Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Forthcoming books

In the next few months two longstanding projects of mine will come to fruition. With the jacket copy and pub dates in hand, I am letting you know about them!

Coming from Pearson, December 3, 2020

Blown to Bits, Second EditionCover of Blown to Bits, 2nd edition

Coming from MIT Press, February 2, 2021!

Ideas That Created the Future

Ideas That Created the Future cover

Friday, October 2, 2020

The True Harvard

 Reading about some ongoing Harvard controversies, programs, and initiatives recently, I was reminded of this short talk William James gave on June 24, 1903, at the Commencement Dinner after receiving an honorary LL.D. degree. It was printed in The Harvard Graduate's Magazine [the ancestor of the current Harvard Magazine] for September, 1903. I think it should be better known; it sounds very fresh and relevant to me today.

- O -

WHEN a man gets a decoration from a foreign institution, he may take it as an honor. Coming as mine has come to-day, I prefer to take it for that far more valuable thing, a token of personal good will from friends. Recognizing the good will and the friendliness, I am going to respond to the chairman’s call by speaking exactly as I feel. 

I am not an alumnus of the College. I have not even a degree from the Scientific School, in which I did some study forty years ago. I have no right to vote for Overseers, and I have never felt until to-day as if I were a child of the house of Harvard in the fullest sense. Harvard is many things in one—a school, a forcing house for thought, and also a social club; and the club aspect is so strong, the family tie so close and subtle among our Bachelors of Arts that all of us here who are in my plight, no matter how long we may have lived here, always feel a little like out siders on Commencement day. We have no class to walk with, and we often stay away from the procession. It may be foolish, but it is a fact. I don’t believe that my dear friends Shaler, Hollis, Lanman, or Royce ever have felt quite as happy or as much at home as my friend Barrett Wendell feels up on a day like this. 

I wish to use my present privilege to say a word for these outsiders with whom I belong. Many years ago there was one of them from Canada here— a man with a high-pitched voice, who couldn’t fully agree with all the points of my philosophy. At a lecture one day, when I was in the full flood of my eloquence, his voice rose above mine, exclaiming: “But, doctor, doctor! to be serious for a moment . . . ,” in so sincere a tone that the whole room burst out laughing. I want you now to be serious for a moment while I say my little say. We are glorifying ourselves to-day, and whenever the name of Harvard is emphatically uttered on such days, frantic cheers go up. There are days for affection, when pure sentiment and loyalty come rightly to the fore. But behind our mere animal feeling for old schoolmates and the Yard and the bell, and Memorial and the clubs and the river and the Soldiers’ Field, there must be something deeper and more rational. There ought at any rate to be some possible ground in reason for one’s boiling over with joy that one is a son of Harvard, and was not, by some unspeakably horrible accident of birth, predestined to graduate at Yale or at Cornell. 

Any college can foster club loyalty of that sort. The only rational ground for pre-eminent admiration of any single college would be its pre-eminent spiritual tone. But to be a college man in the mere clubhouse sense — I care not of what college — affords no guarantee of real superiority in spiritual tone.

The old notion that book learning can be a panacea for the vices of society lies pretty well shattered today. I say this in spite of certain utterances of the President of this University to the teachers last year. That sanguine-hearted man seemed then to think that if the schools would only do their duty better, social vice might cease. But vice will never cease. Every level of culture breeds its own peculiar brand of it as surely as one soil breeds sugar-cane, and another soil breeds cranberries. If we were asked that disagree able question, “What are the bosom-vices of the level of culture which our land and day have reached?” we should be forced, I think, to give the still more disagreeable answer that they are swindling and adroitness, and the indulgence of swindling and adroitness, and cant, and sympathy with cant — natural fruits of that extraordinary idealization of “success” in the mere outward sense of “getting there,” and getting there on as big a scale as we can, which characterizes our present generation. What was Reason given to man for, some satirist has said, except to enable him to invent reasons for what he wants to do. We might say the same of education. We see college graduates on every side of every public question. Some of Tammany’s staunchest supporters are Harvard men. Harvard men defend our treatment of our Filipino allies as a masterpiece of policy and morals. Harvard men, as journalists, pride themselves on producing copy for any side that may enlist them. There is not a public abuse for which some Harvard advocate may not be found. 

