Harvard University has publicly acknowledged accepting multi-million-dollar donations from the late sex offender Jeffrey Epstein from 1998 to 2007. Harvard president Lawrence Bacow has condemned Epstein’s actions and said the donations are under review.
Epstein pleaded guilty to sex charges in 2008, and the university rejected a proposed gift after Epstein’s conviction, Bacow said in a Sept. 12 statement.
The statement outlines the findings of the ongoing review, which found a number of gifts from Epstein that benefitted research activities across Harvard. The largest gift included a $6.5 million donation to the university’s Program for Evolutionary Dynamics in 2003. Other gifts from Epstein and foundations affiliated with him totaled approximately $2.4 million, according to the statement.
It also acknowledges that a former faculty member who had benefited from Epstein’s donations had appointed him as a Visiting Fellow in the Department of Psychology in 2005, and says the university is looking more into the facts surrounding that appointment.
Only one endowment has yet to be spent: a $186,000 gift to the Department of Arts and Sciences. Bacow said Harvard administration has decided to donate that money to organizations that aid victims of sexual assault and human trafficking.
Bacow condemned Epstein’s actions as “repulsive and reprehensible” and says he “profoundly” regrets Harvard’s past association with him.
He also pointed to a larger systemic problem of institutions accepting dirty money.
“Epstein’s behavior, not just at Harvard, but elsewhere, raises significant questions about how institutions like ours review and vet donors,” The letter says. “I will be convening a group here at Harvard to review how we prevent these situations in the future. I also hope to engage our peer institutions to consider how we can collectively improve our processes. We can all learn from each other.”
Harvard is not the only university that has been tainted by affiliations with Epstein. A recent New Yorker article revealed that the M.I.T. Media Lab continued to accept gifts from Epstein even after he had been listed as “disqualified” in a donor database. It was so well known within the university, the New Yorker reports, that some lab office staff referred to Epstein as “he who must not be named,” likening him to the villain Voldemort J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series.
The documents the New Yorker found revealed the friendly relationship between the sex criminal, M.I.T. and other wealthy donors.
“The Media Lab continued to accept gifts from him, consulted him about the use of the funds, and, by marking his contributions as anonymous, avoided disclosing their full extent, both publicly and within the university,” the piece states. “Perhaps most notably, Epstein appeared to serve as an intermediary between the lab and other wealthy donors, soliciting millions of dollars in donations from individuals and organizations, including the technologist and philanthropist Bill Gates and the investor Leon Black.”
Harvard’s student paper, The Harvard Crimson reports that in Dec. 2018, the paper interviewed Harvard Kennedy School professor David R. Gergen, who said Epstein approached him circa 2004 or 2005 to make a donation. Gergen had told the paper that they had ultimately decided against accepting the gift after “serious questions” surfaced about Epstein’s conduct.
Despite the Epstein cases blowing up this year, his crimes have not been a secret. Maria and Annie Farmer made the earliest known sexual assault allegations against Epstein in 1996, the New York Times’ “The Daily” reports. No one listened to the Farmers until nearly a decade later when the first Epstein case was brought up.