Last Friday, Onward State published a comprehensive canning map which disclosed the city and group name of every registered THON canning location across the Northeast. Later that day, the THON overall committee requested that we remove the map from our website, to which we later obliged.
Our compliance is part of a new THON policy which prohibits canning locations from being published due to what THON describes as “safety concerns.” Although our map only listed the city name and not the exact address of canning locations, we were informed that it was still in violation of this new policy.
Last year, THON’s own website included similar maps that showed all the locations where each org would be canning that weekend. If you lived anywhere beyond Centre County and you wanted to donate but weren’t sure where to go, you could find out exactly where canners would be so you could give to THON.
Cat Powers, the Overall Public Relations Chair, said that THON decided to change the rule to improve canner safety. When asked to elaborate, Power said that there were concerns about “anti-Penn State people,” adding that “in light of everything that has happened, the Overall Committee decided to make a decision.”
When asked what “everything that has happened” meant, Powers said that she “didn’t want to get into it,” clarifying that it was unrelated to the Sandusky scandal. Powers also confirmed that there have been no previous cases of violence or other criminal activity at canning locations, and no threats have been received.
Of course, canner safety should always be of primary importance to THON. The organization has shown its dedication to safety this year by offering bus services to major cities and brightly colored vests for canners to wear. All canning weeks have been scheduled for the fall so students won’t need to drive in winter weather conditions, and the required canning safety workshops were implemented last year.
But this latest switch involving the disclosure of canning locations is a bit confusing.
The tragic death of Courtney O’Bryan last year caused THON to reevaluate many of their canning policies and procedures relating to safety. I’ve outlined many of the improvements already, and they are certainly commendable. But this new policy about canning locations is unrelated to travel safety.
If the policy is a result of the Sandusky scandal, I can certainly understand the reasoning behind it at the surface. God forbid, with all the anti-Penn State vitriol today, if someone were to track down canners raising money for a good cause and harass them, or worse. But canning still went on, with maps, three times after the events of last November, without any reports surfacing of threats to canners’ safety, when the negative sentiment toward Penn State was at its freshest and most intense.
And THON broke the $10 million mark in February, when many thought it might not equal the total from 2011. So why, with no visible evidence of any harm, is THON not sharing where its branches are working to raise money? It was really inspiring to see, with countless points across the northeast, and one even reaching into Canada, that THON spreads so far and wide. Truly amazing, really.
Keeping the information private may also be costing THON donation money. We received many tweets from alumni this weekend asking us where canners would be so that they could drop by and give what they could. The map we published, and then removed, had over 300 shares on social media networks.
It seems like it was a highly useful tool for donors to not only show their support for THON, but show their support for the canners who work so hard as well.
But what do you think? Were you looking for canners to donate to this weekend? Did our map help you find them? Should the canning locations be public? We’re interested in hearing your thoughts and feedback.