SUNY Faculty Senate condemns Malatras, demands action

SUNY faculty union divided over Malatras


The State University of New York Faculty Senate condemned “workplace harassment” in a statement Tuesday that demanded the Board of Trustees take action against SUNY chancellor Jim Malatras but fell short of calling for his removal.

Malatras is under fire for newly released texts mocking a former aide to former Gov. Andrew Cuomo who criticized the toxic workplace culture of the governor’s administration.

The University Faculty Senate statement criticized the SUNY Board of Trustees, which professed its support for the chancellor last week, not only for ignoring his “unacceptable” behavior but also for failing “to adequately explain why they retain confidence that he can effectively lead and advocate for SUNY going forward.” It expressed serious concerns about the chancellor’s ability “to repair trust and restore confidence,” acknowledging that while many members of the UFS executive committee supported his resignation or removal, others wanted first to put the chancellor and the board on notice.

To that end, the UFS statement demanded that the Board of Trustees authorize an independent investigation of Malatras’s leadership at the Rockefeller Institute, Empire State College and the SUNY system, focused on workplace culture, hiring procedures, transparency and collaboration with faculty and student organizations. It also urged the board to work collaboratively with the SUNY Faculty Council of Community Colleges, Student Assembly and UFS “to clarify and improve principles and policies for future Chancellor searches.”

The SUNY board, which consists of 15 appointees of the former governor and three ex officio membersspecifically cited Malatras’s performance during the COVID-19 pandemic in the statement supporting him.

“Dr. Jim Malatras has been an outstanding leader of SUNY through one of the most trying times in our history and has the support of the SUNY Board of Trustees,” the statement said. “He’s acknowledged he made a mistake, taken full responsibility for it, and apologized appropriately. He is fully focused on the critical work of keeping our facilities open and our students and faculty safe through the ongoing pandemic.”

The board also released a formal apology from Malatras in which he acknowledged making “disparaging and disrespectful remarks about a former colleague” that “were inappropriate, disrespectful and wrong,” but also noted that the controversial text messages were sent before he was SUNY chancellor.

In addition, the board released a statement from Frederick E. Kowal, president of United University Professions, the faculty union at SUNY, backing Malatras.

“We welcome the chancellor’s apology,” the statement said. “It was necessary and appropriate.”

The statements of support did not quell numerous calls for Malatras to resign.

Although the Faculty Senate did not call for his resignation, the group’s statement did call on Malatras to “lead an effort to foster diverse, equitable, inclusive, respectful and healthy workplaces and leadership cultures” throughout the SUNY system, and to advocate effectively for New York to become a national leader in budgeting support for public higher education.

“We will continue to monitor this evolving situation and are prepared to take further action as warranted,” the statement concluded.



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