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American Whistleblower Tour Coming to Rutgers-Newark; Tour Stop Features Dr. Susan Wood, Cathy Harris, Ken Kendrick

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On February 22, the Government Accountability Project (GAP) brings its program, the American Whistleblower Tour: Essential Voices for Accountability, to Rutgers-Newark. The stop will feature prominent whistleblowers Dr. Susan Wood (FDA/"Plan B" Whistleblower), Cathy Harris (U.S. Customs whistleblower) and Kenneth Kendrick (peanut butter/Salmonella scandal).

GAP's Tour is a dynamic campaign aimed at educating university students and the general public about the phenomenon and practice of whistleblowing. This Rutgers-Newark stop is highlighted by a panel presentation featuring high profile whistleblowers discussing their experiences. This stop is being sponsored by the Rutgers School of Law-Newark and the Rutgers School of Public Affairs and Administration.

The Rutgers stop features an all-star panel of whistleblowers for the key presentation, including:

Dr. Susan Wood served as U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Assistant Commissioner for Women’s Health for five years. But when she concluded in 2005 that Bush administration politics – not medical concerns – was tying up the approval of morning-after “Plan-B” medication, she resigned her position and spoke out forcefully on the principle that the FDA should exclusively exist to serve public health, not the agenda of the “pro-life movement.” This very topic was back in the news recently, as last December, the US Department of Health & Human Services disagreed with the FDA recommendation to allow the selling of “Plan B” medication over-the-counter to women aged 16 and younger.

Ken Kendrick: Between September 1, 2008 and April 20, 2009, Salmonella-tainted peanut butter originating from Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) plants sickened 714 people across 46 states, contributing to nine deaths. Prior to the outbreak, Kendrick, the former PCA assistant plant manager in Plainview, Texas, had made multiple attempts to alert both state and federal officials to numerous public health violations he was witnessing. Although the widespread Salmonella contamination was traced to PCA’s Georgia plant, it was Kendrick’s whistleblowing on Good Morning America that belied the company’s defense that the batch of peanut butter from the Georgia plant was an unexpected and isolated event. Kendrick made clear that PCA’s entire business was based upon risking the health of consumers in order to protect profits.

Cathy Harris, a former senior inspector for the U.S. Customs Service (USCS) at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, disclosed to the media the USCS practice of discriminatory racial profiling. She verified her suspicions that women of African descent were wrongfully targeted for detention and strip searches as possible drug couriers. It was found that only three percent of those women were actually carrying drugs, whereas drugs were found on 30 percent of white travelers who were detained and searched. Harris’ revelations resulted in a damning U.S. Government Accountability Office study of USCS profiling practices, and federal legislation to reform these unconstitutional practices.

A full description of the Tour can be found at www.WhistleblowerTour.org.

GAP President Louis Clark, who has spent nearly 35 years at GAP protecting whistleblowers, will moderate the panel. Stated Clark, "Whistleblowers should be listened to, protected, and lauded for their courageous actions."

“We are thrilled that the American Whistleblower Tour is coming to Rutgers-Newark,” comments Suzanne J. Piotrowski, associate professor of the School of Public Affairs and Administration at Rutgers University in Newark. “This event gives our students the opportunity to hear directly from prominent whistleblowers.  It is a rare learning experience that allows students to link theories from class to real world experiences.”

The panel presentation will take place on Wednesday, February 22, at 5:30 p.m. at the Rutgers-Newark Paul Robeson Campus Center (350 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.), in the Rutgers-Newark Multi-Purpose Room, and is free to attend. The public and members of the press are welcome.

This Rutgers-Newark stop is the seventh of at least 12 Tour stops this academic year. Stops thus far have included the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Brandeis, Texas at Austin, Auburn, Florida International, and Syracuse.

Goals of the Tour include raising awareness about the vital role whistleblowing has in our democracy, preparing America's youth for ethical decision-making, countering negative connotations associated with whistleblowing, connecting prospective whistleblowers to available resources, and encouraging academic studies of whistleblowing.

"Whistleblower statutes such as New Jersey's Conscientious Employee Protection Act are an important device to promote government transparency and accountability," said Vice Dean Ronald Chen of Rutgers School of Law—Newark.

Impetus

In February 2010, GAP teamed up with film production company Participant Media and the Manhattan venue Paley Center for the Media to produce the definitive television presentation on whistleblowing – Anyone Can Whistle: The Essential Role of the Whistleblower in American Society. The event, watched online live by thousands, was the first-ever special explaining and celebrating the role of whistleblowers in our culture. Hosted by Juan Williams (then of NPR), and featuring whistleblower heroes such as Daniel Ellsberg, Frank Serpico, Coleen Rowley and others, the program examined the six stages of the typical whistleblowing experience, celebrated the courage of whistleblowers, and decried the lack of adequate legal protections.

More importantly, the presentation educated the public on the practice of whistleblowing. Through the American Whistleblower Tour, we hope to expand upon the goals and the energy that emerged from this past event.

For members of the press to reserve a spot at the panel event, please contact  Laura Chinchilla. For more information about the Tour, contact GAP Communications Director Dylan Blaylock.

Contact: Laura Chinchilla
Email: lchin80@pegasus.rutgers.edu

Contact: Dylan Blaylock, Communications Director
Phone: 202.457.0034, ext. 137
Email: dylanb@whistleblower.org

Government Accountability Project

The Government Accountability Project is the nation’s leading whistleblower protection organization. Through litigating whistleblower cases, publicizing concerns and developing legal reforms, GAP’s mission is to protect the public interest by promoting government and corporate accountability. Founded in 1977, GAP is a non-profit, non-partisan advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C.

School of Public Affairs and Administration

Founded in 2006, SPAA is the first new school established at Rutgers University in more than 20 years. SPAA has one of the top 10 graduate programs in the United States in public management and administration, according to rankings released by U.S. News & World Report. SPAA’s mission encompasses competence, diversity, knowledge and service, and the school faculty members equip future leaders and educators with the tools necessary to efficiently and effectively deliver government services. It is the only such school at a public university in New Jersey. SPAA enhances New Jersey’s capacity to develop more effective government at all levels, offering degree and non-degree programs, research and technical assistance to make government more transparent to citizens. The school’s most recent initiatives include a national network on performance measurement and reporting, a municipal public performance measurement system, and the development of the E-Governance Institute. For more information about the school, visit http://spaa.newark.rutgers.edu.

Rutgers School of Law—Newark

The Rutgers School of Law-Newark has a deeply rooted tradition of commitment to three defining elements: excellence, opportunity, and impact. Internationally-recognized faculty are at the forefront of resolving the complex legal issues facing a global society and, through the our clinical program and pro bono activities, faculty and students advance our public service mission. The school's graduates include judges of federal and state courts, members of the U.S. Congress and State Legislatures, and leaders in the fields of law, business, and the public sector.