LETTER TO THE EDITOR: To Provost Gatrell, get EIU strong


Tyriq Johnson

Spencer Spear, an educational leadership graduate student, supports his wife, Shelly Spear, an English instructor, in her fight for a fair contract in front of Old Main Wednesday afternoon.

Spencer Spear

Dr. Gatrell,

My perspective is a unique one that demonstrates my pride for EIU and its community through multiple avenues.


I am a proud EIU alumnus who remembers the positive impacts my talented professors made on me while earning a teaching degree. These experts shared their experiences and insights directly to students like me in the classroom, because EIU prides itself on having experienced, practicing, or once practicing professionals in their fields, educating its students. Furthermore, I learned valuable life lessons, felt a sense of belonging, formed lasting relationships and met my future wife, and felt as prepared for a first year of teaching as one can possibly be.


I am a current EIU graduate student who seeks to continually learn, grow, and improve as an educator and potential administrator. Again, my professors talk the talk and walk the walk – learning from distinguished professors who serve/have served in educational leadership roles at a high level provide real world, applicable knowledge that is accessible and valuable. I continue my teaching career right here in Charleston, where my family and I are community members. Charleston needs its largest employer in EIU, and EIU needs the support of Charleston community members like my family and me.


I host/mentor all the EIU observers, practicum students, and student teachers I am able to receive as a way to share credible information, real world experiences, and ultimately support future educators – during a time of extensive teacher and prospective teacher shortages. I see it as an investment in EIU, an investment in education, and an investment in myself and my goals of continual growth as an effective and engaging teacher.

The contract negotiations process and strike were incredibly mishandled by the EIU Administration and their representation.

As mentioned, I met my wife, Shelly Spear, at EIU when we were both undergraduates, and our dream was to eventually both teach and invest our lives in the community of Charleston. While we are both teaching here and investing in Charleston and EIU (Shelly is a Unit B faculty member in the Department of English), I am saddened and disappointed to see how the current administration and culture have degraded a university that I have taken so much pride in.

The folks that make up EIU faculty at all levels, Unit A, Unit B, Academic Advisors, and other Academic Support Professionals, have conducted themselves with honesty, unity, and class.

They attracted large amounts of student and community support due to their dedication, consistent prioritization of students, and sacrifices to keep EIU afloat and recovering during financial duress. EIU Admin, on the other hand, kept students ill-informed, publicly belittled

and berated UPI members, failed to acknowledge and reward their sacrifices and vastly increased workload, and has granted soon to be former President Glassman an extremely generous contract for next year despite the claims that funds are not available for humans, but big plans are in the works for buildings and maintenance.

I urge you as the next president of EIU to address the following:

  1. What will you do to repair, re-establish, and strengthen EIU Admin and Faculty/Staff relations – both internally and externally? In addition to being significantly underpaid in comparison to sister universities, EIU Admin has now created a toxic, divisive, and downright disrespectful work environment for so many of their talented and irreplaceable employees. This item should include genuine efforts towards a public apology for the public comments that belittle them, question their priorities towards students, attack their bargaining conduct (EIU Admin left the table early at times, refused to meet at times, double-booked with the lawyer but blamed UPI, rarely had full attendance at negotiations, etc…), and ignoring the situation for months, yet claiming to be bargaining in good faith.
  2. What will you do to improve communication between EIU Admin and Faculty/Staff to create and maintain transparency and respect? This item should include real opportunities for their voices to be heard and needs to be presented and met.
  3. What will you do to make Unit B and currently non-tenured track professors more secure and adequately compensated in their vital and overworked, under appreciated positions? With so many departments being understaffed and in the midst of a teacher shortage, a prudent move for the longevity of EIU would be making efforts to secure these folks long-term. Many of these folks also serve on committees, contribute in many ways to their departments, and bring valuable perspective and talents to the table.
  4. What will you do to prevent such an escalation of conflict over workload and compensation in the future?
  5. What will you do to improve communication between EIU Admin and students when events and circumstances that affect them (classes, lack of advisors, lack of counseling services, etc…) unfold?
  6. What will you do to repair and strengthen the EIU-Charleston/Community public relations in order to build trust and respect for EIU in their eyes? There are a lot more stories of the days of old, when EIU was a point of pride in the community, than are heard with the current administration. Instead, complaints of downsizing, retirements, leaving for better-paying jobs, passing away, etc… all without positions being replaced, and thus continually increasing workloads disseminated between even more understaffed department members.

I am coming from a place of great care and concern for the university I love and its success. Dr. Glassman and EIU Admin have done a number on EIU’s reputation/public perception, which greatly differs from the EIU I recalled as an undergraduate and student teacher from my Fall ’09 graduation. Times change, but showing respect for others – regardless of titles – should remain unchanged. People, after all, are most important and the ones who make EIU what it is.

Please consider ways to differentiate yourself from Dr. David Glassman’s tenure as President in order to identify, listen to, and make changes and improvements to this great university. Additionally, please show your community pride and your EIU pride in real, transparent ways that unite these parties.

All eyes are on you. Please recognize the importance of supporting EIU faculty and ASP’s, as the quality of their work environment translates to students’ learning environments, and thus, your success as a university president.



Spencer Spear


Spencer Spear is a graduate student studying educational leadership at Eastern. If you would like to submit a Letter to the Editor, please email [email protected].