Harvard University said it’s reviewing donations from disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein and will donate all unspent funding to victims of sexual crimes.
University President Lawrence Bacow announced the review Thursday but said he ordered it two weeks ago. He said Epstein’s connections to Harvard and other colleges raise “important concerns.”
Bacow said Harvard received nearly $9 million from Epstein between 1998 and 2007 but rejected a gift after Epstein pleaded guilty in 2008 to soliciting a minor for prostitution in Florida.
Most of Epstein’s donations have been spent, but a remaining $186,000 will be given to groups benefiting victims of sexual crimes.
Epstein killed himself in jail in August while awaiting trial for federal sex-trafficking charges. His ties to academia are being scrutinized amid revelations about his ties to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, whose president admitted Thursday he had approved financial support from Epstein after the disgraced financier was convicted of child sex offenses.
Rafael Reif said lawyers investigating MIT’s links to Epstein had told him that he had signed a letter of thanks to Epstein following a gift to faculty member Seth Lloyd.
“I apparently signed this letter on August 16, 2012, about six weeks into my presidency. Although I do not recall it, it does bear my signature,” he said in a statement published on the university’s website.
The donation came four years after the well-connected Epstein, who committed suicide as he awaited trial on sex-trafficking charges, was convicted in Florida on one count of paying young girls for sexual massages at his Palm Beach mansion.
Reif’s admission comes after Joi Ito resigned as director of MIT’s famous Media Lab Saturday after The New Yorker magazine revealed he had downplayed and concealed funds from Epstein.
Reif said in his letter to staff that several members of MIT’s administration were aware of gifts given by Epstein between 2013 and 2017, and that they asked Ito to ensure that they were kept anonymous so Epstein could not use them to rebuild his reputation
“I am aware that we could, and should have, asked more questions about Jeffrey Epstein. We did not take time to understand the gravity of Epstein’s offenses or the harm to his young victims,” said Reif.
Epstein was arrested in New York in July on multiple charges of trafficking underage girls for sex. He killed himself on August 10.
Dozens of victims have described him as a sexual predator who used young women as his sex slaves. Prosecutors have pledged to charge any co-conspirators.