Office of the VP for Communications – Keeping alumni and friends connected to U-M

Keeping it weird

Too real

Stairway to heaven sign

Stairway to Heaven on State Street makes no predictions about the end of this pandemic. Will Return: ?

The past several weeks have tested our collective sanity as humans. COVID-19, this novel virus to which none of us is immune, has taken more than 50,000 American lives as of this writing. Nearly 200,000 people have died worldwide.

We’ve all locked ourselves inside in hopes of staying well and protecting our frontline health care workers. It sounded like hell at first, but after several weeks, we’ve created something akin to a routine.

The University of Michigan and Ann Arbor comprise a brilliant community of scientists, professors, and researchers. In the past 200 years, this community has accomplished tremendous breakthroughs — especially in crisis, and especially when it comes to the deadly influenza. As alumni, you should have confidence that the collective genius in your college town is firing on all cylinders. A solution to this problem will come, even if we don’t know when.

No signal

Tin hatters at Michigan News

Tin hatters outside the Michigan News Building in March 2020.

In the meantime, it’s a little creepy driving the deserted streets of our town on a beautiful April afternoon. Where normally one would see front lawns littered with red cups, we see signs saying “Thank you, health care workers.” The distorted, overly loud speaker announcing your pizza at Dominick’s has gone as silent as the 2020 Sangria season. M-Den is even offering curbside pickup if you need a new t-shirt that says, “Go Blue!” in Polish.

Not surprisingly, conspiracy theorists are politicizing and protesting against this equal-opportunity public-health crisis. In fact, in the days prior to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s decision to shut down the state, a group of actual “tin hatters” assembled outside the Michigan News office. They were holding signs, dragging luggage, pointing at the sky, and recording things.

Wait. This was Ann Arbor! Had I entered the “Twilight Zone?” Had the aliens landed? Would Spielberg suddenly yell “Cut,” and save us all?

When nothing like that happened, I called my boss, who already was working from home.

“Ask them what they’re doing,” she said.

Clearly, that’s why she’s the boss.

I put on my gloves and covered my face in a scarf. On the ruse I was running an errand, I introduced myself. They told me they were filmmakers wrapping a student project before being forced to leave town. I was simultaneously heartbroken for them and relieved for the rest of us.

We have no need for conspiracy theories right now. We must fight to save and protect everyone we can. And we need that tin foil to freeze our provisions.


  1. Gerald Hikel - 1969 - M.A. , 1971 - Ph.D

    Thank you for the thought provoking article. I was at U of M from 1968 until 1971 and then started teaching at Yale when the War in Vietnam was going on. Obviously we have experienced a number of challenges over these fifty years, but I have never been stuck at home like this for eight weeks. Still teaching sort of but not being of service to others including doing errands for or visiting friends who are even older than I am is the worst part.
    Hopefully we can all get back to our normal life soon. Wishing you all the best.


    • Deborah Holdship

      Nice to hear from you, Gerald. I sure hope we can all get back to normal life too. Please take care and be well.


      • Jerry Hikel

        Thank you, Deborah.


  2. Linda Formsma Gottlieb - 46

    Sorry for the conspiracy theorists politicizing up there in Ann Arbor. I can see that would be annoying. Down here in Texas, Governor Abbott has left much of the decision making to the local authorities and the people of Texas. We have experienced almost no shortages and people are staying put and socializing at a distance. There has been a wonderful level of help to the food banks, and neighbors are helping neighbors. People are outside exercising and people are learning how to make food at home. Many of my friends are doing home improvement and spring cleaning and lawn and garden spruce up. Petty crime rate is down. I guess the trouble makers assume everyone is at home. Hope it gets better up there in A2. This too shall pass. Off to Home Depot for some essential sanity. Was wondering if you heard that the virus is 80% more likely to be acquired indoors. Glad you got to get out and talk to the guys on the street.


    • Deborah Holdship

      I was noting my surprise at seeing “conspiracy theorists” in Ann Arbor, when in fact they were merely students shooting a film. From what I observe in Ann Arbor, people appear to be following the science and doing what they can to follow social distancing as the lockdown is gradually relaxed.


      • Linda Formsma Gottlieb - 46

        Glad to hear. On our news down here we see a lot of protests near that other school in Lansing.


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