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Fresno State Plans to Remove Anti-Semite’s Name From Library

December 2, 2021

California State University, Fresno, has announced the formation of a task force to rename the Henry Madden Library after learning that its namesake expressed anti-Semitic views.

“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,” President Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval wrote Monday. “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 that he curated and donated to the Library before his passing.”

The statement on Fresno State’s website notes the library was named for Madden in 1981.

Madden was a long-serving staff member at Fresno State, working in the university library from 1949 until his retirement in 1979, according to an article from the American Library Association.

The statement from Fresno State notes that Madden’s anti-Semitic views and Nazi sympathies were uncovered in writings donated in 1982 but sealed until 2007, per an agreement with Madden’s estate. Madden’s objectionable views first came to light as part of a 2018 book project on American Nazi sympathizers by Fresno State communications professor Bradley W. Hart. Hart shared his findings with students, which ultimately brought them to the attention of leadership.

No clear timeline for the name change was given in the announcement of the task force. University websites still currently include the Madden name.

The announcement of the proposed name change follows a string of similar moves across higher education. In 2020, Princeton College dropped the name of former U.S. president Woodrow Wilson from its School of Public and International Affairs, as well as from a residential college, citing his racist views and actions. More recently, in September, Middlebury College changed the name of a chapel that honored a former Vermont governor and eugenicist. Likewise, several community colleges in Virginia adopted new names earlier this year, looking to distance themselves from the problematic history of their namesakes.

Other institutions have resisted calls to cut ties to those with tarnished legacies. Trustees at Washington and Lee University, for example, voted in June to retain its name, even though its namesake Robert E. Lee, a past president of the college, was also the commander of the Confederate army. Likewise, the governing board of the University System of Georgia voted in November not to rename 75 buildings named for individuals who supported slavery, racial segregation or other oppressive policies, according to The Washington Post.

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Josh Moody

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