07.30The Cultiversity of Bridgeport
by Perry DeAngelis
I recently strolled through a series of ramshackle buildings along Long Island Sound, at the south end of Bridgeport – decaying and abandoned buildings, deserted and silent streets. Was this the aging Pequonnic Apartments, or the decrepit Marina Village?
No. It was the University of Bridgeport (UB). The University of Bridgeport after the Unification Church of Sun Myung Moon acquired control of it in 1992. The group is popularly known as the “Moonies,” and to many minds, it is the very definition of a cult.
No mention of this insidious cult’s ownership is in any of the institutions documentation. The result of the take-over is a gutting of the school’s credibility and a bastardization of its curriculum. They have introduced a series of pseudoscientific and alternative medical programs into the university, taking the lead in the encroachment of such unsubstantiated and dangerous programs which continue to grow and gain credibility within our higher educational system. Moreover, this now cult infused institution, continues to be accredited by the state. Still claiming to be non-sectarian, Bridgeport University has succumbed to the increasing wave of irrationality which threatens American education. In UB’s case, this incursion is made more odious by the fact that a cult is steering the course.
First chartered in 1947 (Schaffer, 52), UB once thrived, boasting over 9000 students. This sad shell of a university now has barely over 1200 full time enrollments.
How did this sorry state of affairs come to pass?
In the eighties, the last of the “baby boom” generation was reaching university age. It was apparent that the pool of college-bound candidates was shrinking. Competition was intensifying. In Connecticut, the state university system was growing, wherein one could receive a degree at about one eighth of the cost of UB. Further, the educators’ unions were making it nearly impossible to lay-off staff, even when programs were cut. Reduced Federal and State funding of higher education also played a role, as well as the gradual decline of the whole south end of Bridgeport (Davey, 69).
There were some attempts to save UB. A consortium of local banks loaned the university approximately $12 million in 1989. UB attempted to reduce costs with an absurd attempt to fire outright 50 tenured faculty, and then demand a 30% wage cutback from those that remained (Davey, 69). This resulted in a horrendous strike that paralyzed UB and spelled its end as a viable non-sectarian institution.
After the strike dragged on for more than a year, the Board of Trustees of the university was approached by the PWPA (Professors World Peace Academy), a front group founded by Moon in Korea in 1973. The group is funded by the “International Cultural Foundation,” which is in turn funded by Moon’s Unification Church. After an initial rejection, the Board voted to accept the PWPA’s $68 million buy out plan (in the form of forgivable loans), in May 1992.
Instantly, there was a mass exodus of faculty from the university. Many professors did not want to be associated with a cult. The strikers settled with UB, but had to sign documents to the effect that they would never seek employment at the school again. The Law School, the university’s only profitable program, dissolved its association and fled to Quinnipiac College in Hamden.
The PWPA was given the right to name 60% of the UB board. George Mihalakos, Secretary to the Board, informed me that a simple majority vote (51%), is enough to pass policy. And though they did not have the right to name the president of the university, the position is currently held by Richard Rubenstein, a 72 year old “theologian” who was until recently head of the PWPA in the United States (Walmsley, 50). Regardless of the above, Mr. Rubenstein continues to insist that UB is still non-sectarian. However, he has referred to Moon’s teachings as, “…the worldwide religious force for human betterment.” The evidence that Moon’s cult (and more precisely Moon himself), controls all aspects of UB is overwhelming. The cult considers UB a lynch pin in its plan to have a network of universities around the globe – a very sturdy stump from which to preach his dangerous teachings and pseudoscientific propaganda and fertile ground in which to seek fresh recruits.
