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SUNY Board Picks New Chancellor: Jim Malatras
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Newly Elected SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras
Credit: WAMC/Pat Bradley

Jim Malatras, the president of SUNY Empire State College who’s doubled as a key state official involved in New York’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, has been chosen as the next chancellor of the State University of New York.

The SUNY Board of Trustees voted nearly unanimously to install Malatras into the position, which has been vacant for the last few months since Kristina Johnson resigned.

Malatras had been rumored to be interested in the role following Johnson’s departure, but it wasn’t confirmed until this week that the board would elect him to the position. It pays about half a million dollars a year.

“It will take us working together, but we will meet this moment and we will come out stronger more adaptable, and more unified than ever,” Malatras said, according to WAMC.

Malatras is no stranger to high-ranking positions in state government. He previously served as Cuomo’s director of state operations, a position that literally oversees the day-to-day workings of state government in New York. He’s considered one of Cuomo’s closest advisors.

He left his position in the Cuomo administration to lead the Rockefeller Institute, a policy research firm. He stayed in the job for a few years before leaving to head Empire State College last year.

He previously worked as the vice chancellor for policy at SUNY, in a short stint outside the Cuomo administration in 2013.

Some were disappointed that SUNY’s board didn’t undertake a broader, national search to replace Johnson, an engineer by trade who served in the position for three years before her surprise departure in June. She’s now leading Ohio State University.

Fred Kowal, president of United University Professions, the union representing SUNY workers, congratulated Malatras on the new gig, but urged him to create innovative solutions to sustain the university system in the wake of the global pandemic.

“As chancellor, it is imperative that Dr. Malatras work with us to find real solutions to the long-term underinvestment in SUNY—which has forced SUNY to become over-reliant on student tuition and fees for funding,” Kowal said.

Mary Beth Labate, who leads the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities, a group representing private and nonprofit colleges, said she also supported the choice.

“Our diverse higher education ecosystem is one of New York’s greatest strengths and allows us to attract many of the world’s brightest minds to study, live and work here,” Labate said. “We look forward to continuing to work together and build on the unique partnership between our private and public colleges and universities.”