The Names in the News

Ten of this year's most interesting, influential and intriguing personalities

B. J. Averell '02

Sophomore B. J. Averell can teach would-be activists a thing or two about standing up to The Man. In November he took on an international airline, a district attorney and several peeved security guards--and beat the system.

Averell was trying to get home to Collingswood, N.J. for Thanksgiving when he showed up at Logan Airport on Nov. 24 for his flight to Philadelphia.

Averell says he arrived on time, but Delta Airlines ticket agents shunted him into different lines. By the time he made it to the gate, the flight had begun boarding standby passengers. Even though he had a ticket, Averell was denied a seat on the 6:15 p.m. flight. The agents told him they would try to get him on a standby flight--on Thanksgiving morning.

Undeterred, he slipped behind a pillar, dodged the gate attendant, passed the barrier and walked down the ramp all but unnoticed. Averell hid in a bathroom on the plane, intending to find an empty seat later.

Unfortunately, another passenger spotted him. Flight attendants ejected him from the plane and delivered him to airport police, who handcuffed him on the tarmac. He was arrested for trespassing and disorderly conduct.

Averell's daring tactics ignited a small media storm that was covered in papers and on television stations across the country. Back at Harvard, he found himself something of a celebrity.

"When I came back to school I was pretty much a bad-ass," Averell says. "One guy came up to me at Tommy's and said, 'I read about your story. You live out our dreams for us, man.'"

Although confessing to the crimes would have only resulted in a small fine, Averell pled not guilty. In February, Delta and state prosecutors dropped the charges.

Did his courtroom odyssey make him a role model for the oppressed everywhere? Averell is modest about his accomplishments.

"I was just fighting for the rights of the little man, my fellow college student," he says.

John A. Burton '01