Harvard says it rejected Epstein donations after financier's guilty plea

Posted at 7:40 AM, Sep 13, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-13 07:41:42-04

(CNN) -- Harvard University received almost $9 million in gifts from Jeffrey Epstein, but none after he pleaded guilty to prostitution charges in 2008 in Florida, the school's president said.

Epstein gave gifts between 1998 and 2007, but the university rejected a donation from Epstein after his 2008 guilty plea, President Lawrence Bacow said in a message to the Harvard community Thursday.

RELATED: More coverage of the Jeffrey Epstein case

One endowment and one fund had an unspent balance of $186,000 from Epstein's gifts, a review found, and that will be donated to organizations that support human trafficking and sexual abuse victims, Bacow said.

The largest gift was $6.5 million to support the Program for Evolutionary Dynamics in 2003, Bacow noted, but the university also received other gifts totaling approximately $2.4 million.

"Jeffrey Epstein's crimes were repulsive and reprehensible," Bacow wrote. "I profoundly regret Harvard's past association with him."

Two weeks ago Bacow ordered a review of all Epstein donations to Harvard. He said the investigation is ongoing.

Bacow's message comes amid an ongoing investigation at MIT, by an outside law firm hired by the university, related to Epstein donations. MIT President L. Rafael Reif said Thursday he apparently signed a thank-you letter to Epstein in 2012 for a donation, and that senior administration members knew about gifts from Epstein's foundations to MIT's Media Lab between 2013 and 2017.

"The majority of Epstein's gifts were designated for current use, not as endowed funds, and nearly all were spent years ago for their intended purposes in support of research and education," Bacow wrote. "Our ongoing review of these gifts has identified one current use fund and one small endowment designated to the Faculty of Arts and Sciences with a total unspent balance of $186,000."

Donating that money to benefit victims is the "proper course of action under the circumstances of Epstein's egregiously repugnant crimes."

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.

Epstein faced sex trafficking accusations in Florida in 2007 but signed a deal that year with federal prosecutors in Miami allowing him to avoid federal sex trafficking charges and plead guilty to lesser state prostitution charges. He was required to register as a sex offender in states where he lived.

Harvard is also investigating gifts from donors who made them at Epstein's suggestion, Bacow said

And the school is investigating Epstein's designation as a Visiting Fellow in the Department of Psychology in 2005 by a former faculty member and beneficiary of Epstein's philanthropy, the president said.

The university will also look into how it reviews and vets donors, and Bacow said he will convene a group to review how to prevent these situations in the future.

"Conduct such as his has no place in our society," Bacow wrote of Epstein. "We act today in recognition of that fact. And we do so knowing that the scourge of sexual assault continues to demand our close attention and concerted action. Harvard is not perfect, but you have my commitment as president that we will always strive to be better."

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