Naming of the Library
Message to Campus Community (Nov. 29, 2021)
Dear Campus Community,
I write today to share with you some very concerning, recently uncovered history that has prompted me to commission a Task Force to Review the Naming of the University Library.
Last week, my senior leadership team and I were made aware that Henry Madden held deeply antisemitic views and Nazi sympathies, as reflected in his own writings and papers, which are housed in our Library Special Collections. These views run entirely contrary to Fresno State’s core values of diversity, equity and inclusion and the efforts of our campus community to live by those values. The views attributed to Dr. Madden are more than allegations; they are reflections of his beliefs as captured in his own words, and in documents he curated and donated to the Library before his passing.
While the Library has carried the Madden name since 1981, we only recently learned that his personal papers express clear antisemitic hate. The writings are part of a special collection that the Madden estate donated to the library in 1982 and that, like many collections of papers, imposed a stipulation that they be sealed until August 2007. This information made its way to senior leadership this semester after Dr. Bradley W. Hart shared his initial research findings from a 2018 book project, “Hitler's American Friends,” with students in a class instructed by Dr. Lori Clune. I want to thank Dr. Hart, and Dr. Clune and her students for bringing this information to light. Dr. Hart’s clear review of the documents allowed us to take the step of creating a task force to launch a formal review.
I recognize that this news will deeply impact those in our community in a variety of ways. First and foremost, I want members of our Jewish community to know that we stand with you and against both the historic and ongoing antisemitism that remains all too present in our society. As soon as I learned of this information, I shared it with Jerry Mann, chair of the President’s Jewish Leadership Council, who then shared it with the Council. I appreciate their willingness to work with us in our effort to ensure a safe and inclusive campus community.
This situation demonstrates the need for honest scrutiny — the willingness to reassess historical decisions to name campus buildings in honor and memorium. It is incumbent upon us to establish a process that ensures we consistently review how these decisions align with our current and future values, while also allowing us to act upon new information that might compromise these values.
I have asked Michael Lukens, executive director of Governmental Relations, to chair the group tasked with reviewing the naming of our campus library. Dr. Jill Fields, professor of History and founding director of Jewish Studies, Dr. Hart, my Cabinet colleagues and the President’s Jewish Leadership Council are hard at work in identifying a group of students, faculty, staff and community leaders for the Task Force. Collectively, this task force will work expeditiously over the next weeks and months to develop a process that will serve our campus moving forward, and safeguard our standing as a leader in the community. This task force will also consult with the Chancellor’s Office in regards to compliance with systemwide naming policies. We will share progress of this task force’s work as it gets underway.
Our work to create an inclusive community remains essential. There is a great deal still to be done, and I know that working together we will continue to lead in this effort. While we are all extremely disappointed to learn this information, it is also an important opportunity for us to redouble our commitments. We must take the time to create a process that allows us to ensure that the naming of a building or key campus area aligns with our communal values and reflects our shared spirit of discovery, diversity and distinction.
Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval, Ph.D.