There were 11 of us in the small room. We sat at opposite ends of two tables in semi-awkward silence. It didn’t look good.
I had been a little nervous all day. Not really knowing what to expect from the first official meeting between The Free Press and Greek leaders.
Our relationship over the past couple months hadn’t been the best.
About a month earlier thousands of copies of The Free Press had been taken from the Gorham and Portland campuses. I had over a dozen angry Greeks march into my office demanding an explanation for one of the features printed. There have been police reports. TV and newspaper articles. District attorneys and police chiefs.
So in those few minutes waiting in awkward silence for the meeting to start I figured anything could happen.
When our mediator Chris O’Connor showed up we moved into a bigger room and he suggested we mix the seating arrangement up a little bit. Then we introduced ourselves and talked about why we were at the meeting.
O’Connor asked us if there were any unanswered questions about past events or if we wanted to move on and talk about the future. I quickly said I’d like to move on and everyone seemed to agree.
There were six members of the Greek community and five of my staff. We spent the next hour talking about how to have a working relationship, how to get more balanced coverage of the Greeks and what to do when we have to report the bad stuff. I explained how our deadlines work and whom to contact with story ideas. We talked about how I pick stories and how many writers I have.
We asked questions. We laughed a little. We talked.
There were no earthquakes or lightning strikes. We didn’t become best friends or archenemies. We just talked.
And considering where we had come from in the past couple months that’s incredible.
We sat down like adults and worked towards a solution.
Afterwards there were some handshakes, some exchanges of phone numbers and some smiles. I think we all understood the other side a little more and maybe realized there really doesn’t have to be “another side.” We’re not on opposite teams. We’re student leaders just trying to do our jobs.
So I thank the six Greek leaders who attended last week’s meeting. Afterwards I definitely felt better about things and I hope you did too.
I hope we all learned there are some things we need to do a little differently in the future. I know I did.
We won’t have a perfect relationship. There’s no such thing. But like Sara Poulin said, there’s no reason why we can’t have a working relationship.