MIT Apologizes, Says Jeffrey Epstein Gave $800K

August 23, 2019

L. Rafael Reif, president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said in a campus announcement Thursday that the late sex offender and financier Jeffrey Epstein donated approximately $800,000 spanning 20 years to the university via his foundations. Reif also promised to donate that much to a charity benefiting Epstein’s victims or other sexual abuse survivors. “With hindsight, we recognize with shame and distress that we allowed MIT to contribute to the elevation of [Epstein’s] reputation, which in turn served to distract from his horrifying acts,” Reif said.

All of Epstein’s funds went to either the MIT Media Lab -- from which two scholars resigned this week in protest -- or to Seth Lloyd, Nam Pyo Suh Professor of Physics and Mechanical Engineering. Both Lloyd and Joi Ito, director of the Media Lab, have apologized, Reif said, but the situation requires an institutional response, too. Faculty members are not “on their own” regarding gifts, but rather are subject to long-standing processes and principles. And in the case of Epstein’s donations, Reif said, "we made a mistake of judgment."

Provost Marty Schmidt will convene a group to study the Epstein donations and current policies on gifts and suggest ways to do better. Any faculty members with questions about a funder may also reach out to MIT’s Office of the Recording Secretary, Reif said.

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