By Rachel Sagan, Esq.
Receiving significant sums from a convicted criminal and charged sexual trafficker can pose difficult and confusing questions for nonprofit or educational institutions with worthy missions. It raises all kinds of questions and quandaries. What to do?
Many institutions are now faced with the dilemma of having to respond, or not, to the fact that they accepted a great deal of money from a convicted sexual trafficker of girls to a wide range of powerful and not so powerful men. Does it matter if the money is being used for a good cause? Yes, it does!
Tell the Truth
The first step an institution can take is transparency. Be open and honest about the amount of money received from Epstein and how it was used. By airing the truth about the size of the donation(s) and impact of these gifts, institutions will be taking a step towards honesty and creating an opportunity for real discussion about this dilemma.
A response or solution to this ethical dilemma is not obvious and can vary from one institution to another. Institutions should convene community conversations for their many stakeholders.
For educational institutions, they should bring together all stakeholders including students, teachers, administrators, donors and the Board. An experienced facilitator would be essential to manage these difficult and high-stakes conversations. The goal of these conversations would not be to solve the problem immediately. Rather, it is a time to listen to each other and share individual and collective concerns, fears and anger.
Learn the Truth About the Commercial Sex Trade
The commercial sex trade functions on secrecy and lies. Educating the leadership and all stake-holders is an important piece to resolve this dilemma. Advocates for survivors of the commercial sex trade and experts in the field should be invited to all levels of the institution to shine a rare light on the complexities of this dark social truth. Advocates should be invited to the Board room and to the class room.
Come Back Together to Craft a Response
There are many actions institutions can take in response to this dilemma. Convening a committee to develop a plan for all stakeholders will help institutions craft a meaningful response and move forward. Should they donate money to organizations dedicated to addressing the very crime committed? What about compensating the victims directly by creating an endowed fund? Something must be done – it is imperative to begin with transparency, honesty and knowledge.
Rachel Sagan, Esq. is Founder, Our Generosity Matters.