In the successful sense, then, in the worldly sense, in the club sense, to be a college man, even a Harvard man, affords no sure guarantee for anything but a more educated cleverness in the service of popular idols and vulgar ends. Is there no inner Harvard within the outer Harvard which means definitively more than this— for which the outside men who come here in such numbers, come? They come from the remotest outskirts of our country, without introductions, without school affiliations; special students, scientific students, graduate students, poor students of the College, who make their living as they go. They seldom or never darken the doors of the Pudding or the Porcellian; they hover in the background on days when the crimson color is most in evidence, but they nevertheless are intoxicated and exultant with the nourishment they find here; and their loyalty is deeper and subtler and more a matter of the inmost soul than the gregarious loyalty of the clubhouse pattern often is. 

Indeed, there is such an inner spiritual Harvard; and the men I speak of, and for whom I speak to-day, are its true missionaries and carry its gospel into infidel parts. When they come to Harvard, it is not primarily because she is a club. It is because they have heard of her persistently atomistic constitution, of her tolerance of exceptionality and eccentricity, of her devotion to the principles of individual vocation and choice. It is because you cannot make single one-ideaed regiments of her classes. It is because she cherishes so many vital ideals, yet makes a scale of value among them; so that even her apparently incurable second-rateness (or only occasional first-rateness) in intercollegiate athletics comes from her seeing so well that sport is but sport, that victory over Yale is not the whole of the law and the prophets, and that a popgun is not the crack of doom. 

The true Church was always the invisible Church. The true Harvard is the invisible Harvard in the souls of her more truth-seeking and independent and often very solitary sons. Thoughts are the precious seeds of which our universities should be the botanical gardens. Beware when God lets loose a thinker on the world— either Carlyle or Emerson said that— for all things then have to rearrange themselves. But the thinkers in their youth are almost always very lonely creatures. “Alone the great sun rises and alone spring the great streams.” The university most worthy of rational admiration is that one in which your lonely thinker can feel himself least lonely, most positively furthered, and most richly fed. On an occasion like this it would be poor taste to draw comparisons between the colleges, and in their mere clubhouse quality they cannot differ widely — all must be worthy of the loyalties and affections they arouse. But as a nursery for independent and lonely thinkers I do believe that Harvard still is in the van. Here they find the climate so propitious that they can be happy in their very solitude. The day when Harvard shall stamp a single hard and fast type of character upon her children, will be that of her downfall. Our undisciplinables are our proudest product. Let us agree together in hoping that the output of them will never cease. 









Friday, August 14, 2020

Early days of computer science at Harvard

The group of students who hung around the Aiken Computation Lab +/-50 years ago got together last February, and I wrote up an account of our collective memory for Harvard Magazine. There was a lot going on scientifically in a remarkably supportive and creative atmosphere, even though we were by no means a tier 1 CS program in those days. I have done my best to explain it here, but those of you who know what kind of atmosphere I always hoped for at Harvard may understand best what I am talking about. Hope you enjoy it!

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Harvard, Hong Kong, and China

I used to visit Hong Kong regularly, and also made a few trips to mainland China. One of those trips put me in a provincial Chinese city on the morning of June 4, 2009, a day that seemed to be like any other when I awakened. After breakfast I flew to Hong Kong, where the people were afoot by the thousands. That night I attended the massive gathering in Victoria Park commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre. 


