Gay-rights activists at Northeastern Illinois University are demanding that school officials rename a building currently called Lech Walesa Hall because of a negative comment Lech Walesa once made about homosexuals.
The Chicago-area public university designated the academic building as “Lech Walesa Hall” in 2009, reports The College Fix.
Walesa, an electrician, is a Nobel Prize-winning Polish politician, trade-union organizer and human-rights activist who did as much as any other human being to free Eastern Europe from the yoke of communism. He was also the first democratically-elected president of Poland after the fall of the Soviet Bloc.
When school administrators changed the building’s name five years ago to honor Walesa, they publicized Northeastern Illinois’s relationship with Chicago’s large Polish community and its exchange programs with universities in the traditionally Catholic country.
Then, in March 2013, Walesa responded in a politically incorrect way in a television interview to a question about where gay members should sit in the country’s parliament.
“No minority should climb all over the majority,” he said, according to the Fix. “Homosexuals should even sit behind a wall, and not somewhere at the front.”
As a result, explains The Guardian, a Polish group that seeks to punish what it decides is hate speech filed a complaint against Walesa in his hometown of Gdansk. The complaint charged the former president, who is retired from political life, with encouraging a “propaganda of hate against a sexual minority.”
Earlier this month, well over a year after Walesa made his comments, a gay student at Northeastern Illinois named Mike Lackovich launched a protest against the name “Lech Walesa Hall.”
Lackovich has argued that the campus building named after Walesa might cause gay students to kill themselves, according to the Fix. He compared the academic building’s name to an endorsement of swastikas or cross burnings on campus. He also managed to compare the edifice to an imaginary building called “Hitler Hall.”
The timely, on-the-ball student was assisted by CNN, which ran the blaring headline “NEIU Board of Trustees Embrace Homophobic Leader Over Student Safety” on its CNN iReport, which aims to “paint a more complete picture of the news.”
In April, Shelley Bannister, a professor of “justice studies,” presented a petition to the school’s board of trustees seeking a name change. The petition had 400 signatures.
Officials at Northeastern Illinois have thus refused to cave into the demands to rename Lech Walesa Hall. However, they have agreed to commission a work of art to celebrate the protest. They also said they will work quickly to build an an LGBT resource center.
Not everyone is happy with the protests against Walesa. For example, the president of the school’s Polish Student Association has accused the protesters of attempting to “monopolize the issue,” notes the Fix.
Northeastern Illinois University is pretty much the definition of an academic backwater. U.S. News places the obscure school in one of its four regional rankings ghettos and then doesn’t even bother to rate it.
Bearing witness to the wisdom of U.S. News is a plaque on a historic building on the school’s campus that refers to President Abraham Lincoln as a Democrat. “This building is dedicated to public service honoring the memory of Abraham Lincoln Democrat,” the plaque reads. (RELATED: Neither This University Nor Its Students Know Lincoln Was A Republican)