Men's rights group fights for equality at Hopkins fair

April 12, 1991|By Patricia Meisol

When members of a men's rights group tried to get a booth at the annual Johns Hopkins University Spring Fair to promote their point of view, they were unceremoniously told there were an unprecedented number of applications and no more space.

A few days later, another men's group applied, this one proposing to educate men to confront sexist attitudes toward women.

It got a congratulatory letter and a booth.

The second group, Baltimore Men Against Rape and Sexual Assault, is fictitious. And the first group, the National Coalition of Free Men, is angry.

After confronting the fair's student organizers about the different responses to the two men's groups, coalition president Jon Ryan got a letter yesterday saying his group was excluded because the students wanted to have "quality non-profit" exhibitors at the 20-year-old fair.

But late yesterday afternoon, 10 days after the coalition filed a discrimination complaint with the Maryland Human Relations Commission, university lawyers consulted by the students left a message on Mr. Ryan's answering machine: He can have a booth in next weekend's fair.

"We'll be there," said Mr. Ryan, an inspector for the Baltimore City Health Department.

"I just hope they don't put us near the Dumpster," he said, adding that he wants space near a group promoting women's issues.

Richard Quarles, a senior and co-chairman of the fair, denied that the group was initially barred because some consider its views unorthodox. He said the fair's organizers were simply trying to invite groups with the most appeal to students.

As a result of the incident, he said, the Spring Fair committee realized it had no guidelines about which non-profit groups can participate. He said the students now will develop guidelines.

The popular student-run annual event, which draws upward of100,000 people each year features music and dance, antique and crafts, cultural exhibits, food, contests and exhibits by non-profit groups ranging from the Red Cross to the House of Ruth, the Baltimore shelter for battered women.

In past years, political groups, including the Communists, Socialists and Latin American human rights groups, also have been represented.

Mr. Ryan said he applied for a booth to distribute such books as "The Hazards of Being Male," and "The Other Side of the Coin," after learning that the Hopkins Women's Center, which promotes awareness of women's issues, would be among the exhibitors. "I thought it would be a nice balance," he said.

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