Building a Better THON
THON is an incredible event. For 46 hours, we forget the differences between us Penn State students that divide us for 362 days a year, and come together for a cause that’s just about as noble as it gets. It’s inspiring enough before you even consider what actually goes on over the course of the weekend–the dancers refusing to sit or sleep, the BJC packed with supporters, and families and children getting one weekend to either just be a kid or to celebrate life. But that doesn’t mean it’s perfect, because, frankly, nothing is. THON as a charity might be above reproach, but the event can certainly be improved. We posed that task to the Onward State staff, who responded with a variety of suggested changes.
Don’t make us fight for our seats: The capacity of the Bryce Jordan Center is around 16,000 people, and THON has people coming in and out of the arena from Friday at 6 a.m to Sunday at 11 p.m–between committees, spectators consisting of students, parents, families and visitors from other schools, and the dancers themselves. And so many organizations are involved in this gigantic event that all throughout the stands are splashes of colors of the people who are not only there to witness the miracle that is THON, but to save seats for those epic last four hours. As a freshman in my sorority, I had no idea what to expect when I stepped into the BJC last year for THON weekend. I quickly found out that we had to stand there and guard those seats with our lives. There were fights among organizations, threats, and sly movements to steal the rows from one organization to add to our own. This year, our freshman had the responsibility of waiting outside the BJC early Friday morning, and charge in once the doors are opened to gain a section. Students from organizations stampede like animals in the jungle trying to claim a spot. Chaos ensues. There has to be an easier way. How about we just have designated sections for each organization based on how well they did the previous year?
Play that funky music, Larry Moore: As I stood on the floor in the wee hours of Sunday morning, I was a little perplexed. The energy level in the BJC was at a valley following the peak of Saturday night’s pep rally, even as a small but spirited amount of students kept things going in the stands while their peers caught some precious shut-eye. At this point, dancers with heavy eyes and weary bodies fought to keep focused on anything but their swollen ankles and aching backs. So naturally, you’d think this would be the time for music to dance to, right? Apparently not. While I certainly appreciate the music of Shades of Blue and the Brew Devils and enjoy having live bands at THON, I’m not sure a cappella and Coldplay is helpful when you’ve been awake and standing for 38 or so hours. Yes, dance songs were mixed in during this time, but the reaction of the dancers during this particular period of music told me that early Sunday morning is when they need a steady stream of upbeat music the most. Giving those performers an earlier time slot in the weekend would probably give them a more responsive audience and would provide an opportunity for something more energizing when the dancers need it most. This could be nitpicking, but as someone who has hopes of dancing next year, I’d prefer more rocking out and less rock-a-bye baby when the crowd is lighter.
Calm down, Rules and Regs: I know that most members of the rules and regulations committee, like our friend Ryan, aren’t trying to get in anyone’s way. They’re just trying to maintain order, keep everyone safe, and keep THON running smoothly. But although that may have been their mission last weekend, at times it seemed as though their chief accomplishment was getting in the way. I know that, in most cases, they were only following orders–for instance, the incredibly inconvenient decision to close all entrances but Gate B during the overnight shifts wasn’t something thought up by R&R, only enforced by them, but when you’re separated by only a pane of glass, standing out in the freezing cold, and they have you walk all the way around the BJC, it leaves a bad taste in your mouth. They didn’t have the idea to prevent us writers from bringing in coffee, but…come on, guys. Use some common sense. And maybe it was just their incredible presence–at any given moment there were at least five times the number of rules and regs members on duty as were needed–but it seemed like more often than not, the guys in red shirts were just hanging out in the hallway bouncing a tennis ball back and forth. I get it–we need you guys to enforce the rules, but when the rules are really stupid, you’re going to have to take the brunt of the blame, just because of your conspicuousness.
Be responsible, guys: As a member of the Rules & Regulations Committee, my duties varied from one section of the BJC to the next. In order to move to each section, my committee had to be “bumped” by another committee who was taking our place at supervising that area. About half of the time, these “bumps” arrived late, resulting in captains radioing each other with some serious 16-year-old-girl ‘tude. Further the late bumps cut into my committee’s already limited sleep and relaxation time. I know my friends on other R&R committees experienced the same problem. It would be great if the bump system could be constructed to eliminate any delays, but the timeliness of bumps is primarily dependent on committee member’s arriving to shifts on time. So I guess what I’m really trying to say, is, committee members, be on time for shifts, please.
Have any other suggestions for next year’s THON? There’s no better time to start preparing than now! Leave your comments below and hopefully the overall committee will take them into account.