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.


Miranda Bryant

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

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
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
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'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
President of MIT admits approving Jeffrey Epstein donation
University acknowledged 2012 gift from disgraced financier but Rafael Reif writes: ‘We could and should have asked more questions’

Edward Helmore

12, Sep, 2019 @9:30 PM

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
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
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
‘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
US rightwing group targets academics with Professor Watchlist
Turning Point USA’s list gains fresh attention after it expands and some notice it disproportionately names academics of color

Adam Gabbatt

17, Sep, 2021 @7:00 AM