Teresa DePratt, Intern Counselor, MSOE Counseling Service
March, 2011

Happy March everybody, and welcome back from break week!  This is a great month for two reasons: the clocks are turned ahead an hour on the 13th, giving us an extra hour of light- and Spring starts a week later on the 20th!  Hopefully we will see the temperatures rise as the month goes on as well.  With the new quarter and nicer weather come opportunities for joining new groups and meeting new people. While we have a wide variety of activities happening right here that are recognized by the administration, sometimes organizations that are not campus-based do try to solicit members on the public streets around MSOE and beyond.

Many times they are legitimate and well-meaning. Other times, although relatively infrequently, a representative that may seem to have good intentions could play on your vulnerabilities in order to solicit members for a more cultic group. A cult? What is a cult anyway?  The word may bring up images of hazy-eyed devotees, a hooded master, or moonlit rituals.  Actually most of the cult-like activities on college campuses are not that showy.  A recent study of 400+ residential housing administrators showed that of groups identified to be cult-like in nature, 74% were religion-based, 12% were Satanists, and 7% were Pagan (1). Most definitions of what a cult is include that they are leader-driven, exploitative, separatist, and harmful to individuals, families, or society as a whole.  So how would you know whether or not you can trust an organization?                                                                                                                  

A report written just this year gives us some of the red flags- what to look out for before signing up for any group.  There could be trouble if:

  • There is a leader that claims special divinity or is a sole judge of members actions/beliefs
  • You are becoming isolated to the group and its activities, spend less time with family/friends
  • The group attempts to play on your emotions of loneliness, fear, sadness or guilt
  • There are absolutist views that are stated and or reinforced often
  • Viewing the rest of society as a whole as evil or wrong
  • Demands to pledge, believe, or be involved
  • Gives you gifts or asks for “money for God”
  • Promises of spiritual uniqueness or enlightenment

While the chances may be low that you will be approached, it’s important to be aware of the possibility of cults or other manipulative groups on campus.  For more detailed information about cults and what to be wary of, take a look at the links below.  You can also check out page 30 of your MSOE handbook.  Of course it is always a personal decision whether or not to join any organization.  Just make sure to do some fact-checking before becoming too involved, and be wary of the signs that something is not quite right.  Be sure to follow your intuition, check with Rick Gagliano, Director of Student Activities if you have questions about a group, and have a great start to the Spring Quarter!

More articles about Cults on Campus: