Harvard University received nearly $9m in donations from the convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein before his 2008 guilty plea to sex charges, but rejected a proposed gift after his conviction, according to the institution’s president, Lawrence Bacow.
The largest of Epstein’s gifts to the university was $6.5m in 2003 to support the Program for Evolutionary Dynamics. Other gifts totaled about $2.4m. Epstein did not attend Harvard.
Epstein killed himself in a New York jail cell in August after being arrested on sex trafficking charges of young women and girls. His arrest triggered a national examination of his position in an elite social circle of rich, powerful people across the arts, sciences and politics.
In a message to Harvard students and staff, Bacow, who took over as president in June, condemned Epstein crimes as “repulsive and reprehensible” and said he “profoundly regrets Harvard’s past association with him”.
He said: “Epstein’s behavior, not just at Harvard, but elsewhere, raises significant questions about how institutions like ours review and vet donors.”
After a review of Harvard’s relationship with Epstein ordered two weeks ago, Bacow said the university still had $186,000 in funds from the earlier donations, which will now be given to organizations that support victims of human trafficking and sexual assault.
“Harvard must further recognize that accepting a donation at a given point in time not only legitimates the donor’s reputation, but also implicitly condones what they stand for in perpetuity, unless the university takes clear, decisive action to demonstrate the contrary,” the Crimson’s editorial board wrote.
The disclosure that Harvard declined Epstein’s contributions after he was convicted for soliciting a minor are in marked contrast to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and its Media Lab, which has been rocked by revelations that it accepted more than $7.5m in donations from Epstein or people connected to the university through him after his conviction.
Amid a review of Epstein donations to MIT, the university’s president, Rafael Reif, acknowledged Thursday he apparently thanked Epstein in a note in 2012 in response to one donation.
Bacow, in his message, also noted that Harvard had recently learned that Stephen Kosslyn, a former faculty member and a beneficiary of Epstein’s philanthropy, had designated Epstein as a visiting fellow in the psychology department in 2005.
“We are seeking to learn more about the nature of that appointment from Dr Kosslyn, who no longer works at the university,” Bacow said.