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Education

SUNY chancellor submits resignation, effective Jan. 14

Close-up of SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras
Pat Bradley
/
WAMC
Calls for the resignation of SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras are growing.

State University of New York Chancellor Jim Malatras submitted his letter of resignation Thursday morning, after documents released by Attorney General Tish James show he was helping to plan retaliation against a woman who is a survivor of sexual harassment from former Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras submitted his letter of resignation Thursday morning.
State University of New York
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SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras submitted his letter of resignation Thursday morning.

The trustees issue a statement in response to the Malatras resignation announcement that doesn’t acknowledge why he is leaving.

SUNY Board of Trustees statement on the resignation of Jim Malatras
State university of New York
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Reaction was also quick from Lindsay Boylan. Boylan accused Cuomo of sexually harassing her, including inappropriately kissing her on the lips and suggesting that the two play strip poker, and the attorney general found those claims credible.

James in recent days has released more documents from her August report, which found that Cuomo sexually harassed 11 women. Cuomo resigned a few weeks after the report was released.

The transcripts show Malatras suggesting that the governor’s office release the private emails of Boylan to try to discredit and embarrass her. Malatras, in an email to another Cuomo aide, used an expletive to describe his attitude toward Boylan.

Debra Glick, chair of the Assembly's Higher Education committee, on Monday called Malatras' actions “disturbing” and said he should resign or be removed by the SUNY Board of Trustees. The board appointed Malatras, a former top Cuomo aide, instead of conducting a nationwide search.

Glick said Malatras' “involvement in defaming those who accused the former governor of sexual harassment is in direct opposition to SUNY’s commitment to a harassment-free environment for students and employees."

The SUNY Student Association and the Faculty Council of SUNY’s Community Colleges have previously called on Malatras to leave. They were joined Monday by the Member Action Coalition, a caucus of United University Professions, which said “the Chancellor’s participation in the toxic, bullying atmosphere of Governor Cuomo’s administration betrays those women who have stepped forward to speak truth to power."

Malatras is one of the few close associates of the former governor who has not resigned or been fired by Gov. Kathy Hochul.

Hochul, at an unrelated news conference late Monday, was noncommittal about whether Malatras should exit.

“I understand that he’s working with individuals to earn their trust,” Hochul said. “And I encourage him to do so."

Hochul promised to purge state government of any former Cuomo aide who was implicated in the attorney general's report as contributing to a culture of harassment and bullying. But she said it’s the SUNY Board of Trustees, not the governor, who have the power to fire the chancellor.

Some of those trustees, who were appointed by Cuomo, said Malatras should remain because he helped the state university system successfully navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Continuity at this time is important, so I understand their rationale for wanting to not ask him to take steps,” Hochul said. “However, we have to make sure that there is a culture where this behavior is not acceptable, and those conversations continue.”

Malatras, speaking to reporters, including New York Public Television’s "New York Now" a few days ago, said he regrets using the language that he did. But he admitted that he has had “strong disagreements” with work colleagues in the past.

“I’m not proud of the language that I used,” Malatras said. “But I’m proud of my collaborative work in government. I’ve been in government a long time. I’m proud of my work at SUNY … and that’s going to be my focus.”

The governor hinted, though, that she may take steps in January to make major changes to SUNY’s leadership, saying that her State of the State message will recommend an overhaul of the university system.

WBFO's Marian Hetherly and Capitol Pressroom's David Lombardo contributed to this story.