No one paying attention will be surprised that our institutions of Higher Education are subject to the corrupting influence of donor money. Even so, recent reporting on the reception that Jeffrey Epstein, his money, and his connections received at M.I.T.’s Media Lab presents an especially egregious case study. In full knowledge of Epstein’s 2008 guilty plea to solicitation of a minor, and deaf to warnings from whistleblowers such as Signe Swenson, Media Lab Director Joi Ito and Director of Development and Strategy Peter Cohen not only continued to court Epstein’s money and connections, they allegedly engaged in efforts to conceal the fact.
Where are they now? Ito has announced his resignation, shortly after the news reached The New Yorker. Presumably M.I.T. students will be none the worse for no longer having him around to teach, among other topics, ethics(!) Swenson resigned her Media Lab position in 2016, reportedly unable to continue to tolerate the Epstein connection. She now works in Marketing and Operations for a nonprofit educational development organization. Peter Cohen? He became Director of Development for Computer and Data Science Initiatives at Brown University, which remains in the midst of the BrownTogether fundraising campaign. Who brought Cohen from M.I.T. to Brown? And who were the donors who heeded Brown’s call to help fund computer coding programs for middle- and high-school kids or GirlsGetMath by contacting — yes — Jeffrey Epstein whitewasher Peter Cohen?