SUNY Chancellor Johnson to step down amid pandemic, budget woes
Her resignation as the $560,000 head of the sprawling 64-college system is expected to be made official on Wednesday, sources said.
Robert Megna, a former state budget director to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, is expected to fill in as interim SUNY chancellor, sources said. He is currently SUNY’s chief operating officer.
Her departure comes at a critical time – as SUNY grapples with the coronavirus pandemic and expected budget cuts. Students who lived on campus were sent home this spring and took classes and exams remotely to help contain the virus – and it’s unclear whether students will return to the campus for classes in the fall.
Johnson was hired in 2017 with much fanfare. She is an engineer, inventor and former top US Energy Department official in the Obama administration.
Her tenure was not without controversy.
She drew criticism in academia when it was revealed that she was collecting fat six-figure fees from sitting on the boards of two Fortune 500 firms — boosting her compensation to more than $1 million.
Johnson also drew frowns when SUNY threw her an “inauguration” chancellor’s party at its Fashion Institute of Technology, preceded by a scholarship fundraising dinner in her honor at the New York Public Library in 2018. SUNY said public money was not used for the gala.
A SUNY spokesperson declined to confirm Johnson’s departure.
One higher education official called the timing of her resignation “quite odd.”
“It’s very strange. It looks like cut and run,” said the source, noting the challenges SUNY faces during the ongoing COVID crisis.