By Alana Penny
State University of New York Chancellor Jim Malatras resigned Dec. 9, effective Jan. 14 2022. This came after both the Faculty Council of Community Colleges and the Student Assembly of the State University of New York Student Assembly called for his resignation in the past week.
“The recent events surrounding me over the past week have become a distraction over the important work that needs to be accomplished as SUNY emerges from Covid 19,” Malatras said in a letter to the SUNY board of trustees. “I believe deeply in an individual’s ability to evolve, change, and grow, but I also believe deeply in SUNY and would never want to be an impediment to its success.”
The “recent events” he is referring to is the new evidence Letitia James, the state attorney general investigating former Governor Andrew Cuomo, released that included text messages between Cuomo and Malatras from May 2019. Malatras was transitioning from his role as president of SUNY Rockefeller Institute to president of Empire State College at the time.
The messages made unprofessional comments about Lindsey Boylan, a former economic development official who criticized Cuomo’s family leave policy on Twitter, in a group chat that included several of Cuomo’s staff, including Malatras.
One of Cuomo’s aides, Rich Azzopardi, wrote in the group chat, “I thought we outlawed bathsalts?” Malatras liked the message and responded “let’s release some of her cray emails.”
Boylan tweeted: “I was the only mother of young children on senior staff in my last job in politics. They didn’t ‘get it’ even with all the ‘right’ policies. It was a toxic and demoralizing experience. Now I run my own company full of especially moms.”
Malatras later tweeted “I saw someone Twitterbombing about family life on the 2nd Floor to get some attention for unrelated political purposes. That’s their prerogative. Is working in the chamber tough? You bet. Long hours? Yes. It should be. But my son was often a welcomed part of it so I could serve.”
Boylan responded to his tweet, calling him tone deaf. Malatras wrote in the group chat, “Malatras to Boylan: go f*** yourself.”
A year and a half after Boylan’s tweets about the workplace culture of Cuomo’s office, she accused Cuomo of sexual misconduct.
The text messages were released in late November, resulting in backlash from students, faculty and state legislators. The SUNY board of trustees released a statement supporting Malatras, recognizing that an apology was necessary, but pointing to his COVID-19 response as an example of his competency as SUNY chancellor.