New State University of New York Chancellor Jim Malatras visited SUNY Plattsburgh last Tuesday for the first time as chancellor. President Alexander Enyedi accompanied Malatras as they announced the launch of pooled surveillance testing for COVID-19 on the SUNY Plattsburgh campus.
Malatras was appointed as the 14th SUNY chancellor Aug. 21. Malatras, who earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in political science and a Ph.D degree from the University of Albany, is the first SUNY graduate to become chancellor of SUNY. Before his appointment by the SUNY Board of Trustees, Malatras was serving as head of SUNY Empire State College, a mostly online institution, before his appointment as chancellor.
Malatras’ appointment drew dissent from two members of the board of trustees, who felt that SUNY should have conducted a national search to fill the position. Shortly after being named chancellor, faculty representatives from SUNY’s universities and community colleges announced a vote of no confidence on the part of the trustees who decided to forego the national search. Dissenters also pointed to Malatras’ close ties to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who also picks the trustees on the board.
“You look at the circumstances and this is bad, this is bad, this is not the way things are supposed to operate within the SUNY system,” Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara said after Malatras’ appointment.
Malatras succeeds Kristina Johnson, who served as SUNY’s chancellor from Sept. 2017 to June 2020. Johnson left the position to become the 16th president of Ohio State University earlier this year.
In Malatras’ visit to SUNY Plattsburgh’s campus, the new chancellor reviewed SUNY Plattsburgh’s reopening plan, which was approved earlier in the summer, with Enyedi and Student Association President Rudaba Ahmed.
“As SUNY Plattsburgh resumes in-person classes this week, it is crucial that we have the most advanced and aggressive testing program at our disposal in place,” Malatras said. “By launching pooled surveillance testing, we can run up to 25 samples as part of one test, giving SUNY Plattsburgh the ability to identify, trace, isolate and treat cases much faster and ensure the safety of our students, which is always our No. 1 priority.”
Malatras’ visit to the campus also included stops at Hawkins Pond, Hawkins Hall, the Angell College center, the Student Health and Counseling Center, Clinton Dining Hall and other locations to see the steps SUNY Plattsburgh is taking to enforce health and safety protocols.
Enyedi first met Malatras during the summer when Malatras was still president of SUNY Empire State College as he announced a partnership with Clinton Community College. Enyedi was left with the impression that Malatras is someone well-suited to navigate SUNY as it grapples with how it should continue to educate students through a pandemic.
“[He’s] someone who’s really astute and is a very stats and data-driven person,” Enyedi said. “He’s got a long history with the system. Not only was he president [of SUNY Empire State], but a decade ago, he worked as a vice chancellor in the chancellor’s office in Albany. He’s also been working closely with Gov. Coumo’s team as we gone through COVID here.”