Wednesday, March 4, 2020   
Administrators reach out to MSU students from tornado-impacted area
Mississippi State Dean of Students Thomas Bourgeois said the university is reaching out to more than 80 students from Nashville, Tennessee and the middle Tennessee region to show support for those who may be impacted by a severe tornado this week. Bourgeois said the Dean of Students Office is encouraging students impacted in any way by the tornado to respond or call 662-325-3611 so the university can "ensure our MSU students are safe, have academic resources, and your needs are met." When students are facing a sudden crisis, including families impacted by severe weather or other disasters, the university's Division of Student Affairs works with others on campus to help impacted students through difficult times. The university also has supportive relationships with disaster response and recovery agencies, as well as nonprofit organizations. The MSU Foundation accepts gifts for the MSU Student Relief Fund, which assists students impacted by disasters. For more information or to make a contribution, visit or contact the Annual Giving office at 662-325-2466.
Aldermen hear parking meter presentation at meeting
The Starkville Board of Aldermen heard from a vendor Tuesday night as it considers metered parking in the Cotton District. CivicSmart President and CEO Michael Nickolaus gave a presentation to the aldermen regarding his company's electronic parking meters. "The whole system is really customized to you, your violations, how you want to handle things, if you want a barcode, if you want an OCR code," Nickolaus said. To install in the whole Cotton District would involve 406 spaces overall covered by 45 meters. The area would include parts of University Drive, Lampkin Street, Russell Street, Spring Street and Mill Street. However, a smaller area of meters would be set up on University Drive to test the effects of the meters on the area. He said with pay stations the entire project would run about $300,000.
Supervisors hear from Corps of Engineers, MDEQ on dam
On Tuesday morning, members of the Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors met with representatives from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality to discuss options for the Oktibbeha County Lake Dam. Following a visit to the site on Monday afternoon, members of both agencies reported their findings to the community and media. The site visit by the corps is the latest measure in a timeline beginning on Jan. 14 when a slide was found on the backside of the dam and a failure was listed as imminent. Currently, six pumps are drawing water out of the lake to in an attempt to reduce its level and take pressure off the dam. Once the lake is drained far enough, the riser will be cut out, further allowing water to exit the lake. "Some time subsequent to the slide, the Mobile District Corps of Engineers reached out to us and said that they had tools in the toolbox, expertise in these things, and offered to come up and meet and share what they could with us about what their capabilities were and their thoughts about the county lake dam," said County Engineer Clyde Pritchard.
Oktibbeha supervisors table gun rights sanctuary proposal
Supervisors tabled a proposed resolution to make Oktibbeha County a "Second Amendment sanctuary" after discussion made it clear that there would be no majority vote. District 4 resident Scott Ivy presented a resolution that would shield the county from possible future state or federal restrictions on firearm ownership and access. The resolution states the county would use any "legal means at its disposal" to protect the Constitutional right to keep and bear arms, "including through legal action, the power to appropriate public funds, the right to petition for redress of grievances, and the power to direct the law enforcement and employees of (the) County to not enforce any unconstitutional law." District 2 Supervisor Orlando Trainer was absent, and the rest of the board voted to revive the discussion at the March 16 meeting with all five supervisors present. District 3 Supervisor Marvel Howard and District 5 Supervisor Joe Williams spoke against the resolution, while Bricklee Miller of District 4 and Board President John Montgomery of District 1 spoke in favor.
New Northern District highway commissioner promotes raising fuel tax
When a person moves into a new position, the first couple of months on the job are sometimes called a "baptism in fire." But for Mississippi Northern District Highway Commissioner John Caldwell, the baptism has been with water -- lots and lots of water. In February alone, the rainfall total was estimated at 9.54 inches, almost twice the average rainfall for the month, and among the wettest Februarys on record. For Caldwell, elected to the position in November to replace two-term commissioner Mike Target who did not run for a third term, "getting his feet wet" has taken on a literal meaning. "It's been bad," Caldwell said. "We've got eight state highways that are closed right now not because of the flooding but because of washouts from the heavy rains." Two of those eight are located in Caldwell's district -- Highway 9 in Choctaw County, which Caldwell said will take six months to re-open, and another in Carroll County, which will remain closed for approximately three months. Although he didn't provide an estimate for the repairs -- which includes filling potholes from one end of the state to the other -- Caldwell said the costs will be substantial.
