Harvard punishes professor who had ties to Jeffrey Epstein


CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) – A Harvard University professor who had close ties to Jeffrey Epstein and is accused of giving the disgraced financier an office on campus will not be able to start a new investigation or advise students for at least two years, announced the school Thursday.

Martin Nowak will be able to continue teaching during that period, but contact with students will be limited and his research center will be closed, according to a memo from Claudine Gay, dean of the Harvard School of Arts and Sciences.

Nowak, a math teacher, received a paid leave after a May 2020 review found he violated school safety rules by giving Epstein “unrestricted” access to the campus. The review found that Nowak gave Epstein an office at the Nowak campus research center, along with an access card to the building, and allowed Epstein to visit it even after the financier’s 2008 sex crimes conviction.

The review also found that Nowak dedicated a page to Epstein on the center’s website and included links to the financier’s websites, both at the request of Epstein’s publicist. Epstein had no formal affiliation with Harvard at the time, but had previously donated $ 6.5 million to help start the Nowak Program for Evolutionary Dynamics.

In a statement Friday, Nowak said he is “honored to be able to return to my job at Harvard and immerse myself once again in this most remarkable academic community.”

“While I have always been grateful to anyone who supports my research, I regret the connection it fostered between Harvard and Jeffrey Epstein and the damage it has caused,” he said. “I will take the lessons of this time with me as I go along.”

Epstein committed suicide in a New York City jail cell in 2019 after being arrested on sex trafficking charges. He had pleaded not guilty to sexually abusing girls as young as 14 and young women in New York and Florida in the early 2000s. In the lawsuits, the women say the abuse lasted for decades.

Harvard announced the new sanctions against Nowak after a further review found that he violated several policies on professional conduct, campus access and other areas. In his memo, Gay said Nowak’s sanctions are “commensurate with the severity of the behavior,” but also allow the possibility of “productivity and improvement.”

Nowak’s research center will be closed “as soon as possible,” Gay said, and Nowak’s research operation will be shifted to the university’s mathematics department. After two years, Gay will decide whether to restore Nowak’s privileges, he said.

Ellen Zucker, an attorney for Nowak, said she is pleased that Nowak is able to return to her position and continue her investigation. But he also said that it is “a tired truth of organizational dynamics that individuals, and not institutions, are left alone too often to take responsibility when things go wrong.”

The 2020 Harvard review found that the university accepted more than $ 9 million from Epstein during the decade leading up to his conviction, but prohibited him from making further donations after that time.

It concluded that Epstein visited the campus more than 40 times after his conviction, including in 2018. The visits were stopped after other investigators complained to Nowak about Epstein’s presence, investigators said.

The report cleared Harvard’s top leaders of wrongdoing, saying they acted appropriately in their dealings with Epstein. Although most of Epstein’s funds had been spent last year, the school said it donated the remaining $ 200,000 to groups that support victims of sex trafficking and assault.

Other universities have also faced scrutiny over their ties to Epstein, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Former Director of MIT’s Famous Media Lab, Joi Ito, Resigned in 2019 amid the uproar over his financial connections to Epstein. He publicly apologized and pledged to raise funds for victims of trafficking.

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