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7 things to know about the report on Jeffrey Epstein’s ties to Harvard

Memorial Church in Harvard Yard is reflected in a puddle on an empty campus at Harvard University.Suzanne Kreiter/Globe staff

A report released Friday by Harvard University examined the ties that Jeffrey Epstein, the late disgraced financier and sex offender, had to the prestigious school. Here are seven things to know:

1. Epstein gave nearly $9.2 million to Harvard faculty and programs between 1998 and 2007. Four gifts totaling $736,000 came after his 2006 arrest but before his 2008 conviction. The largest of his gifts, $6.5 million, came in 2003. It established Harvard’s Program for Evolutionary Dynamics, led by Professor Martin Nowak. Harvard accepted no gifts from Epstein after his conviction. Then-president Drew Faust made the decision. When “a few faculty members” asked in 2013 for that to be reconsidered, the dean of arts and sciences rejected the idea.


2. After 2008, though his own contributions were barred, Epstein “took steps to interest other donors in supporting research at Harvard.” Between 2010 and 2015, donors whom Epstein introduced to Professor Nowak and Harvard Medical School Professor George Church provided $7.5 million to support Nowak’s work and $2 million to support Church’s work. “The donors denied that Epstein directed their donations to Harvard,” the report said.

3. Even after his 2009 release from prison, Epstein continued to regularly visit the Harvard Square offices of the Program for Evolutionary Dynamics. The report said it was likely that he visited the PED offices, where he had an office and keycard and passcode access, more than 40 times between 2010 and 2018, including as recently as October 2018. He typically used the visits to meet with professors from Harvard and other institutions. He generally gave Nowak the names of those he wanted to meet, and either he or Nowak invited them. The meetings most often happened on weekends. His visits ended ended "after a number of PED researchers” complained to Nowak about them. The report “found no evidence that Epstein engaged with Harvard students when he came to these meetings, although he did attend one of Professor Nowak’s undergraduate math classes.”


4. Nowak approved a 2013 request intended to burnish Epstein’s reputation by Epstein’s publicist to post links links to Epstein’s foundations’ websites on the PED’s Harvard website. Nowak also approved a 2014 request to feature Epstein in a full-page ad on the PED website, the report said. The report said there was no evidence that university leadership knew about the postings. “PED removed the Epstein page from its website after PED and Harvard received complaints in 2014 from a sexual assault survivor’s group,” the report said.

5. Nowak, who, according to the report, knew Epstein was a registered sex offender, has been placed on paid administrative leave while university officials probe what he did, Claudine Gay, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences announced in a separate letter to the university community. Nowak’s actions “warrant review to determine whether FAS policies and standards of professional conduct were violated and if additional steps must be taken. ... We do not take this step lightly, but the seriousness of the matter leads us to believe it is not appropriate for Professor Nowak to continue in his role, other than what he will be asked to do to complete the semester,” Gay said.

6. Epstein was given the title of Visiting Fellow in the university’s psychology department in 2005. Visiting fellows are independent researchers. The report said Epstein was recommended by Professor Stephen Kosslyn, who had known Epstein for many years and had previously received research funding from Epstein through Harvard. “Epstein lacked the academic qualifications Visiting Fellows typically possess, and his application proposed a course of study Epstein was unqualified to pursue,” the report said. He “did little” to pursue his studies and, the report said, “We found no evidence that he engaged with Harvard students.” He applied again for the 2006-2007 year and was again admitted, but, the report said, “We understand that in September 2006, as a result of Epstein’s arrest, Epstein was asked to withdraw as a Visiting Fellow for the 2006-2007 academic year, and he did so.”


7. The report makes two new recommendations: It calls for clearer procedures establishing the review mechanisms for potentially controversial gifts. “We believe this is necessary because our review made clear that a faculty member’s interest in his own work; a department chair’s interest in his own department; and even the pressure development staff feel to raise money rather than reject it all have the capacity to influence judgments in ways that could be detrimental to Harvard’s interests as an institution.” The report also called for the university to develop clear procedures to make sure that once a decision is made not to accept a particular gift, or the gifts of any particular donor, that decision is “clearly communicated and faithfully executed.” The report noted continued contacts between lower-level university officials and Epstein, even after Faust and the dean had decided not to accept funds from Epstein.


Martin Finucane can be reached at