For many prospective Penn students, Quaker Days is a time of hope. It provides a rare and invaluable glimpse into daily life and culture at Penn, and in many cases, the experience can be the deciding factor in one's choice to commit to a college. But for some misinformed guests, Quaker Days was not all it promised to be.
Early this morning, 16 members of the Religious Society of Friends of Philadelphia arrived at Houston Hall eager to partake in the Quaker Days events. They had hoped to find an informative and fun religious retreat where they could meet like-minded devout Quakers in the area. Unfortunately, those hopes died quickly.
"I really thought there would be more God stuff," said Hector Gordon, an elder of the Quaker group. He and his 15 fellow Friends had been looking forward to the trip since they began planning for it three months ago. They had heard about the two-day event in a listserv email sent out to their entire Society. "We didn't really know what to expect. I mean, it was called 'Quaker Days,' so I guess we assumed it would be kind of like a meet and greet for Quakers," Megan Marsh, 16, the youngest member of the group said. "We were definitely looking forward to at least some sort of conference on the state of Quakerism and a few productive Quaker meetings."
What they found instead was a massive meetup of sweaty, lanyard-donning 17 and 18 year olds shuffling between info sessions on topics ranging from academic programs to residential life at Penn. Although none of the events included any mention of the Quaker religion, the Friends did not immediately realize the mistake they had made.
"We sat through the whole welcoming ceremony in the auditorium and the speaker, Dean Furda, hyped us all up so much that we didn't even notice that he made no mention of God," Mary Leonard, 36, said. "It wasn't until they brought out the mascot at the activities fair that we started to think something wasn't right. I was like, 'Wait, that's not what Quakers look like.' And then we heard people talking about how excited they were to be a 'Fighting Quaker'—that was really what tipped us off. We Quakers are staunch pacifists, and we definitely don't wear colonial-style hats anymore. The whole thing was actually kind of offensive."
Although they didn't exactly find what they were looking for, the Religious Society members still found many of the day's events highly enjoyable. "Uh, I guess I'd probably come back. I mean, I got, like, 8 free soft pretzels out of it," Gordon said. At the time of publication, the group had not yet decided whether they would return for Quaker Days next spring.