We are writing today to share some important news.
After long and thoughtful deliberations, and with the values of this institution as the guiding force, Tufts University has decided to remove the Sackler name from our school of graduate biomedical sciences, from our medical education building, and from within our medical school programs.
The mission of the Tufts University School of Medicine reads, in part, “We seek to foster the development of dedicated clinicians, scientists, public health professionals, and educators who will have a sustained positive impact on the health of individuals, communities, and the world.” Our students, faculty, staff, alumni, and others have shared with us the negative impact the Sackler name has on them each day, noting the human toll of the opioid epidemic in which members of the Sackler family and their company, Purdue Pharma, are associated. We are grateful to those who have shared their thoughts with us. It is clear that the Sackler name, with its link to the current health crisis, runs counter to the school’s mission.
Specifically, the university will remove the Sackler name from 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 name does not appear on the university’s other campuses. With today’s announcement the entities will be named the Tufts Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences; the Tufts Center for Medical Education; the Tufts Laboratory for the Convergence of Biomedical, Physical, and Engineering Sciences; the Tufts Fund for Collaborative Cancer Biology Research; and the Tufts Endowed Basic Science Research Fund.
In addition, the university will establish a $3 million endowment to support education, research, and civic engagement programs aimed at the prevention and treatment of addiction and substance abuse.
In taking these actions, we will more fully enable our university and medical school to move forward in support of their missions and to help the countless individuals and families who have suffered as a result of the opioid crisis.
In making the decision to remove the Sackler name, which will begin immediately, we are not seeking to erase this chapter of Tufts’ history. It is part of this institution forever, and we are committed to appropriately recognizing and contextualizing the involvement of family members over the years. The history of the family’s relationship with Tufts begins in the 1980s and includes contributions from Arthur M. Sackler to support Tufts’ mission of scientific research and medical education to improve people’s lives. Arthur Sackler himself died in 1987, nearly a decade before Purdue Pharma introduced OxyContin, a drug intended to ease severe pain that is now at the center of the nation’s opioid crisis. With input from our community, we plan to create an educational exhibit inside the medical school to describe the Sackler family’s involvement with Tufts and to educate the community about lessons we all must learn from the opioid epidemic.
Today, we are also sharing with you the review conducted by former U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Donald K. Stern and Attorney Sandy Remz from the firm of Yurko, Salvesen & Remz. Attorneys Stern and Remz were commissioned by the university in late February 2019, as independent fact-finders, to assess Tufts’ past relationships with Purdue Pharma and members of the Sackler family, whose gifts to the university date to the 1980s. This comprehensive review required Attorney Stern to conduct numerous interviews and review records and activities related to programs that received funding from members of the Sackler family, Sackler family foundations, and Purdue Pharma.
Mr. Stern’s report found no wrongdoing by the university or its personnel, no violations of university policy, and no evidence of an arrangement by which Purdue or the Sacklers agreed to fund programs or research in exchange for certain outcomes or curriculum. There was some evidence suggesting the appearance of influence in that Tufts officials at times may have provided favored treatment to the Sacklers and Purdue or acted to avoid controversy related to them. However, they did not find there was evidence of any material impact on instruction or research.
To ensure that our policies reflect best practices with respect to academic research and integrity and avoid the appearance of influence, Mr. Stern recommended that the university take a number of steps, including: adopt stronger screening procedures for donors, enhance our gift policies, develop more stringent conflict-of-interest policies, strengthen compliance practices and leadership, and both develop and make publicly available guiding principles for gift acceptance. We thank Attorney Stern for his thorough independent review and policy recommendations, which we will seek to implement as soon as possible.
As always, we welcome your thoughts and opinions. So that we may begin a dialogue as a community, two town halls will be held in the coming days to discuss the naming decisions, the Stern report and its recommendations, and to gather your input on how the medical school will acknowledge its past relationship with the Sacklers. We hope you will consider participating in one of those meetings, which will be held tomorrow, Friday, December 6, at 1:00 p.m. in Behrakis Auditorium in the Jaharis Center on the Boston health sciences campus and on Monday, December 9, at noon in Breed Hall at 51 Winthrop Street on the Medford/Somerville campus.
We are grateful to the members of the Tufts community for their many thoughtful contributions to the discussion of these issues, and we look forward to continuing to work with you to advance the university’s important academic mission.
Peter R. Dolan, Chairman of the Board of Trustees
Anthony P. Monaco, President