Friends are everywhere: A Guide to Making Judgements About Groups

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Friends are everywhere

A Guide to Making Judgments About Groups

Groups & YOU


While you are a student on the University of Maryland, many organizations may ask you to join them. The great majority of these groups are well meaning and constructive, whether they are political, social, service, religious or philosophical in nature. In addition, there are many individuals and groups on campus who would like to share their ideas with you. Often, these “ideas” include values and be liefs they hold about the world around us. They may approach you after class, in the residence hall, in front of Stamp, on McKeldin Mall, or elsewhere. In addition to sharing with you the answers they have found to life’s questions, they may seek to enlist your time, energy, and resources in endeavors they believe to bel worth while. In short, they may ask you to join their groups and make contributions to their causes. >>


Although it is healthy for groups to further their causes and recruit new members, some groups use recruiting tactics that are deceitful, manipula tive and coercive.

Such groups may at first take an unusual person al interest in you, which may be gradually com bined with increased demands on your time and commitment.

These demands may tempt you to drop out of school, reject previously held values, abandon friends and family, and virtually change your identity. Of course, such groups do not announce their intention to undermine your ability to think independently; their tactics can be sophisticated and subtle. Be alert and be informed!

This information is designed to alert you to the existence of such groups, to equip you with some questions to ask their recruiters, and to identify some people on campus whom you can call if you have questions. We hope that you will be able to make your own decisions about your associations, your education and your life with out undue pressure from others.

It is our hope that you will have many positive associations at Maryland and it is our belief that many of these associations can serve to enhance your education. The University strives to foster an environment that encourages the development of independent and critical thinking, and a com munity of people who respect each other’s right to question any assumption or put forward any proposition in the pursuit of truth. To preserve this environment, each member of the campus com munity must take responsibility for ensuring that the free exchange of ideas is honored by all. But, it is up to you to investigate and to challenge those who would ask for your personal commitment.

The questions on the facing page are designed to help you assess a group that seeks your commit ment. The questions could apply not only when you are being recruited, but also after you have been involved for some time.

After you have answered these questions, you may decide to continue being involved with the group. However, if you decide that the group is not for you, you have the right to disassociate yourself from the group, and to be free from all forms of persuasion and coercion by the group.

If you are having difficulty deciding if a certain group is right for you, discuss the matter with someone whose judgement you trust. Friends, relatives, professors, counselors, campus chap lains could offer advice. For a list of possible resources and support, please see the last page of this brochure.

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Although it is healthy for groups to further their causes and recruit new members, some groups use recruiting tactics that are deceitful, manipulative and coercive.


• Did members satisfactorily answer the questions I asked?

• Does the group use many names for itself? If so, why?

• Does the group seem to have simplistic answers to complex world issues?

• Does the group encourage questions and discussion about its beliefs and practices?

• Does the group want its members to give up their traditions and beliefs?

• Does the group require absolute obedience and devotion to its leader?

• Does the group allow members to have quiet times alone, or time with other friends outside the group?

• What will I gain from being a member of this group? How does that fit with my own goals and ideas?


• What national groups, if any, is the group affiliated with?

• What has this group accomplished during the last six months?

• What values does the group advocate?

• How is the group funded?

• What commitments of time, money, and other resources does the group expect of its members?

• Are members expected to solicit money, recruit new members, or engage in other promotional activities?

• Are members assigned fixed quotas?

• Does the group respect a member’s commitments to family and friends?

• Does the group encourage members to continue their studies, to succeed academically, and to graduate?

• How difficult is it to leave the group?

• Why was I selected by the group?


Could this happen to you?

As Pat strolled across McKeldin Mall, Terry stepped up and started talking about a new philosophy that was full of hope for world peace and understanding. Terry invited Pat to attend a group discussion on this compelling subject. After some prodding, Pat accepted. At the meeting, Terry and others flattered Pat repeatedly, saying, “You are so well informed” and “You fit in with our group perfectly.” They urged Pat to return for the next week’s session, and then m ore sessions. Despite the fact that the members seemed to avoid, or be vague in answering Pat’s questions about the group’s philosophy and goals, the members of the group seemed incredibly loving. The leader appeared to be the most inspired and compassionate person Pat had ever met.

As time passed, Pat became more and more involved with the group. One weekend Pat moved in with some of its members. At the leader’s insistence, Pat disavowed television and other worldly effects, and turned against family and friends because as outsiders they were to be regarded as enemies of the group. Within weeks Pat was routinely spending up to 18 hours a day studying the leader’s books, recruiting new members, and fundraising. When Pat was not able to recruit enough new members or raise enough funds, the leader criticized Pat in front of the group. During group sessions, Pat was coaxed into confessing private feelings which were then used by the leader to make Pat feel guilty and fearful. The group’s leader was charismatic, dogmatic and domineering. In addition, the leader demanded absolute obedience from members and controlled their lives, even to the point of determining whom Pat could date and marry.

For Pat, life became a succession of highs and lows, which added to Pat’s dependence on the group. After several years in the group, Pat began to have real doubts about the mission of the group, and wanted to leave. The group’s leader used Pat’s earlier confessions as blackmail, and even predicted that one of Pat’s parents would die soon if Pat left. When Pat finally broke away, loneliness, depression and disorientation set in. It is taking a long, long time for Pat to reconstruct a reasonable life.

Could this happen to you? It has happened to many students on campuses like ours. But it is much less likely to happen if you are aware and take the time to ask questions and evaluate groups carefully.



• Dean of Students Office | or call 301-314-8484

• Counseling Center | or call 301-314-7651

• Memorial Chapel | or call 301-314-9866