The MIT-Epstein scandal gets even worse

The scandal over the effort by MIT to keep secret that they were getting money from Jeffrey Epstein even after his conviction and being branded a sexual predator keeps getting worse. It has already seen the resignation of Joi Ito who was the head of the much-acclaimed Media Lab and now an internal investigation reveals that the president of MIT also knew of the donations and the scheme to keep it on the down-low.

The president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is admitting that not only did the school hide donations from Jeffrey Epstein—he wrote the accused sex trafficker a thank-you letter.

“It is now clear that senior members of the administration were aware of gifts the Media Lab received between 2013 and 2017 from Jeffrey Epstein’s foundations,” MIT President L. Rafael Reif said in a statement Thursday afternoon.

“Because the members of my team involved believed it was important that Epstein not use gifts to MIT for publicity or to enhance his own reputation, they asked [MIT Media Lab Director Joi Ito] to agree to make clear to Epstein that he could not put his name on them publicly.”

Reif said he also was present at a meeting of his senior team where attendees discussed Epstein’s crimes and donations.

The Epstein and Sackler cases had better put college administrators everywhere on notice that they had damn well better make sure that their donors have clean hands. Of course, since many of these wealthy mega-donors do not have clean hands, the money they get will go down. But the rot of nefarious actors whitewashing their actions by giving ‘charitable’ donations has to stop.


  1. tbrandt says

    Alfred Nobel, anyone? One of the more effective whitewashings of all time. I imagine that few donors today (or ever) have truly clean hands. I’m not sure what to do about it other than to do something about the fortunes themselves though taxation and prosecution of illegal activity.

  2. Pierce R. Butler says

    Conspiracy theorists now have another large institution to add to the suspects-list of Who Kilt Jeffrey Epstein!

  3. Owlmirror says

    The paper that John Morales @#3 links to has a link to a paper in “Nature Human Behavior looking at the dynamics of anonymous donation”. I hit a paywall following that link, but the full paper is available on the lead authors website.

    I note that at least one of the authors of the paper, Martin Nowak, director of the Program for Evolutionary Dynamics at Harvard University of which the lead author is a member, benefited from Epstein’s financial largesse, both directly and indirectly, all this before Epstein’s conviction. Nowak was probably also aware of Epstein’s continued donations to Harvard at the time the paper was written (2017-ish).

    Quote by Nowak from an Oct 2002 NY Mag piece:

    “Jeffrey has the mind of a physicist. It’s like talking to a colleague in your field,” says Nowak. “Sometimes he applies what we talk about to his investments. Sometimes it’s for his own curiosity. He has changed my life. Because of his support, I feel I can do anything I want.”

  4. Owlmirror says

    However, Epstein did have some meetings after his conviction with Harvard professor George Church in 2014, and two of those meetings were at Nowak’s Institute, and one explicitly included Nowak.

    Jun 21, 2014 Lunch w/ Jeffrey Epstein, 12-1:30, Martin Nowak’s Institute, 1 Brattle Square Suite 6, Cambridge (GMC)
    Nov 30, 2014 Dinner w/ Jeff Epstein, Joi Ito, Reid Hoffman and Martin Nowak, 8pm, Martin Nowak’s institute, 1 Brattle Square, Suite 6, Cambridge, MA (GMC)

    I wonder if Nowak heard (about?) offers of anonymous donations from Epstein (presumably refused), or heard rumors about the donations that MIT was accepting, which might have prompted the paper linked @#4.

  5. Owlmirror says

    I also have to wonder at the initials of “Program for Evolutionary Dynamics”. Just an infelicitous cooincidence, or could it have been a subtle hint?

  6. Owlmirror says

    Message from Lawrence S. Bacow, Harvard President

    Our review to date indicates that between 1998 and 2007, Epstein made a number of gifts to support various faculty and institutional research activities across the University. The largest of these was a $6.5 million gift in 2003 to support the Program for Evolutionary Dynamics. The University received other gifts, which totaled approximately $2.4 million, based on current information. Each of these gifts from Epstein and his affiliated foundations to Harvard University predates his guilty plea in June 2008. To date, we have uncovered no gifts received from Epstein or his foundation following his guilty plea. Moreover, we specifically rejected a gift from Epstein following his conviction in 2008.

    (bolding mine)

    Could “we” mean George Church and/or Martin Nowak?

  7. Owlmirror says

    One more recent posting about Epstein @ Harvard.

    A point I skipped in the Bercow message linked @#8

    The majority of Epstein’s gifts were designated for current use, not as endowed funds, and nearly all were spent years ago for their intended purposes in support of research and education. Our ongoing review of these gifts has identified one current use fund and one small endowment designated to the Faculty of Arts and Sciences with a total unspent balance of $186,000. After consultation with the Dean of the FAS, we have decided that the University will redirect the unspent resources to organizations that support victims of human trafficking and sexual assault. This is an unusual step for the University, but we have decided it is the proper course of action under the circumstances of Epstein’s egregiously repugnant crimes.

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