The outside bell tower of the School of Communication and Media on a clear day.

What is a Dangerous Group?

A dangerous group is a group with a hidden agenda of power which is achieved by deceptive recruitment and control over the minds and lives of its members.

Particular behaviors that make an organization or group destructive may include one or combined practices of the following:

  • Deception (innocent recruitment efforts in the beginning, such as pretensions of friendship, conversations about philosophy, religion or politics), or an invitation to attend a social function, a meeting or a discussion group
  • Efforts to remove members from individuals and activities outside the group
  • The use of ridicule or embarrassment to motivate or control members
  • A demand for unquestioning obedience to the group and its leadership
  • Extraordinary pressure to recruit new members, sometimes even in
    pyramid fashion
  • Extraordinary demands for members’ contributions — in money and
    time — in support of the group
  • The channeling of funds raised to undisclosed parent organizations

During their lives, students may be urged to join all kinds of organizations. The majority of student organizations are well-meaning and constructive, but it is still important to keep in mind that there are groups whose purposes and techniques are opposed to giving their members free, informed and intelligent choices about what to do with their lives.

Their members may approach us in an unexpectedly friendly way and may seem to take a special personal interest in us. They may invite us to meetings where their focus on us and our philosophical beliefs become more intense. This intense personal interest may be gradually combined with increasing demands on our time and attention, to such an extent that we may be inclined to drop out of school, abandon friends and family, and virtually change our personality and identity. This deceitfulness by such a group and its control over our minds and lives is the motivation for the definition of a dangerous group.

  • Notice that the definition says nothing about the beliefs of a group
  • Techniques of mind-control used by such groups are extremely sophisticated
  • It is estimated that thousands of dangerous groups with several million members exist today
  • About one out of every ten families in the United States has been affected by a dangerous group
  • Dangerous groups usually recruit people between the ages of 18 and 24, since they tend to have impressionable minds
  • Group recruiters target colleges and universities, particularly during times of high student stress, such as periods preceding exams and holidays, as well as earlier in the school year
  • Most college students who become involved in dangerous groups are comparatively normal and healthy and have the same problems and conflicts as their peers.

If you are having difficulty deciding if a certain group is right for you, discuss the matter with someone whose judgment you trust. Friends, relatives, professors, counselors, campus chaplains could offer advice. Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) can be reached at 973-655-5211 or Office for Social Justice and Diversity at 973-655-7130.