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Walesa Hall: NEIU students, staff call for building renaming after anti-gay comments

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

College campuses are filled with buildings named for famous people, usually without controversy. But, Northeastern Illinois University has been having a heated debate over a building named for Lech Walesa, a polish national hero.

Five years ago, Northeastern Illinois University named an entire building in Lech Walesa's honor and University President Sharon Hahs presented it as a “beacon of hope and democracy.”

Now, Hahs has said "no" to a committee's recommendation that the name be changed. The issue has been a hot one since a year ago, when Walesa said that gays should be not be allowed on the front benches of the polish legislature or should even sit behind a wall.

Tim Barnett is one of 20 or so professors who say Walesa's name dishonors the diversity for which the school takes pride. The administration hasn't ignored the controversy.

“I just think that his comments fly in the face of what we stand for,” Barnett believes.

President Hahs has condemned Walesa's sentiments and implemented special programs to explore related issues. She declined to be interviewed, but others agree that Walesa's name should stay.

“I think we should value him for what he's done for humanity and for peace on earth, rather than what he's saying in his older age,” NEIU Coordinator of International Partnerships Wojciech Wloch says.

Ironically, many of the students and professors who are most upset about the name of the building have to see it every day, because the departments where they work and study, like women’s' and gender studies, are inside Lech Walesa Hall.

“I'm confused about the school, because the school is teaching me diversity and integrity, and I’m not seeing that,” student Kelvin Johnson said.

But the president of the school's Polish Student Association studies political science in Lech Walesa Hall and it makes her proud.

“I feel proud, definitely proud, that there are polish people which academic institutions want to commemorate,” student Joanna Nowacka told FOX 32.

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