Baker Scoffs At 'Sexism'

Man For Men's Rights Is Misguided, She Says

March 14, 1991|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,Staff writer

In his years as the Baltimore area's most vocal crusader for "men's rights," Kauko H. Kokkonen has challenged the very notion of women's colleges, the Maryland Commission for Women and the YWCA.

Now he'sturning his attention to a recently established endowment to provideAnne Arundel Community College scholarships to "displaced homemakers."

But former county councilwoman Carole B. Baker says Kokkonen may be revealing his own sexist attitudes when he complains that the Carole Baker Endowed Displaced Homemakers Scholarship is for ladies only.

Kokkonen, a former Maryland Transit Administration bus driver whonow works in a subway station, has asked civil rights officers in the federal Department of Education to investigate the scholarship fundas being discriminatory toward men. But Baker -- and the community college official in charge of financial aid and scholarships -- say men are not precluded from applying for the scholarship.

"It occursto me perhaps his bias is showing. The term 'displaced homemaker' isnot gender specific," Baker said yesterday after being told of Kokkonen's complaint.

Kokkonen, a longtime member of a group known as Fathers United for Equal Rights, has complained for years that societyhas bent over so far backward to protect women that the rights of men are being abused. While he has failed in many of his efforts -- including a push to create a Maryland Commission for Men and a call for the YWCA to admit men -- the Towson man has claimed some successes.

When federal civil rights officials upheld his complaint that Hood College excluded men from its dormitories, the Frederick women's school agreed to insert a non-discrimination clause in its catalog. His complaints also prompted Goucher College to switch to "sex-neutral" advertising for graduate programs offered by the largely female school in Towson.

As he did in those cases, Kokkonen says Anne Arundel Community College is violating Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits payment of federal funds to institutions that discriminate on the basis of sex.

In December, he wrote to U.S. Department of Education officials complaining about the displaced homemakers scholarship fund. His reply came in a March 7 letter from Michael L. Williams, the Education Department's assistant secretary for civil rights who made news last December when he said that "race-exclusive" scholarships were discriminatory and therefore illegal. That decision was later reversed.

The Williams letter says Kokkonen's complaint has been passed on to the department's regional office in Philadelphia and adds officials in that office will contact him to find outif he wants to pursue the complaint.

Kokkonen said he was only slightly encouraged by news that his complaint had been passed on to the federal education department's regional office for civil rights. Hesaid he's learned over the years that complaints of discrimination against women are pursued with more speed and vigor than discrimination complaints naming men as victims.

"They are very sluggish. When the discrimination is against men, they drag their feet."

Barry M.Weinberg, senior director of financial aid, veterans affairs and scholarships at Anne Arundel Community College, said Kokkonen's complaint is baseless. Weinberg said the scholarship application uses a "well-traveled and well-accepted" federal definition for "displaced homemaker" that does not consider gender.

Weinberg said the scholarship application defines a displaced homemaker as a person who has not worked full-time for about five years but instead provided "unpaid services" to family members. Also, the person must have lost public assistance or another family member's income on which they had depended andmust be either unemployed or "under employed," Weinberg said.

Theendowment was established last December by a group of Baker's friends and supporters who wanted to honor the former councilwoman. Baker decided not to run for a third term on the council after she received a promotion from her employer, the United Way.

The scholarship, tobe used by a full-time student for tuition, fees, books, child care and other expenses, is to be awarded annually to a displaced homemaker from Anne Arundel County who could not otherwise afford to go to college.

All money raised toward the scholarship will be matched dollar-for-dollar by the state. Weinberg said $5,600 was raised for theendowment at a Feb. 8 reception at the college, and the money will be used to generate interest. The interest earned each year will be used to pay for the scholarship.

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