In transition | Kevin Matthews has served as the executive director of Columbia's Double Discovery Center for the past year.
tenure, the program has experienced a loss of staff and financial resources.
hopes to make the best of the transition.
They [students] actually react to it in very much the same way, even if the staff members aren't great," DDC Executive Director Kevin Matthews, CC '80, said.
According to Matthews
, the University requires DDC
staff to have a high school diploma, and a bachelor's degree is preferred.
Matthews himself has a B.A. in political science and previous experience in youth services management-he was DDC executive director from 1990-1998 before leaving to work as a nonprofit consultant in London-but he has no advanced degree.
"For me, counselors' positions are perfect entry-level positions for people who are right out of college," he
Matthews, who grew up in a low-income, minority home in Washington Heights, serves as such a role model for academic success, having attended Columbia.
Nonetheless, students like Bencosme said a counselor's racial background doesn't necessarily correspond with his
ability to connect with students.
looks for is expertise.
"You need to have that mental background," he
Louis said that Matthews
"has a very race-based mentality."
called this claim "absolutely incorrect."
"No one has ever raised an issue with me about there being racial discrimination," Matthews
later asked, "That there's a race-based mentality-what the hell does that mean?"
Former staff and volunteers said they felt racial tensions more in subtle gestures than explicit denigration.
Louis alleged that Matthews
sought out black and Hispanic students for official photographs.
called these criticisms "idle rumor-mongering" and asked, "Why on earth even raise those things if you've decided to leave?
What's the point?"
"This semester, I saw a lot that made me really uncomfortable," Moorer said, citing Matthews'
"attitude toward education and toward our students, and the direction the center should be going in."
is more concerned with how DDC
appears than how it functions, she
explained, demonstrated in part by his
alleged submission of plagiarized student papers for a scholarship essay contest.
Moorer said Matthews
was more concerned with submitting the requisite number of papers than about plagiarism.
has a different account of what happened.
When asked whether he
knew of any plagiarized papers having been submitted, he
Not to my knowledge.
The winning essay was the same allegedly plagiarized version that Moorer had submitted to Matthews
When Matthews came into his position a year ago, the program had a full-time development officer whose job it was to fundraise. (DDC receives a little over $1 million in federal grants and Columbia College contributes between $42,000 and $44,000 annually, but the center also seeks outside resources.) The development officer and another position-that of volunteer coordinator-were the only two jobs at DDC that were not covered by grant money, Matthews said.
So when the development officer left to pursue a teaching career, he
decided not to replace her
"I knew it's a position that we're going to have to bring back at some point.
This is not a one-person job," Matthews
"But as a way of saving money, you know, it was attrition.
That was something we could do at least for a year to put more money in student services.
And not surprisingly, I would say that our outside giving is probably down $10,000 from what it was the year before I started, so that's a direct loss in my mind.
It was a gamble."
Since then, Matthews
has absorbed responsibility for fundraising.
Marvin Cabrera, the former volunteer coordinator, left when Matthews could not find the grant money to cover his salary.
said the programs require volunteer coordination, he
is not looking to hire someone explicitly for that role.
"We should all be able to recruit, train, and help supervise volunteers.
Those things should be organic to DDC across the board," he said.
Still, DDC volunteer Afolabi said she
had been told that "the explanation is 'change is good,' when really there just isn't enough money to do the same things anymore."
argued that, though outside grants are small, DDC is by no means strapped for cash.
"I need more time to do more fund development," he
said, adding that hiring new teaching staff has taken hours away from fundraising.
has been weighing his
options for new fundraising strategies.
He may seek independent nonprofit status for the program, which the University's umbrella service organization, Community Impact, has. (DDC currently files grant applications under the guise of Columbia.) Another possibility might be to create a specific fund for DDC.
"I know I need that," he
He recently put out an ad for a development intern and hopes to recruit someone from Columbia's M.S. program in fundraising management.
"The only way you can actually know why someone is leaving is by asking them," Matthews
sees this as a moment of transition, not collapse.
"It looks as though the center has some instability," he
conceded, but "we are anything but shaky as an organization.
There's been some change.