THON 2013 was my seventh THON, so I am aware of how full the BJC gets — especially on Sunday morning. I have never before heard of having to wait in a line outside for over two hours on Saturday afternoon. Many of our student volunteers were stuck outside with other volunteers, alumni, family and friends, for almost three hours. The worst part of this particular situation was that those of us who were inside the BJC could see how empty it truly was. In our three rows alone, there were at least 70 empty seats. This observation caused everyone to realize that the BJC was not at capacity. I believe this caused many rumors, including but not limited to, a bomb threat and a change in the capacity number of a building that has not changed. It also caused a rush to get in line even earlier than usual on Sunday morning.
My fellow alumni, students, advisor and I were in line at 3:50 A.M. on Sunday morning. What we experienced from this point on was completely unacceptable. After steadily moving towards the BJC for fifteen minutes, the line came to an abrupt halt. Despite inquiries, polite and otherwise, from the many people waiting to enter, we received no answers as to why the line was stopped. The only direction we did receive was that open water bottles would not be permitted into the arena, so everyone should dump out and throw away their water bottles. This decision made the situation even worse by creating ice all over the pavement that we had to stand on while waiting in line, in temperatures below 10 degrees.
After waiting in line without moving for an hour and a half, my fellow alumni and I decided to give up our spots in line to students from our campus. We could not stand in the cold any longer. We found out later, that about thirty minutes after we left, the line began to slowly move into the BJC. If someone had answered our many questions, we would have waited. We were far from alone in being locked out of the BJC. Among the many absolutely heart-broken volunteers was a commonwealth campus THON Chair- who poured her heart and soul into THON for the past year and should have been on the floor for the final four hours with her Finale pass, a commonwealth campus Chancellor, at least five commonwealth campus Advisors- who were responsible for the safety and well being of students inside and locked out of the BJC, students who had already stood outside for over two hours the day before, alumni, families of dancers, Hope Express participants, and many more people. It is safe to assume that majority of the people who came to THON this year are now sick in one way or another, especially since several people had to be treated for hypothermia symptoms.
As I write this letter I am again disgusted and heart-broken about how everything occurred. I do not know why these events happened the way they did, but I do know that it was unacceptable and cannot happen again next year. If something out of the ordinary caused these issues, the people affected by it deserved to know why they were suffering. THON should be something that brings joy and pride to everyone who thinks or talks about it! Penn State has a reputation to rebuild and although THON should be the one thing that sets Penn State above any other University, this year certainly did not make us shine. Many people traveled to State College, only to be turned away from such a great event.
I do not know how the logistics of THON weekend are planned and I am not looking to punish or embarrass anyone, but I would like to suggest a change for the better. Since all other events at the BJC are ticketed events, it seems like that would be a smooth transition to solve the capacity issues. THON is a fundraiser and anyone who participates wants to help the cause. I do not think people would be opposed to the idea of purchasing tickets for the weekend, as long as each campus, organization, alumni society, etc. is allotted a fair amount of tickets for supporters. Please consider these issues and suggestions. I want THON to be as big as it can possibly be, but we can’t shut out the volunteers who make it all happen!