Moon was born in North Korea on January 6, 1920 (Sontag, 78). Arising from obscurity, he formed his cult and their primary tenet, the “divine principle.” This is basically a set of metaphysical platitudes whose bottom line is that man will be “restored” from, or purged of, sin. God’s plan for this new truth has been embodied in the form of Reverend Moon. He states that he is God’s messenger. This fact was revealed to him in a visitation from Jesus Christ when he was 16, on Easter morning. Jesus told Moon that he was chosen to complete the divine mission ended by his crucification. Whenever anyone claims that God is speaking through him, red flags should go up in abundance. In 1984 this spokesman of the lord was convicted of conspiracy to obstruct justice and conspiracy to file false tax returns (Singer, 90). That same year, UB’s own office of student life issued a warning to students about the cult trying to recruit on campus. Now, they are the campus, replete with prayer services being held on the premises. A member of the church stated that anyone who marries without having the Reverend Moon choose his or her spouse should be convicted of a capital crime. Known worldwide for controlling all aspects of their devotees lives, the cult has been denounced by every mainstream faith in existence today.
The cult is infamous for deceiving the unsuspecting into their midst before actually revealing their true identity (Singer, 221). Gradually their true nature is revealed, and the unfortunate victim is far too ensconced to resist the pressure about them. Soon, they are in the Moon legion of fund raisers, acquiring massive amounts of money for the cult’s twisted ends. When a student goes to university, it is often his first time away from home and his parents. The cult preaches that Moon is the “True Father.” One’s own parents are considered secondary to their devotion to the Father. This strikes at a time when young people are most vulnerable to such family-shattering teachings. If Moon wants to run a school, then he should be compelled to declare the fact that he and his cult are guiding the place. Let people know that they are attending such a sectarian place.
Just after the cult’s take over, Ruth Cohen, a life trustee of the UB Board, brought suit against the university. She was claiming that the affiliation with the Unification Church was in violation of the school’s charter as a non-sectarian university. Further, that it defied regulations that a Board of a not-for profit educational institution must remain autonomous. The case went all the way to the Connecticut State Supreme Court, where it was dismissed for “lack of standing.” The Court ruled that Mrs. Cohen did not have standing to bring the suit because, while she was indeed a life trustee, she was not a voting trustee. This outrageous ruling was decried by Mrs. Cohen’s attorney, Michael Stratton. He believed the decision flew in the face of all logic and reason and may have been politically motivated. Mrs. Cohen’s husband, Herbert Cohen, a well respected philanthropist, was the Chairman of the Board for years, and after his death in 1983, Ruth was named a life trustee. If she doesn’t have standing, who does?
The Schine family, whose generosity enabled the school to build Schine Hall (now an empty shell), has been trying to have its name removed from the building for years. UB refuses. They want it to seem as if nothing has changed.
William Finch, a Bridgeport City Councilman, former Unification Church member, and now vocal critic of the PWPA’s paws on UB, says that the opening of the new Naturopathy school (more on this later), is a strategic move for the cult. Strategic in that, in the places where the PWPA recruits students most heavily, Naturopathy is an accepted form of therapy.
Mr. Finch, who used to hold the position of Director of Alumni Services at the university, states that, “No one is happy about this cult take-over in the city government.” He reminds us that the Nazi’s began as a cult, and as they began to gain the trappings of respectable government, their movement increased exponentially. While Mr. Finch does not believe that the Moonies will dominate the world, he does believe that they will dominate whatever portion of it we allow them to. “I don’t want to give them an inch,” he said. In an article in Maclean’s, Mr. Finch stated that, “The only people left [at UB] are either total sycophants or people who feel that you have to do anything to keep the university open.” On his own website, Finch states that Moon declared he “…would train his own political leaders in his own American universities and then infiltrate and take over the government.”
Yet, the most savaged victim of all is the school’s curriculum. There are no longer degrees offered in journalism, advertising, foreign language, sociology, cinema, or philosophy. UB has become a center for alternative and unproven pseudo-medical propaganda. It was the first U.S. university to officially create a College of Chiropractic. In the fall of 1996, the new school of Naturopathy was opened. Both of these systems are embraced by Moon and his cult, and now they are trying to gain acceptability through the legitimizing tonic of university affiliation.
