Dear members of the FAS community,
The disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein, a convicted sex offender who solicited minors for prostitution, used charitable donations to establish relationships with a number of leading universities, including Harvard. In September, the University launched a review of Epstein’s donations and ties to Harvard, which was conducted by the Office of the General Counsel with the assistance of the law firm Foley Hoag. This afternoon President Bacow announced the results of that review to the Harvard community.The report finds that Harvard made the deliberate decision not to accept gifts from Epstein after his conviction, a decision made by our former President, Drew G. Faust, that was later reaffirmed by my predecessor, Michael D. Smith. Nevertheless, the report recommends steps to strengthen the procedures for the review of gifts and the documentation of fundraising decisions, as well as for the appointment of Visiting Fellows. The Faculty of Arts and Sciences fully supports these recommendations.
The Epstein report also recommends further review of activities that occurred in the Program for Evolutionary Dynamics (PED), where Epstein was both a donor and, apparently, a frequent visitor, including after his conviction. The actions taken by the head of PED, Professor Martin Nowak, as described in the report warrant review to determine whether FAS policies and standards of professional conduct were violated and if additional steps must be taken. To that end, Professor Nowak has been placed on paid administrative leave. 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, while the FAS determines its response to the findings of the report. I have been in touch with Professor Nowak concerning these matters and assured him that he will be afforded appropriate participation in the FAS process.
One of our highest priorities in this moment is to support the other scholars of PED whose work may be disrupted by this development. Outreach to PED will begin today, and I am grateful to the Division of Science for coordinating resources, advice, and mentoring, in partnership with the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, the Math Department, and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, among others.
In these times of stress and dislocation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, we are reminded on a near daily basis what a privilege it is to be a member of this academic community and to contribute to a mission that advances truth and shapes the development of some of the world’s most promising young minds. With that privilege comes a responsibility to hold one another accountable and to make sure, as an institution, we align our practices with the highest ethical standards. Our vigilance in living these commitments is strengthened by this review.
For some members of our community, these events may bring up painful memories. I remind all members of our community that if you witness or experience sexual or gender-based harassment, there are many resources available, including the FAS Title IX Coordinators, the University Title IX Office, the Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response, Harvard University Counseling and Mental Health Services, the Harvard Chaplains, and the Employee Assistance Program. These offices, as well as the FAS Office for Faculty Affairs, can connect you with resources to address the full spectrum of professional conduct issues.