A big night for Meridian businessman Harry Mayer
Moments before Meridian businessman Harry Mayer was to be seated at a throne as the guest of honor in the MSU Riley Center Tuesday night, he was escorted from the room in dramatic fashion. The lights dimmed. Then, came the boom of percussion as the Meridian Wildcat Band made its way through the ballroom. Mayer emerged, trailing the band, dressed as the drum major. The grand entrance marked the start of "A Night with Harry," a roast honoring Mayer, the owner of Harry Mayer Clothiers off Highway 39. The fundraiser -- a joint effort by the Meridian Rotary Club and the East Mississippi Business Development Foundation -- benefits the EMBDF and the Mississippi Children's Museum-Meridian. "Harry Mayer has a long history of being positive, a long history of making a contribution to the community and also, he is hilarious," said Meridian Rotary Club President Wade Sims. "We want to encourage people in the community to realize that we live in a wonderful community and it's better because all of us get involved and take a leadership position."
'A Night With Harry' at the MSU Riley Center
Hundreds gathered at the MSU Riley Center Tuesday for "A Night With Harry". Longtime Meridian businessman Harry Mayer was roasted by some of his closest friends, including master of ceremonies, Sid Salter. A Night With Harry was complete with food, drinks, a marching band and plenty of laughs. Proceeds from the event will go to The Children's Museum and the East Mississippi Development Foundation. "I'm real excited. It's a lot of fun. We have great friends in there," said Mayer. The event was presented by the Meridian Rotary Club.
State Epidemiologist: Right now flu more realistic concern in Mississippi
So far, Mississippi hasn't had a single case of coronavirus reported. Not even a suspected one. Dr. Paul Byers, State Epidemiologist with the Health Department, says right now the flu is a more realistic concern in the Magnolia State. "So, when somebody has symptoms consistent with flu, and this illness can give you symptoms consistent with flu, COVID-19 can, then it's likely the flu, in Mississippi, because that's what we have being transmitted right now," Byers said. But watching the patterns of the coronavirus overseas means we need to be ready to react when it happens. "Certainly it's our concern that we may see widespread transmission within the United States and ultimately within Mississippi," Byers said. Byers said hospitals and health care providers around the state are being educated by the Health Department to know the signs, take the steps to isolate suspected cases and call state health officials for further guidance on a case by case basis. Meanwhile, one of the best things you can do to avoid COVID-19 is simply wash your hands regularly.
Storms in central Mississippi: Damage, roads, schools closed
A powerful storm system that passed through central Mississippi early Wednesday morning damaged dozens of homes and businesses, closed roads, dumped golf ball-sized hail and left thousands without power. Much of the damage was in Madison County, including Gluckstadt, Canton and Flora. Rankin, Covington, Newton, Scott and Simpson counties also appear to have been hit hard by the storm. The National Weather Service said Wednesday that the threat of severe weather remains elevated until midnight. The Parkway Quick Lube and Tire shop in Madison County was demolished as nearby truckers attempted to sleep about 50 feet away. They were awakened at about 2:30 a.m.Wednesday morning by heavy winds and hail pelting their rigs. Pictures of golf ball-sized hail in the affected areas were posted to social media. One picture showed a blanket of hail that appeared to be snow at the Nissan plant in Canton.
Airbus Helicopters lands $122.6M contract for Lakotas
The U.S. Army Contracting Command, Redstone Arsenal in Alabama has awarded a $122.65 milling contract to Airbus Helicopters. The contract to build 15 UH-72 Lakota light utility helicopters, is expected to be finished by Aug. 31, 2022. "This is excellent news for the skilled manufacturers in Columbus who build the Lakota helicopter," U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., said. "As our military works to develop the next generation of helicopter pilots, the Lakota will be there to help. Mississippians can be proud of that legacy." More than 400 Lakotas have been delivered to the Army since 2006, with most being used by National Guard units.
Mississippi legislators whittle list of bills under deadline
Mississippi legislators on Tuesday faced their first major deadline of the 2020 session. It was the final day for House and Senate committees to consider general bills filed in their own chamber. There is a later deadline for first consideration of spending and tax bills. Here's a look at the status of selected bills. House Bill 158 would require each public university and community college to set a comprehensive policy to address student allegations of sexual assault, sexual exploitation, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking. House Bill 870 says the governor, the lieutenant governor and the Mississippi House speaker would each nominate members of the board that governs the state's eight public universities. Currently, all nominations are made by the governor.
