Some MIT researchers and officials caused "significant harm" to the school by taking money from Jeffrey Epstein and arranging frequent campus visits for him even after his conviction for procuring an underage prostitute even in the face repeated warnings from people on campus who knew better and who told them, as late as 2017, to stop it, a law firm hired by the school to look at its Epstein connections concludes.
The report, by lawyers at Goodwin Procter, said some officials even told then Media Lab director Joi Ito he had a duty to take money from a Level 3 sex offender because "society is better off if money from 'bad' sources is put to good uses" and that some went out of their way to hide the donations and visits, because even in their zeal for money, realized it wouldn't look good to be associated with the guy.
Still the lawyers continue that none of the officials at the Media Lab and a mechanical-engineering professor were not motivated by "any self-interest or financial reward." And the four-month investigation, which included "73 interviews of 59 witnesses and a review of more than 610,000 emails," showed that MIT President L. Rafael Reif had no knowledge of the donations and visits, let alone about attempts to cover them up.
In a statement, the MIT Corporation's Executive Committee said it was collectively aghast at the Level 3 sex offender's donations and ready access to some on campus:
The revelations have been particularly painful to those in the community who, themselves, are victims of sexual assault and abuse. ...
The Committee is troubled that MIT had a relationship with Epstein and that it was more extensive and lasted longer than has been publicly reported. The solicitation of donations led to multiple campus visits by Epstein that involved various faculty members and, in at least one visit, some students. All of this was fundamentally incompatible with MIT’s values and flew in the face of the community’s ongoing efforts to combat sexual assault and abuse, and to address broader issues related to gender and power.
Among the report's findings:
The investigation revealed that, between 2002 and 2017, Jeffrey Epstein made 10 donations to MIT totaling $850,000, including nine donations, totaling $750,000, made after his 2008 conviction. The post-conviction donations were all made either to support the work of the Media Lab ($525,000) or Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Engineering Systems and Physics Seth Lloyd ($225,000).
We find that the post-conviction donations to MIT were driven either by former Media Lab Director Joi Ito or by Professor Lloyd, not by MIT’s central administration (including its central fundraising group, the Office of Resource Development).
Professor Lloyd informed us that he received a personal gift of $60,000 from Epstein in or about 2005 or 2006 that was not known to, or recorded by, MIT. That gift was received directly by Professor Lloyd and deposited into his personal bank account. This amount therefore is not included in the $850,000 of donations received by MIT.
In 2012, Epstein pledged $100,000 to MIT to support the work of Professor Lloyd, donated in two installments of $50,000 during that same year. Professor Lloyd purposefully failed to inform MIT that Epstein, a convicted sex offender, was the source of the donations. Professor Lloyd also solicited another donation from Epstein in the amount of $125,000, which was made in 2017.
The lawyers added:
Since MIT had no policy or processes for handling controversial donors in place at the time, the decision to accept Epstein’s post-conviction donations cannot be judged to be a policy violation. But it is clear that the decision was the result of collective and significant errors in judgment that resulted in serious damage to the MIT community.
In his own statement, Reif wrote:
One of the most upsetting aspects of today’s report is that, in addition to the staff whistleblower who shared her experiences publicly in September, other individuals in the Media Lab and central administration warned academic and administrative leaders that taking Epstein’s donations was misguided - yet their warnings were disregarded.
Reif added that as a result of the findings, MIT is developing new guidelines to protect staff and students from sexual predators and to protect whistle blowers and re-examining the Media Lab's semi-autonomous governance,