Steven Serling doesn't relish his role as a man who has the attention of thousands of women.

The 35-year-old airline mechanic successfully battled Texas Woman's University to admit men to all its programs, and now female students are up in arms."It's not about me. It's about equal access to public education," Serling said Tuesday. "I'm not the issue. I just want to sort of disappear."

That won't be easy.

After the university regents' vote on Friday, protests broke out at the campus 35 miles north of Dallas.

About a dozen women marched outside the student center Tues

day, toting signs that read "Better Dead Than Coed" and "Raped by the Regents." On Monday, about 50 students staged a sit-in at the admissions office. An earlier rally drew about 200 students and others.

"We're not anti-man. We're for preserving this university's 91 years of tradition," sophomore Amy Nickum said.

There are no plans to change the name of the school, the larger of the nation's last two state-supported universities with a mostly female enrollment.

Beginning in 1972, TWU admitted men to the graduate school and undergraduate health sciences programs but not to other programs. Of the school's 10,000 students, about 880 are men, mostly in graduate programs.

Serling earlier this year ran into difficulty choosing classes for his planned double major in nursing and biology. He wrote letters to elected officials and filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. He threatened a lawsuit if the women-only policy wasn't changed.

"It was traditional for blacks to be slaves. It was traditional for blacks to get on the back of the bus. Just because something is traditional doesn't make it right," Serling said. "This is the 1990s, not the 1890s."

The board of regents, reacting in part to Serling's threat, changed the rules.

Female TWU students say the school provides a nurturing environment for women. Students at protests have said that not having to compete with or be distracted by men improves their chances of a good education.

TWU is not alone in its gender battle.

Mississippi University for Women, the other state-supported university with a mostly female enrollment, admitted its first man in 1982. It allows men without restrictions, but most students still are women.

In 1990, trustees at financially strapped Mills College in Oakland, Calif., reversed their decision to admit men as undergraduates. The announcement, which was met by cheers and champagne, came after two weeks of demonstrations that shut down the private school.

"In the '70s, a lot of men's colleges went coed," said Marcia Greenberger, co-president of the National Women's Law Center in Washington. "At that time, many women's colleges began to examine what their policies were and what the point was of being single-sex."

Serling believes that when the dust settles, people will realize the world hasn't come to an end.