Reif announces new reforms in response to community reaction to Epstein funding

Reforms include the formation of new committees and increased whistleblower protections

President L. Rafael Reif announced in an email to the MIT community Oct. 31 new reforms based on student and staff reaction to funding from Jeffery Epstein. These involve creating two new committees to evaluate outside engagements and gift acceptances, increasing protection for whistleblowers, selecting a charity to benefit survivors of sexual abuse, and encouraging more employee involvement.

Reif wrote, “Many have also highlighted — with searing clarity — misalignments and fractures that go to the very foundation of our community and that demand our shared attention.”

The first new committee, the Ad Hoc Committee to Review Gift Processes, will be chaired by Professor Peter Fisher and guide improvements to MIT’s system for gift solicitation and acceptance.

The second committee, the Ad Hoc Faculty Committee on Guidelines for Outside Engagements, will be chaired by Associate Professor Tavneet Suri and help define Institute-wide values and principles used to evaluate outside engagements.

Mark DiVincenzo, vice president and general counsel, “is assembling a team to strengthen MIT’s existing protections for whistleblowers, which include the Institute’s non-retaliation policy and its anonymous reporting hotline,” according to an MIT News article Oct. 31.

Reif wrote in a letter Aug. 22 that MIT would contribute $800,000 to benefit survivors of sexual abuse, an amount commeasurate to what Reif had initially said Epstein had donated to MIT. (The New Yorker later reported that Epstein was “credited with securing” an additional $7.5 million in funding for the Media Lab.)

The Committee on Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response, led by Professor Leslie Kolodziejski, is advising MIT’s choice of charity.

In response to the Oct. 7 staff and Oct. 11 research staff forums, Ramona Allen, vice president for human resources, will gather staff from around campus to share their ideas and perspectives.

“Speaker after speaker expressed a profound sense that as staff at MIT, they feel invisible, dispensable, isolated and last in line,” Reif wrote in his email.

According to the same MIT News article, Maria Zuber, vice president for research, will be organizing a group to address the research staff’s “feelings of isolation and the lack of any unifying home at MIT.”

Goodwin Procter, the law firm which has been responsible for fact-finding in Epstein’s associations with MIT, is nearing the end of its investigation. It will report its findings to the Executive Committee of the MIT Corporation for review prior to the Committee’s statement to the public.

In a Nov. 4 email to The Tech, Zuber declined to provide further comment, citing the lack of “adequate new info for an article,” as “the follow up from the postdoc and research staff forum has so far been a number of individual conversations.”

Kolodziejski wrote in a Nov. 4 email to The Tech that the committee “is just beginning their work, and hence I have very little information to share.”

Kimberly Allen, director of media relations for the MIT News Office, wrote in an email to The Tech, “Those leading the various workstreams are committed to sharing information as their efforts progress.” She highlighted “the president’s invitation to share ideas at, as well as ... the Institute’s non-retaliation policy and its anonymous reporting hotline.”