Lech Walesa Hall follow-up: artwork taken down is relief to some



Lech Walesa Hall on NEIU’s main campus.

Will Jones, Writer

The artwork removal located in Lech Walesa Hall (LWH) was one of the first decisions made by President Gibson. There appeared to be outrage over the offensive move by the new president, but some professors who have offices in LWH expressed relief.

In the Independent’s Aug. 28 article, “President Gibson: Art installation in Lech Walesa Hall ‘has now run its course,’ several NEIU community members expressed concern, but others did not agree.

The artwork was a series of multiple slides that cycled through ten and fifteen second intervals, longer than a student would walk across on their way to class. The slideshow began with a timeline of Walesa’s anti-gay oratory followed by the university’s equality statement.

Department Head of the Women and Gender Studies Dr. Laurie Fuller said, “Although the monitors showed the resistance, there wasn’t enough context about what we were protesting. The screen pictures stayed on equal time onto Lech Walesa’s comments that were negative. His comments about how gays and lesbians should be behind a wall were visible for all eyes to see.”

Adjunct Lecturer from Women and Gender Studies Liliana Maricas recalled the historical elements behind why the artwork was displayed in the first place.

Lech Walesa, who is a well decorated political figure, had his name engraved on one of the main buildings on the university’s campus according to Maricas.

Walesa fought for democracy for his people in Poland and won a Nobel Peace Prize. In 2013, the former Polish president suggested gay polish politicians should stay “behind a wall.”

In an interview with CNN, Walesa said, “I will not apologize to anyone… All I said (was) that minorities, which I respect, should not have the right to impose their views on the majority. I think most of Poland is behind me.”

The minority Walesa referred to was people who identify within the LGBTQ community.

“The artwork that was displayed on the monitors were a response to [Walesa’s]  hateful and dispariging comments [towards] the LGBTQ community. The group decided instead to create an artwork that would represent the community despite the building’s commemoration of a person who is openly homophobic,” Maricas said.

Sociology professor Dr. Olivia Perlow said President Gibson made a small step in the right direction by turning off the monitors.

“What President Gibson could do is be more revolutionary and take the name of the building down,” Perlow said. “I believe in justice, I believe in doing what’s right regardless of the consequences.”

Dr. Juan Martinez, a new sociology assistant professor, said he isn’t familiar with the artwork in Lech Walesa Hall, but he is aware of the diversity on NEIU’s campus.

“There’s no need for hate here … because this is an inclusive community,” Martinez said.