EDITORIAL: SUNY must dump Malatras

SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras. Photo by Peter Barber/Staff Photographer
SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras. Photo by Peter Barber/Staff Photographer

Jim Malatras was there through the early economic development scandals as a top aide in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s inner circle.

Later, he was a member of the team that managed the Cuomo administration’s covid response, including the cover-up of covid nursing home death statistics.

He helped edit and fact-check Cuomo’s book on his leadership during the early days of the pandemic — a response that included fudging the nursing home figures.

He was there as the Cuomo administration fomented a toxic work environment that included allegations of sexual harassment.

Jim Malatras — always close to the light of the flame, but always far enough away so as not to get scorched.

In August of last year, Malatras was recommended by Cuomo to become the $450,000-a-year chancellor of the massive state university system — a lucrative plum for years of dedicated service that helped extend the governor’s already expansive power over state government.

Following the governor’s resignation in August of this year, Cuomo’s successor, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, promised to clean house of Cuomo leftovers and to start fresh.

Yet Malatras is still there.

Now, with the latest details emerging of his engagements with one of Cuomo’s most prominent sexual harassment accusers in efforts to cut her down, it’s time for Jim Malatras not to be there any longer.

When you’re associated with terms like “toxic and demoralizing work environment,” accused of sending a text to staff quoting himself saying to the Cuomo accuser “go f— yourself,” when you threaten to “release some of her cray (crazy) emails” and when you’re yukking it up over insulting comments made by other government staff about her, you’re clearly not qualified to lead.

Gov. Hochul can’t remove Malatras as SUNY chancellor herself. But she can exert her clout by calling on the SUNY Board of Trustees to remove Malatras and to conduct the thorough nationwide search for a chancellor that Malatras managed to avoid.

Malatras shouldn’t have gotten the job in the first place, given his thin resume in higher education. His appointment, which touted his management experience in state government, came at the height of the first wave of covid. That was used as the excuse to install someone in the job quickly.

With the SUNY board stacked with Cuomo appointees and loyalists, his appointment was an easy sell, even over the objections of SUNY faculty and the student body.

In supporting Malatras’ appointment, the SUNY board bypassed a national pool of prominent educators, administrators and higher-education leaders, as well as any opportunity to consider a woman or a candidate of color for the post.

This a chance for trustees to rid the state of one of the last remaining lieutenants of the disgraced Cuomo administration and a chance for them to right the earlier wrong, by conducting a thorough search for the best-qualified candidate to be the next chancellor.

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

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