Wheaton College denies it knew of abusive cult

Chicago Sun-Times/March 28, 2004
By Cathleen Falsani

Wheaton College officials deny knowing about any abuse committed by a former graduate student against several other former students who say they were members of a physically abusive cult controlled by the older student, according to a statement released by the school.

The statement comes in response to reports in the Chicago Sun-Times and the Boston Herald chronicling the abuse several former students said they suffered at the hands of Feroze Golwalla, 40, an ersatz missionary who earned his master's from Wheaton in 2001.

The former students said that while they lived with Golwalla, who attended Wheaton from 1999 to 2001, the cult leader beat them on many occasions, tearing out clumps of their hair. Golwalla recruited students for his Parsee Missionary Team, an evangelistic outreach to the Parsee people of Iran, in Texas and Maryland. Some of the former students and their families are considering suing the college for failing to protect them from Golwalla, according to Bob Pardon, a cult deprogrammer who has counseled several of the young people who left Golwalla's group.

"We consider the abuse of the sort alleged in the 'Parsee Ministry Team,' led by Feroze Golwalla to be particularly egregious, and grieve with the victims of any such abuse and their families," the statement from college officials said. "The allegations of abuse that surfaced later appear to relate to events that took place after Mr. Golwalla was no longer enrolled at Wheaton College.

"The College did not then and does not now know of any such abuse during Mr. Golwalla's period of enrollment."

Wheaton officials explained that Golwalla's Parsee ministry was developed independently of the college, a common occurrence at the evangelical Christian college where many students are involved in various ministries on and off campus.

In fall 2000, Golwalla sought formal approval from the college for a missionary trip to Pakistan he was planning to take with several other students, who later became part of his cult.

After researching the matter, school officials said, they denied his request to sponsor the trip, informed students involved in the trip, and sent letters to their parents.

Pardon alleged that one of the former cult members, the twin brother of a Wheaton student who attended Harvard University, wrote Golwalla's master's thesis and that school officials were aware of it.

In their statement, college officials said Golwalla's graduate program did not require a master's thesis to be written.

"The charge that Wheaton College 'knew' of this academic fraud and did nothing is false," the statement said. "Wheaton College takes the matter of academic honesty with the greatest seriousness."

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