The growth of Chiropractic in the U.S. is a direct result, in part, of the victorious “restraint of trade” suit against the American Medical Association. At the time, the AMA was advising its members not to refer patients to chiropractors. The AMA was thence stifled in this advisement, and now are mealy-mouthed on the whole subject of chiropractic. When I contacted their office of Media Relations in Manhattan, they said that the AMA had no official stance on the subject. Once bitten, twice shy.
The lesser known practice of Naturopathy is another alternative system that lacks a basis in science. In 1900 a group of followers of the “great water doctor,” Father Sebastian Kneipp, got together in New York to bring all the practices of natural healing under one banner. From that meeting, Naturopathy emerged as a separate discipline. Soon the American School of Naturopathy was founded in New York and graduated its first class in 1902.
The basic philosophy is that nature has the power to heal the body, and that the human body also heals itself. This natural ability can be aided with various techniques, including acupuncture, homeopathy, hydrotherapy, massage, and “spiritual counseling.” A pseudoscientific hodgepodge of alternative nonsense.
In one case, a patient with bladder cancer visited Barnard Rent N.D., a naturopath. He applied pressure to reflex points, and even though the man grimaced, he said he felt no pain. Rent interviewed the patient and determined that the death of the man’s son five years earlier was the reason he could not express his pain. So, he prescribed a change in diet, massage therapy (applied by the man’s wife), and a dose of Ignatia, a homeopathic (see The Connecticut Skeptic Volume 1, Issue 3), remedy said to relieve the effects of suppressed grief. This was the prescribed treatment for cancer.
UB is proud to be the fourth university in the nation to offer a degree in this material.
A very troubling part of this whole affair, is that the state has accredited UB even in the face of this Moon driven onslaught. How could the school be allowed to maintain its accreditation? When I spoke with Donald Winandy, Chief Academic Officer of the Board of Governors of Higher Education, the states accrediting authority (Davey, 41), he stated that the school was currently on a three year accredited probation. It is up for reevaluation in June of 1998. He said that the new school of Naturopathy was not yet accredited, but that the university had three years to apply for such. I asked what the methodology was for accrediting a school of Naturopathy, and Mr. Winandy said that it was by comparison. They would look at other such institutions, like Bastyr University in Seattle, Washington, and see if UB followed similar principles. Of course, the school would also have to live up to any claims made as to classes offered and faculty available. And thus, we see that the accreditation process speaks only to administrative matters. There is no guarantee made by the Board of Higher Education that any aspect of the curriculum has a sound intellectual or scientific basis. If not by them, then by whom? Who will stand to oppose the ever blurring line between legitimate science being taught in our university system and the tripe being peddled at UB and the like? The state certainly is not protecting its citizens in this matter.
Thus, with this state sanction, the Moonies are free to espouse their cultist philosophies and pseudoscientific propaganda from the gleaming mantle of “university.” An unsuspecting parent looking through the school’s catalogue would have no indication that they were considering sending their son or daughter into the maw of Moon.
Obviously, there is nothing wrong with a university being sectarian – some of the best US Universities are. What is unacceptable is that UB is concealing their religious affiliation. What is worse, is their remaking of UB’s curriculum in the hideous image of pseudoscience.
A cult has come to Bridgeport and absorbed one of her noble institutions. The 85 acre seaside bastion of learning has become a mire of cultism. We cannot rest until this infestation of pseudoscience and fanaticism is expunged.
Davey, Robert. “Moon Over Bridgeport.” Connecticut Magazine (July, 1994): 39, 41, 69-71.
Schaffer, Robert. Illustrated History of Bridgeport. NY: Wislow Publishing, 1992.
Singer, Margaret T. Cults in Our Midst. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1995.
Sontag, Frederick. Sun Myung Moon: and the Unification Church. Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 1977.
Walmsley, Ann. “Father’s University.” Maclean’s 108 (October 23, 1995): 50.