SUNY Leader to Resign After Disparaging Cuomo Victim

Mr. Malatras was appointed chancellor by the system’s board of trustees — most of whom are appointed by the governor, with approval from the State Senate — in August 2020 after the previous chancellor, Kristina M. Johnson, resigned to become president of Ohio State University.

Citing the urgency of responding to the pandemic, the board did not conduct a broad, national search for a chancellor as in the past, an approach that was criticized by some board members, as well as students and faculty.

Others debated whether Mr. Malatras’s close ties to Mr. Cuomo would erode SUNY’s independence or if his relationship with the governor and his experience in state government would bring more resources to the university.

Mr. Malatras, who received a $450,000 salary plus a $60,000-a-year housing allowance, became the first SUNY graduate to be named chancellor. He nonetheless drew scrutiny for his lack of academic leadership compared to past chancellors, many of whom had presided over large universities before taking over SUNY.

Mr. Malatras began working as a policy adviser to Mr. Cuomo in 2007 when Mr. Cuomo was state attorney general, later serving as the former governor’s director of state operations, a top role tasked with overseeing the state’s day-to-day operations.

He also served as vice chancellor and chief of staff to a former SUNY chancellor, Nancy Zimpher, for about a year, until late 2014. In 2017, he was appointed president of the Rockefeller Institute of Government, a SUNY-affiliated think tank. And in 2019, the SUNY board appointed him president of Empire State College in Saratoga Springs, which has about 10,000 students.

Mr. Malatras was part of a group of trusted advisers that Mr. Cuomo temporarily recruited to lead the state’s coronavirus response in early 2020, turning him into a fixture during Mr. Cuomo’s daily coronavirus briefings. (When introducing him, Mr. Cuomo would frequently poke fun at Mr. Malatras, who holds a Ph.D in political science, saying he was “not a real doctor.”)

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