Home Arts After close ties come to light, Oxford University removes Sackler’s name from museum and libraries, but keeps money

After close ties come to light, Oxford University removes Sackler’s name from museum and libraries, but keeps money

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Oxford University ended its relationship with the Sackler family after protests from staff and students.

Several members of the Sackler family were owners of Purdue Pharma, the company that produced the painkiller at the heart of the deadly opioid epidemic that is believed to have claimed more than half a million lives in the United States.

The university will remove the Sackler name from the Ashmolean Museum, the University Museum of Art and Archeology, and the Bodleian Libraries, as well as three research positions at the Ashmolean.

However, the university will retain donations received from the Sackler family and associated trusts “for the intended educational purposes,” the university said in a statement. statement published on its website. The university said it had not received a monetary donation from the family since 2019.

The Sacklers have donated more than £10million to the university, the first donation being in 1991, via two UK-based charitable trusts owned by the family. The university used the Sacklers’ money to partially build the Sackler Library, a primary research center for art history students and a key component of the university’s famous Bodleian Libraries.

The Sackler name will be removed from six university buildings, spaces and staff positions, but it will be retained on the Clarendon Arch and on the Ashmolean Museum’s donor board for ‘historical record purposes’ of donations, according to the same statement.

As the extent of the Sacklers’ ties to the opioid epidemic became clear, the university continued to nurture a relationship with the American family. The ties were maintained as Purdue tried to negotiate a multi-billion dollar bankruptcy settlement over its role in the outbreak with the US Department of Justice.

These relationships have continued to the present day. The depth of the links was revealed by a Financial Times survey.

The University of Oxford took the decision to sever ties after the conclusion of an internal review overseen by the university’s new vice-chancellor, Irene Tracey, professor of anesthetic neuroscience. The review was launched after staff and students internally raised concerns with university management about the presence of the Sackler name.

The news was welcomed by Oxford academics. Neuroscientist and author Henry Marsh, alma mater of University College Oxford, said in a Tweeter published today: “At last! I won’t have to see the name Sackler at Oxford anymore.”

Sean Ketteringham, currently a PhD student at the university, studying the National Trust’s collection of modern art, said in a Tweeter today: “It’s official: Oxford University Council met yesterday and approved the removal of the Sackler name from their galleries, libraries and publications. Finally!”

Make the link with the FinancialTimes inquiry, Ketteringham tweeted February 21: “Appalling that Oxford and the Ashmolean Museum continue to welcome association with the Sackler family while the rest of the world washes its hands of their blood money.”

“Oxford University has undertaken a review of its relationship with the Sackler family and their trusts, including how their benefits to the university are recognized,” the university said in the statement.

“As a result of this review, the University has determined that University buildings, spaces and staff positions using the Sackler name will no longer do so,” he said.

Purdue Pharma’s business model revolved around the mass marketing of OxyContin, a prescription painkiller prescribed by GPs. OxyContin was a highly addictive opioid that contributed to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of American citizens. The company has made tens of billions of dollars in profits from the sale of the drug, using a percentage of the revenue to enter the cultural sector on both sides of the Atlantic.

From 2019 to the present, a series of prominent cultural institutions have severed ties with the Sackler family and removed the Sackler name from buildings. These include the Louvre in Paris as well as the National Portrait Gallery, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the British Museum, the National Gallery and the Tate group of galleries in London. In 2021, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York also removed the Sackler name from seven exhibition spaces, including the wing that houses the Temple of Dendur.

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