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

A prominent professor at the MIT Media Lab has announced he is resigning from the prestigious research centre in protest after it was revealed its director took money from the disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein.

Ethan Zuckerman, who is the director of the Center for Civic Media at the laboratory in Cambridge, Massachusetts, told his employers he was leaving after discovering the institution’s links to Epstein, who committed suicide in jail earlier this month after being arrested on federal sex trafficking and conspiracy charges, according to the Boston Globe.

“I’m working with my students and staff to move my work out of the Media Lab. That might involve moving to another part of MIT. It might mean moving elsewhere,” he told the newspaper.

The lab’s director, Joi Ito, said in a statement earlier this month that he first met Epstein at a conference in 2013 – five years after the wealthy investor pleaded guilty and was imprisoned for a year for soliciting a minor for prostitution.

He admitted to inviting Epstein to the lab, visiting “several” of his residences, accepting money from his foundations and permitting him to invest in his tech startup funds.

Zuckerman, who played a key role in the lab’s annual disobedience award, which last year recognised the #MeToo movement, reportedly wrote in a note to past winners that he was “heartbroken”.

He told Ito he planned to move out of the lab by the end of the academic year in May 2020.

“The work my group does focuses on social justice and on the inclusion of marginalized individuals and points of view,” Zuckerman wrote on Medium. “It’s hard to do that work with a straight face in a place that violated its own values so clearly in working with Epstein and in disguising that relationship.”

As well as high-profile friends that included royalty, presidents and Hollywood stars, Epstein also cultivated a network of top scientists.

Referring to himself as a “science philanthropist”, he reportedly donated as much as $20m a year to scientists and their work.

Citing publicly available documents, the Boston Globe reports that Epstein’s foundation and not-for-profit gave MIT at least $200,000.

In a public apology, published on the lab’s website, Ito wrote: “I want you to know that in all of my interactions with Epstein, I was never involved in, never heard him talk about and never saw any evidence of the horrific acts that he was accused of.

“That said, I take full responsibility for my error in judgment. I am deeply sorry to the survivors, to the Media Lab and to the MIT community for bringing such a person into our network.”

The Guardian has requested comment from MIT Media Lab and MIT.

Contributor

Miranda Bryant

The GuardianTramp

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