In 2013 I wrote several posts about the expansion of liberal arts colleges and universities into nations under authoritarian rule, for example The Charade of Liberal Arts Campuses in Authoritarian States. In a word, I couldn’t imagine how one would teach the Declaration of Independence in a country where political protest is suppressed, nor how to teach gender studies in a place where homosexuality is illegal. The professors would surely be tagged as enemies of the state and students who chose to study such texts would be put under surveillance. I observed that American universities were starting to self-censor in order to live peacefully with their authoritarian host countries in the East.


But Hong Kong was a free city. I lectured on liberal education at universities there and advised Hong Kong U on its Common Core curriculum. I made friends there, and the academics took seriously their mandate to make the “two systems” philosophy work. Occasionally some stooge of the mainland government would make his presence known at a talk I was giving, but for the most part the audience behaved the way I expect college audiences to behave.


Then came the passage a few weeks ago of the “The Law of the People’s Republic of China on Safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.” (Link here to a Canadian site with the English language text of the law.) It is impossible to overstate the scope and significance of this law. The four offenses are described as “secession,” “subversion,” “terrorist activities,” and “collusion with a foreign country or with external elements to endanger national security,” each with a broad definition and a broadening rider, for example: “A person who incites, assists in, abets or provides pecuniary or other financial assistance or property for the commission by other persons of the offence under Article 22 of this Law shall be guilty of an offence.” Penalties are up to life imprisonment. The whole law is to be administered by a special force, not by Hong Kong police. 


And there is more. Companies that violate the law can be shut down. Turning in others may lighten your sentence. You don’t have to be in Hong Kong to commit an offense under the law. In fact, most ominously, “This Law shall apply to offences under this Law committed against the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region from outside the Region by a person who is not a permanent resident of the Region.”


I am terrified for my Hong Kong friends. Some are among the most courageous people I know, having worked for years to document the misdeeds of the Chinese Communist Party in the face of extreme efforts to rewrite history, for example the June 4 history mentioned above. One Hong Kong U professor, Benny Tai, has already lost his job because he participated in protests last year. 


Watch this ABC news report.


“Implementation rules” for the new law provide for searches (even warrantless searches), preventing people from leaving Hong Kong if they are under investigation, and so on.


To be sure, I will never go back to Hong Kong. Probably just discussing June 4 in this blog post is enough to trip one or more of the very flexible criteria laid out in the law.


But the reason I am blogging today is to ask how American universities will respond. Books started disappearing from Hong Kong libraries almost immediately after the law was enacted, as the ABC news report demonstrates. 


Can Chinese students in the US read those books in an American university library? Well, they can, but will a professor who assigns them be putting those students under threat of arrest when they return home?


But that is not the big problem this year. Most instruction in American universities will be “remote” this year, taking place over the Internet. Many students will be at home. There won’t be any international first year undergraduates, but there will, I imagine, be Harvard undergraduates physically in Hong Kong or on the mainland taking Harvard College courses for credit. All their readings will have to go through Chinese censorship—either the well-known Internet censorship of the mainland, or anticipatory censorship like that already taking place in Hong Kong libraries.


British universities are facing the same challenge, and according to the BBC, have made a very straightforward and yet strange decision: 

The pilot project involves four Russell Group universities - King's College London, Queen Mary University of London, York and Southampton - and is run by JISC, formerly the Joint Information Systems Committee, which provides digital services for UK universities.

China's internet censorship means that some websites are filtered or blocked - and there have been concerns that students in China could not study online, such as clicking on an embedded link in a scholarly article.

The technical solution, provided free by the Chinese internet firm Alibaba Cloud, creates a virtual connection between the student in China and the online network of the UK university, where the course is being taught.

But a spokeswoman for JISC says Chinese students will not have free access to the internet, but will only be able to reach "resources that are controlled and specified" by the university in the UK. 

Any online information used in these UK university courses will have to be on a "security 'allow' list, which will list all the links to the educational materials UK institutions include in their course materials", said JISC.


