Chat live with Al-Arian

Recent weeks have allowed the media-savvy the ability to turn to the likes of 48 Hours, TIME magazine and The New York Times for news pieces about USF and the controversy surrounding Sami Al-Arian.

And today, the story enters yet another dimension spawned by the trend of converging media: the chat room.

The chat, part of The Chronicle of Higher Education’s Colloquy Live series, will feature Al-Arian – who will field questions from the public – and will be moderated by Chronicle reporter Sharon Walsh, who wrote a story about the USF-Al-Arian situation in the Feb. 8 edition of the nation’s leading academic newspaper.

Scott Jaschik, editor for The Chronicle, said he has already received questions that will be asked during the chat session but would not disclose any. He said, though, the questions are diverse.

“The norm is we get lots of questions from people who respect the figure and questions from those who oppose the figure,”

Jaschik said. “We tend to hear strong feelings one way or the other.”

Walsh was contacted but also would not give any details concerning the nature of the questions.

But that doesn’t matter to Al-Arian. He said he’s not bothered about going into the chat blind; he’s already held two news conferences in which he has fielded questions from reporters – one following USF President Judy Genshaft’s decision to put him on paid leave and the other Jan. 14, when he responded to his termination letter.

“I expect to hear from both sides,” Al-Arian said. “I’ll first say that I’m not speaking on behalf of USF, and then I’ll speak my mind. What have I got to hide?”

Al-Arian said he knows that someone from the administration will be watching the chat tomorrow, but that does not bother him either.

He said during the weekend, after a radio show interview, the station was contacted by a representative from the administration who was seeking a transcript of the interview.

“They’re watching,” he said. “They’re collecting everything, but what am I afraid of? I’m just exercising my rights.”

Michael Reich, spokesman for the university, said Genshaft is aware of the chat and said that someone from administration would be watching the debate this afternoon.

As far as when Genshaft will decide whether to finalize Al-Arian’s termination, Reich said there was no time frame.

“It could happen any day,” Reich said. “I doubt it will happen (today) though.”

To participate in the chat, log on to .

Jaschik advised those who wish to participate in the chat to log on as early as possible to ensure that their questions get answered.