Calls grew on Monday for State University of New York Chancellor Jim Malatras to step down after documents generated by an investigation of former Gov. Andrew Cuomo showed him using profane language about a woman who would later accuse the governor of sexual harassment.
But Malatras continued to retain support from the Board of Trustees, as well as the backing of key labor unions like the Public Employees Federation, the Civil Service Employees Association and the United University Professions as the tremors from Cuomo's resignation four months ago continue to reverberate.
Assembly Higher Education Committee Chairwoman Deborah Glick became the latest official to call for Malatras to resign or be fired by the SUNY Board of Trustees, which so far has been publicly supportive of him.
"While Dr. Malatras is knowledgeable about New York State and is a skilled operational manager who appeared to ably lead SUNY’s response to COVID-19, we are moving beyond needing an intense response to COVID," said Glick, the chairwoman of the Assembly Higher Education Committee. "It is important that the country’s largest university system search for a true academic leader who can set SUNY on a course to continue to attract a diverse and talented student body to its superb and varied colleges."
Gov. Kathy Hochul on Monday afternoon said the issue remains essentially up to the Board of Trustees, adding she is planning to propose an "overhaul" of the SUNY system in her State of the State next month.
"I will address what I can control," she said.
Malatras, a longtime aide to Cuomo, was appointed to the lead the SUNY system in 2020 amid deep uncertain during the pandemic.
Previously Cuomo's state operations director, Malatras was involved in helping the governor write his book about the pandemic, which is now part of an investigation into how government resources were used. Malatras has said he was volunteering his time to help put the book together.
Documents released last week in Attorney General Letitia James' investigation of Cuomo included a text chain in 2019 in which Malatras and other aides to the governor were criticizing Lindsey Boylan, a former economic development official who was knocking the administration's child leave policies.
In the chain, Malatras wrote, "Malatras to Boylan: Go f--- yourself." Boylan would later accuse Cuomo of sexual harassment.
Malatras last week told reporters he should not have used the language that he did, adding he had no plans to step down.
"I've had strong disagreements with colleagues in the past," he said. "This exchange from two-and-a-half years was one of those times.
The system's Board of Trustees have pointed to Malatras' leadership during the crisis and the rise in COVID cases amid the emergence of the omicron variant as a reason for keeping him in office.
"As we head into another surge in COVID cases Jim and the Board of Trustees are focused on keeping our campuses open, securing additional investment for SUNY to meet New York State’s workforce demand, and expanding innovation to continue to drive economic development across New York State," the board said in a statement. "We have challenging days ahead and believe Jim Malatras, as chancellor of the State University of New York, remains the right leader to help us meet that challenge.”
At the same time, Malatras' office on Sunday released a letter to Spectrum News 1 signed by several students in the SUNY Equal Opportunity Program and the leader of the SUNY BlacK Student Union in support of the chancellor.
"We have full confidence in Chancellor Malatras and his ability to continue leading our system to new heights," the letter stated. "We need experienced leadership and a steady hand which is exactly what Jim Maltras brings to the table."
The SUNY-wide student government, meanwhile, called on Malatras to resign on Friday evening in a statement.
"The material that was provided by the attorney general's office showed a level of hostility and a lack of professionalism that was really unbecoming," said Bradley Hershenson, the SUNY Student Assembly president, in an interview on Monday.
The resolution came after student government leaders discussed throughout the week discussing their concerns with Malatras. On Sunday, the students approved a vote of no-confidence in him.
It is important for the SUNY chancellor to have the confidence of the Legislature, Hershenson said, who called the controversy swirling around Malatras "an embarassment."
"We pay the tuition and we have a right and every right to expect the highest standards and excellence, civility and moral character from our university leadership," he said. "The students have spoken, we feel that he should resign."
For now, the student government leaders are yet to hear from Malatras or the Board of Trustees.