“Reif, you can’t hide! We demand that you resign!” hundreds of protesters chanted at an “MIT Rally Against Jeffrey Epstein” and “They Knew: Speak-out against MIT-Epstein Scandal” outside Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Stratton Student Center this afternoon.
The protesters were upset that the Cambridge school had accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations from Jeffrey Epstein, a financier who pleaded guilty in Florida in 2008 to soliciting an underage prostitute and then died while in jail this August while awaiting trial on federal charges of sex trafficking of minors.
In recent days, MIT President L. Rafael Reif admitted that the school hid donations from Epstein and that he wrote Epstein a thank you letter for his contributions.
“The administration, they’ve told us lie after lie after lie,” said Husayn Karimi of MIT Students Against War, which organized the protest with No Dark Money at MIT.
“It’s not jut President Reif. It’s everyone else whose incentive is to keep things exactly as they are,” said Arwa Mboya, an MIT Media Lab student who drew attention in recent weeks for publicly calling on MIT Media Lab Director Joi Ito to resign. Ito quit last week after The New Yorker reported that he had hidden the extent of Epstein’s involvement with the institute. “The system doesn’t work. It’s broken. That’s why we’re here.”
“Men stuck. They really suck. … Not all men,” Mboya told the crowd. Later she said, “Men, I just want to say this: Stop offering your opinion on the matter. Ask women how they’re doing. Ask women if they feel safe here.”
“This situation with Epstein is disgusting. It’s absolutely despicable that MIT would take money from a convicted pedophile and sex trafficker,” Cambridge City Councilor and MIT alum Quinton Zondervan told the crowd. “The only solution is for Reif to resign. … Get rid of everybody who knew about this and facilitated these donations from Epstein. We have to clean house all the way to the top.”
“The whole scandal is just a symptom of a system that values money and that does not value humanity,” Pankaj Mehta of Science for the People said. He criticized those that he said take science and “turn it into a tool of oppression.”
Organizers wrote on the Facebook event page for the protest: “Top MIT officials covered up Epstein’s donations to the Institute. MIT Professors and officials visited him in prison, flew on his ‘Lolita Express,’ invited him to campus, and gave him awards. MIT CANNOT be trusted to investigate itself through an “independent” law firm that they themselves hire and that reports to the MIT Corporation. WE, students, staff, faculty, and Boston-area community members MUST hold MIT accountable for this and more!! Accepting money linked to Jeffrey Epstein wasn’t just disgusting and immoral. It violated MIT’s own donor policies. Any senior administrators who knew about these donations MUST RESIGN IMMEDIATELY. But individual resignations aren’t enough. The Epstein scandal demonstrates a rot at the heart of the Media Lab and MIT as a whole. It gets at more profound issues regarding how MIT finances its activities and who it partners with to perform research. We demand an end to dark money. We demand an end to the pernicious influence that millionaire pedophiles, genocidal crown princes, billionaire climate change deniers, and giant corporations profiting from wars, deportations, and concentration camps at the border hold over MIT and academia generally.”
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