Students Support Removing Burton

In dozens of conversations at four dining halls yesterday, a majority of students said they believe that Undergraduate Council Vice President John A. Burton '01 should be removed from office if allegations of misconduct against him are true.

Ten council members have sponsored a petition to remove Burton from office, charging that he took, without permission, buttons from the office of the Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, Transgender and Supporters' Alliance (BGLTSA) and misrepresented himself to the council's election commission.

Most of those whom The Crimson spoke to admitted they were not well-versed in the details of the matter.

However, they said that if it were shown that Burton indeed stole buttons from the BGLTSA's resource center and misrepresented himself to the Election Commission, the council should remove him from office.

While most students surveyed agreed that Burton's alleged campaign infractions probably didn't affect the outcome of the election, they said they thought he should be removed as a matter of principle.

"There needs to be some kind of standard for your officers," said Jennifer D. Rosario '01, eating dinner in the Quincy House dining hall. Her friends at the table nodded their heads in agreement. "He [took] the buttons--and he missed all these things he was supposed to do," said Tzyy M. Yeh '01.

Burton has twice been expelled from the council for truancy. Both times, he was later re-instated.

The mandate to remove Burton was far from overwhelming.

Twenty-four students favored removal, but 17 said the whole controversy was blown out of proportion.

In order to remove Burton from office, two-thirds of the council must vote to expel him.

"Stealing buttons doesn't seem like that big a deal," said Sara M. Granovetter '02, an opinion that was shared by many students yesterday.

"There's actually a possibility that I could care less," said Martin S. Bell '03.

Many students questioned the motives of the council members trying to remove Burton from office.

"What bothers me is that the people who raised these allegations are people who are his opponents," said Bekezela N. Ncube '03.

The petition was sponsored by 10 council members, including Todd E. Plants '01, Frank X. Leonard '01 and Sterling P. A. Darling '01, all three of whom ran against Burton's ticket in the council's presidential election.

Some students said they didn't care whether political motives entered the process.

Jordan N. Bulger '00 said it was irrelevant who had sponsored the bill calling for Burton's removal. All that mattered, he said, was whether the allegations against Burton were true.

"I don't have a problem with those three [opponents] signing the bill, as long as there's a fair trial," he said.

But though students disagreed about whether the charges will stick, there was near unanimous sentiment about one particular aspect of the controversy: whether Burton's race was a factor in driving his impeachment. Most students rejected the idea.

Both Burton and the council president, Fentrice D. Driskell '01, are black. All the sponsors of the petition to remove him are white, a fact that was not lost on Driskell.

"Racism at Harvard is a very subtle thing. It's not a thing to toss around lightly, but we're beginning to wonder," Driskell told a Boston Globe reporter covering the impeachment.

The overwhelming majority of students said they thought it was highly unlikely that the impeachment was racially motivated.

"I don't think that holds any ground. Looking at the facts, I don't think it's a racial issue," said Carlos D. Esparza '02. "That defense is fallen on too many times."

Though students had opinions when prodded to talk about the impeachment, to many, it was more of a joke than a constitutional crisis.

"I heard [Burton] had affairs with Hillary Clinton and Linda Tripp," quipped David P. Tuttle '02, when asked if he had heard of the push to remove Burton from office.