MIT professor accepted money from Jeffrey Epstein and didn’t tell the school, report says
A tenured Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor has been placed on administrative leave because he accepted two research donations and a personal financial gift from Jeffrey Epstein but did not inform the school, according to a report released Friday by an independent law firm.
The professor, Seth Lloyd, “purposefully” failed to inform MIT that Epstein was the source of donations in 2012 and 2017 that totaled $225,000 to support his research, the 61-page report said.
Lloyd also received a personal gift of $60,000 from Epstein in 2005 or 2006, the report said. Lloyd acknowledged the money “was deposited into a personal bank account and not reported to MIT,” a news release from MIT said.
Lloyd, a professor of mechanical engineering and engineering systems and physics, has been placed on paid administrative leave. Lloyd declined to comment Friday on his being placed on leave.
Lloyd confirmed to CNN that he wrote a Medium post apologizing to Epstein’s victims, saying accepting the two grants in 2012 and 2017 were “professional as well as moral failings.”
“The job of a scientist is to look for the truth, and the job of a teacher is to help people to empower themselves. I failed to do my job on both counts,” Lloyd wrote. “By continuing to participate in discussions he had with me and other scientists and by accepting his donations, I helped Mr. Epstein protect his reputation, and I disempowered his victims. I should have focused on them instead of him.”
Lloyd also wrote he was “deeply disturbed” by Epstein’s arrest and 2008 conviction. He said he visited Epstein while the financier was serving jail time in Florida on prostitution-related charges and Epstein “expressed remorse for his actions and assured me he would not re-offend.”
“By not listening to your voices, I participated in a system of privilege and entitlement that protected a powerful abuser and that failed you,” Lloyd wrote. “I apologize to you and I ask for your forgiveness.”
In the MIT news release about the report, school President L. Rafael Reif said, “There is a great deal that is right with MIT. We must fix what needs fixing and improve what needs improving.”
The school identified five actions to take, including the creation of policies to guide decisions on controversial donors and creating a culture “in which whistle blowing is accepted, effective, and safe. …”
Epstein donated $850,000 to MIT
Epstein, 66, died in jail August 10 while he was waiting to be tried on federal charges of running a sex trafficking ring of underage girls, some as young as 14 years old. His death was ruled a suicide.
MIT commissioned the independent review called “Report Concerning Jeffrey Epstein’s Interactions with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology” after reports in the news media about Epstein’s donations, the report says. The review was conducted by the law firm Goodwin Procter.
Epstein donated a total of $850,000 to MIT between 2002 and 2017, with all but $100,000 of those donations coming after his 2008 conviction in Florida, the report says.
Reif, the MIT president, “was not aware that (MIT) was accepting donations from a convicted sex offender and accused pedophile, and had no role in approving MIT’s acceptance of the donations,” the report said.
Epstein visited MIT’s campus nine times between 2013 and 2017, the report said. These visits and donations were “driven” by either Lloyd or former Media Lab director Joi Ito, who resigned in September. Ito received about $525,000 in donations on behalf of the Media Lab, the report says.
Ito did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for a comment.
Three MIT vice presidents were also aware of Epstein’s donations to the MIT Media Lab and his convicted sex offender status in 2013, the report said. The report does not specify if they were disciplined.
“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 says. “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 said last fall that he wanted to “repair a system and a culture that failed the people” of the university after it was found the school was involved with Epstein.
“We need to stop looking away from bad behavior and start taking the time to see what it costs us as a community,” Reif said during an MIT faculty meeting in September. “This moment of crisis (must) be the moment of reckoning — and a turn towards real accountability.”
CNN’s Evan Simko-Bednarski contributed to this report.
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