After a two-year hiatus, Senior Citizen BINGO Night is back. This year students will be able to bring back the tradition of dressing as the elderly for several rousing games of BINGO.
With their creativity and resourcefulness, some students went to great lengths to create a realistic impression.
“Some kids had pill bottles and were just popping M&M’s or Skittles the whole time,” Matt Latchaw said. “Others borrowed canes, walkers or even wheelchairs, but the best one was this one guy who got a hold of this motorized scooter made for the elderly; he just drove the thing in circles during the entire event.”
Despite a few slight changes to the dress code for the night, the games are back following a decision by current Dean of Student Life Julie Vermeer Elliott.
The conflict began on Feb. 10, 2011, when Vermeer Elliott’s predecessor, John Brogan, announced that the Senior Bingo Night tradition could no longer continue. Just a few hours before the event, students were notified that they would not be admitted into BINGO Night if they were dressed as a senior citizen.
Because many students were already in the process of fast-forwarding the aging process 50 years, the move stirred up a lot of negative emotions.
Vermeer Elliott provided the Beacon with a copy of Brogan’s email that contained questions that had risen up in a heated debate within the faculty the day of the event in 2011. Most of the concerns were in regard to “this event being done at the expense of making fun of elderly people.”
An excerpt from Brogan’s email reads:
“I realize that most of you do not dress up as older people to mock or demean them intentionally. But I would ask each of us to pause for a moment and ask the question, what does our dressing up say to older members of our community and society? Does it build them up? Does it celebrate their age, their wisdom, and their life-long contribution? Or does it demean their age, make little of who they are because they dress differently, or make light of the physical challenges they face due to the process of aging? Would we be comfortable dressing up and sitting beside a person in his or her 70-80’s?”
These issues had not been discussed in greater detail until last week at an open forum held in the Vogel Community Room of the DeWitt Learning Commons.
A conversation was mediated between faculty and students after the interest in bringing back the event in all of its glory had resurfaced.
“I wasn’t ready to really put this back on the table until we had time to talk as a community about the issues at stake. That is why I asked SGA to set up a panel of people with varying perspectives to speak on the key issues and to invite students to join the conversation,” Vermeer Elliott said.
Panel members included Rahn Franklin, Sally Edman, Leah Wielenga, Valerie Stokes, Ron Juffer and John Hubers.
Topics that were discussed included: What do you enjoy or dislike about this event? What is ageism? For those of you who are troubled by senior BINGO, is it dressing up that is offensive or the actions and attitudes that can come along with dressing up? How is this any more offensive than any other theme of BINGO? For example dress up like Duck Dynasty? Our Professors? Gangsters?
The conclusion that Vermeer Elliott came to was that, until proven otherwise, “we should place the trust back in your hands and allow you to dress up for Senior BINGO if you wish. To that end, you are expected to be respectful and mindful in your demeanor, and where possible, to use this event as a way of connecting with some senior citizens in our community.”
The SAC is currently brainstorming to integrate senior citizens into the event per the suggestions that stemmed from the forum. Although fewer than 25 students showed up to the forum, their efforts paid off for the rest of campus.