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    Posted June 10, 2014 by
    chicago, Illinois

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    NEIU Board of Trustees Embrace Homophobic Leader Over Student Safety


    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     mlackovich is a photographer, LGBT activist and student at Northeastern Illinois University. He shared these photos from a protest he organized at the school June 9. He said they plan a larger protest on Thursday at the school's Board of Trustees meeting.

    In 2009, Northeastern Illinois University dedicated Lech Walesa Hall in honor of the former President of Poland. Over the past year, students have called for the building to be renamed in the wake of anti-gay comments Walesa made in March 2013. On March 7, 2014, a University Advisory Council recommended the name be removed from Lech Walesa Hall.

    In an April email to students and faculty, which was provided to CNN, Hahs rejected the recommendation. She acknowledged that Walesa's comments were "completely contrary to our values at Northeastern," but "neither define the man nor cancel his achievements." She went on to say that Walesa has received honorary doctorates from more than 20 U.S. universities and none has reversed the honor in response to his comments last year.

    "Given the strong connections between our university and the Polish American community and Poland itself, it is especially appropriate that Northeastern honored President Walesa in this way. Chicago is the home of the largest Polish community in the United States; the University has formal exchange agreements with several Polish universities; Polish American students are a part of the diverse mix of students which makes Northeastern so important, and interesting, as a university."

    Later in the email, she wrote: "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."

    Since the controversy, the school has agreed to develop an LBGTQA Resource Center, add an optional question regarding sexual orientation on Northeastern's undergraduate and graduate admissions applications and other measures. You can read more about those efforts here.
    - dsashin, CNN iReport producer

    Northeastern Illinois University refuses to remove Lech Walesa's name from main campus building over objections from students and staff.


    Students and staff of NEIU have gone to the board several times to have the name removed from the building after he made homophobic and bigoted comments last year. He made comments that gays should not be allowed in politics. They should be moved to the back of the room or put behind a wall.


    Lech Walesa went on to say that all minorities should not force their views on the majority. This would apply to women, people of color and any minority religions.


    NEIU President Sharon Hahs set up a special community forum for people to voice the impact and make a decision. Despite the messaging of safety on campus, the potential for increased suicide among LGBT students and comments made do NOT reflect the NEIU values, Sharon Hahs and the Board of Trustees have ignored the request.


    In fact, Ms. Hahs in an April 2014 email to the university community states that the homophobic comments should not diminish his accomplishments. This sick logic continues to ellude many of the people on campus.


    Imagine attending a school where they had Hitler Hall. Hitler did amazing things for the German people. He pulled them from 30% unemployment. People were living in parks and eating grass from the lawns to survive. Applying Ms. Hahs' "logic" we should forgive him the holocaust.


    The hypocrisy does not stop there. NEIU continues to call itself the most diverse school in the Midwest based on a US News and World Report article. Maybe it is time for US News and World Report to reassess this standing.


    Ms. Hahs and this board endanger the student body with their "free pass" on homophobia. What are the repercussions for a student using homophobic slurs? It's in the handbook as misconduct, but Ms. Hahs doesn't care. They should be given a "free pass" as well. They gave it to Lech Walesa.


    This mentality is disturbing, disgusting and abhorrent!


    Lech Walesa's name on that building is a sign of an oppressor. Much in the same way that a swastika or burning cross would affect a oppressed people.


    Lech Walesa was made aware of the disruptions his comments and disrespect have caused on campus. He is unapologetic.


    The students and staff are organizing state and local officials to assist with the removal of this name. They are reaching out to the LGBTQA community to start impacting.


    With the opening of the new shiny building called El Centro will come the stigma, hurt and pain from the main campus drama. Currently the school enrollment is down. It will continue to drop as more of the public become aware of the unchecked bigotry and homophobia that Sharon Hahs and the Board of Trustees condones.


    Talk on campus from students is that of finding a truly diverse school. One that doesn't give homophobes power to abuse minorities through oppression.


    Protests on campus have begun. Students and staff stand together saying remove the name. They will not stop until the oppressive name is gone.


    Larger and larger protests are planned and incorporating more of the community. When will the President of NEIU and the Board of Trustees realize that this disruption is their fault and that the students are holding them accountable to the same Values that they are?


    People like this listen and realize when it is too late.

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