SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras announced on Wednesday that he is appointing Dr. John Graham to serve as SUNY’s first student advocate.

This student advocate will report directly to Malatras and serve on the chancellor’s executive leadership team.

This position was created as a way to make sure student concerns such as the amount of food being delivered to quarantine dorms, reports of safety protocols being broken and more can be addressed directly by SUNY’s administration.

“The new role of Student Advocate was formed, in large part, directly from our students to have a person they could go to who would deliver their concerns and suggestions to me, our leadership team, and the SUNY Board of Trustees – and Dr. John Graham has my trust and full authority to be their person on the ground,” Malatras said. “Dr. Graham and I have spoken at length about the strategy we want to put in place – one that focuses first and foremost on our students’ safety and well-being – to maximize their opportunity to earn their degree, which has been made more challenging by COVID-19.”

Graham will appoint a Student Voices Action Committee that will represent every SUNY sector and advise him on issues students are currently facing. This includes university centers, comprehensive, technical, and community colleges. Students can volunteer themselves for the positions, or faculty can also nominate students they believe would best fit this role.

Malatras says he is looking for students to fill these positions right away, and they will serve in this role for a full year.

“This role is critical to advancing the mission of our comprehensive system where students are the priority and the core responsibility of our collective efforts,” Dr. Graham wrote in a statement. “Many students and their families are confronting unimaginable challenges. The implementation of support and resources will require renewed imagination while working with and through a wide range of stakeholders that includes campus leaders, chief student affairs officers, residence life professionals, and other colleagues across SUNY.”

Graham, in his position as student advocate, will be providing insight on what is happening on student campuses to SUNY administrators and will also be recommending policy to address some of the problems that have arisen on campus.

Graham formerly reported to the SUNY Provost’s Office for Student Affairs and University Life.

Stony Brook University Undergraduate Student Government President Shaheer Khan also weighed in with a statement saying, “as a student leader at Stony Brook University, the distance from Stony Brook to Albany sometimes creates difficulty in maintaining effective communication with the SUNY System administration. I look forward to seeing how the new Student Advocate role will increase constructive and collaborative interactions between the students and the system."

In his role as student advocate, Graham will also continue to work with the Systemwide Student Mental Health and Wellness Task Force and the Food Insecurity Task Force.

Graham also serves on the Steering Committee of the SUNY COVID-19 Re-Opening Task Force, and chairs the Student Wellness Working Group and the SUNY System Athletics Working Group.