Controversy has roared, both before and after the 1992 takeover of the University of Bridgeport (UB), in Connecticut, by an arm of the Unification Church (UC) of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon.
Before the coup, many in Bridgeport and the university community charged that the church would engage in the deceptive recruiting and "mind control" practices for which it had become notorious. The church, they believed, would use the school for its own messianic, theocratic purposes. This would conflict with the secular educational purposes for which the school was founded, and bound by state charter. The school's reputation was at stake.
As it turned out, the Concerned Citizens of Bridgeport, the group that has fought the takeover, was absolutely right.
Last year, the financially troubled university was essentially bought out by the Professors World Peace Academy (PWPA), a Moon front, in a secret, and possibly illegal, deal that turned over majority control of the board to PWPA.
The agreement included PWPA's intentions to integrate "over the long-term" UB's programs with other "Unification Movement projects," including Moon's Washington Times newspaper.
Although UB/PWPA down-played the Moon connection, a church member, Anthony Guerra, was soon installed as assistant dean for academic affairs. What's more, last year none other than Mrs. Sun Myung Moon spoke at the school on behalf of her new group, the Women's Federation for World Peace, as part of her international speaking tour (transpiring mostly in rented hotel ballrooms).
PWPA, according to the deal, would recruit students from the former Soviet Union and the Far East. Indeed, there are many foreign students at UB now. However, last year, two Russians said that they had been offered free tuition at "Father's University" in the United States on the condition that they attend Moon indoctrination seminars.
As for the "reputation" of the school, an obvious measure is student enrollment. Since the advent of the Moon deal, enrollment has "crashed," according to Glenn Davis, who is writing a history of the university. Although there are certainly many reasons, the Moon factor seems paramount. In September of 1991, there were 3940 students; by September of 1992, there were only 1340, only 700 of which were full-time.
Bill Finch, a courageous Bridgeport alderman, says that "the Moon organization is anti-democratic and antithetical to the mission of higher education." He also says that the financial promise of a "bail-out" has not been borne out. "A dozen buildings are in serious disrepair," he says.
Moon himself, through his public statements, has a 30-year record of contempt for American democracy, and a flagrant disregard for the law. Indeed, one Washington DC newspaper routinely refers to him as "convicted felon Sun Myung Moon." Moon did time in the big house for perjury and obstruction of justice charges in connection with a federal tax fraud case in the 1980s.
As it now stands, Moon control of UB may be undone by the persistence of the Community Coalition of Bridgeport and a lawsuit which charges that the deal was illegal.