President of MIT admits approving Jeffrey Epstein donation

  • University acknowledged 2012 gift from disgraced financier
  • Rafael Reif: ‘We could and should have asked more questions’

The president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has said he approved a donation – and signed a thank-you note – to the sex offender Jeffrey Epstein four years after the disgraced financier was convicted for soliciting prostitution from a minor.

In a letter to the MIT community on Thursday, Rafael Reif said he signed the letter thanking Epstein for a gift to faculty member Seth Lloyd in 2012, soon after he had been made president of the university.

“I am aware that we could and should have asked more questions about Jeffrey Epstein,” Reif wrote. “We did not take time to understand the gravity of Epstein’s offenses or the harm to his young victims.”

Reif’s acknowledgment is likely to deepen the turmoil at the MIT, which has been shaken by news of extensive links between its prestigious Media Lab and Epstein, who killed himself in a New York jail cell after being arrested on sex-trafficking charges in July. His death has triggered a nationwide series of recriminations due to Epstein’s high society connections, involving rich and powerful people from politics, the law, journalism and academia.

Reif’s letter is the first acknowledgment that Epstein’s donations were known of at the highest level of the university, and not only at its Media Lab spin-off.

Earlier this week, Joi Ito, the head of the Lab, resigned his post after it was revealed that he had solicited donations from Epstein despite MIT listing Epstein as “disqualified” in its donor database.

Ito stepped down after whistleblower Signe Swenson revealed that contacts between MIT and Epstein were more frequent, and the gifts the faculty received via Epstein greater, than previously known.

In his letter on Thursday, Reif said senior members of his team “knew in general terms about Epstein’s history – that he had been convicted and had served a sentence and that Joi believed that he had stopped his criminal behavior”.

Reif added that senior members of his administration were also aware of gifts Epstein made to MIT’s Media Lab between 2013 and 2017, and had required that Epstein not make them public.

“I am aware that we could and should have asked more questions about Jeffrey Epstein and about his interactions with Joi,” Reif wrote. “We did not see through the limited facts we had, and we did not take time to understand the gravity of Epstein’s offenses or the harm to his young victims.”

The latest development comes soon after MIT hired an outside law firm, Goodwin Procter, to review the circumstances surrounding Epstein’s donations.

Reif wrote that he took “responsibility for those errors” and that the university “have already identified flaws in our processes that need to be addressed”.


Edward Helmore

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
MIT apologises for accepting $800,000 in donations from Jeffrey Epstein
Massachusetts Institute of Technology president reveals scale of funding in letter of apology to disgraced financier’s victims

Edward Helmore

23, Aug, 2019 @2:58 PM

Article image
MIT Media Lab co-founder defends decision to take Jeffrey Epstein money
Department reportedly accepted more than $500,000 as Nicholas Negroponte says ‘if you wind back the clock, I would still say take it’

Jon Swaine

05, Sep, 2019 @1:03 PM

Article image
Prominent MIT professor resigns in protest over lab's links to Epstein
Ethan Zuckerman announced he was leaving after it was revealed MIT Media Lab director took money from financier

Miranda Bryant

21, Aug, 2019 @5:38 PM

Article image
MIT's female staff members express outrage over Epstein donations in letter
More than 60 faculty members called the donations ‘profoundly disturbing’ in a signed letter to the university’s president

Edward Helmore in New York

19, Sep, 2019 @5:11 PM

Article image
Jeffrey Epstein donated $9m to Harvard before 2008 guilty plea, says university
University rejected proposed gift after his conviction, president says, while the largest was $6.5m for the Program for Evolutionary Dynamics

Edward Helmore

13, Sep, 2019 @8:07 PM

Article image
‘This should not be happening’: the whistleblower who exposed MIT’s Epstein scandal
Signe Swenson exposed the story of powerful men and millions of dollars in donations to the school’s Media Lab

Edward Helmore

12, Sep, 2019 @6:00 AM

Article image
How MIT was complicit in allowing Jeffrey Epstein to launder his reputation | John Naughton
The financier’s links to the institution are symptoms of a deep malaise in big tech

John Naughton

14, Sep, 2019 @3:00 PM

Article image
MIT scientist resigns over emails discussing academic linked to Epstein
Emails written by Richard Stallman leaked as Massachusetts college at center of storm over Epstein funding

Victoria Bekiempis in New York

17, Sep, 2019 @3:52 PM

Article image
MIT to investigate research lab's ties to Epstein as director resigns
Joi Ito exits after reports claim lab worked to hide extent of Epstein donations

Lois Beckett

07, Sep, 2019 @10:10 PM

Article image
Jeffrey Epstein: three more women sue financier's estate
Women say they were sexually abused by Epstein before and after a controversial plea deal in which he avoided federal prosecution for sex crimes

Martin Pengelly and agencies

20, Aug, 2019 @4:27 PM