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Harvard Reviews Connections to Epstein

May 4, 2020

In September 2019, Lawrence Bacow, president of Harvard University, requested a full review of the connections between late billionaire sex criminal Jeffrey Epstein and the university. On Friday that review was submitted by Diane Lopez, vice president and general counsel for the university. Bacow has made the cover letter to the report public.

The review found that between 1998 and 2008, the university received $9.1 million in gifts from Epstein, but no gifts were received after his conviction for sex crimes in 2008. Still, Epstein maintained some relationship with university staff, and the report recommended some changes to university policy.

In 2008, after $9.1 million in donations was received from the billionaire, President Drew Faust was briefed on allegations against Epstein and determined that Harvard should no longer take gifts from him. Previously, various Harvard faculty and administrators had pursued donations from Epstein. Some of these individuals continued their relationships with the billionaire, although this in itself did not violate Harvard's policies, the report said. In 2013, several faculty members asked the university to reconsider donations from Epstein, but Harvard's dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences denied this request.

Epstein was also appointed a visiting fellow in Harvard's psychology department in 2005. The review found that Epstein lacked the academic qualifications necessary but was nonetheless approved. Stephen Kosslyn, then chair of Harvard's psychology department, recommended Epstein for the fellowship in 2005. Epstein had donated $200,000 to Kosslyn for his research between 1998 and 2002. Kosslyn has since been associated with the Minerva Schools at KGI and Foundry College. Though Epstein did little in his fellowship, he applied for the following year and was reapproved, the report found.

In 2003, Epstein gave the university $6.5 million to start the Program for Evolutionary Dynamics. Epstein maintained a relationship with the program's director, Martin Nowak, over the next 15 years, including after his release from prison. Between 2010 and 2018, Epstein visited the program's offices 40 times. The program also maintained an office for Epstein's use. The review did not find evidence that Epstein engaged with undergraduates during his visits or his time as a visiting fellow, though he was a registered sex offender in Florida and New York.

The report recommended that Harvard institute a more formal communication mechanism with respect to decisions to not accept gifts from a donor. Harvard's Gift Policy Committee should evaluate a wider universe of gifts and donors and communicate criteria of the evaluation to faculty and staff, the report recommended. Furthermore, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences should consider developing further controls on visiting fellowships.

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Lilah Burke

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