California State University, Fresno, is considering changing the name of its college library after new information surfaced revealing the person the building is named after was antisemitic and expressed sympathy for Nazi Germany.
The president of Fresno State, Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval, sent an email to faculty and students on Tuesday announcing that he was creating an 18-member task force to research a potential name change, according to a letter shared on social media.
University staff are responding to allegations against Henry Madden, a librarian at the university who served there until 1979. The library adopted Madden's name for the building in 1981, a year before he died.
Jiménez-Sandoval said the revelations about Madden "extremely disappointed" the college community.
“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,” Jiménez-Sandoval wrote in the letter. "This situation demonstrates a need for honest scrutiny — the willingness to reassess historical decisions to name campus buildings."
Letters and other writings from Madden are antisemitic and sympathetic to Nazis. Madden's estate donated the writings in 1982, but they were not unsealed until 2007, according to the president.
Students began complaining about Madden's antisemitic views to the college's administration this year after a professor, Bradley Hart, introduced his 2018 book, "Hitler's American Friends," to a class for the first time. Hart's book references writings from Madden.
"Whenever I see one of those predatory noses, or those roving and leering eyes, or those slobbering lips, or those flat feet, or those nasal and whiny voices I tremble with rage and hatred," Madden is quoted as writing in one letter in Hart's book, according to ABC 30. "They are the oppressors. ... Whom do I hate more than the Jews?"
Madden served briefly in World War II, according to Hart's research reviewed by The Washington Post. He first joined Fresno State as a college librarian in 1949, growing the collection of books and writings significantly.
Madden became "a recognized leader in the library profession, particularly in the area of intellectual freedom, but his most important accomplishment was the development of a library collection that, for its size, is unparalleled in diversity, quality, and depth," according to the Association of College & Research Libraries.
The Hill has reached out to Fresno State for comment.