Breaking the Silence: Professor Salaita

After Losing his Job, Steven Salaita Speaks Publicly for the First Time

By, Senait Gebregiorgis


Steven Salaita being attacked by the press after his public speech at the University YMCA




For my assignment 2 and 3 I was initially planning on covering a trip I took to the Steve Harvey show in Chicago. However, I did not have the chance to record any soundbites or nat sounds, despite taking really nice photos. After receiving a life-saver email from Professor Collins about a Steven Salaita speaker event, I was relieved. I decided to do my project on it.

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign rescinded Professor Salaita’s job offer due to a debate about his controversial tweets on his twitter page regarding the Israel and Palestine conflict. On Tuesday September 9, 2014, Professor Salaita came to the University campus at YMCA to speak publicly for the first time since losing his job offer. Prior to attending the event, I did not have much knowledge about the Salaita news with the University – I just knew his name was on the news. I rushed to the event running in the rain after my last class. I desperately tried squeezing my small self in the crowd while carrying my film equipment. I was struggling trying to take pictures and not miss the chance to record any awesome soundbites all at the same time. I started taking pictures and recording sound all the way from the back of the crowd. It was super hot inside, I was sweaty, my back was killing me after carrying all the equipment and my arm was straight up in the air with the voice recorder recording every speaker I heard.

It wasn’t until I moved closer that I realized how there were more pictures to take than just the crowd of peoples’ heads and backs. I noticed stickers on peoples’ mouths and news reporters up front next to Salaita. I kept pushing my way up thanking Jesus that people were starting to leave out perhaps because of classes and work schedules. Finally the public speech was finally coming to an end. After wandering around asking random people questions that I approached, most professors for example completely rejected my offer of interviewing them due to their expression of fear of being published and possibly having it hinder their job. That’s when I knew, okay this is an actual serious news story I’m covering right now – should I be scared too? I’m an RA does that count? But I am a journalist too so it is my duty to tell the story no matter what. I kept thinking I can’t just leave without at least personally interviewing Salaita – he’s literally a few steps away from me, and I don’t see his bodyguards! I was so nervous approaching him, but I knew as a journalist, it is practice; I had to face my fears. Eventually I did have the guts to ask Salaita several personal questions and he was really friendly. I was finally leaving the event satisfied.

Overall, when it came to editing my assignment 2 I didn’t find it all too difficult. I actually enjoyed working with still shots versus video. (Watch Assignment 2 here!) Assignment 3 however was more of a challenge for me. I was struggling with the audio. First I kept switching the order of the still shots because I kept thinking there was no clear beginning, middle and end. Then after having a peer watch my video, after thinking I was done, he critiqued it telling me some of the volumes of my soundbites differed. There were some sounds that were too loud for his ear and some that were too low so I knew I had to make the transitions even and smooth. After messing with the most helpful program Adobe Audition, I was able to balance out the volumes. (Watch Assignment 3 here!) I learned that having a peer look over your work is so helpful because sometimes another eye can catch something you didn’t. For the future I’m wondering if there are ways I can edit background sounds of someone speaking on a recording for example just because the background can be distracting at times. I would really love to learn that if possible. Other than that I enjoyed editing and putting this piece together. As far as Steven Salaita, I hope he finds another job and I wish him and his family the best.

Assignment 2 and 3 Reflection.

2 thoughts on “Breaking the Silence: Professor Salaita

  1. Cavanagh, Colleen Ann

    The press conference sounds like it was complete craziness – how cool for you to be able to be there and watch everything play out! Even though it was hot and crowded, you ended up getting some great pictures and audio that show the emotion and effect this case has had on U of I’s campus community. I think it’s great you were able to catch up with Professor Salaita himself and get a few words from him. It definitely brings your project full circle and gives the audience a lot to think about.

    The pictures with the girls’ mouths covered with words written on them are extremely powerful. Adding the sound bit of the girl explaining what was written on her mouth, and why it was there, added much to your photo essay.

    The vast majority of the pictures in your photo essay are powerful and provide viewers with accurate information of what was happening at Professor Salaita’s press conference. You did a really great job capturing the different aspects of the conference, rather than just focusing on the speakers. There was so much to see there, I’m sure, and you gave us all a great glimpse of what was going on.

    As Professor Collins suggested in class, adding in the audio of many professors expressing their concern for being recorded and interviewed would have greatly contributed to the story. This would have solidified the point of just how large an effect this has had on our campus and the professors here. But I would have been very nervous to record professors without their permission and use that in my project, as I’m sure you were! Under pressure that would be tough and I’m sure I would’ve taken the safe route, too.

    Senait, I loved your project! I wanted to attend the press conference, but I had class during that time. It was great for me to be able to see a bit of what I missed. I’m glad I was able to learn a little something from your project! You did a great job!

  2. Bardwell, Steven R

    I thought both of your projects were very well done and I was able to feel as if I was there watching the event. Your photos all told important parts of the story and I would consider almost all of your pictures to be “powerful”. Some of the audio was hard to hear, but from where you were at times it is understandable. Adding in the sound of the lady asking for them to speak louder almost makes up for this though as this was the natural sound of the event. Another thing I really enjoyed is the aspects of the students, which I thought you captured the emotions of the environment perfectly. Adding actual soundbites from Salaita brought the story together for me and put a nice ending on the previous audio. This story definitely had a lot of news elements to it which I thought you were able to capture through both your photos and audio. I really enjoyed both of your assignments and I’m looking forward to your other work!

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