College Republicans from across the state are calling upon SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras to resign amid allegations of attempting to hide and alter data about the COVID-19 pandemic.
A press release from March 2 by the Executive Board of the New York Federation of College Republicans claimed that Malatras has been heavily involved in a “COVID-19 #CuomoCoverup,” a hashtag that is currently being used on Twitter as a way for users to share their opinions and news stories relating to New York State (NYS) Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his COVID-19 guidance.
The press release was signed by several different College Republicans chapters from across the state, including the University at Albany, University at Buffalo, SUNY Cobleskill, SUNY Geneseo, John Jay College of Criminal Justice and Binghamton University.
According to the press release, members throughout the state have come to a mutual agreement that recent investigative reports by The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal have shown Malatras’ “allegiance” to Cuomo.
An article from the New York Times, titled “Cuomo Aides Rewrote Nursing Home Report to Hide Higher Death Toll” by J. David Goodman and Danny Hakim, claimed that Malatras rewrote a nursing home report to conceal the number of deaths in nursing homes after being temporarily recruited by Cuomo to assist with the pandemic.
“Health officials felt the governor’s office, whose opinion was conveyed by Mr. Malatras, wanted to simplify too much,” the article stated. “They worried it was no longer a true scientific report, but feared for their jobs if they did not go along. Even so, an edited version prepared by Mr. Malatras did not remove the higher death toll.”
Robert Walker, a senior majoring in political science at the University at Albany and the state chairman of the New York Federation of the College Republicans, spoke briefly about the groups’ previous call for Cuomo to resign. Walker explained that the members of the College Republicans believe Cuomo utilized Malatras and his power over the SUNY system to his personal benefit.
“This governor and his team, including Malatras, conspired to hide and/or alter data to avoid ‘trouble’ and negative press,” Walker wrote in an email. “We have called on him to resign, and now we are calling for Malatras to resign so that students can have a chancellor who is 100 percent focused on them and not being a Cuomo yes-man, lapdog.”
Walker expounded upon the fact that Malatras previously served as a longtime aide to Cuomo before being “handpicked” to serve as chancellor.
“At the time, if you recall, before all this scandal, people even commented how unusual it was for there to be no competitive public process,” Walker wrote. “Almost no input was taken from actual stakeholders, like professors, students and administrators. Cuomo placed him there to exert total control over yet another state agency like he always has.”
The New York Federation of College Republicans stated in the press release that following these reports, Malatras is incapable of serving as a leader in the SUNY system and lacks the ability to represent the best interests of students.
“We knew from the very beginning that Malatras was a total Cuomo crony, put in place so that our power-hungry, corrupt sexual predator Governor could exert total control over the SUNY system,” the press release read.
The investigative reports on Cuomo immediately follow allegations of inappropriate conduct and workplace sexual harassment involving three different women.
Kyle Nelson, a sophomore majoring in accounting and treasurer of the BU College Republicans, is among the members of the chapter that have signed on with the New York Federation of College Republicans to call for the resignations of Cuomo and Malatras.
“Of course, the numerous allegations of sexual assault facing Governor Cuomo are significant and must be addressed, but these come after Governor Cuomo was already dealing with the consequences of his actions taken when dealing with nursing homes during the [COVID-19] pandemic,” Nelson wrote.
Nelson explained that the chapters came together to hold Malatras accountable for his involvement in the alleged claims of covering up wrongful deaths of thousands of New York’s elderly population and a lack of addressing student interests along the way.
“Evidence of the Governor’s poor leadership was scrubbed by Chancellor Malatras,” Nelson wrote. “Chancellor Malatras’ job is to put the interests of SUNY students above all, but his action directly conveys where his loyalty lies, not to the student body.”
Leo Rosales, SUNY vice chancellor for communications, expressed Malatras’ intent to continue providing guidance to the SUNY community.
“The Chancellor is focused on the safety of our students and keeping [COVID-19] rates on our campuses historically low, which is vital to continuing in-person learning,” Rosales wrote. “He will aggressively continue that effort along with offering up more of campuses as vaccination sites [and] reconnecting New Yorkers that were left behind by the pandemic with free educational opportunities, all while making our campuses premier locations for high quality, accessible and affordable education. That’s the job he will continue to do, without hesitation and distraction, every day moving forward.”
The New York Federation of College Republicans, according to Walker, will continue to push for accountability. Walker made references to the backlash the BU chapter received following the student protests that occurred during the 2019-2020 academic year.
“Our next steps are to continue to be strong advocates of accountable government, which includes in our awesome state school system we are lucky to be able to be a part of and get an education through,” Walker wrote. “And to also, most importantly, continue to be advocates for total First Amendment free speech on college campuses.”
Nelson emphasized that all SUNY students should have an interest in the situation at hand no matter their political opinion to ensure politicians are held accountable for their actions.
“Above all else, and aside from political philosophy, it is important for SUNY students to remember to hold people in positions of political power accountable for their actions,” Nelson wrote. “Those who are in politics fill these positions with a duty to represent their constituents, which is the beauty of our Constitutional Republic — when those in power abuse their position to benefit their allies, at the expense of those they represent, they must no longer hold these positions.”