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Diversity Training Activity: Cross the Line

Submitted by Stephanie A. Clemons, Area Coordinator, St. Mary’s College of Maryland

Materials:

20 or more written statements
20 or more people

Guidelines:

Take some time before the session is scheduled to occur to write down statements that pertain to the group you will be working with. Most of the statements should be general, but some of them should be controversial. Begin this exercise with ‘non-threatening’ statements (i.e.: the RA position or visible physical characteristics) and slowly build trust within the group to ask the more ‘threatening’ ones.

Use a space large enough so that the room can be divided in half with everyone standing comfortably on one side of the room. Run a piece of masking tape down the middle of room to evenly divide it into two halves (you can also use streamers, fabric, rope – be creative). The entire group should then stand on one side of the line facing the opposite side of the room.

Explain the following procedures:

  1. A statement will be read by the facilitator. If the statement applies to you, you should step over the line and face the rest of the group.
  2. As you face the rest of the group, think about how you would answer the following question: what don’t you want others to assume about you because you’ve had this life experience?
  3. After everyone that has crossed the line has had a chance to think about their answer, the facilitator will encourage those participants to respond to the rest of the group using these exact words: Just because I ______, don’t assume that I _______.

    Example of a possible statement: I am an only child.
    Example of a response: Just because I am an only child, don’t assume I get everything I want.

  4. It is very important that the rest of the group remain silent during this process. A safe, trusting environment is necessary in order for everyone to listen and be heard.
  5. Once all of the ‘just because’ statements have been made, the rest of the group will repeat back what they heard, showing that they were listening and respect what was said. Once everything is repeated, the facilitator will ask the group that crossed the line if everything was repeated back. If so, that group will join the rest on the other side of the line.
  6. Follow-up with a discussion of the issues raised by this activity.

Sample Statements

ORL Position:
I am an RHC.
I have been on staff for less than two semesters.
I have been on staff for three or more semesters.
I am an RA on North Campus.
I am an RA in the traditional halls.
I am an RA in Calvert Hall.

Academics:
I was valedictorian of my high school class.
I feel I have to study more than the average student.
I have been on the Dean’s List more than three times since I came to college.
I have never been on the Dean’s List at college.
I am the first member of my family to attend college.

Athletics:
I am currently or have been a member of an athletic team at college.

Geographic Location:
I live within a 15 mile radius of the college.
I live in an area whose average annual income is less than $30K.
I live in an area whose average annual income is more than $70K.
My hometown is in a state other than Maryland.
I was born in another country.

Miscellaneous:
I have a car on campus.
I don’t eat meat.
I consider myself to be a religious person.
I consider myself to be a spiritual person.
I went to high school with students who now attend the college.
I am generally a quiet person.
I am a male.
I am a female.