Tufts is one of many institutions now reconsidering their association with the family.
The university also released results of an independent review commissioned by Tufts officials this year to examine its past relationships with Purdue Pharma and members of the Sackler family. It found no evidence that the funds skewed the academic program or that school policies were violated but suggested that, in a few instances, the company was successful in exerting influence, whether directly or indirectly, and that there was an appearance of too close a relationship between the school, company and family.
The lawyers who conducted the review suggested a series of changes Tufts could make to improve oversight and accountability of donations, such as appointing a chief compliance officer, creating a gifts policy committee and increasing training in conflicts of interest.
University leaders have committed to implementing those recommendations.
Daniel S. Connolly, an attorney for members of the Sackler family, said they would seek to have the “improper” decision reversed.
“We appreciate that after a careful inquiry Tufts determined what has been true all along, that Purdue and the Sackler family conducted themselves properly and no wrongdoing or threat to academic integrity was found. This investigation’s findings are emblematic of so many of the negative stories surrounding Purdue and the family, that a careful look at the facts proves the allegations to be false and sensational,” Connolly wrote in an email. “There is something particularly disturbing and intellectually dishonest,” he added, in juxtaposing the results of the external review with the decision to remove the name of a donor.
University leaders said the name had become inconsistent with the Tufts University School of Medicine’s values, such as a commitment to relieve suffering and improve quality of life.
“This decision also acknowledges the countless individuals and families who have suffered so much loss, harm, and sorrow as a result of the opioid crisis,” Tufts University President Anthony P. Monaco said in a written statement Thursday. “And it acknowledges members of our own community who have struggled on a daily basis with the university’s very public association with the Sackler name.”
The name had been quite prominent on the school’s Boston health sciences campus.
Now the Tufts name will replace Sackler at the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences, the Arthur M. Sackler Center for Medical Education, the Sackler Laboratory for the Convergence of Biomedical, Physical and Engineering Sciences, the Sackler Families Fund for Collaborative Cancer Biology Research and the Richard S. Sackler, M.D. Endowed Research Fund.
The university is not returning money donated by the Sacklers; the gifts will continue to be used for their intended purposes, such as biomedical research.
Tufts will create a $3 million endowment to support education, research and other efforts to prevent and treat addiction.
It will also create an exhibit about the Sackler family’s history with Tufts, which began in the 1980s, long before OxyContin was introduced, and includes contributions from members of the family unconnected with the drug.
Jillian Sackler, the widow of Arthur M. Sackler, responded to the news Thursday by saying in a written statement: “Arthur had nothing to do with OxyContin. The man has been dead for 32 years. He did not profit from OxyContin, and none of his philanthropic gifts were in any way connected to opioids or to deceptive medical marketing — which he likewise had nothing to do with. It deeply saddens me to witness Arthur being blamed for actions taken by his brothers and other OxySacklers.”
Peter Dolan, chairman of Tufts’s board of trustees, said Thursday in a written statement: “While the financial support provided by Arthur may have been intended to provide charitable support for the academic and research mission of the university, the current day association of the opioid epidemic with the Sackler name conflicts with that charitable intent. Therefore, the Board of Trustees and President Monaco decided that the named association with Tufts — particularly given the direct association with our medical and biomedical sciences school — was untenable and in opposition with the values and mission of the medical school and the university.”
This is a step the university has never taken before, Dolan said: “We were compelled to take action by the extraordinary circumstances of this public health crisis and its impact on our mission. We are grateful for the students, faculty, and alumni we met with who made it clear that the Sackler name now runs counter to the mission of the medical school, has had a negative impact on their studies and professional careers, and contradicts the purpose for which the gifts were initially given: to advance public health and research.”