How Not to Deal with a College Sex Scandal

Jeffrey Epstein is a very rich man. The financier was also very generous with his $2 billion fortune and contributed millions to political causes and cultural institutions. He enjoyed friendships with people like Bill Clinton and Kevin Spacey.

And then things got awkward. In 2008 Epstein pleaded guilty to procuring an underage girl for prostitution and served a year in jail. This makes things a little difficult for the many colleges to which he gave money. According to this piece at Inside Higher Ed:

Epstein…currently finds himself the focus of lawsuits saying that he arranged for various prominent people to have sex with underage girls. …Epstein has also donated to many colleges and backed the work of various professors. Some researchers and charity officials said that they would not accept any more money from Epstein. But others defended him.

Now, ultimately it’s not that serious a scandal. It’s not like the man made money trafficking in teenage girls. Colleges accept money from despicable people all the time. It’s not even scandalous. There’s no better way to get over your distaste for another person than depositing a great big check from him.

But some professors are defending him rather more awkwardly than others. From the same article:

Another professor who has received funds from Epstein and defended him was Robert Trivers, a Rutgers University biologist who received about $40,000 from Epstein to study the link between knee symmetry and sprinting ability. Trivers questioned how bad the charges are, noting that girls mature earlier than used to be the case. “By the time they’re 14 or 15, they’re like grown women were 60 years ago, so I don’t see these acts as so heinous,” he told Reuters.

Sigh

Seriously? “By the time they’re 14 or 15, they’re like grown women were 60 years ago.” Except that the acts are illegal and, you know, really sleazy.

Rutgers has been using money in pretty questionable ways for years. We shouldn’t be that bothered by this one. But it’s almost like Trivers had an enemy over in the Rutgers PR department and he really wanted to make sure she had an awful day of press calls to field.

Apparently, “Inside Higher Ed e-mailed Trivers and Rutgers for elaboration or comment, and did not hear back.” No kidding.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer