Aggressive recruitment by groups on campus

Learn how to recognise an aggressive group, and how best to respond if you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation.

Be aware of recruitment on campus

Victoria University of Wellington celebrates and champions diversity and inclusion in our community, from sexual orientations and sex and gender identities to faith and spirituality. We believe your time here is a meaningful opportunity to explore who you are and your beliefs, and to form important social connections.

With increased academic and financial pressure, students may be vulnerable to certain groups that recruit aggressively for members on campus. It is possible aggressive religious groups may decide to try and recruit students on University campuses, so it is helpful to know how to recognise the signs of such an organisation.

Support on campus

If you have been approached by an aggressive group, and feel unsafe or threatened, the University has a range of support services for you.

Get immediate help by phoning 0800 842 8888 for Campus Security

For information about reporting an incident or to access support, contact the Student Interest team.

Recognise an aggressive group

Aggressive groups often employ similar tactics in their recruitment process, including:

Isolation—groups will isolate students from their family and friends in order to ultimately increase the student’s dependence on the group

Does the group tell you your family and friends cannot help with your spiritual exploration? Does the group have strong negative opinions about people who hold a particular identity? Is the group reluctant to accept you as you are? Does the group encourage you to put their meetings above all other commitments?

Aggression—groups will use aggressive and deceptive tactics to encourage member participation

Do you feel guilty for saying no to them? Do you feel pressure to change who you are to fit into the group? Were you warned of repercussions for not conforming to the group beliefs? Do they offer instant friendship? Is it acceptable to have doubts of the group philosophies?

All-knowing—groups may often claim to have all the answers to your problems and a 'we know best' mentality

Does this group claim to possess the truth exclusively? Does the group seem too perfect? Do all members agree and accept orders cheerfully? As a member of the group, do you find yourself without enough private time or sleep?

Secrecy—groups may conduct their business in secret, and withhold information from members

Is the group clear and transparent about who they are, their goals and ways of operating? Are meetings and events held in the open?

Be conscious

You are most vulnerable to groups when:

  • You’re lonely, new to campus, or homesick.
  • You struggle to immediately feel a sense of belonging on campus.
  • You’re grieving, having a faith ‘crisis’, or in an argument with family and friends.
  • You’re experiencing stress (academic, social, financial).
  • You feel like a failure or are under extreme pressure to perform well.

Choose a supportive group

When you look to join a group on campus, ask yourself the following questions. Does the group:

  • Encourage you to maintain relationships with family and friends outside of the group?
  • Help you through tough times? Provide you with reasonable structure?
  • Encourage you to think critically and question their beliefs if you wanted?
  • Invite you to be a responsible community member and participate in other groups?
  • Expect you to be respectful and tolerant of others’ beliefs?

If you can't answer yes to any of these questions, walk away, or seek support.

Recruitment guidelines

University clubs are asked to respectfully encourage new members to join their groups by sticking to the University guidelines.

Recruitment on campus refers to occasions when University departments, clubs or external organisations promote opportunities, messages, events, or services on campus.

Appropriate recruitment includes:

  • having permission to be on campus in a specific location. If you are unsure contact
  • acknowledging and respecting the activities of other people in the area
  • clearly identifying who you are and who you represent
  • respecting the rights of any person who refuses information or interaction
  • respecting and tolerating other people's views
  • keeping to your allocated area with awareness of narrow or restricted areas as egress routes (e.g. walkways, bridges, entry ways) and personal spaces such as cafes, offices or study spaces.