Cuomo Under Fire

SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras Resigns Amid Backlash Over Cuomo Accuser Mockery

'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,' the embattled university chief wrote

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State University of New York Chancellor Jim Malatras says he will resign as he faces mounting backlash over the release of text messages showing he mocked one of the women who later accused former Gov. Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment.

Malatras announced his resignation Thursday in a letter to the chairman of the SUNY Board of Trustees. It takes effect on Jan. 14.

"I have had no higher honor in my lifetime in public service than serving as the 14th Chancellor of the State University of New York," Malatras' letter began. "I'm proud to have been the first SUNY graduate ever to become Chancellor. I would not have had the chance to serve in the highest levels of state government but for my SUNY education. From humble beginnings, SUNY lifted me up and offered opportunity."

Malatras went on to say that 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. 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."

Read the full resignation letter here.

Leaders of New York's public college system had backed Malatras' continued service as chancellor as recently as this past Friday, even as the SUNY Student Assembly called for the trustees to remove him with a vote of no confidence.

The trustees said Malatras had acknowledged he made a mistake and was focused on the critical work ahead of him.

The letter Malatras sent Thursday has echoes of Andrew Cuomo's remarks as he resigned as governor months ago. Cuomo refuted the veracity of the sex harassment investigation into him at every turn but ultimately said he had become a distraction that could damage the state's ability to expedite its economic recovery.

Malatras, a former top adviser to Cuomo, came under fire after Attorney General Letitia James made public transcripts and evidence from a months-long probe of the allegations that forced Cuomo from office. Cuomo continues to deny them.

A text exchange involving Malatras and other Cuomo allies showed them mocking Lindsey Boylan, a former economic development official who was the first woman to publicly accuse Cuomo. Boylan, after leaving the administration, tweeted in 2019 that working in politics had been “a toxic and demoralizing experience.”

She had yet to go public with her sexual harassment allegations against the governor.

“Let’s release some of her cray emails,” Malatras texted, using slang for crazy.

After Boylan called him out in a series of tweets, Malatras texted to the group: “Malatras to Boylan: Go f__ yourself.” The chancellor said in a statement Friday that he owed both Boylan and the SUNY community an apology.

Boylan later tweeted that she never got one, adding, "I’m glad he didn’t apologize because, based on his email, he continues to lie."

Malatras was appointed SUNY chancellor in August 2020 and led the state's 64-campus system -- covering nearly 400,000 students -- through the pandemic.

It wasn't immediately clear who might take his place.

In a statement Thursday, the SUNY Board of Trustees thanked Malatras for his "extraordinary service" over the years.

“The past two years have been among the most trying in SUNY’s history—and Jim’s leadership and collaboration with our faculty and staff have allowed our institution to continue to thrive and serve our nearly 400,000 students at 64 campuses across our state safely and in person," it said. "He has been a champion for our students, for access, for equity, and for deeper public investment in this great institution. The entire board expresses our gratitude for his dedication and leadership.”

The SUNY Student Assembly, which had called for Malatras' resignation last week, though, said it was pleased students' voices had been heard.

"We are proud to stand alongside our faculty, community leaders, legislators, and others who support us as women, mothers, and tuition-paying students. It is time for a new beginning at SUNY with enhanced investment in the programs and services critical to our education," the statement said. "Together we will move forward and continue to advocate for the investment needed to strengthen academic excellence and student success at SUNY and across public higher education."

During an unrelated press conference Thursday, Gov. Kathy Hochul was asked whether she made a call to Merryl Tisch to speed up Malatras' resignation. Hochul acknowledged she indeed called Tisch the night before.

"Yes, I had a conversation with Merryl Tisch last night," the governor said. "It was an important conversation to have and it was focused on the future of the SUNY system and how we can ensure that we have the focus that we need, the undistracted attention on making this the world-class university system that it should be. And that was the context of that conversation. I won't say more about the conversation but it was an important one."

Hochul went on to essentially say she worked behind the scenes, when asked why she never publicly called for Malatras' ouster.

"With respect to not publicly calling out for certain things, I think people understand that the position of the governor is not to stand out and make proclamations and statements. I am more inclined to work behind the scenes and focus on results," Hochul said.

Copyright NBC New York/Associated Press
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