Stern presents Sackler report to Board of Trustees

Ballou Hall is pictured on Apr. 20, 2018. Rachel Hartman / The Tufts Daily Archives

Former U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Donald Stern presented the findings of his investigation into the relationship between Tufts, the opioid manufacturer Purdue Pharma and its billionaire owners, the Sackler family, to the Tufts University Board of Trustees at a meeting on the weekend of Nov. 2. The investigation lasted seven months, starting in March and ending in October.

Patrick Collins, Tufts’ executive director of media relations, wrote in an email that Stern briefed the trustees on his final report and took questions during the Board’s executive session. 

The investigation is intended to dissipate the cloud of controversy that has hovered over the Hill since a January legal complaint by the Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey and a Tufts Daily investigation revealed close ties between Tufts University School of Medicine and questionable practices in the Pain Research, Education and Policy master’s program

Collins confirmed in an email to the Daily that the university will release the report to the public before the end of the year.

The Board had much on its agenda beyond the Sackler controversy. Nine new trustees, drawn mainly from the corporate and financial worlds, began their five-year terms at the meeting.

The new trustees include six elected by the current Board: Peter Fasolo, an executive vice president at the pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson; Sam Ho (M’76), the chief medical officer at UnitedHealthcare; Rebecca Neary (LA’87), who co-chairs an advisory council to Tufts University President Anthony Monaco; Jonathan Pruzan (LA’90), the chief financial officer of Morgan Stanley; Cristiana Falcone Sorrell (F’01, N’01), an Italian journalist who now works at the World Economic Forum; Ted Tye (A’79), a Newton, Mass. real estate developer; and Mariann A. Youniss (LA’83), a Boston philanthropist.

Joining their ranks are Kenneth Fan (E’01, F’07), a Somerville-based biotech entrepreneur, and Lori Roth (LA’86), a New York City real estate investor, who were elected to the Board last year by the alumni.

Peter Dolan (A’78), the Board’s chairman, praised the new trustees who will govern the university for the next five years.

“We are fortunate to have such a dedicated and engaged group with demonstrated devotion to Tufts over many years as alumni or as Tufts parents,” he wrote in a statement to the Daily. “Their energy, thoughtfulness and experience in a variety of fields – academia, the non-profit sector, finance, international business and health care – will be invaluable to us as we lead the university forward in the coming years.”

The 11 constituent committees of the Board also met over the weekend to discuss issues ranging from the recently-released mental health report to a new investment advisory committee.

The Subcommittee on Student Affairs, which was created by the Board at their meeting a year ago, met for the first time with its two voting student members, Veronica Stewart-Frommer, a sophomore at the School of Arts and Sciences, and Caitlin Fai, a fourth-year student at Tufts University School of Medicine.

In a statement provided to the Daily, Kalahn Taylor-Clark (LA’99, M’01), the chair of the Subcommittee on Student Life, says she is pleased with the progress the committee has already made in its short existence and wrote that the addition of the two student representatives was “a welcome addition.”

Taylor-Clark, an executive at Sanofi U.S., a French pharmaceutical company, added that the committee’s current focus is on the report released in October by Tufts’ Mental Health Task Force.

“We’re very pleased with the progress that the University is making on this critical issue, and are committed to ensuring this remains a top area of focus for us,” Taylor-Clark wrote.

Stewart-Frommer said that the subcommittee spent the bulk of its meeting discussing the report and how to put its recommendations into practice.

According to Stewart-Frommer, the trustees raised issues of improving prevention and removing barriers, including the complexities of navigating health insurance and finding an outside practitioner.

Meanwhile, the Academic Affairs Committee, which oversees the Student Affairs Subcommittee, took a look at the new diversity and inclusion infrastructure the administration is working to implement, according to Philip Miller, the non-voting student trustee representative on the committee.

Miller, a senior, said that the trustees talked about the dissolution of the Office for Student Success and Advising which was announced at the beginning of the semester, as well as efforts to strengthen Group of Six identity centers.

The committee’s meeting concluded with a presentation on the new federal grants Tufts received in the past year, some of which run into the tens of millions, according to Miller.

Also that weekend, Audrey Leland, Tufts’ student and young alumni philanthropy officer, and two members of Tufts Student Giving, Harry Kong, the group’s director, and Siobhan Shamlian gave a presentation to the Committee for University Advancement on efforts to encourage student donations to the university.

Kevin Gleason, the non-voting student representative on the committee, said that the trustees were initially skeptical that such an initiative could work, but the numbers Kong, Shamlian and Leland presented show that students are indeed giving.

The status of the university’s current fundraising push, Brighter World, as well as the planned redesign of the Tufts website were also discussed, according to Gleason, a senior.

One major challenge facing the university’s fundraising efforts comes from the 2017 Trump tax reform which reduced the standard deduction on charitable donations.

“The university stands at a better spot than other schools, but of course this decline in charity has been going on for years and that this tax law has impacted a lot,” Gleason said.

The meeting of the Committee for Administration and Finance  was also concerned with the university’s financial burdens, according to Charming Dube, the non-voting student representative on the committee.

Trustees mulled over strategies to tackle the deficits that have plagued Tufts’ constituent schools in recent years and led to a period of austerity, Dube, a senior, said.

“The big thing, which took up a lot of the time, was trying to figure out a way to minimize expenses and maximize revenue without having to raise tuition,” Dube said. “It also means that a lot of other places are going to be tightened up, or continue to be tightened up.”

Correction: This article has been updated to more accurately reflect Harry Kong’s role in presenting to the Board of Trustees as the student director of Tufts Student Giving, not a TCU senator. The article has also been updated to include Siobhan Shamlian, another student who presented to the Trustees with Kong. The Daily regrets these errors.