MIT puts professor on leave for Jeffrey Epstein donations

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Jeffrey Epstein in 2004.

Rick Friedman | Corbis News | Getty Images

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology said Friday that it had placed one of its tenured professors on paid administrative leave after finding that he “purposefully failed to inform MIT” that convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein was the source of two donations in 2012 to support the professor’s research, and that the professor got a $60,000 personal gift from Epstein.

A scathing report released by MIT also found that the decision by three administrators to accept donations from Epstein, who pleaded guilty to sex crimes in Florida in 2008 — one of which involved a minor girl — “was the result of collective and serious errors in judgment that resulted in serious damage to the MIT community.”

The report noted that even as its findings have been made public, “MIT is still without a clear and comprehensive gift policy or a process to properly vet donors.” However, the university has begun to develop such a process.

Epstein, a former friend of Presidents Donald Trump and Bill Clinton, donated $850,000 to MIT from 2002 through 2017 in 10 separate gifts, the report said.

That was $50,000 more than the amount MIT has previously reported to have received from Epstein.

“The earliest gift was $100,000 given in 2002 to support the research of the late Professor Marvin Minsky, who died in 2016,” MIT said as it released the report, which comes after four months of investigation of Epstein’s ties to MIT conducted by the law firm Goodwin Procter.

“The remaining nine donations, all made after Epstein’s 2008 conviction, included $525,000 to the Media Lab and $225,000 to” mechanical engineering professor Seth Lloyd, the report said.

The report also found that, “Unbeknownst to any members of MIT’s senior leadership … Epstein visited MIT nine times between 2013 and 2017.”

“The fact-finding reveals that these visits and all post-conviction gifts from Epstein were driven by either former Media Lab director Joi Ito or professor of mechanical engineering Seth Lloyd, and not by the MIT administration or the Office of Resource Development.”

Ito resigned last year after revelations about Epstein’s donations to the Media Lab.

Lloyd received two donations of $50,000 in 2012, and the remaining $125,000 in 2017, according to the report.

“Epstein viewed the 2012 gifts as a trial balloon to test MIT’s willingness to accept donations following his conviction” in Florida, MIT said.

“Professor Lloyd knew that donations from Epstein would be controversial and that MIT might reject them,” MIT said.

“We conclude that, in concert with Epstein, he purposefully decided not to alert the Institute to Epstein’s criminal record, choosing instead to allow mid-level administrators to process the donations without any formal discussion or diligence concerning Epstein.”

Seth Lloyd is a professor of mechanical engineering and physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Photo: Dmitry Rozhkov | Wikipedia CC

Lloyd was put on paid leave after it was found that he “purposefully failed to” tell MIT that Epstein was the source of the two earliest donations to him.

The report also found that Lloyd had “received a personal gift of $60,000 from Epstein in 2005 or 2006, which he acknowledged was deposited into a personal bank account and not reported to MIT,” the university said in a press statement.

Lloyd is an influential thinker in the field of quantum mechanical engineering.

Educated at Harvard College and Cambridge University in England, Lloyd was the first person to propose a “technologically feasible design for a quantum computer,” according to his resume. His 2006 book, “Programming the Universe,” argues that the universe is a giant quantum computer calculating its own evolution.

“In addition to his own donations, Epstein claimed to have arranged for donations to MIT from other wealthy individuals,” the report said. “In 2014, Epstein claimed to have arranged for Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates to provide an anonymous $2 million donation to the Media Lab. He also claimed that same year to have arranged for a $5 million anonymous donation to the Media Lab from Leon Black, the co-founder of Apollo Global Management. Representatives of Bill Gates have told us that Gates flatly denies that Epstein had anything to do with Gates’s donation to the Media Lab.”

University President L. Rafael Reif had not been aware that MIT was accepting donations from Epstein, who killed himself in a Manhattan jail in August after being arrested the prior month on federal child sex trafficking charges, according to the report.

“But the review finds that three MIT vice presidents learned of Epstein’s donations to the MIT Media Lab, and his status as a convicted sex offender, in 2013,” the university said in a prepared statement.

“In the absence of any MIT policy regarding controversial gifts, Epstein’s subsequent gifts to the Institute were approved under an informal framework developed by the three administrators, R. Gregory Morgan, Jeffrey Newton, and Israel Ruiz.”

“Since MIT had no policy or processes for handling controversial donors in place at the time, the decision to accept Epstein’s post-conviction donations cannot be judged to be a policy violation,” the report said.

“But it is clear that the decision was the result of collective and significant errors in judgment that resulted in serious damage to the MIT community.”

Reif, in a letter addressed to the university’s community, said, “Today’s findings present disturbing new information about Jeffrey Epstein’s connections with individuals at MIT: how extensive those ties were and how long they continued. This includes the decision by a lab director to bring this Level 3 sex offender to campus repeatedly.”

“That it was possible for Epstein to have so many opportunities to interact with members of our community is distressing and unacceptable; I cannot imagine how painful it must be for survivors of sexual assault and abuse,” Reif said.

“Clearly, we must establish policy guardrails to prevent this from happening again.”

The report notes, “While Epstein made charitable donations before his 2008 conviction, after that conviction he may have had a second motive for his donations: to launder his reputation by associating himself with reputable individuals and institutions.”

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