As a criminal defense lawyer in State College, Pennsylvania, I can tell you that we see a greatly reduced call volume following a Penn State THON Canning Weekend. Any local police officer will tell you that Canning Weekends are a welcome break. Although only a minority of students go Canning, there is a reduction in crime far out of proportion to the number of students who leave Happy Valley. The biggest reduction in crime we see is in alcohol-related offenses like underage drinking, public drunkenness, disorderly conduct, criminal mischief and DUI.
So why do Canning Weekends create a welcome quiet weekend for the State College and Penn State Police Departments? First, let’s look at the THON participants themselves. They tend to be very socially active people with a lot of energy. Their youthful exuberance is the reason why Penn State consistently ranks among the nation’s top party schools and why Happy Valley is such a vibrant place. Typical THON participants would rather go out and experience life than sit at home and watch movies and play video games. They are people who enjoy having fun in large groups. And at Penn State, going out and having fun in large groups means going to parties and bars. Every now and then, an otherwise law-abiding student has a few too many drinks, resulting in a public drunkenness, underage drinking or DUI charge.
The fact that fraternities do not have socials or parties on Canning Weekends is another key factor leading to a reduction in student mayhem. It is mostly freshman and sophomores who drink at fraternities, and they have the least experience with alcohol. It is very easy for inexperienced drinkers to unwittingly surpass their limits, especially if they are drinking hard liquor. When the fraternities have no parties, the options for would-be underage drinkers are greatly reduced.
Lastly, many students who are not involved in THON decide to go home on Canning Weekends, because there is not much going on. There are no fraternity parties and there is no home football game. Others will use it as a chance to get caught up on school work, and just make it a quiet Friday and Saturday night.
All these factors together make Canning Weekends a quiet affair in Happy Valley. Canning Weekends are also among the few weekends during the school year when adults venture out to downtown bars.
Matt McClenahen is a criminal defense attorney in State College, Pennsylvania and Penn State alumnus. Most of his clients are students from Penn State and other schools. http://www.mattmlaw.com/Criminal-Defense-Overview/Alcohol-Offenses-DUI.shtml