Curtis DeBerg, a professor at California State University-Chico, claims in his new book How High Is Up?: The Rise, Fall, and Redemption of a Sam M. Walton SIFE Fellow that a Christian business group "Students In Free Enterprise" (SIFE) recruits management candidates for Walmart by mixing religion and conservative corporate beliefs.
SIFE gets major funding from Walmart, and, in exchange, sends business students into Walmart's management program.
Walmart has made no secret of its relationship with SIFE, even mentioning contests of SIFE "teams" on its website.
SIFE, which was renamed Enactus in 2012, calls itself “the world’s best-known and most successful program helping university students to create community empowerment projects.”
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“When you go to a SIFE event… the biggest booth of all is Walmart,” DeBerg told Salon.com. “All of these young people, dressed in their USA ties and their matching lapel pins, as they’re walking by the booth [where there are] recruiters for Walmart."
DeBerg says that SIFE promotes a Biblical business structure of leaders and servants.
“It’s the low-cost way to recruit very good managerial talent that has already swallowed the servant leadership Kool-Aid,” added DeBerg. “Shoot, I’ll take $5,000 less a year, as long as I’m on the track to become the store manager or the district manager. You know, there’s nothing wrong with that, unless Walmart continues to pay s--- wages.”
DeBerg said he became involved with SIFE in 1993 to help students get business experience, but was shocked by what he found.
“My first big shock was how conservative and how Christian this organization was, even as it was appealing to secular universities,” stated DeBerg.
“The men, as the store managers, were kind of like the head of the farm, they were the breadwinner, and now, if the man is running the store here, that used to be viewed kind of like ladies’ work,” DeBerg explained. “But if he could be the manager or the district manager, he was still the boss.”
DeBerg also claims that student competitions held by SIFE were often rigged, all in an effort to get students into the Walmart world.
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DeGerb's recollection echoes the same claims in Bethany Moreton's book To Serve God and Walmart: The Making of Christian Free Enterprise.
Moreton also mentions how SIFE is sponsored by Walmart and became its best recruiting grounds, hiring students who had demonstrated the "correct" political and economic views. SIFE groups and students learned how to mix religion and business.
In response, Enactus/SIFE CEO Alvin Rohrs said that DeBerg “has not been associated with our organization for more than a decade and we are puzzled as to why these complaints would resurface now. We take the integrity of our competitions extremely seriously.”
Rohrs also claimed that an “independent investigator” into the cheating “found no impropriety or indication of any unethical behavior.”