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MIT sets review of donations, apologises for Jeffrey Epstein ties

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MIT sets review of donations, apologises for Jeffrey Epstein ties
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By Joseph Menn

(Reuters) – Massachusetts Institute of Technology President Rafael Reif said on Thursday that the elite university would review its process for accepting donations after taking about $800,000 (£652,848) from foundations controlled by financier Jeffrey Epstein, who committed suicide earlier this month while being held in jail while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges.

In a letter to MIT affiliates, Reif said all the money received from foundations controlled by Epstein had gone to the MIT Media Lab or Professor Seth Lloyd.

Both Lloyd, a mechanical engineering professor at MIT, and Media Lab director Joi Ito posted apologies online for having accepted donations from foundations controlled by Epstein.

“Despite following the processes that have served MIT well for many years, in this instance we made a mistake of judgment,” Reif wrote. “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.”

Ito, in an apology posted on the lab’s website on Aug. 15, said he would raise an amount equivalent to the donations the lab received from foundations controlled by Epstein and “direct those funds to non-profits that focus on supporting survivors of trafficking.”

Lloyd, in an apology posted on Thursday on Medium, said he had received a grant from Epstein’s foundation to support his research and said he had visited Epstein while he was serving a 13-month prison sentence in Florida.

Epstein was sentenced in Florida after pleading guilty in 2008 to state charges of solicitation of prostitution from a minor.

“I believed, at the time, that I was doing a good deed. Mr. Epstein expressed remorse for his actions and assured me that he would not re-offend,” Lloyd said in his apology, which he addressed to Epstein’s victims. Lloyd said he has “committed financial resources to aid you and other survivors of sexual abuse and trafficking and will work assiduously to help make your voices heard.”

Epstein was being held in jail in New York while awaiting trial on federal charges of sex trafficking underage girls. He had pleaded not guilty.

MIT’s review and the latest apologies came after two Media Lab researchers publicly resigned. One of them, Ethan Zuckerman, said in a post on Medium on Tuesday that he would quit as director of the MIT Center for Civic Media because he believed the lab’s dealings with Epstein compromised its values.

Though Epstein’s relationship with the lab predated Ito’s appointment, Ito in his post acknowledged that the two visited each other and that he accepted Epstein as a financial backer in his private investments as well.

(Reporting by Joseph Menn in San Francisco; Editing by Greg Mitchell and Leslie Adler)

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