The Daily Pennsylvanian is a student-run nonprofit.

Please support us by disabling your ad blocker on our site.

LGBT Center -- Victoria Chen, founder of Penn Q&A Credit: Sophia Lee

Integrative, supportive, fierce.

In three words, that’s how College junior Devon Bankler-Jukes would describe Carriage, the senior society she has just joined.

Carriage, which was founded in spring 2013, is a cultural senior society aimed at recognizing and bringing together LGBTQ students and allies who have made a positive impact on campus. Its name is derived from the official name of the building in which the LGBT Center is located, the Carriage House. Senior societies recently chose their new members.

Each Carriage class is capped at 25 students, with 15 to 18 juniors accepted in the spring by the previous class, and 7 to 10 senior students accepted in the fall by the members who were chosen in the spring, according to College senior Shan Choudhri, who serves as president or “chief” of Carriage. There are two cycles because “we [the seniors] don’t know them [the junior class] as well as they know their own class, so while we pick the majority of the class, we let them have the opportunity to pick people who are from their peers,” Choudhri said.

Although each senior is given two taps, the application process is open, allowing anyone — regardless of whether they were tapped or not — to apply. “We recognize that we tap people based on who we know, and it’s very possible that there are extraordinary people in the community that we might not know personally, and so we give them a chance to apply,” Choudhri said. “And we have accepted people who are not tapped.”

Applicants are then given the chance to become acquainted with current members through a “smoker” — a kind of meet-and-greet — and coffee chats. After this process, current members hold deliberations during which they discuss what they would like the next class to look like, as well as what they would like to see from each person.

“What we really like to see is how people have advocated for people in intersectional ways, being inclusive of different genders, different races and different ethnicities,” College senior and Carriage member Diana Cabrera said.

Each class then elects a board, consisting of a president or “chief,” a secretary or “scrivener,” a community service chair or “altruist,” a treasurer or “chamberlain” and a social chair or “grand dame.”

Current and past members hail from a diverse array of campus organizations, ranging from Lambda Alliance and its constituent groups to UMOJA to Kite and Key Society.

“So many different areas are represented, which is very exciting and goes to show how comfortable people feel on campus in a variety of spaces,” College senior and Carriage member Erich Kessel said. “Not all spaces, but definitely, they feel comfortable going into spaces that are not labeled ‘queer’ and making an impact and contributing in a positive way.”

Kessel pointed out that one of the distinctive features of Carriage is that many of the members know each other prior to joining, given the smaller nature of the community, yet such a group gives members the opportunity to “relearn” each other. “Being reintroduced to people when you have grown in maturity and in intellect and wisdom is very special,” he said.

Besides recognizing leadership, Carriage is also defined by its social aspect. Members participate in potlucks, FreeForCoffee chats, service events and semester-end formals, among many other activities and rituals.

“I really got to know people that have been doing really great things in the LGBT+ community and for queer people of color,” Cabrera said. “That’s what I really enjoyed about Carriage.”

Carriage is an ever-evolving organization. “Through conversations at deliberations and other meetings, people have been able to integrate their idea of what Carriage is and to think about how to make the space more inclusive for all different types of people — not only people of color, but people of different genders who identify outside of the gender binary. Also, disabled people, people who are international students, things like that,” Kessel said. “So that’s a way in which Carriage has evolved, and hopefully, will continue to evolve.”

Bankler-Jukes believes that Carriage can continue to evolve by further integrating members of the Greek community, as she is one of the few members of Carriage who is also in a sorority. Despite this perceived divide, Bankler-Jukes was motivated to join the organization because when she met its members, she felt as if she could fully be herself, which she described as “something that I’ve struggled with at Penn before.”

While members have enjoyed their time in Carriage, they are aware that senior societies cannot be inclusive of every leader on campus and that some students may not want to be in a senior society.

“While I really enjoyed my time in Carriage, I understand that it’s not for everybody and that some people might not want to be in it,” Choudhri said. “I just want to emphasize that it’s okay to not be in Carriage.”

Comments powered by Disqus

Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.