Cults target Ivy Freshmen
Daily Pennsylvanian (University of Pennsylvania), April 13 1995.
By Ben Hammer
While University freshmen spend orientation discussing the Penn Reading Project and learning about the University’s rules and regulations, Harvard University freshmen are being warned about a religious cult that recruits on its campus.
Yet the University is no stranger to alleged cult, the International Church of Christ.
In fact, many Ivy League students have found themselves lured into cults, according to nationally renowned cult expert Rick Ross. And the International Church of Christ is especially aggressive in recruiting students.
Ross, who spoke yesterday to several University students who have been part of the the Greater Philadelphia Church of Christ — the local branch of Kip McKean’s International Church of Christ — said between 30 and 50 University students are part of the religious cult. The Greater Philadelphia Church of Christ has approximately 1,000 members.
According to Ross, college students are particularly vulnerable to being pulled into cults. “Groups specifically have designated college campuses as their breeding ground,” he said. Ross explained that cults target campuses because college students usually have to adjust to a new environment at the start of their college careers. “Frequently, they’re away from home, on campus away from their normal support system of friends and families,” Ross said.
He added that the Church is particularly active on Ivy League campuses, where they can attract students who are “articulate, intelligent [and] dedicated.”
Ivy League students are also seen as being able to offer economic support to the group — whether at present or in the future. But sometimes recruited students who do not have the money find a way to get it. Ross said students have sold personal belongings such as books and computers in order to support their cult. He said that while recruiting, cults often fail to inform students of the group’s agenda or actual beliefs. And once students join a religious cult, they will typically devote more and more time to the group.
Ross said that students often move out of campus housing at the group’s behest. In addition, groups often advise members on whom they should date, and even whom and when they should marry. Ross added that students’ academic performances often suffer after they join cults; cult leaders sometimes ask students if their schoolwork is as important as doing God’s work.
Ross offered the example of a University of California-Berkeley student who joined a cult and wound up on academic probation, failing every course he was taking.