High Pressure Group Caution

Nurturing your spiritual life during college and graduate school offers one of the best ways to keep perspective on your studies and avoid the isolation that too often characterizes learning. The Deans of Religious Life and members of the Religious Directors Association strive to provide opportunities for spiritual growth, group fellowship, and intellectual inquiry into matters of faith. Groups that operate within the university framework are committed to representing their purposes honestly while also treating with respect the ministries and religious traditions of others. If you have any questions or concerns about our religious groups on campus, please contact Senior Associate Dean Jim Burklo or Associate Dean Vanessa Gomez-Brake.

In contrast, groups to be careful of displaying some or all of the following methods and characteristics:

Pressure and Deception

They use high pressure recruitment tactics or are not up-front about their motives when they first approach you.

Totalitarian Worldview

They do not encourage critical, independent thinking. In contrast, higher education aims to enable students to think for themselves. Be aware of groups or leaders who try to control your life or who claim to possess the truth exclusively.


They want to choose your friends for you. While all religions have moral standards, watch out for groups that encourage you to sever ties with close friends and family who do not belong to their group. Such groups employ unethically manipulative techniques of persuasion and control, and they are dangerous.


They make unrealistic demands regarding your time and/or money. If participation in a group takes away significantly from your study time, beware. A group or leader who cares about you understands that your studies represent your future and are thus your first priority as a USC student.

If you feel that you are being pursued aggressively or manipulated by a group or leader, or you have any other concerns about a group with which you’re involved, please contact the Senior Associate Dean of Religious Life, Rev. Jim Burklo, at burklo@usc.edu or 213-740-6110.

The Office of Religious Life offers a confidential support group, “X-ILES”, for students experiencing difficulty in leaving any religious or secular group which, for any reason, the students feel is no longer appropriate for them. For referral to this group, contact Rev. Jim Burklo.