It shouldn’t take too much activism or comment to convince our leaders at Tufts that severing ties with the Sackler family is a good idea. More than 130 people die each day in the U.S. due to opioid overdoses in an epidemic kicked off in the 1990s by Purdue Pharma and their aggressive marketing of OxyContin. The Sackler family name graces the Tufts Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, but the university remains frozen, unable to take a stand against a wealthy patron even as lawsuits mount from more than 500 cities, counties, and tribes across the United States. University President Tony Monaco instead decided to equivocate, releasing a note to the Tufts community on March 25 announcing the hiring of a special investigator to review the university’s relationship with the Sackler family and recommend a course of action. Evidently, Tufts believes a single lawyer will deliver clearer results than volumes of publicly available information and nearly two decades of accusations, lawsuits and epidemic death across our nation. Tufts will wait until Attorney Donald Stern delivers his review “prior to making any final decisions.”
This, without question, is a morally bankrupt course of action for Tufts to take. The Sackler family has shown a consistent lack of empathy toward the American people and patients abroad, even suggesting that the blame for opioid addiction lay on those who were prescribed the painkillers by their doctors. Decades of shameless profiteering by the Sacklers have brought us all to a moment of reckoning. I know people who have died as a result of this epidemic. Nearly everyone does.
In 2015, Monaco showed no such hesitation and did not await the results of Bill Cosby’s 2017 trial before revoking his honorary degree at the recommendation of the Board of Trustees. But, of course, Tufts has to conduct special investigation — paid for by our hard-earned tuition dollars — to confirm that the Sacklers have the same “lack of character and integrity that clearly does not represent the values to which our university is committed and for which [they were] honored,” as Monaco wrote of Bill Cosby. To be clear, there is a precedent for the revocation of university honors.
In 2015, Tufts University’s leadership clearly placed great value on the accusations against Bill Cosby and determined that it would be a poor choice to continue its association with the once-beloved public figure who is now a convicted felon. Today, the university is failing to place the same value on the thousands of accusations against the Sackler family and Purdue Pharma. Why are the Sacklers being held to a higher standard of evidence than Cosby? Perhaps it is because Tufts views right and wrong in a different light when money is involved.
There is no question that we must repeal and replace the Sackler name at Tufts. Take that hateful name off of our medical school, and revoke the two honorary degrees given unnecessarily to members of the Sackler family. We don’t need their violence at Tufts, nor do we need leadership that is unwilling or unable to stand for what is right.