Would Harvard agree to conditions like that? I hope not. But if not, how are undergraduates in Hong Kong or the mainland going to take courses in, say, Chinese history, or comparative politics? How, for that matter, could they read and discuss poetry about civil rights and personal freedom? How could they read English literature, 1984 for example? How could they read the founding philosophical texts of the Enlightenment, which laid the philosophical premise for the right of the American colonies to break away?


I have heard no discussion of these questions. At Harvard, there are any number of individuals who might comment but have not, as far as I am aware. The Vice Provost for International Affairs is a senior Chinese historian. The Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies is headed by another senior Chinese historian. The chairman of the China Fund is a professor of Chinese studies who also holds a professorship in the Business School and was formerly the dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Harvard’s president has won acclaim for his public statements and actions on DACA and on ICE policy changes. Other universities seem no more outspoken.


Perhaps no one is commenting because everyone is tied up worrying about other things. To be sure, Covid-19 has created threats to universities that demand immediate attention. Still, one can’t help wondering if the large footprint of China in American universities may be making them cautious about antagonizing the Chinese government. What was once seen as an opportunity for universities to become global institutions may have rendered some of them so dependent on Chinese students, donations, and hosting arrangements that their business interests are tempering their voices, even as their academic counterparts in Hong Kong are losing their jobs and those at top mainland universities are being imprisoned and fired. Follow the money.


As I wrote seven years ago, you can’t offer a liberal education in an authoritarian state. And that is exactly what Harvard and other American universities would be trying to do if they offer their own courses, unadulterated, to students in China. Or Hong Kong. They would be putting both their students and the institutions themselves at risk of criminal sanctions. With all the varied collaborations American universities have with China, would they imperil themselves and their students? But if not, what choice do they have?


It is a tragedy for Hong Kong. But the loss to the future of global freedom is even greater. There was a time when students came to the US and learned here how free societies think about themselves and how they translate those ideals into governance structures. Even without the illiberal trends in the US, those days seem to be ending, as both the US and China become more nationalistic. 





Tuesday, June 30, 2020

A Joyless Victory

The four-year fight over Harvard’s “USGSO” policy is over. (”Unrecognized Single Gender Social Organizations.”) But many questions remain.

This is the policy President Faust and Dean Khurana announced, without any prior public discussion, during spring reading period in 2016. It denied certain honors and privileges to members of single-gender clubs, clubs that had no Harvard space or official recognition. It was clear from the beginning that the policy was aimed at the old male Final Clubs, as the policy was represented early on as a response to the problem of campus sexual assault (the vast majority of which are attacks by men on women) and to pernicious social class hierarchy. Data were presented in support of the first rationale, which withered under scrutiny and was never mentioned again. No attempt was ever made to back up the charge of social or ethnic exclusivity with hard data, though it always seemed clear that even the ritziest of the Final Clubs was far more ethnically diverse than (say) the Black Men’s Forum or the Asian American Sisters in Service, both fully legitimate Harvard-sponsored organizations.

The sanctions had little effect on the Final Clubs. A year or so ago I had lunch at a restaurant in Harvard Square with an undergraduate, and as we were chatting a series of men with athletic physique and impeccable attire came by and exchanged fist bumps and grunted greetings with my companion. “Recruiting?” I naively asked. “No,” he replied. “Punch season.”

But the sanctions all but wiped out the women’s clubs, which did not have the real estate, the alumni backing, or the stabilizing traditions of the men’s clubs. Parties including sororities sued Harvard in Massachusetts and Federal courts, and successfully beat back Harvard’s motion to dismiss in both venues. It was Judge Gorton’s opinion in the federal case that President Bacow cited in dropping the policy yesterday, noting that its reasoning was consistent with the majority opinion in the recent Supreme Court decision about LGBTQ employee rights. (Two weeks ago I pointed out that assonance and why I thought it spelled trouble for Harvard’s USGSO policy.)

So what more is there to say?

