It took the late, notorious Jeffrey Epstein to force the conversation, but now MIT can’t stop talking about what money is too dirty to take in the cause of “inventing the future,” as the tarnished Media Lab used to say. Is it acceptable that the Koch investments in fossil fuel pollution fund both climate denial and MIT’s cancer research? Does the Saudi autocrat who has a dissenting citizen dismembered and ground up have any place near the forefront of life sciences? And didn’t the official welcome to the sex trafficker Epstein deliver a frightful message to women making their way as MIT students and teachers?
The MIT Media Lab.
What haunts MIT as the Jeffrey Epstein scandal sinks in is that the predatory sexual license he gave himself, his futurism, his fascination with famous scientists and their fascination with his money was all of a piece. Last year’s faculty chairman at MIT makes the point bluntly with her own anthropological twist: “If you live in a culture,” as Susan Silbey put the question to her colleagues in a stormy faculty meeting this week, “where the saying is ‘move fast and break things,’ where disruptive entrepreneurship becomes the purpose of education, you really can’t be surprised that a registered sex offender is celebrated for his philanthropy, imagination, and creativity.” MIT’s president Rafael Reif, his own job on the line, said he was humbled by a “cascade of misjudgments” that have brought most particularly women on his campus to “a last straw moment.”
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