Whistleblower, activist speaking at Auburn University Feb. 21

AUBURN UNIVERSITY – Cathy Harris, a former U.S. Customs officer/inspector who blew the whistle on abuse and discrimination within the agency, will speak at Auburn University Thursday, Feb. 21, at 7 p.m. in Lowder Hall, room 125A. Harris’ visit is part of the College of Business’ new Diversity Speakers’ Series. There is no charge for the public event.

“African-American women (before boarding flights) were targeted for abusive tap-downs and strip-searches,” Harris said regarding events at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta in the mid-1990s.

Harris is retired and now works as a public speaker and activist. She went public with her claims to the media and Congress in 1998, leading to reform and new regulations: The Civil Rights and International Travelers Act and the Reasonable Search Standards Act.

“Everyone else was really hesitant to say anything,” Harris said. “I knew I had to do it.”

Harris, who will also visit Master of Accountancy classes at Lowder Hall, plans to delve into her experience with the U.S. Customs Service and the importance of whistleblowing at Thursday night’s speaking engagement.

According to Harris’ website, http://www.cathyharrisspeaks.com, she is described as, “A courageous advocate for justice. She initiates and continues a process of self-education, where she has been recognized as a woman in the business of uplifting and empowering her community. Her strong sense of justice and bold stance along with her health and business initiatives for the entire community has helped her venture into uncharted territories where she is helping others transcend boundaries and create options.”

Sarah Stanwick, College of Business diversity officer, said, “The Business of Diversity Speakers’ Series is one of many ways the College of Business recognizes the importance of diversity issues in the workplace. Cathy Harris will be an exceptional speaker to begin our annual series. Her experience as a whistleblower shows her willingness to speak up when she identifies practices that are unethical.”

According to Stanwick, “The College of Business strives to recognize the importance of diversity among our students, faculty, staff and constituents. It is necessary for us to promote diversity in the College of Business for our students because as they enter the business world, they will face an increasingly multicultural and global environment. Understanding and managing diversity is a significant and critical organizational challenge and our students in all majors must be able to face this challenge head on.”

(Written by Joe McAdory.)

Contact: Sarah Stanwick, College of Business Diversity Officer, (334) 844-6205 (stanwsd@auburn.edu), or Mike Clardy, Office of Communications and Marketing, (334) 844-9999 (clardch@auburn.edu)