First, President Bacow’s retreat on the policy is minimalist, as is Dean Khurana’s supporting statement. Harvard does not acknowledge that the policy was wrong; only that it was likely to be interpreted as technically illegal under a peculiar interpretation of Title VII by a couple of judges. So from a purely personal standpoint, I find the outcome unsatisfying, because I never would have guessed that the policy was unlawful—only unwise and, in restraining students’ freedom of association off-campus, out of step with the spirit of American civil rights. (That is why the American Constitution Society debate held on this topic in November 2016 referred to the policy violating “First Amendment values,” not the First Amendment itself.) President Bacow writes of Judge Gorton’s opinion in denying Harvard’s motion to dismiss,

[T]he court accepted the plaintiffs’ legal theory that the policy, although adopted to counteract discrimination based on sex, is itself an instance of discrimination based on sex.

Now that way of putting it suggests that there is something absurd in the judge’s reasoning, that Harvard’s good intentions should be to its credit in this battle, that you have to tie your brain in a pretzel to make sense of the logical trap into which Harvard fell. That “we’re still right about this” posture echoes through Dean Khurana’s accompanying statement. I would have been happier to think that Harvard leadership had realized that the policy was not just technically wrong but fundamentally misguided, particularly for an educational institution. We should not be teaching students that the way to respond to social problems is to limit the ways in which citizens can peaceably assemble. 

Second, substitute “race” for “sex” in the sentence quoted above, and you have pretty much the basis for the SFFA lawsuit against Harvard, which is now in the hands of a US Court of Appeals. Harvard Magazine does a good job teasing out the uncomfortable implications for Harvard if that case makes it to the Supreme Court and that Court continues this line of reasoning.

A third consequence of the narrowness of the institutional concession is that it leaves open the possibility of a new policy taking squarer aim at the Final Clubs, or some larger set of off-campus organizations. Harvard could, for example, adopt a policy prohibiting (or penalizing) membership in an organization that costs money to join, unless it waives those fees for students who can’t afford to pay them. No Title VII protections would come into play, I suppose. 

Fourth, none of this settles the question of those lawsuits. Harvard has acknowledged it would lose them (or at least the federal case). What happens now? Does Harvard have to pay the plaintiffs? Does it have to do something to restore the women’s clubs it crushed? 

Finally, as the Globe reported this morning, the plaintiffs had yesterday filed a motion for an injunction against Harvard, apparently only hours before the Corporation vote and the president’s announcement. That motion is based on discovery of Harvard internal deliberations, which are unsurprising but damning. To quote (omitting citations to exhibits).

Evidence adduced in discovery reveals, however, that the Sanctions Policy (or something very much like it) was in the works long before May 2016; that the process for adopting the Policy was infused with sex stereotypes and anti-male bias; and that the Implementation and USGSO Committees were constituted to do little more than add a veneer of process to decisions already made by Harvard’s administrators long before. 

In an internal memo and presentation prepared in late 2015 and early 2016, the architect of the Sanctions Policy—Dean Rakesh Khurana—declared that he wanted to punish men who join men’s groups because men’s groups “jeopardize safety.” These documents show that Khurana already planned to target men’s organizations long before Harvard formed any committee or engaged in any kind of deliberative process, and that he was motivated to do so by a view that men’s groups are categorically unsafe places. The documents also show that the supposed “gender equity” rationale for the Policy was nothing but messaging. In a list of “pros” for targeting all single-sex organizations as a way of eliminating men’s groups, Khurana wrote that this ostensibly even-handed approach would improve “public relations: ‘University committed to gender equity.’” 

In an email and attachment sent to Dean Khurana on March 2, 2016, Harvard’s then- President Drew Faust expressed similar anti-male bias in supporting adoption of the Sanctions Policy. Faust declared that “the continuing hegemony of exclusive all male Final Clubs over undergraduate social life is deeply disturbing.” In her view, men’s groups—which she characterized as “overwhelmingly white and largely financially well-off men”—“yield disproportionate numbers of sexual assaults” as “the product of the hierarchical, gendered assumptions that form the very basis for [their] existence.” Id. “These organizations and the attitudes their current structure -- all male, unsupervised access to alcohol, exclusivity of male membership --inevitably encourages pose real dangers,” including to “fundamental physical safety.”

