Prominent MIT director resigns in protest over university’s ties to Jeffrey Epstein
BY OWEN DAUGHERTY
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The director of the MIT Media Lab Center for Civic Media he is resigning in protest over the center’s ties to the late financier and accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein.
Ethan Zuckerman posted an explanation behind his departure on Medium, saying he could no longer square the work he did focusing on social justice with the fact that his center’s chief received money from Epstein.
“It’s hard to do that work with a straight face in a place that violated its own values so clearly in working with Epstein and in disguising that relationship,” Zuckerman wrote.
Zuckerman’s departure comes a week after Joi Ito, the director of the overarching MIT Media Lab, which includes the Center for Civic Media and other research groups, publicly apologized for the institution’s ties to Epstein, according to the Boston Globe.
Ito said he invited Epstein to the Media Lab, traveled to his homes and took money from him that went to both the research center and his own personal investments.
Ito said in his apology he would be raising the amount of money Epstein gave him and the center to donate to nonprofits that work with survivors of human trafficking.
The Globe reports Epstein’s foundation and nonprofit gave MIT at least $200,000, according to public documents.
“I want you to know that in all of my interactions with Epstein, I was never involved in, never heard him talk about and never saw any evidence of the horrific acts that he was accused of,” Ito wrote in a statement posted to the center’s website.
Ito added that he takes “full responsibility for my error in judgment. I am deeply sorry to the survivors, to the Media Lab and to the MIT community for bringing such a person into our network.”
Epstein died earlier this month by suicide in a New York federal jail. He was awaiting trial on sex-trafficking charges.
Zuckerman told the news outlet that he is “working with my students and staff to move my work out of the Media Lab. That might involve moving to another part of MIT. It might mean moving elsewhere.”
He is expected to depart by the end of the academic year in May 2020.
Following Zuckerman’s announcement, J. Nathan Matias, a fellow researcher, said he is leaving the center as well.