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Gay Levies Sanctions Against Prof. Nowak for Contacts With Jeffrey Epstein

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Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Claudine Gay announced Thursday she will shut down Harvard’s Program for Evolutionary Dynamics after determining that its director, Mathematics and Biology professor Martin A. Nowak, violated several University policies through his extensive contacts with convicted sex offender Jeffrey E. Epstein.

Nowak will be barred from serving as Principal Investigator on any new grants or contracts for two years. Additionally, he will not be permitted to take on new advisees — undergraduate, graduate, or doctoral — during that period, though he will continue to teach undergraduate courses.

The sanctions — which Gay announced publicly in a Thursday afternoon email to faculty, graduate students, and postdoctoral fellows in the Mathematics and Organismic and Evolutionary Biology departments — come almost a year after she placed Nowak on paid administrative leave after a University review found he had extensive, previously unreported contact with Epstein.

In her email Thursday, Gay stated Nowak violated several Harvard policies, including the FAS Professional Conduct Policy and policies concerning campus access, among others. She also wrote that Nowak’s behavior toward Epstein, as well as relationship with him, was unbecoming of a faculty member.

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“In instances where his actions did not constitute policy violations per se, those actions still demonstrated a pattern of blameworthy negligence and unprofessional behavior in his responsibilities as director of PED and as a member of the FAS community,” she wrote. “In my role as FAS Dean, I have determined that sanctions are warranted.”

The Program for Evolutionary Dynamics will be shut down “as soon as it is feasible” and Nowak’s research will be shifted into the Math department, she wrote.

At the end of two years, Gay will decide whether to restore Nowak’s research and advising privileges taken away Thursday.

Nowak did not respond to a request for comment Thursday evening.

Nowak’s connections to Epstein first came under public scrutiny when a University review — initiated by University President Lawrence S. Bacow in September 2019 — found Nowak facilitated Epstein’s attempts to use Harvard as a tool to rehabilitate his image following his 2008 conviction for solicitation of minors for prostitution.

In 2006, The Crimson found that Epstein donated $6.5 million to the Program for Evolutionary Dynamics — the largest single donation Epstein made to Harvard. The University report found that between 2010 and 2018, PED welcomed Epstein to its office more than 40 times, while Nowak approved the posting of flattering and false descriptions of Epstein’s support for Harvard on the PED website.

Gay wrote Thursday that enforcing Harvard policies is “essential” to establishing a “safe, fair, and respectful environment” conducive to academic exchange.

“Operating in a manner consistent with our policies, norms, and standards is one of the fundamental obligations we must each fulfill as members of the Faculty,” she wrote.

“The sanctions described above are proportionate to the severity of the behavior observed and seek to uphold and further our shared community standards, while keeping the way open to productivity and improvement,” she added.

—Staff writer Meera S. Nair can be reached at meera.nair@thecrimson.com.

—Staff writer Andy Z. Wang can be reached at andy.wang@thecrimson.com.

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