No Action, Few Comments on Lech Walesa Controversy



Lech Walesa Hall on NEIU’s main campus.

Cecilia G. Hernandez, Writer

Since President Gibson sent out a very brief email announcing her decision to take down the art installation in the Lech Walesa Hall on Aug. 17, she has made no further comment.

“At this time, the president doesn’t have anything more to add,” Director of Strategic Communications Mike Hines said to the Independent via email on Sept. 5.

During a Student Government Association (SGA) meeting on Sept. 4, the Lech Walesa controversy was not on the agenda. The Independent highlighted the situation to SGA during the audience participation portion, which was at the end of the hour-and-a-half meeting.

After the Independent asked if SGA could take any action concerning the controversy, SGA President Ashlei Ross said, “We are looking into the process on how to approach this situation, but as of right now, SGA and myself do not have a comment.”

Ross continued to offer an explanation for Gibson’s decision to shut down the art installation.

“The reason, I think, the art installation was taken down was because the first thing students would see when entering that building is his (Lech Walesa’s) quote that minorities belong ‘behind a wall,’” Ross said. “So it was an unwelcoming and hurtful message to some students and faculty.”

The art installation was a slideshow portraying the various forms of art created by the NEIU community. Students expressed how they felt after hearing Lech Walesa’s comments against the LGBTQ+ community and minority groups in different forms of art.

The art installation was placed into the University’s archives.

“The art installation was seen as a compromise situation. We would keep the name but show the controversy surrounding it (Lech Walesa) at the same time,” English Professor and First-Year Writing Coordinator Vicky Byard said in an article by the Independent called, “President Gibson: Art Installation in Lech Walesa Hall has now ‘run its course.’”

“Changing the name of that building (Lech Walesa Hal) is above President Gibson’s pay grade,” Ross said. “The Board of Trustees decide on that.”

The Independent emailed the Board of Trustees regarding the Lech Walesa Hall Controversy on Sept. 4.

“I will share it with the Chair and get back with you once I hear back from him,’ Karl Voigt, assistant secretary to the Board of Trustees, said via email to the Independent on Sept. 5.

“We are working on this issue,” Ross said via email to the Independent after the SGA meeting on Sept. 4. “(We) will be meeting with Dr. Gibson and working on a presentation to the Board of Trustees.”

Look out for the follow-up article on the Lech Walesa Controversy on Sept. 25.