To the members of the MIT community,
I expect you know that the late Jeffrey Epstein cultivated relationships with and supplied funding to leading researchers at several institutions, including MIT.
I write to share some background on the gifts MIT received, to outline our next steps as an institution and to offer an apology.
Here are the core facts, as best as we can determine: Over the course of 20 years, MIT received approximately $800,000 via foundations controlled by Jeffrey Epstein. All of those gifts went either to the MIT Media Lab or to Professor Seth Lloyd. Both Seth and Media Lab Director Joi Ito have made public statements apologizing to Jeffrey Epstein’s victims and others for judgments made over a series of years.
However, I believe the situation also requires a broader and deeper institutional response.
MIT offers faculty great freedom in conducting and building support for their research; that freedom is and always will be a precious value of our community. Yet it is important to understand that faculty are not “on their own”; their decisions about gifts are always subject to longstanding Institute processes and principles. To my great regret, despite following the processes that have served MIT well for many years, in this instance we made a mistake of judgment.
In response, I have asked Provost Marty Schmidt to convene a group to examine the facts around the Epstein donations and identify any lessons for the future, to review our current processes and to advise me on appropriate ways we might improve them. And to any MIT faculty member who has questions or uncertainties about a funder: Please know that MIT has staff who can help you in gathering the facts and coming to an informed judgment. If you have questions now or in the future, I urge you to begin by reaching out to the Office of the Recording Secretary.
I know some members of our community are now struggling with the fact that they unknowingly or without full understanding accepted funding that came from Epstein, or worked in labs that received such support. Because the accusations against Jeffrey Epstein are so shocking, it can be difficult to maintain a fair understanding about what individuals at MIT could have been expected to know at the time, but I hope we can offer these members of our community the reassurance of our compassionate understanding.
Last and most importantly, to Jeffrey Epstein’s victims, on behalf of the MIT administration, I offer a profound and humble apology. With hindsight, we recognize with shame and distress that we allowed MIT to contribute to the elevation of his reputation, which in turn served to distract from his horrifying acts. No apology can undo that. In response, we will commit an amount equal to the funds MIT received from any Epstein foundation to an appropriate charity that benefits his victims or other victims of sexual abuse.
L. Rafael Reif