Peter Cohen, a fundraising director for the University placed on leave last Sunday, wrote in a statement to The Herald that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s central administration had complete knowledge of and authorized policies that allowed the Media Lab to receive financial donations from the late financier Jeffrey Epstein.
Cohen, who previously served as the Director of Development and Strategy at the Media Lab, was recently implicated in helping to secure money from Epstein for the Media Lab, the New Yorker reported last Friday. Epstein, a disgraced financier, recently died by suicide after being charged with sex crimes involving minors
“I, like others, am disgusted and distraught by Jeffrey Epstein’s conduct” Cohen wrote, adding that “notwithstanding my personal discomfort regarding Mr. Epstein and his involvement with MIT, I did not believe I was in a position to change MIT’s policies and practices.” He was hired by the University as the Director of Development for Computer and Data Science Initiatives in October 2018.
Cohen is currently on administrative leave and under University review, The Herald previously reported.
MIT did not reply to request for comment by press time. But in a public statement issued earlier today, L. Rafael Reif, MIT’s president, wrote that “senior members of the administration were aware of the gifts that the Media Lab received between 2013 and 2017 from Jeffrey Epstein’s foundations.” The institute also retained an independent law firm to begin investigating Epstein’s involvement with its campus.
These developments follow a New Yorker article published last week that revealed that several staff members at the Media Lab, including Cohen, attempted to conceal the extent of their relationship with Epstein from 2013 to 2015. While MIT publicly listed Epstein as a “disqualified” donor, the Lab still accepted his financial donations.
Cohen wrote to The Herald that he did not witness anything illegal while working at the Media Lab. He added that he did not solicit gifts from Epstein and did not have a personal relationship with him.
“My personal dealings with him were limited to a very few, brief interactions during my MIT tenure,” Cohen wrote.
Joi Ito, former director of the Media Lab, resigned from his position after the New Yorker article was published Saturday. But Cohen has expressed his desire to continue his work at the University.
“I very much hope to be able to resume my duties (at Brown) and continue my work in accordance with Brown University’s policies and values,” Cohen wrote.