Street: What’s your deal on campus? Pallavi Podapati: I’m the outgoing chair of Civic House Associate’s Coalition, the umbrella group for community service and advocacy groups at Penn. And I’m really involved in the Penn Women’s Center both as the finance chair for Abuse and Sexual Assault Prevention (ASAP), which puts on Take Back The Night, and as the producer of Penn Monologues. I’m also in Sphinx, Oracle and a Civic Scholar.
Street: You also started a movement at Penn against mountaintop removal, right? PP: Yes, I’m one of the founding members of Penn Community Against Mountaintop Removal. To mine coal, they remove full layers of land, which causes erosion and toxins that get into peoples’ water supplies in rural areas. It has now evolved into Divestment for Fossil Fuels, but as a senior, I’m really excited to see what they’ll do. They’re such rockstars!
Street: What got you interested in mountaintop removal? PP: Well, I’m from a small coal mining town in Kentucky. “The Dukes of Hazzard” was actually based on my hometown and I got to meet them. The original ones, not the Jessica Simpson cast.
Street: Tonight is Take Back the Night. Tell us what it’s all about. PP: TBTN is a grassroots event across campuses and the country against sexual violence, which is not just a women’s issue. It’s around 250 people on college green, rallying, a keynote speaker and a candlelight vigil survivor speakout. It’s really powerful.
Street: Tell us about Civic House Associate’s Coalition. What is it? PP: Basically, it’s a support group for all the bleeding heart hippies on campus. What’s OCR? Just kidding, my co-chair was a Whartonite. Benjamin Franklin said the great aim and end to all learning is service. I know I’m biased. But, like, some smarter dude said it before me. So I’m pretty comfortable with it.
Street: What’s your guilty pleasure? PP: Hot toddy. Tea with bourbon or whiskey or gin, a.k.a. the best thing the British have ever invented. I sip them while sending emails in bed late at night. I’m such a grandma. It’s so great.
Street: That’s awesome. Why were Penn Monologues started? PP: VagMons is so important but a group of us wanted Penn students to share their own experiences. We were drinking wine and were like “It would be so beautiful! Let’s do this.” So many people showed up to the first show that we broke the fire code! We snuck extra people in because we didn’t want to turn them away.
Street: We hear you had an interesting run–in with Philly celeb Mayor Nutter. Tell us about it. PP: The Penn Monologues received an award from the Philadelphia Human Rights Commission. Mayor Nutter was presenting us the award and I totally faceplanted. He said under his breath “You ok?” I just gave him the thumbs-up sign from the floor.
Street: So it seems like people really responded to the Penn Monologues. PP: Definitely, it’s a place for the women and men of Locust Walk to take off the façade of “I’m just a student.” I think it shows that the disclosure of truth is the best reminder of our shared humanity. [Pause] These are the musings that come to me when I drink hot toddies in bed. Or merlots. Or gin and tonics.
Street: What will you miss most about Penn? PP: At a moment’s notice I can show up at a friend’s apartment and lounge, complain, freak out or cuddle in bed or go on spontaneous adventures like making s’mores in Clark Park or driving 30 minutes to go see the stars at Valley Forge at 2 a.m. It’s the best. Also the fact that a couple of my friends know how to get Bui’s delivered.
Street: Who’s your alter ego? PP: Palli. Whenever someone’s taking my order I send people into an existential crisis. They freak out that they’re being impolite if they ask me how to spell my name. So I just say Palli. It’s the best when baristas actually ask me how to spell it though. I just want to marry them. There’s one at the 34th and Walnut Starbucks. He’s my soulmate. And has the prettiest blue eyes. Like, the prettiest blue eyes. If you’re reading this, see you Tuesday at 1:30!
Street: There are two types of people at Penn... PP: Those who know where Civic House is and those who don't.
Street: What did you want to be when you grew up when you were young? PP: Gosh. I was such a bookworm and always wanted to be one of the characters in whatever book I was reading at the time... I wanted to be Harriet the Spy.
Street: Any parting thoughts? PP: I’m sorry that I’m so tired. I’m acting like a squirrel. I’m worse than a squirrel on Locust.