Numerous other previously unavailable documents show that sex stereotypes and anti- male bias shaped the Policy and drove its adoption. In internal Harvard documents, men’s organizations are consistently described as places of misogyny, racism, homophobia, and sexual violence; women are consistently described as unequal, victimized, and disempowered; and women’s organizations are disregarded as an unfortunate consequence of men’s organizations, existing solely as a mechanism to cope with exclusion from men’s spaces. 

Today is my last day as Gordon McKay Professor of Computer Science; starting tomorrow I will be “Gordon McKay Research Professor,” a fancy way of saying that I will be retired but active. It is a happy day for me, but not because it’s a day I am particularly proud to be a Harvard alumnus or faculty member. I am glad that the USGSO policy is no more and grateful to the many alumni and faculty who supported the effort to get rid of it. They are a wonderfully diverse group, starting with the three co-authors of the op-ed No Values Tests back in the fall of 2016, Margo Seltzer, Eric Nelson, and Richard Thomas. We all took some heat from our faculty colleagues and even from our institutional leaders. No matter. 

But what a colossal waste of time, money, and good will this policy has been for Harvard. Good riddance. I wish I could be more confident the University had learned something from the experience.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Because of sex

There was a striking coincidence between the legal reasoning in the Supreme Court's opinion outlawing employment discrimination against gay and transgendered people, and the reasoning of Judge Gorton when he denied Harvard's motion to dismiss the federal suit against the University filed by certain single-gender organizations. I wrote up that decision in a post called But For, because the key point in the opinion was that Harvard was discriminating on the basis of sex because it would not have been against Harvard policy for a woman to join an all-male Final Club or fraternity. The fact that the club would not have welcomed her was irrelevant.

In the opinion written by Justice Gorsuch in the momentous Supreme Court decision earlier this week, an almost identical fact pattern was at stake."Clayton County, Georgia, fired Gerald Bostock for conduct `unbecoming' a county employee shortly after he began participating in a gay recreational softball league." Had he been a woman joining that league, she would not have been fired. But for his sex, he could have kept his job and joined the league. So he was fired because of his sex. 

That is sex discrimination and unlawful under federal law, we now know. Of course Harvard's clubs do not present an employment situation. Still, if the case goes to trial it seems ever clearer that Harvard is going to have a hard time explaining why its policy against students joining single gender organizations is not sex discrimination. I have no idea what the state of play in that case is, and actually hadn't thought about the Harvard clubs for quite awhile; but Gorsuch and Gorton certainly sound a great deal alike!

Saturday, May 2, 2020

A question unanswered in the Epstein report

It was inevitable that the Harvard report (released, in classic style, on a Friday afternoon) would raise as many questions as it answered. It is lawyerly (not surprising, it was written by lawyers) and focused on Harvard rules and policies. I find it very damaging to the reputation of Harvard's faculty, and rather reassuring about the integrity of Harvard's leadership.  At one crucial juncture in 2013 (page 11), a development office staffer writes a bloodless memo to Harvard leadership describing the interest shown by the chair of the Math department and the dean for Science in raising more money from Epstein, even though he was by now a sex criminal. The dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and the President said no, and they deserve credit for their good judgment. The system worked, to that extent. The question would be how those advocating for accepting the money came to the conclusion that "the good his support can do for Professor Nowak’s research outweighs the reputational risk of accepting further funds from him. In addition, they emphasize both that Epstein has served his time for his crime, and that his wealth has been obtained legally, having nothing to do with the crime for which he was convicted." I have some opinions on all that, as others do as well. But I would like to point to a different question.

