MIT president Rafael Reif apologized Wednesday over the school's ties with disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein, as dozens of female faculty members expressed dissappointment with his administration.
"I am deeply distressed, and I am deeply sorry, that steps which I and others took, and failed to take, have been part of bringing this trouble to all of you — to the people of MIT," Reif said at a faculty meeting.
"I understand that I have let you down and damaged your trust in me, and that our actions have injured both the Institute’s reputation and the fabric of our community."
The remarks came after more than 60 female faculty members spoke out against the university’s ties to Jeffrey Epstein, who was arrested on charges of federal sex trafficking before his Aug. 10 death.
In a letter to MIT president Rafael Reif and provost Mary Schmidt, the faculty members expressed their distress and disappointment over learning the university took some $800,000 from Epstein over two decades.
"MIT cultivated a relationship with Epstein over time that rewarded, empowered, and elevated him. With the approval of administrative leadership, faculty and staff attempted to conceal that relationship from those they knew it would disturb," the letter said. "Some students and staff who were asked to collude were made to feel morally compromised."
The letter said, "Epstein’s victims, survivors, and their families have experienced additional degradation and damage because of MIT’s actions."
Earlier this month, Joi Ito, director of MIT’s Media Lab, resigned from both the lab and from his position as a professor at the school. That came after the New Yorker reported that the Media Lab had a more extensive fundraising relationship with Epstein than it previously acknowledged and tried to conceal the extent of the relationship.
Reif said he hoped "to take responsibility for the work that must begin now: repairing the damage and rebuilding trust."
He said an internal review of how the school assess donor relationships and gift agreements was underway; and that a fact-finding mission into the matter by an external law firm was underway.
Epstein killed himself in jail while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges. Federal prosecutors in New York had charged the 66-year-old with sex trafficking and conspiracy, alleging he sexually abused girls over several years in the early 2000s.