EDITORIAL: Gatrell for president: Pros and cons

Editorial Board

With the announcement of Eastern’s 13th university president, Jay Gatrell, we at The News have had our own interactions and experiences with Gatrell. 

These interactions have given us our own thoughts on the type of person Gatrell is and what kind of president he will be.

It is clear from the beginning that Gatrell not only cares, but knows who the faculty, staff and students.

In several experiences by the staff, we at The News have witnessed how involved Gatrell is with our community.

It is with that knowledge we hope he has compassion and understanding for various situations. 

Editor-in-Chief Madelyn Kidd has had several interactions with Gatrell and witnessed him converse with faculty and students alike.

“One thing I believe has surprise most of us in the newsroom is Gatrell’s ability to greet us by name in our first interaction, or he immediately recognizes our names from our work at The News,” Kidd said. “In my first interaction with Gatrell, he did not recognize me but the second I introduced myself he knew my name and my news stories I have recently written.”

Kidd has not only experienced this herself, but has witnessed others’ interactions as well.

“Gatrell remembers you,” Kidd said. “Despite having an on-campus population of a couple thousand, if you are actively involved with campus events or organizations- he knows you.”

News Editor Cam’ron Hardy said he hasn’t spent much time outside this semester interacting with Gatrell but has gained a liking for him.

Hardy covered his student interview for his presidency and after talking with him, grew to understand his passion for Eastern. He realized Gatrell has a genuine urge to better the Eastern community.

“When he was chosen to be president, I came late due to being in class, but eventually, I came,” Hardy said. “When he saw me, he knew me by my name surprisingly. After I told him why I was late, he said I did the right thing by going to class. That’s nothing too interesting to say, but it was nice that he had my best interest.”

The two then proceeded with an interview for a story. Hardy said seeing the level of dedication is relieving.

“We have not had that long of an interaction, but I’m glad that Eastern has chosen someone that clearly cares about its students,” Hardy said.

Opinion Editor Ellen Dooley has interacted with Gatrell several times. Outside of The News, Dooley is involved in both Eastern’s Residence Hall Association and the Panther Marching Band and has seen the new president involved in many organizations on campus.

During Neighborhood Week last semester, Gatrell “guest starred” in a scavenger hunt event where participants had to look for him. Gatrell also played with her and the marching band a few times.

Dooley said she really connected with him on a personal level because of his involvement with students.

“I am hoping President-Elect Gatrell keeps interacting with students in a similar way,” Dooley said. “This shows Gatrell is not afraid to literally stand side by side with students and get to know them on a personal level.”

Photo Editor Rob Le Cates has only interacted with Gatrell a handful of times, but, Le Cates said, Gatrell has been super easy to talk to.

Earlier last month, when Charleston had the snowstorm and classes were not canceled, Le Cates emailed Gatrell asking why classes hadn’t been canceled and what goes into the decision-making process. Two hours later, he had detailed responses to all of his questions.

“Not every administrator responds to my emails as fast as he has. Sometimes, I don’t even get response,” Le Cates said. “But to have someone who isn’t involved in the journalism department and obviously cares about student media as much as I do – it definitely makes me feel seen.”

Dooley said she hopes that Gatrell will focus on Eastern’s staff and faculty, especially those on the University Professionals of Illinois union.

“EIU-UPI has had a long battle with their contracting,” Dooley said. “Although the president doesn’t directly make the contract, I would like to see more influence and urgency to ensure our professors and staff are well-treated and are actually working under a contract.”

From what she’s noticed, UPI representatives just want a livable wage. Dooley hopes Gatrell sees livable wages as a basic human need and gives it the attention it deserves.

Le Cates, meanwhile, hopes Gatrell will develop strategies to promote events where students can start to engage more with the on-campus community.

“While you can’t force students to go out to events or socialize, you can definitely give them the option to,” Le Cates said. “Currently, the marketing for events is pretty good, I hope this level of advertisement stays the same or even increases with Gatrell’s supervision.”

Kidd hopes that with the feedback of concerns the campus has now about his presidency, he will take those concerns into consideration when he begins his term.

“I know from several people there is a concern that since Gatrell has already been at Eastern since 2017, that no changes will be made when we when Glassman retires,” Kidd said. “I think Gatrell will still make changes from the way Glassman did things and for his plans for Eastern’s future. I hope that through conversations he has with faculty, staff and students, along with issues we give a voice to at The News, that Gatrell will listen and respond accordingly.”

Kidd said that while it is important to voice concerns, it is also important to wait and see what Gatrell will do.

“While everyone is valid in there concerns, I’m waiting to see what Gatrell does when he starts in July to decide what kind of president he will be,” Kidd said. “I think there will at least be some changes, but giving Gatrell a chance is our only option now. With his high level of community involvement and how much he cares, I’m inclined to believe he will be a caring president- even if he can’t please everybody.” 

We at The News appreciate Gatrell’s willingness to allow us access for our jobs to further our academic and professional lives. We hope this connection will continue into his presidency, which officially begins in July.

The one reoccurring concern we have heard from Eastern community members, is the fear of Gatrell not making any changes to how Eastern is run now because he already works here.

However, The News is hopeful Gatrell will be willing to make the changes needed to keep Eastern going.


The Editorial Board can be reached at 581-2812.