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Report to MIT Faculty: Meeting with Goodwin Procter Lawyers

Report to MIT Faculty on Meeting with Goodwin Procter Lawyers

Dear Colleagues,

On January 13 a group of 12 faculty, consisting of current and former faculty officers, met with attorneys Roberto Braceras and Jennifer Chunias of Goodwin Procter (GP).  The purpose of the meeting, as outlined in the January 10 email from Faculty Chair Rick Danheiser, was to ask questions about the fact-finding process and the preparation of GP's "Report Concerning Jeffrey Epstein's Interactions with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology".  Our meeting with the GP lawyers was originally scheduled for 90 minutes, but lasted nearly four hours.  Each of us had an opportunity to ask questions.  We found the GP attorneys to be forthcoming and frank, and they sought to answer every question that we asked.  This email constitutes our summary report to the faculty based on this meeting.  It should be noted that a condition of the meeting was that we regard the GP lawyers' responses to our questions as "privileged communications".  We regret that this confidentiality agreement does not permit us to go into detail in this letter with regard to the basis for our conclusions.

Our discussion with GP gave us confidence that the investigation and report were generally thorough, albeit within the scope defined by the directions from the Executive Committee of the Corporation.  That scope included determining what donations Epstein made to MIT and when; who among MIT's senior leadership was aware of the donations and approved their acceptance; what visits Epstein made to campus and their circumstances; and whether senior leadership was aware of and approved these visits.  We do note that the faculty were not consulted when the investigation's parameters were being defined, nor at any other point in the investigation prior to our group's receiving the report on January 9.

During our meeting with GP, we heard nothing to indicate that any materially important facts uncovered during the investigation were shared with the Corporation (including the Executive Committee) without then appearing in the GP report.  In addition, we believe that GP considered contact with students as a particularly important component of their investigation, that they pursued all leads related to potential on-campus and off-campus interactions with students, and that they reported all evidence of such contacts, specifically the presence of two students at an October 24, 2015 meeting with Epstein.

With regard to the steps leading up to the publication of the report, we learned that GP's process was not fully independent of the Executive Committee of the Corporation.  GP presented the principal substantive results of their fact-finding investigation in mid-Fall to the Executive Committee, and shared multiple iterations of the written report with the Executive Committee* through December.  We have not been given access to these earlier versions, but GP informed us that the final report differed from these earlier iterations only with respect to the use of titles and positions rather than names, corrections of fact such as titles and affiliations, the inclusion of an executive summary, and improvements with regard to the organization of the report.

The report at times extends beyond its stated scope by making judgments about leaders who made decisions regarding the acceptance and concealment of donations.  For example, some actions are described as being made "in good faith," whereas others are described as "errors of judgment."  It is noteworthy that these judgments are rendered only for those individuals making the most direct and proximate decisions with respect to the donations.  The GP attorneys informed us that they believed it was beyond the scope given to them by the Executive Committee to make judgments about any potential failures of leadership or oversight by members of the administration, faculty, or the Corporation.

We encourage members of the MIT community to read the full GP report and make their own judgments.  We believe the report lays out the facts as they were discovered by the GP attorneys, including places where they are contradictory and incomplete.  The report, however, presents only a limited set of conclusions and judgments, within a specific scope defined by the Executive Committee of the MIT Corporation.  It remains for all of us to further consider and act upon the larger implications of the report -- not only proximate errors, but the broader context in which those errors were made -- so that the Institute may better achieve its best aspirations for all.

Respectfully,

Duane S. Boning
Rick L. Danheiser
Mary C. Fuller
Stephen C. Graves
Steven Hall
Robert L. Jaffe
Thomas A. Kochan
Leslie A. Kolodziejski
Krishna Rajagopal
Susan S. Silbey
David A. Singer
Sheila E. Widnall

*Although President Reif and VP Israel Ruiz are ex officio members of the Executive Committee, the GP Report (footnote 3) states that "both were recused throughout the investigation and the Executive Committee's consideration of the fact-finding."  Executive Committee Chair Millard recused himself from oversight responsibilities of the investigation (footnote 42) in October (MIT News Office FAQs) after GP learned from Joi Ito of his conversations with Millard (pages 41-43).