Jeffrey Epstein gave nearly $9 million to Harvard
Harvard University said an internal review found that late sex offender Jeffrey Epstein gave $8.9 million to the school. The money was donated before Epstein's 2008 conviction for crimes involving girls and young women, Harvard University president Lawrence Bacow wrote in a letter published Thursday.
About $186,000 remains of Epstein's donation, which Harvard said will be redirected to organizations that support victims of sexual assault and human trafficking, crimes that Epstein had been accused of before his death by suicide in July.
Bacow added that the university is creating a group to examine how donors are vetted and reviewed. Since Epstein's death, details of his financial support for top universities and scientists have come under scrutiny, with critics pointing out that his donations provided a convicted criminal with a veneer of respectability.
"Epstein's behavior, not just at Harvard, but elsewhere, raises significant questions about how institutions like ours review and vet donors," Bacow wrote. "I will be convening a group here at Harvard to review how we prevent these situations in the future."
To be sure, the world of university philanthropy isn't known for its choosiness. In some cases, controversy around donations has arisen years after the original gift.
Take Harvard's ties to the Sackler family, the owners of opioid maker Purdue Pharma who have come under fire for their alleged role in the opioid epidemic. Harvard's Arthur M. Sackler Museum has become a focal point for people who lost friends and family in the epidemic and who have urged the university to remove the Sackler name from the building.
Bacow earlier this year said it would be "inappropriate" for Harvard to remove the Sackler name from campus buildings and return any donations because the Sacklers gave the money before the development of OxyContin.
Harvard isn't the only prestigious university facing fallout of Epstein's philanthropy. Last month, two prominent researchers quit MIT's Media Lab over revelations that the renowned technology research hub and its director took money from Epstein after he'd served time for his sex offenses.
Earlier this week, MIT Media Lab director Joichi Ito resigned after an investigation revealed the lab's administrators had tried to conceal its financial ties to Epstein. Although MIT had made it clear the university wouldn't accept money from Epstein, officials made it appear as if the money came from other donors, according to The New Yorker.
In some cases, the money was shielded from scrutiny by making it appear it came from Leon Black, the chairman and CEO of private equity giant Apollo, Axios reported. In short, even after his 2008 conviction, Epstein maintained ties with top scientists at MIT and elsewhere, burning his reputation.
In his Thursday letter, Bacow said Harvard's investigation didn't find any gifts from Epstein or his foundation after he was convicted in 2008.
"Moreover, we specifically rejected a gift from Epstein following his conviction in 2008," he noted.
The university said it is looking into another link between Harvard and Epstein, when a former faculty member named the investor a visiting fellow in its psychology department in 2005. "We are seeking to learn more about the nature of that appointment" from the former faculty member, Bacow noted.
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