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Gay Activists Target Campus Building Named After Polish Anti-Communist Hero

Following comments last year by Poland’s former president about homosexual members of Parliament, some students at Northeastern Illinois University are pressuring the school to rename a building that bears his name.

The public university in Chicago renamed an academic building “Lech Walesa Hall” in 2009 to honor the former Polish leader for his role in the downfall of communism. The press release from the event touted the university’s connection to the Polish community, including its student exchange programs with universities in Poland.

In an interview in March 2013, a reporter asked Walesa where gay members of Parliament should sit. He replied, “No minority should climb all over the majority. Homosexuals should even sit behind a wall, and not somewhere at the front.”

Gay-rights groups on campus responded by protesting the naming of the hall. According to multiple articles on CNN’s iReport citizen-journalism website by Mike Lackovich, a gay student at the school who organized a protest against the hall’s name two weeks ago, the administration has disregarded requests for a name change.

Lackovich claims that keeping Walesa’s name on the hall could potentially lead to an increase in suicides by gay students, and that honoring him is analogous to burning crosses or swastikas on campus. He chided the administration for continuing the “homophobia” and argued that President Sharon Hahs would be OK with a “Hitler Hall” on campus.

At the April 10 board of trustees meeting, justice studies professor Shelley Banister delivered a petition signed by 400 members of the university community asking for Walesa’s name to be removed from the building. Such thoughts were echoed by multiple students and professors at the board meeting.

Not everyone is on board with the name change, however.

At the same meeting, Joanna Nowacka, a graduate student and president of the school’s Polish Student Association, told the board her group felt shut out. She said one group was trying to “monopolize the issue” for its own gain, without letting other voices be heard.

Some administrators also objected to removing Walesa’s name. Coordinator of International Partnerships Wojciech Wloch told Fox 32 News that Walesa’s contributions to humanity throughout his life outweigh a few errant comments he made in his old age.

President Hahs laid out actions the university would take to make amends with those who felt a name change was necessary, in an April 25, 2013, press release.

For example, the university agreed to maintain records of the campus dialogue on the issue, commission a work of art to commemorate the dialogue, and speed up the process of building an LGBT resource center.

The university has tried to work on dialogue while still maintaining its position that the name should stay.

In an emailed statement to students and faculty in April, also sent to The College Fix in response to a query, Hahs said that while Walesa’s comments did not fit into the school’s vision of inclusion, they did not cancel or redefine his accomplishments as a Polish leader.

The email noted that of the more than 20 universities that had granted Walesa honorary degrees, none had retracted them after his comments.

Hahs rejected the University Advisory Council’s recommendation to change the name, arguing in the email that such a change would “terminate the carefully worked-out response by our University community a year ago” in response to Walesa’s comments.

College Fix contributor Matt Lamb is a student at Loyola University-Chicago.

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IMAGE: Mpls55408/Flickr

Add to the Discussion

  • Marv

    comparing a polish person to hitler for not being homophilic lol stay classy chicago, one day the cps schools will start giving sex ed to 1st graders and it will be like Belgium, useful idiots for the political ideologies that keep them divided. No wonder Illinois has the highest debt of all 50 states, either delusional, ignorant, or spineless people that just accept the status quo.

  • northerncanuck

    “commission a work of art to commemorate the dialogue”

    That’s hilarious. Preposterous, but hilarious.
    I wonder who will get the commission? How much will they be paid? What will the work of art be, a giant Polish sausage perhaps?

    • Turning Leaves

      I hope the artist properly captures the emotional depth of the handwringing.

    • LlarryLLama

      an LGBT member sitting on the Polish sausage.

  • Henry Greene

    If the name of a building on your campus makes you consider of suicide, seek help immediately. The name of the building is not the problem.

    • bobbymike34

      My thoughts exactly. To paraphrase Bob Hope about his native California, “I left when they legalized homosexuality and before they made it mandatory”
      In a way is the LGBT community not making the ‘celebration’ of their lifestyle mandatory? Anything less and risk expulsion from the community.

      • mzk1_1

        They have made it mandatory, banning people from seeking help for it.

      • LlarryLLama

        LGBT is practicing discrimination, and Walesa is right..no minority should be allowed to climb all over the majority. That minority doesn’t belong behind a wall, though.

      • Reg

        Actually, Hope was a native of suburban London. His joke is even more appropriate there!

    • Erasmus

      Or even better: they could go ahead with their suicide plans and make the world a little better place for everyone.

  • Robert Michael Wonders

    Other than Marv’s, great comments. Nice to see. Sure beats all the screaming about conservatives and liberals and on and on and on…

    I will say though the intolerance of the gay community is wearing on me. Hmmm… how did he mean that?

  • bobbymike34

    So far over the top as to think it parody, alas it is not, and that makes it worse.

  • Darius

    Walesa is a hero who deserves to be honored despite his opinions on homosexuality. His accomplishments far outweigh that.

    • DeBaliviere

      Walesa should also be honored for his opinions on sodomites.

      • Darius

        Shh, were trying to win elections.

  • tarandfeatherthecrooks

    The quote was in regard to a minority “climbing all over the majority”. It is a good point.

  • mzk1_1

    So they are commissioning a work of art permanently insulting Walesa? I would ask to have my name removed in that case.

  • kevin72132003

    Perhaps the University can commission a work of art criticizing the cast of Duck Dynasty as a compromise.

  • The Lavender Mafia is really off the leash and on the prowl, if they succeed in bullying the university into un-honoring this Cold War hero.