Indiana State University Newsroom

Students learn to ‘Keep it Real’ on Human Rights Day

March 25, 2014

High school students were instructed to "leave their mental straightjackets at the door" and encouraged not to be normal during an off-beat session of Human Rights Day on March 18 at Indiana State University.

The "Keep It Real RX" game session this year replaced the usual Bafa' Bafa' multicultural workshop, which takes longer than an hour and often attracts the same group of participants, said Elonda Ervin, director of the ISU Office of Diversity. Despite the change in programming, facilitators turned away about as many students as they had capacity, as seating was limited for Keep It Real.

Brightly colored game boards, oversized sunglasses and red clown noses were arranged on the tops of six round tables, each surrounded by groups of eight students. The room was deemed a "safe zone," where what was said in the room did not leave the room, and each player was given a game piece, a "truth stone," to move around the board.

Six categories for interaction - including personal, fantasy/imagination and reflection - moved their truth stones along the game board and prompted students to talk about how they see themselves, see others and how others may perceive them.

"[Keep It Real is] designed to make you relax, and it's designed to make you be creative with how you interact with others," Ervin said.

The games started off quietly and were marked by anxious expectation, but students quickly let their guards down and the volume in the room increased to a relaxed rumble, punctuated with laughter. Students tackled serious topics of sexual orientation, race relations and more, but they stayed true to Keep It Real's disarming game plan.

"It was great to see that talking about diversity doesn't have to be about speeches or lectures or taking political action," said facilitator Nick Weldon, who is working on his master's degree in student affairs and higher education. "It can be something fun and informal, like a board game, to bring people together and talk about their experiences."

The student facilitators, too, learned lessons of leadership and diversity, said Ervin. MBA student Adam Gaunt and Weldon work in the Office of Diversity and were given the task of learning the game and devising a plan for the workshop.

Gaunt of Fort Wayne, who received his bachelor's in Management Information Systems last semester, isn't especially comfortable in front of crowds, but he led most of the instruction before the game.

"I continue to put him in the front of a room," Ervin said. In general, facing situations you're uncomfortable with make them easier, she said, and is a key component to building diversity.


Photos: : - Indiana State student facilitator Adam Gaunt explains the rules of the “Keep It Real RX” game during Human Rights Day on March 18, 2014. - High school students use silly props to talk about serious issues during the "Keep It Real RX" game on Human Rights Day, March 18, 2014, at Indiana State University.

Contact: Elonda Ervin, director of the Office of Diversity, Indiana State University, 812-237-8513 or

Writer: Libby Roerig, media relations assistant director, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3790 or