While the Interfraternity Council/Panhellenic Dance Marathon deserves praise for its fundraising efforts, there’s no ignoring the need for serious attention given to logistical issues that presented themselves this weekend and at THON in recent years. In the spirit of working year-round to improve THON’s cause, those involved should make sure to place a high priority on correcting the issues from this year’s event to ensure next year’s THON runs more smoothly.
Barely halfway into the 46-hour event, the 15,261-seat Bryce Jordan Center was supposedly “at capacity,” leaving crowds of hopeful attendees stranded outside. As lines grew to both access the event floor and to enter the venue itself, little consistent communication was given regarding an explanation for the expected wait time and provisions for accommodating those in line. The BJC was said to be “at capacity” the majority of the last 24 hours of the dance marathon, so the line outside often stretch to Beaver Stadium, forcing people to stand outside for hours in freezing temperatures. Many of these individuals standing outside were wearing nothing but shorts, T-shirts and knee-high socks. And over the course of one night of THON weekend, 10 or more people were treated for symptoms for standing in line in the cold weather, as previously reported. The ends don’t justify the means when individuals are taken to the hospital for trying to enter the BJC for THON.
Instead of providing some kind of structured admission system or keeping track of those entering the building, the process for determining what gates to use, who to allow entry and how many people would be allowed inside seemed disorganized from a public standpoint.
If THON seeks to continue to attract others to support its mission, it has to face the realities that come with coordinating such a colossal event when the audience starts to outgrow the existing venue. Unless the date of THON changes to when the temperatures rise, the cold weather will continue to be a problem for those left to wait outside at future dance marathons. Those in charge of THON next year could consider having overflow participants fill the White Building or even the Pegula Ice Arena, which will be open next fall.
But organizers also need to find a way to more effectively manage the floor pass system, which has proven problematic for several years, despite revisions. Some dancers were left without moralers, parents or supporters for extended periods of time because of delays. Each dancer is given 15 passes for the weekend — instead, as some in the PASS line suggested while waiting, maybe this number should be limited to fewer people and the allotted floor pass length should be decreased. There also needs to be better way of forcing people to leave the floor when their time is up. It is very difficult to hear when officials make an announcement for certain people to leave, and people usually don’t want to leave. Depending on the cost of this measure, organizers could consider investing in tags or other passes that would illuminate or buzz when the allotted time is expired, making it easier for those on the floor to notice when someone’s time is up.
Beyond the floor and the gates, the stands also prove to be another area in need of more efficient oversight. While it is understandable for groups to want to stand together in a section, there should never be a situation where one person is trying to save 10 seats — leaving lots of empty space that could be used by others waiting outside. A system where groups claim regions of the BJC based on luck or speed or a willingness to save spots for hours at a time clearly isn’t working, so maybe THON officials could consider allotting groups a certain amount of seats based on organization size or the amount of money raised?
THON does important work, and its annual event is inspiring to many — but its growing popularity also brings with it serious issues related to crowd control. If it hopes to continue to grow, it needs to make sure it takes steps to alleviate unnecessary stress on those who hope to participate.