Letter to the Editor: Open letter to the Columbia community

Last week, the Communication Department was shattered by the news that our longtime administrative assistant, Mary Mattucci, was losing her job because “her position was eliminated.”

Mary has worked here for 40 years — as she put it, “her entire adult life” — and is one of the most dedicated employees any of us has had the pleasure of working with. During the pandemic, she came to campus every day. When work aide hours were slashed, she stayed late to cover those hours, too. In fact, it wasn’t unusual for Mary to stay at work until the building closed at night.

But above all, she has always been there for people: current students, faculty, and alumni. We’ve heard students call her “mom”–a term of endearment that reflects the love four decades of students have felt from her. Everyone has examples of her selfless acts on behalf of students. For example, she helped a homeless student veteran find a job at the college, and helped direct him to additional resources. Last year, she helped a graduate student stay at the dorms, and when the pandemic hit, helped her get back home. This year, Mary already contacted the international students and is helping them relocate here during the pandemic.  

Countless students have referred to her as a sounding board, a reference, a counselor, and a friend. Mary was instrumental in keeping many students on track academically and even personally over the years. She was a secret weapon in retention, always being a champion for the students.

She has always been there for faculty, too. She has shuttled materials and even people where they needed to go so that instruction would be uninterrupted. Twice early during the pandemic, Mary went to one faculty member’s house, stood in her yard and talked to her through the window after delivering equipment she needed to teach. She’s always been available to streamline every aspect of faculty’s work lives.

And she has been there for the college. For many years, Mary organized a media conference for high school students that put our college on their radar. She recruited alumni to participate, which they willingly did because Mary asked. She also managed all the logistics for this event and others. In fact, in 2018, Mary almost single-handedly put together our booth at the Journalism Education Association/National Scholastic Press Association convention. She stocked it with handout materials, set up and broke the booth, and transported everything to and from the convention space. She also created a complex project that linked alums with prospective students; it was the centerpiece of our presence at the convention. Her event planning skills always supported the department and showcased the amazing work of students and faculty, including the Holly Jolly, career fairs, Welcome Days, open houses, Connections, Manifest and commencement.

With her sudden departure, the institutional knowledge about all of these events that she has accumulated over 40 years will be gone, too. 

We are more than saddened. We are angry. And although we know the college won’t reverse its decision, we are asking that Mary be treated as the valuable employee she has always been, not the unfortunate consequence of a position that was eliminated. 

What does this mean? It could mean giving her until the end of this school year to wrap up her duties and prepare for her future. It could mean the college paying COBRA until Mary is eligible for Medicare. In addition to those things, it could mean a sincere letter to the entire college about how much she has given to this place over the past four decades, not silence.

It shouldn’t mean quietly terminating her position with 90 days notice and leaving her to clean out her office and look for a new job with only two weeks of severance pay. The college should consider the message this sends to other employees–faculty as well as staff.


Shanita Akintonde

Dave Berner

Sharon Bloyd-Peshkin

Grace Choi

Kevin Christophersen

Matt Cunningham

Betsy Edgerton

Yonty Friesem

Curtis Lawrence

Elio Leturia

Larry Minsky

Anne Marie Mitchell

Jackie Spinner