Harvard Kept Ties With Jeffrey Epstein After ’08 Conviction, Report Shows


Jeffrey Epstein, the disgraced financier who killed himself in jail last year, visited Harvard more than 40 times after his conviction in 2008 on sex charges involving a minor, according to a university report released on Friday.

In a letter to the Harvard community, the university’s president, Lawrence S. Bacow, said the university had also donated $200,937 in unspent gifts it had accepted from Mr. Epstein. The money was given, he said, to organizations that support victims of human trafficking and sexual assault.

Mr. Bacow said that a review had confirmed that the university accepted a total of $9.1 million in gifts from Mr. Epstein from 1998 to 2008 to support a variety of research and faculty activities. That is about $200,000 more than had been disclosed by Mr. Bacow in September after an initial review.

Mr. Bacow said that Harvard did not accept any gifts from Mr. Epstein after his conviction in Florida in 2008, when he pleaded guilty to state charges of solicitation of prostitution from a minor and served 13 months in jail. The conviction was part of a widely criticized plea deal that allowed Mr. Epstein to avoid federal charges.

Yet Mr. Epstein maintained close ties to the university, according to the report.

From 2010 to 2018, the report said, Mr. Epstein made more than 40 visits to the university’s Program for Evolutionary Dynamics, which Mr. Epstein helped establish with a $6.5 million donation in 2003. Despite having no official Harvard affiliation, Mr. Epstein had card-key access to the program’s offices in Harvard Square and was given his own office space within the program until 2018, the report said. It was known as “Jeffrey’s Office,” the report said.

Mr. Epstein had cultivated a close relationship with the director of the program, Martin A. Nowak, a professor of math and biology, who “permitted Epstein to have unrestricted access to Harvard offices,” despite knowing he was a registered sex offender, the report said.

Professor Nowak did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment on Friday.

The report made a number of recommendations — among them, that Harvard tighten its procedures to review potentially controversial gifts and revise its process for the appointment of visiting fellows. (Mr. Epstein was named a visiting fellow in 2005.)

“The report issued today describes principled decision-making but also reveals institutional and individual shortcomings that must be addressed — not only for the sake of the university but also in recognition of the courageous individuals who sought to bring Epstein to justice,” Mr. Bacow wrote.

Mr. Epstein, 66, was found hanging in his cell in August at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan. Federal prosecutors had charged him with sex trafficking and sex trafficking conspiracy.

He was accused of sexually assaulting young girls, including dozens as young as 14 whom he hired to perform nude massages on him. The abuse was said to have occurred at both his mansion on the Upper East Side of Manhattan and his palatial waterfront home in Palm Beach, Fla., from 2002 to 2005.

Harvard was just one of a constellation of powerful institutions and individuals that had welcomed Mr. Epstein.

In January, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology acknowledged that it had accepted $850,000 from Mr. Epstein from 2002 to 2017. Mr. Epstein also visited campus at least nine times from 2013 to 2017, M.I.T. said.

Harvard’s report was an attempt to reckon with its many ties to Mr. Epstein, including his admission as a visiting fellow in the psychology department in 2005, a post he was granted despite lacking the necessary qualifications.

The report found that Mr. Epstein had been recommended for the fellowship by the department chairman, Stephen Kosslyn, who had accepted $200,000 in donations from Mr. Epstein from 1998 to 2002.

The application process did not inquire about possible conflicts of interest, and Dr. Kosslyn did not disclose the donations in the paperwork submitted in support of Mr. Epstein’s application, the report said.

“After reviewing these records, we conclude, and no one argues to the contrary, that Epstein lacked the academic qualifications visiting fellows typically possess and his application proposed a course of study Epstein was unqualified to pursue,” Diane E. Lopez, Harvard’s vice president and general counsel, wrote in a letter to Mr. Bacow on Friday.

Nevertheless, Mr. Epstein’s application was approved, having been supported by a department chair, she wrote.

Mr. Epstein paid the tuition and fees to be a visiting fellow and showed up for registration, “but we understand he did very little to pursue his course of study,” Ms. Lopez wrote. Still, he applied for the fellowship again in the 2006-7 academic year, and was accepted again, she wrote.

Dr. Kosslyn left the university in 2011 and is now a professor emeritus at Harvard, officials said. He did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment on Friday.



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