Tufts University joins the growing list of institutional beneficiaries of Sackler donations seeking to distance themselves from the Sackler name, which has become inextricably associated with the opioid crisis that continues to ravage the nation.

Purdue Pharma, a pharmaceutical company privately owned by several members of the Sackler family, is best known for its aggressive marketing of OxyContin, the narcotic painkiller widely blamed for triggering the nation’s opioid addiction epidemic.

Back in 2007, Purdue pleaded guilty in federal court to criminal charges of misbranding OxyContin with the intent to mislead doctors, patients, and regulators by minimizing the drug’s addictive qualities. Today, Purdue faces thousands of civil suits as states, municipalities, and counties seek to hold the pharmaceutical dynasty accountable for its predatory and deceptive marketing tactics.

Additionally, several members of the Sackler family, who reportedly reaped billions of dollars from OxyContin sales, are named in lawsuits that seek to expose the extent to which the Sacklers are personally complicit in Purdue’s transgressions.

It is against this tumultuous background that Tufts University President Tony Monaco announced the immediate removal of the Sackler name from various buildings and programs associated with the university’s medical school.

Monaco’s announcement followed an independent investigation, led by former U.S. Attorney Donald K. Stern, into Tufts’ philanthropic relationship with the Sacklers. The investigative report provides a revealing glimpse into the ins and outs of Sackler dealings with the higher-ups at Tufts, and documents the $15 million in Sackler and Purdue donations that Tufts accepted over the span of nearly four decades.

While Stern found the university guilty of no wrongdoing, he did find evidence that Purdue Pharma successfully used its relationship with Tufts to advance its own interests.

Tufts isn’t the only elite Massachusetts university with campus facilities bearing the notorious Sackler name.

Harvard University is once again in the hot seat as it faces public pressure to reconcile its philanthropic ties to donors now recognized as tainted. Harvard’s relationship with the Sacklers is not as extensive as Tufts’, and both Harvard’s acceptance of Sackler gifts and the granting of naming rights occurred well before OxyContin was developed (Tufts, on the other hand, accepted Sackler money both before and after Purdue started pushing OxyContin).

Unlike Tufts, Harvard refuses to remove the Sackler name from its buildings. University President Lawrence Bacow said that such an action would be “inappropriate” because the Sackler family member who gave liberally to Harvard and subsequently received naming rights—Arthur M. Sackler—died roughly a decade before OxyContin came to market.

It seems that Bacow entirely ignored the argument gaining traction among those who wish to rid Harvard of the Sackler name: that Arthur Sackler shares responsibility for the nation’s opioid crisis because he pioneered the aggressive marketing tactics that Purdue Pharma later employed to push OxyContin.

Tufts and Harvard’s respective Sackler problems should be seen as red flags by universities that might be tempted to attract large donors by extending naming rights.

Philanthropy must satisfy the appearance of philanthropy. If a donor’s gift is contingent on the beneficiary promising to append the donor’s name to institutional facilities or programs, then let’s call this what it really is—a business transaction.

Donors have much to gain by associating themselves with prestigious institutions of higher education like Tufts and Harvard. Such associations provide donors (and their corresponding corporations and foundations) with an air of legitimacy and allow them to bolster their reputations in the public eye.

For donors with less-than-stellar motivations, these benefits could very well mask their true intentions, and, unless university officials remain vigilant, could enable donors to exert undue influence on the institution’s instruction and research.

It’s one thing for universities to accept gifts for which no naming rights are extended. Reasonable people can disagree about whether or not a university should accept “no strings attached” gifts, even when these gifts come from donors as morally suspect as the Sacklers

For example, when Harvard first refused calls to return or redirect monies accepted from the now-deceased sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, Harvard’s then-interim president Derek Bok cited the important research that Epstein’s gifts were used to fund, and argued that accepting a gift does not imply endorsement of the benefactor’s views or behavior (Harvard has since recanted).

But accepting gifts in exchange for naming rights is another matter entirely, because naming buildings or programs (or entire universities) after a donor is clearly intended to honor the donor. While honoring a donor is not synonymous with a blanket endorsement of the donor’s views and behavior, the distinction is murky enough to invite serious moral concerns about a university’s seeming endorsement, or at least seeming indifference, toward the views and actions of the donor it honors.

Of course, when the honored donor turns out to be the likes of the Sacklers, these concerns are exacerbated exponentially, and universities come to bear the moral consternation of their students, faculty, and the public.

Universities can avoid these very public debacles by simply refusing to extend naming rights to benefactors. No amount of money is worth the risk of subsequently discovering that the honored donor is morally reprehensible. And no matter how blameless a benefactor might appear at the time of donation, the simple truth is that universities have no way of knowing what future misdeeds a donor might commit, nor what misdeeds a donor might already have committed and concealed.

By refusing to grant naming rights to donors, universities can devote their full attention to fulfilling their stated missions and embodying their stated values, without having the added (and demanding) burden of ensuring that their donors embody these values as well.

Monika Greco is a 2019 graduate of the philosophy master’s program at Tufts University.