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Naming of the Library

Message to Campus Community (May 18, 2022)

Dear Campus Community,

I am writing to update you on the latest developments related to the Henry Madden Library.

After careful reflection and the extraordinary work of the Task Force to Review the Naming of the University Library, I will formally recommend that the California State University Board of Trustees approve the removal of Henry Madden’s name from the university’s library. This request is supported by the Task Force as well as our Associated Students (ASI) and the Academic Senate.

The Board of Trustees is expected to act on the recommendation at its July 12 meeting.

Here is the text of a letter I sent to Executive Vice Chancellor and Chief Financial Officer Steven Relyea:

On behalf of the Fresno State community and the community at large, I am writing to formally recommend that the California State University Board of Trustees approve the removal of Henry Madden’s name from the university’s library. This request is supported by the Task Force to Review the Naming of the University Library and Fresno State’s Academic Senate.

After learning last fall that Dr. Madden held deeply antisemitic views and Nazi sympathies, as reflected in his own writings, I formed the Task Force to Review the Naming of the Library composed of people from the community as well as representatives of students, faculty, and staff. The Task Force oversaw a thorough and comprehensive five-month investigation of 53 boxes of material containing more than 100,000 letters and documents that Dr. Madden donated to the university. A team of highly respected Fresno State researchers and scholars, assisted by 12 Fresno State history students, conducted an analysis of the contents of the boxes as well as other relevant materials from third-party sources and recollections of living faculty and staff who knew Dr. Madden.

The analysis centered on determining whether there had been a development of thought that led Dr. Madden to reject the hateful views that he held as a young man. Since Dr. Madden personally curated the materials before turning them over to the library, he was fully aware of their contents and knowingly included the disturbing letters and documents in the collection. While Dr. Madden had the opportunity later in life to reflect on those views, there is no evidence that he renounced those views.

Indeed, Dr. Madden did not leave documentation of having changed his mind or having made apologies about the deeply hateful racists views he held. Indeed, it is unfortunate that undercurrents of his racist views remained palpable throughout his life.

The Task Force’s 74-page report exposes Dr. Madden’s hateful views, their demonstrable impact on his career as a university administrator, and the profound negative impact that his legacy has on the community.

Based on the available record, the Task Force’s report unanimously found that Dr. Madden:

  1. expressed antisemitic and pro-Nazi views before World War II, some of which included violent statements;
  2. continued to express antisemitic sentiments after World War II;
  3. never apologized for, expressed remorse about, or otherwise attempted to make amends for his antisemitic or pro-Nazi views at any point;
  4. never expressed empathy or sympathy for Jewish victims of Nazi crimes, including the Holocaust;
  5. made racist remarks about Jews and other individuals (Asians, Mexicans, for example) as an administrator at California State University, Fresno;
  6. stated in writing that some of his policies and actions as an administrator were influenced by his racist views.

The Board of Trustees approved the naming of the library in 1980, following a campaign by his colleagues to honor him for building the library’s collection and his defense of intellectual freedom. However, the Task Force report clearly states that the Board of Trustees acted on an incomplete picture of who Dr. Madden was and of the values that mattered to him. Effectively, it is important to note that Dr. Madden’s papers were not donated to the library until 1982. In addition, in accordance with his wishes, Dr. Madden’s personal papers were closed for 25 years until August 27, 2007, when they were made available for public use.

Given the deeply hurtful and disturbing views expressed by Dr. Madden in his writings, it is now imperative that Dr. Madden’s name be removed from the library as an important and necessary step toward healing for our community. A name associated with Nazism and racist views is antithetical to a center of learning and academic exploration. I firmly believe that the naming of a building or any key campus area must align with our communal values and reflect our shared spirit of discovery, diversity, and distinction.

Thank you for your consideration of this recommendation.

Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval, Ph.D.