I have real problems with my city and my university. It’s legal in Ann Arbor to gather outside in groups of 25 and inside in groups of 10. But it isn’t safe. The city also requires that we wear masks when in groups, but even that’s not safe unless we are six feet apart. And how easy is it to wear a mask when you’re having a drink and a conversation?
My city — the city I came home to 10 years after I graduated from the University of Michigan — is not doing all it should to protect students.
And our university? Well, I hate to admit it, but Michigan State University is behaving more responsibly on this one. They’ve opted to have all classes online, while our university is offering some in-person classes and students are flooding the campus.
Full disclosure: I’m a senior citizen, which means this virus is more likely to kill me than it is to kill students. I live near campus with my husband and one of my sons. I have always loved living among students — it energizes me. Now, not so much.
I grew up in New York and came to Michigan to go to the University. After graduating, I returned to the big city to do a doctorate at New York University. By the time I was finished, I was married to a Michigan guy, and we both missed Ann Arbor. We packed up and came home to our college town, and we’ve never regretted it.
I love this city and this university, but I worry about the path we’re all on. Very few people get through this disease without suffering. If you’ve ever had the flu, imagine something much worse. And then there’s the possibility of dying, even for young people.
Even though the virus may be more dangerous for old folks like me, it can do irreparable damage to you, sometimes in ways that can’t hurt me any more — the loss of fertility may be one of the long-term effects of suffering from this virus. Too little is known to be sure of that, but some of the consequences are so unknown they aren’t even being investigated yet.
So I’m asking you to consider being more responsible than the people making the rules around here. Wear masks whenever you’re out. Stand six feet away from others. Skip parties until there’s a vaccine. If you can opt to take your classes online, do that.
This is a bummer. For all of us, but especially for you. I have wonderful memories of my college years, and social life was a major part of the college experience. I didn’t have to choose between connecting with friends and staying alive and healthy, and you shouldn’t have to either. But you do. And the choice should be easy enough, however painful.
Stay safe. Stay well. And we’ll all meet again on the other side of this.
Davi Napoleon is a Class of 1966 alum and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.