Activists, students and other members of the Northeastern Illinois University ( NEIU ) community are continuing actions aimed at having the name of a campus building named after former Polish president and labor leader Lech Walesa changed.
About 30 protestors congregated on the NEIU campus June 11, according to organizer and student Mike Lackovich, shortly before the university's board of regents' bimonthly meeting.
"We're holding [NEIU President Sharon] Hahs and the board of trustees to the same standard that we are held to," Lackovich told Windy City Times, adding that the board's silence on the matter in effect enables hate speech. "Students are held to a code of conduct regarding the language they use."
Lackovich in recent months has been helping spearhead a protest was launched last year after Walesa's March 2013 comments that gay politicians in Poland had no right to a prominent position in politics there, even suggesting that they "sit to the rear" of parliament chambers or "behind a wall." He refused to back pedal from the comment, maintaining that he was not homophobic the following day, pledging, "I will not apologize to anyone."
Several panels and discussions were held on the matter at NEIU, but, in the end, the university did not change the name of Lech Walesa Hall, which was dedicated in a 2009 ceremony that Walesa himself attended.
In April of this year, Hahs released a statement to the NEIU community that said the name would remain: "Overall, I believe the Dialogue process and Outcomes reflect that President Walesa's comments neither define the man nor cancel his achievements. They also reflect that we agree that those comments remain contrary to our Values, and that we re-affirm our support for inclusion on an equal basis of all members of our community."
That month, a number of protestors spoke at the Board of Trustees meeting, asking that the proposed name change be included on the Board's agenda for June. But the Board refused.
At the June meeting, faculty member Shelly Bannister, who has also been active in the protest efforts, spoke during public comments, noting that the group's objections to the name had been met with silence from the board.
"This isn't just theaterthis is our way of publicly communicating with you," Bannister said, addressing the board. "I don't know how else we can do this. I don't know how else we can reach out to you."
Lackovich said that he and fellow protestors will for now keep trying to apply pressure to the administration, and hope to put the matter before Gov. Pat Quinn.
"We have to skip over [the board of regents'} heads on this," he added. "We are going to have a tent at Pride Fest, and bring this to people's attention."
Shelly Bannister's comments can be seen at youtu.be/WmkLQmq48v0 .