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A Guide to the Low Residency Art MFA by David Vanadia, MFA

Is Goddard College a Cult?

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Cult Members

When you attend Goddard College you may find yourself wondering if you joined a sect of some kind. Below are some possible reasons why Goddard might feel like a cult to the uninitiated.

Residency Feels Like a Cult

Residency runs from early in the morning until late in the evening. This can feel like a form of indoctrination because you can’t find time critically evaluate the personal commitment or financial investment.

‘Everyone Loves You’ Feels Like a Cult

The term for creating deep and sudden intimacy with strangers in a typical cult setting is called “Love Bombing.” At Goddard you might feel bombed by love and wonder if it’s genuine.

‘Changing the World’ Feels Like a Cult

You want to make the world a better place through the creative arts. However, when your plan for changing the world gets deemed unacceptable, it might feel as if there is Goddard’s way and the wrong way.

Peer Pressure Feels Like a Cult

You find yourself tolerating social situations you normally wouldn’t accept but you do so to remain under the radar.

‘Trusting the Process’ Feels Like a Cult

“Trust the Process” is a phrase that gets spoken by faculty, staff, and students, usually in response to an unresolved inquiry. This can make you feel as if you purchased a $50,000 car on credit, felt a uneasy wobbling coming from the front right wheel, asked the mechanic for help, and got told, “Trust the journey.” So you pretend nothing is wrong, press the gas, and keep speeding through the fog.

Group Meetings Feel Like a Cult

Sitting in a circle with a room full of people who unconditionally love each other two weeks out of each year can feel odd. It’s especially strange during your G1 semester since you have no idea what anyone is talking about because they’re all speaking Goddard Speak.

Insider Language Feels Like a Cult

You find yourself using a unique dialect of art-speak to describe everyday events and construct imaginary social frameworks around your life, just to be accepted. For example, faculty advising becomes “cultivative perturbation” and student loans become “happy debt.” If you end up feeling perturbed and in debt more often than cultivated and happy, but continue to tell yourself it’s all for a good cause, then that can feel like you’re in a cult.

Not Questioning Feels Like a Cult

Someone in a position of power states an opinion as if it were a fact and you say absolutely nothing. Others act as if the statement were profound, yet you heard gibberish. Normally you would ask questions but for some reason you refrain.

Community Meals Feel Like a Cult

Whatever they put in the food makes you feel sick and yet you go back every six hours like clock work, hungry for more.

Collective Ideology Feels Like a Cult

You superficially adopt an unwritten doctrine because, if you don’t comply, you fear that the people in power will use their influence label and separate you from the group.

Silent Acceptance Feels Like a Cult

You witness those in power “push out” the people who don’t “fit in,” and you remain quiet for fear that you might be next.

Confession Feels Like a Cult

For credit, you are asked to hand in your personal journals or write down your dreams for interpretation and you tailor your responses in fear of being rebuked for what you share. You’re uncomfortable with this but you do it anyway.

Transformation Feels Like a Cult

They say, “Come as you are, leave as you want to be,” but when you make it to graduation you realize that the most profound transformation you underwent was a financial one. Still you feel a sense of elation and relief to be done.

Graduation Feels Like a Cult

You are promised access to “all the rights and privileges” that come with your new degree but you’re not sure what those rights or privileges are. Still, you don’t ask because you’re worried that they’ll respond by finding a loophole that will keep you in the program for another year and a half.

‘It’s Not about You’ Feels Like a Cult

You find yourself allowing your personal boundaries to be repeatedly crossed and/or altered because you don’t you attempt to convey your needs for fear of appearing selfish.

“There’s No ‘I’ in Goddard” Feels Like a Cult

If, after graduation, you find yourself donating your time and money to Goddard College so you can be part of something larger than yourself, you might feel like you’re stuck in a cult.


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