and there is always something to do. This is the first year since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic where there are almost no restrictions on gatherings of students—and as a result, student life is back and flourishing. Around every corner there are events for students to attend, such as performances, dinners, giveaways and activities. There has only been one event that has combined all of the above, however: the University Program Board’s (UPB) “UPBack to School Bash.” The festivities, meant to welcome students back to CWRU after months away, combine the best of all student events and sets a high standard for the rest of this year’s programming.

The last time I covered the UPBack to School Bash in 2021, it took place just as students were returning to campus after several semesters of remote instruction. I called last year’s event “an unmitigated success” for bringing back on-campus programming when all we had at the time were Zoom meetings. However, this year’s event surpassed last year’s in almost every aspect, marking the true return to normalcy in student programming all the more apparent. 

Hosted on Sept. 16 at East Bell Commons, this year’s rendition of the UPBack to School Bash had everything you could want at a large on-campus event. There were fun activities—how many times do you get to ride a mechanical bull, try a surfing simulator or go down an inflatable slide while you’re at CWRU? There were giveaways—while all the paraphernalia was UPB branded, they included essentials for students such as backpacks, portable chargers and keychains. There were performances—the big stage set up on East Bell Commons played host to alternative hip-hop duo Paris Texas and indie songwriter Forrest Nolan, making for a fun concert. Lastly, there was the food. Oh, there was indeed food. Between Uptown restaurants like Lee’s Seafood Boil and the new campus favorite Build the Pho, in addition to iconic Cleveland food trucks like the Jackpot Chicken Food Truck, Barrio and Kona Ice, there were certainly plenty of options for students to enjoy. Notably, students were actually able to enjoy their food at the event, as last year’s restriction of only allowing pre-packaged carry-out food is no longer in effect. As a result, tables and chairs littered East Bell Commons, with students sitting, talking and eating. Several students indicated that the food was the main reason why they had come at all to the event, which makes sense—we are all hungry college students.

“I came here for the food,” said fourth-year chemical biology student Lily Kwiatkowski, who was making her way towards the exit after ordering from Build the Pho’s table. She did indicate that she enjoyed the event overall, saying “I think it’s funny to watch people on the mechanical bull … the food’s good though.”

Other students mentioned similar motivations regarding the food, but the presence of activities also made for a good bonus.

“I think the event is a lot of fun,” said fourth-year computer science student Pritish Mishra. “I’m going to have a lot of free food and free stuff, and to defeat my friend in bull-riding again.”

The organizers of the event didn’t seem to mind that attendees were motivated by the food and giveaways.

“We want students to have the chance to do what they want at our events,” said fourth-year nutritional biochemistry student Dominic Orosa, vice president of UPB. “If they want to just grab food and go, that’s completely fine, but if they want to stay for longer and enjoy the atmosphere, we completely encourage them to do so.”

Orosa said that the cotton candy machine was the coolest part of the event to him, saying, “I just think cotton candy is magic, with the way the sugar crystallizes and all.” When I pointed out that he was manning the popcorn machine instead, he resignedly said, “We can’t have everything we want in life.”

Orosa is part of a larger 11-person executive committee that planned most of the event, with some aspects of planning going back all the way to April—though most logistics were figured out between early August and now. The event ended up drawing in an estimated 1,400 students, making it the largest student-planned campus event of the year thus far.

That being said, UPB still has many events planned for the rest of the academic year, starting this Saturday, Sept. 24 with UPBreakfast, where breakfast food will be served from the Inn on Coventry at Leutner Pavilion. Other UPB events coming up include their concert planned for Homecoming Weekend, trips to Cedar Point and a to-be-announced trip to be held over fall break.

With all these events in the near future, Orosa took satisfaction in being part of an organization that brings the CWRU community together.

“I love the people. I meet a lot of people and a lot of students across all of our events and activities,” Orosa said while popping popcorn for hungry students waiting in line. “But I really love that we are impacting student life here [at CWRU]. I think if any organization, from my perspective, were to be the most full of school spirit, it would be UPB.”