In a letter made public on Thursday, MIT President L. Rafael Reif said an independently run investigation found that MIT officials were aware of Jeffrey Epstein's donations to the MIT Media Lab run by investor Joi Ito.
In a letter addressed to the MIT community, Reif said that administration officials were made aware of Epstein's donations as early as 2013. They allowed Ito to keep the donations although they "knew in general terms" of charges against Epstein, Reif said.
"They accepted Joi's assessment of the situation. Of course they did not know what we all know about Epstein now," Reif wrote.
Administration officials were aware enough, however, to bar Ito from using the donations to enhance Epstein's reputation with public projects, instead directing the donations to be used for equipment and support for lab scientists. The letter stated that Epstein gifts were discussed at at least one of MIT's regular senior team meetings where Reif was present.
"I am aware that we could and should have asked more questions about Jeffrey Epstein and about his interactions with Joi. We did not see through the limited facts we had, and we did not take time to understand the gravity of Epstein's offenses or the harm to his young victims. I take responsibility for those errors," Reif wrote.
Reif also revealed that the investigation had found a letter thanking Epstein for a donation to Seth Lloyd, a professor of mechanical engineering and physics at MIT, that contained Reif's signature.
The letter was a result of a preliminary update on the independent investigation run by Goodwin Procter into the extent of Epstein's involvement in the university's research and media institutions. The investigation was set off by revelations the now-deceased financier had personally invested in Ito's venture capital fund in addition to directing university donations to Ito's Media Lab.
Ito stepped down from his post as director of the Media Lab on September 7.
Epstein was charged with sex trafficking of minors and conspiracy. He was found dead by suicide on August 10 in his prison cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan after being refused bail.
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