This article – the first written by a 2023 student – is the first from the second iteration of The Minerva Quest’s reporter group. Reporters from all classes will publish small reports on updates at Minerva, what’s going on in cities, and more.
Harvard’s president recently wrote a public letter trying to distance the institution from Jeffrey Epstein and the $8.9 million dollars he donated to the school between 1998 and 2007. It included an admission that former Harvard psychology professor, Dr. Stephen Kosslyn, received individual funds from Epstein and named him a visiting fellow at the psychology school in 2005. Kosslyn left Harvard seven years later to become the Founding Dean of Minerva Schools at KGI. Although Kosslyn is no longer working at Minerva, the revelation of his past connection to Epstein has sparked conversation amongst students.
Epstein was charged with sexually abusing dozens of girls as young as 14. He was arrested without bail for sex trafficking of minors and conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking of minors in July 2019. Before appearing in court, however, he committed suicide in federal prison on August 10. As The Miami Herald’s reported on Epstein’s crimes, he was first accused of sexual misconduct against a minor in March of 2005 by a 14-year-old girl and plead guilty to two counts of felony prostitution (but not the more serious sex trafficking charges) in 2007.
Kosslyn did not respond to The Quest’s request for comment.
A 2002 New York Magazine profile of Epstein first publicly associated Kosslyn with Epstein. They continued working together until 2006 and potentially later. Kosslyn mentioned in the profile that Epstein funded some of his work during this period. Additionally, Epstein was a key influence on at least one of Kosslyn’s psychology papers. In 2005, Kosslyn named Epstein a visiting fellow in the Harvard Psychology department, a decision Harvard is investigating, according to the letter (Epstein has neither the doctorate degree nor academic experience with psychology required to apply for the position).
There are only two publicly verifiable connections between Kosslyn and Epstein after Epstein was accused of sexual misconduct in March 2005. The first was an acknowledgment Kosslyn put in his 2006 publication, “On the Evolution of Human Motivation: the Role of Social Prosthetic Systems,” in which he thanked Epstein for his “persistent and insightful prodding.” Furthermore, visitor logs at Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office show Kosslyn visited Epstein in prison twice over a weekend in 2008. The two spent a total of about 10 hours together.
All of these events occurred about six years before Kosslyn became the Founding Dean of Minerva Schools at KGI in 2012. Minerva’s Director of Marketing, Junko Green, told the Quest that Minerva “cannot comment on and ha[s] no information about, Dr. Stephen Kosslyn’s interactions with Epstein.” They further clarified that “Minerva has never received any funds or gifts of any kind from Jeffery Epstein.”
Lastly, Green stated Minerva staff are currently working on a small article about vetting donors which they hope to publish soon.