Reif's letter is the first acknowledgment that Epstein's donations were known of at the highest level of the university, and not only at its Media Lab spin-off.
"I am aware that we could and should have asked more questions about Jeffrey Epstein and about his interactions with Joi", Reif said, referring to former Media Lab Director Joi Ito, who resigned Saturday after The New Yorker reported that the lab had more contact with Epstein than it had revealed and that it worked to hide those dealings.
MIT President L. Rafael Reif wrote in a letter to campus that the investigation had turned up a 2012 letter signed by Reif thanking Epstein for a donation to Seth Lloyd, a mechanical engineering professor.
Reif said in his letter to staff that several members of MIT's administration were aware of gifts given by Epstein between 2013 and 2017, and that they asked Ito to ensure that they were kept anonymous so Epstein could not use them to rebuild his reputation.
Information shared with us last night also indicates that Epstein gifts were discussed at at least one of MIT's regular senior team meetings, and I was present. Ito admitted to having taken a $525,000 donation from Epstein for the Lab, and $1.2 million for his personal investment funds. The New Yorker investigation showed that the Lab got, at Epstein's behest, gifts of $2 million from philanthropist Bill Gates, and $5.5 million from the investor Leon Black. Goodwin Procter has found that in 2013, when members of my senior team learned that the Media Lab had received the first of the Epstein gifts, they reached out to speak with Joi Ito.
In his letter on Thursday, Reif said senior members of his team "knew in general terms about Epstein's history - that he had been convicted and had served a sentence and that Joi believed that he had stopped his criminal behavior". "They accepted Joi's assessment of the situation".
"My few interactions with Jeffrey Epstein came at the request of Joi Ito, for the purposes of fundraising for the MIT Media Lab".
"I am aware that we could and should have asked more questions about Jeffrey Epstein", Reif wrote.
In addition to backing MIT Media Lab, Epstein also reportedly helped personally finance Ito's venture capital fund. Greylock, the venture capital firm at which Hoffman is a partner, has denied that Epstein had invested in any funds as a limited partner.
Reif wrote that "we could and should have asked more questions" about Epstein. Reif has said that accepting Epstein's donations was a "mistake of judgment" and that the school will donate the amount they received to a charity benefitting his victims or other victims of sexual abuse.
As the investigation continues, Reif says the administration has "already identified flaws in our processes" and is "confident" they will be able to improve them and "turn back to the central work of the Institute".