On page 18, footnote 13 reads as follows:
A number of the Harvard faculty members we interviewed also acknowledged that they visited Epstein at his homes in New York, Florida, New Mexico or the Virgin Islands, visited him in jail or on work release, or traveled on one of his planes. Faculty members told us that they undertook these off-campus activities primarily in their personal capacities rather than as representatives of Harvard. These actions did not implicate Harvard rules or policies
Now first of all, what "number"? That is a lot of travel if the number of involved faculty is small, and a lot of travel if the number of involved faculty is large. Who are these people who kept buzzing around Epstein? We probably know some of the names, but perhaps not all.

The big question is "why?" Why did these distinguished Harvard faculty continue to consort with Epstein? We know that some of them wanted more money for their Harvard programs, but there seems to be something more going on. Some of them apparently thought Epstein was brilliant, or were at least willing to tell the Harvard administration they thought so. (Dan Dennett and Steve Pinker, to their credit, seem to have figured out early on that Epstein was intellectually a phony.)

So what I really would like to know in this context is how to parse the phrase "primarily in their personal capacities rather than as representatives of Harvard." Plainly, under even the most generous interpretation, Harvard's reputation stood to be damaged by an aggregation of academic suitors being solicitous of a sex offender. We all have private lives that are not Harvard's business, but if three Harvard professors go out to dinner with a rich criminal, Harvard is automatically implicated.

I am most interested in a specific question raised by the quoted phrase. 

Joi Ito, sometime head of the Media Lab at MIT, had to resign when it was disclosed that he, like Nowak, had allowed Epstein to get uncomfortably close to the institution he headed. In some ways, the Harvard situation seems worse to me than the MIT situation, because Ito was responsible for raising enormous amounts of money just to keep the Media Lab running. It is a crazy financial model that creates terrible incentives, which is not to excuse Ito's conduct. But the Harvard Math department was in no danger of going out of business if the chair of the department failed to raise a single dollar. What happened at Harvard looks to me more like ethically obtuse expansionist greed than what happened at the Media Lab. 

But Ito committed another affont to commonly accepted values. At the same time as he was raising money from Epstein for the Media Lab, he was raising money from Epstein for his own venture fund. There may have been no rule against that--do we really need such rules?--but anyone with the feeblest ethical sense would recognize it as a conflict of interest that, at a minimum, would require disclosure, and almost certainly would have been stopped had MIT known what was going on, as it did not. As it was, it seemed that Ito was using his ability to get MIT to accept Epstein's gift to the Media Lab, thereby repairing Epstein's damaged reputation, as leverage on Epstein to get him to support Ito's personal investment fund.

So my question about the "number of Harvard faculty members" mentioned in footnote 13: Was any of them personally profiting from their association with Epstein? If their business with Epstein was conducted "primarily in their personal capacities," did those personal capacities in any way involve building their personal wealth?

Just asking.

Added May 3.

1) On my bottom line question, the report is silent as far as I can see, but it does mention in footnote 6 (page 10) an Epstein gift to a nonprofit foundation headed by a Harvard professor (one whose husband, also a Harvard professor, appears in a photograph with Epstein).

2) A colleague has suggested that the situation of those trying to raise a second round of Epstein money for the PED parallels Ito's situation with the Media Lab more closely than I suggest above: in both cases they would go under and there would be layoffs if more money could not be raised. It is true (page 16 of the report) that Epstein's $6.5 million dollar gift had been spent down by 2013, and while he was not the only donor, PED apparently did need to keep raising money to stay afloat. It's much smaller than the Media Lab -- 8 graduate students, 5 postdocs, 2 research associates, a couple of administrative staff, and a single professor, according to the program's web site right now. A fair parsing of this would get us into a different ball of wax: how we professors learn to use terms like "essential" and "urgent" to describe favored programs when we want to start or to keep them going or to use them to recruit desirable faculty, even though they are a drain on the institution's unrestricted money and, most of the time, Harvard (or MIT) would function just fine without them. A story for another day.