TCU Senate calls on university to respond to Sackler accusations, opioid crisis

The Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senate met to hear two resolutions, review announcements on Swipe It Forward and tenure track position funding in the Consortium of Studies on Race, Colonialism, and Diaspora and hear several supplementary funding requests on Sunday evening in the Sophia Gordon Multipurpose Room.

The resolutions, titled “S. 19-5 A Resolution Calling for Tufts University to Explain their Complicity in the Opioid Crisis and Clarify the Oversight of Trustees and Advisors” and “S. 19-6 A Resolution Calling for Systematic Increases in the Influence and Presence of Student Voice on the Tufts University Board of Trustees.”

The TCU Senate passed both resolutions.

The first resolution, authored by TCU Senators Jonah O’Mara Schwartz, a senior; Sarah Wiener, a sophomore; Shane Woolley, a senior; and Trustee Representative Connor Goggins, a sophomore, follows Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey’s June 2018 lawsuit against Purdue Pharma and its executives for misleading the public on the addictive nature of opioid medications and profiting from the enterprise.

The text of the resolution explains that Purdue Pharma, which the Sackler family has historically controlled, has wielded influence over pain research, literature access and education since the foundation of the Sackler School of Biomedical Sciences and its Master of Science in Pain Research, Education and Policy. The resolution asks that “Tufts release information regarding potential complicity by the Tufts administration in allowing the School of Medicine’s academic curricula to be unduly influenced by Purdue.” 

O’Mara Schwartz explained that the scope of Tufts’ alumni footprint in the medical sector amplifies the culpability that the university holds, since many Tufts Medical School graduates work across states with the highest rates of opioid addiction, such as Massachusetts and Maine. 

O’Mara Schwartz added that Tufts’ administration should not dismiss this resolution in the same way they have responded to previous resolutions.

“Until the decision makers at Tufts are lowered from their ivory towers where they can’t hide from the students, the public and any recourse from their actions, Tufts has failed to learn its lesson,” O’Mara Schwartz said.

Woolley explained how Tufts should begin to respond.

“It’s possible that Tufts may remove the Sackler name from buildings as many are asking for, and consider the whole matter done,” Woolley said. “We’d like to reiterate that this is not enough. Tufts University must explain how the MS-PREP program or Richard Sackler’s tenure as an advisor continued for years. ”

Woolley added that systemic changes must be considered in order to fully address the situation.

“Tufts must then change the bylaws, the lack of oversight and perhaps who it employs to prevent this from happening again,” Woolley said.

After debate ended, the resolution passed with 27 senators in favor, none opposed and one abstaining.

The second resolution, authored by TCU President Jacqueline Chen and TCU Vice President Adam Rapfogel, as well as Wiener, O’Mara Schwartz and Woolley, called for the addition of student-elected voting members to the Board of Trustees.

The text of the resolution explains that under the current system, three undergraduate students are appointed each year to attend committee meetings of the Board of Trustees but lack voting power and the ability to attend all meetings of the Board of Trustees.

The resolution cites 18 instances of state college and university systems, state laws and private colleges and universities that allow for or require undergraduate students or recent graduates to have full voting membership on their respective institution’s Board of Trustees.

The resolution also calls for four undergraduates to be elected to the Board of Trustees, taking office for four-year terms upon graduation.

Chen, a senior, explained that the authors introduced the resolution with the hope of making the high-level, long-term decisions that the Board of Trustees makes more accessible to undergraduate students, and make the Board of Trustees itself more representative of the Tufts Community.

Rapfogel, also a senior, compared the system that the resolution calls for to one already in place at another institution.

“All we’re asking for is like what Princeton has,” Rapfogel said. “Where students are elected after they graduate, so it’s not like they have some conflict of interest regarding the decisions they make.”

After debate ended, the resolution was passed with 28 senators in support and none opposed.

Chen also announced the further institutionalization of the Swipe It Forward meal bank program, following a meeting with her, Rapfogel and Executive Vice President Patricia Campbell.

“Starting next year, all premium meal plans will automatically be donating one swipe per semester,” Chen said. “This is really exciting because it’ll start out with 1,500 meal swipes.”

Rapfogel also announced the Consortium of Studies on Race, Colonialism, and Diaspora, which will have full academic departmental status by fall 2019, is set to grow substantially in the immediate future.

“Tufts received from the [Andrew W.] Mellon Foundation a $1.5-million grant to cover three tenure-track positions within the [Consortium of Studies on Race, Colonialism, and Diaspora],” Rapfogel said.

The TCU Senate also heard several supplementary funding requests from student organizations.

The first of these was Students for Justice in Palestine, which sought $3,520 to cover speaker costs for events during Israeli Apartheid Week, according to an Allocations Board (ALBO) report. TCU Senate voted to allocate the requested amount, with 24 senators in favor, none opposed and four abstaining.

The Arab Students Association sought $3,460 for additional speaker costs for Israeli Apartheid Week, which was approved by the TCU Senate with 24 senators in favor, none opposed and four abstaining.

ENVY sought $100 to cover transportation costs to a competition in Worcester but was only recommended $88 by ALBO, according to its report. The TCU Senate passed the ALBO-recommended total by acclamation.

ROOTSxSWAT sought $2,500 to cover the costs for a feature poet at its send-off show before a major competition, according to an ALBO report. TCU Senate allocated the requested amount, which was passed by acclamation.

Design for Social Good, a newly recognized student group, was sought $485 for its new group budget, according to an ALBO report. TCU Senate approved the requested amount, which was passed by acclamation.

The Vietnamese Student Club sought $1,800 for a performer at its culture show on April 13, according to an ALBO report. The TCU Senate voted to approve the requested amount, which was passed by acclamation.

Sino-US Relations & Group Engagement sought $5,114 to cover costs for seven speakers at its upcoming symposium, but was only recommended $4,014 by ALBO, according to its report.

The TCU Senate approved the ALBO-recommended total of $4,014 with 20 senators in favor, three opposed and five abstaining.

Cooperation and Innovation in Citizenship sought $623.60 to cover food costs for its upcoming policy challenge on housing policy, which visiting undergraduate students from the University of Michigan will attend. The ALBO-recommended total of $276 was passed with 15 senators in support, nine opposed and three abstaining.

ALLIES was allocated $2,653 by the TCU Senate for a field simulation event, which ALBO members explained was a recommendation  representative of personal contribution requirements in the treasury procedures manual.


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