Whilst at university, you will be exposed to many new people, groups and ideas. You will want to keep an open mind, but you need to be aware that everyone who appears friendly is not necessarily a friend.
There are many positive faith gropus - however occasionally groups with negative, unhelpful agendas try to recruit on campus. Campus is open, we cannot monitor every meeting, so beware of unauthorised group who try to reach out to you through meetings, parties, study sessions, and other activities. Some times 'friendships' are formed which inevitably lead to unsponsored or unidentified group meetings or activities. These informal unidentified meetings or activities are the primary means of recruitment. You should always know who is sponsoring a meeting / activity and what materials will be used. Beware if involvement that began slowly with just a few commitments to social events leads to increasingly insistent demands on your time.
Of course legitimate groups on campus recruit students to join their membership, but safe groups are an affiliated club or society of the Students' Union working within university and SU rules. Beware of any group whose techniques are coercive and manipulative and that use unethical methods of recruitment, such as: peer pressure; an unspecified agenda; and the manipulation of guilt, fear, hopes and aspirations.
When are students vulnerable to recruitment by such a group?
Students, especially freshers, are most vulnerable to recruitment by such groups at times when they feel less secure, homesick or under academic pressure. These groups often prey on a student's need to be involved, to be accepted by peers, to improve themselves, or to better the world.
How can you identify such a groups?
Sometimes it's difficult to identify a group's intent by its name alone. Observe the group's responses to you and how you feel. If you can answer "yes" to any of the following statements you should seriously consider your involvement in that group:
- Everyone in the group believes themselves to be perfect and everyone agrees and follows all orders cheerfully.
- You are asked to recruit new members soon after joining.
- You begin to feel guilty and ashamed, unworthy as a person.
- The group encourages you to put their meetings and activities before all other commitments, including studying.
- Involvement requires more and more time.
- The group speaks in a derogatory way about your past affiliations with other activities.
- Your parents and friends are defined as unable to understand and help you with issues of personal conflict.
- Leadership in the group is given charismatic or divine power, and this power appears unquestionable.
- Doubts or questions are seen as signs of weak faith and you are shunned if you persist in these doubts.
- The group claims to have all the answers to your problems.
- You are invited on a retreat with the group, but they do not give you a clear overview of the purpose, theme or activities before you go.
What can I do if I suspect a group is acting negatively in this way?
If you are not sure about an event you have been invited to, be alert and get more information. If you are discouraged from seeking answers to questions from sources outside the group, the group may have something to hide. These groups will oppose your freedom of thought. Exercise your right to say "No!" If you are invited to any event and you are not interested, say so. Making excuses or saying "maybe next week" will only encourage the group to extend future invitations.
Investigate any group before you join. Ask for more information on any group you plan to join. Consider contacting one or more of the people listed below before getting involved with any group that causes you to be suspect or feel uneasy.
To discuss this problem with someone, as well as family members and close friends who knew you before you became involved with this group, consider seeking support from any sabbatical officer of the Students' Union, the Student Counselling service, or our Chaplains (contact details on the right of this page).