Dead or alive: What bills survived the first major Capitol deadline?
More than 1,000 bills failed to make it past the first hurdle of the legislative session Tuesday, the deadline for bills to pass out of committee in the chamber where the bill originated. Of the 2,690 bills and resolutions that were filed in the 2020 session, few will make it to the governor's desk for a signature. Mississippi Today highlighted many bills and where they stand in this process.
Bill says Mississippi could check for voters' US citizenship
Mississippi's top elections official told lawmakers Tuesday that he wants the power to check whether registered voters in the state are also U.S. citizens. A senator who opposes the bill called it "radical" and said it could disenfranchise thousands of citizens. Republican Secretary of State Michael Watson took office in January. He is pushing for a bill that would give his office the power to check voters' names against databases from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security or other federal, state or county agencies. If questions arise about whether someone is a citizen, that person would have 30 days to provide documents such as naturalization papers or a passport to prove citizenship, Watson said. Democratic Sen. David Blount of Jackson spoke against Senate Bill 2670 during a committee meeting Tuesday. He called it "the most radical, dangerous, shameful" piece of election legislation since he joined the Senate in 2008.
Secretary of State Michael Watson pushes bill that requires voters to prove citizenship or be purged from rolls
If authorities suspect you are not a U.S. citizen, you could be purged from the voter rolls under a bill that passed a Senate committee Tuesday. The measure would allow state election officials to reference state and federal databases -- including from the FBI and ICE -- to determine whether registered voters could be flagged as possible non-citizens. If individuals under scrutiny do not prove their citizenship within 30 days, they would be removed from voter rolls. The bill, which Secretary of State Michael Watson requested, does not specify what would constitute evidence that a particular voter might not be a citizen. "We'd simply be checking to make sure people registered to vote are U.S. citizens," Watson said during a Senate committee meeting on Tuesday. "The circuit clerk in that county would provide notice to that voter that they have 30 days to prove citizenship... After this 30 day window, if they're not able to prove (citizenship), they can be purged from the rolls." Several lawmakers on Tuesday questioned how individuals under citizenship scrutiny would know they were being asked to prove citizenship, as the bill does not explicitly state how that notice would be given.
Controversy stirs over religious exemption bills in Mississippi
Mississippi Parents for Vaccine Rights made their demands while wearing red at the capitol building Tuesday. The proposed exemption bills were House Bill 1060 and Senate Bill 2562. Neither bill made it out of committee, which likely kills both bills' chances of passing this legislative session. If passed, parents could avoid giving their children vaccines that go against their religious beliefs. The American Academy of Pediatrics said vaccines are safe. Dr. John Gaudet is the president of the group's Mississippi chapter in Hattiesburg. "When you look at the amount of aluminum or substances that are consumed in your foods or in your medication, it's not excessive. And it's not to the degree where it's going to cause long term harm or damage to you," said Gaudet. "The concern that there could be DNA from those cells that could get into the vaccine really is an overblown concern," he said.
Mississippi seeks abortion ban for race, sex, genetic error
Mississippi's Republican-led Legislature is trying to restrict the reasons women may seek abortion, after federal courts blocked time limitations that the state tried to put on the procedure the past two years. Abortion would be prohibited if a woman is seeking one because of the race, sex or genetic abnormality of the fetus, under a bill that passed a state House committee Tuesday. The only exception would be in case of a medical emergency. Other states have been sued over similar laws, and opponents questioned whether Mississippi is inviting another lawsuit over abortion. In 2018, Mississippi tried to enact a law that would ban most abortions at 15 weeks. The state's only abortion clinic sued soon after a bill was signed by then-Gov. Phil Bryant, a Republican. A federal district judge blocked the law from taking effect.
Gang Bill Trying to Be a Baby RICO Mob Bill, But Too Wide, Critics Say
An expansion of the Mississippi's Street Gang Act could turn it into a state version of a RICO law---federal legislation adopted in 1970 to target La Cosa Nostra, more commonly known as the mob. This session marks the third time in four years that a former Gulf Coast prosecutor has tried to strengthen the gang law, saying it would make it easier to get violent gang members off the streets. In an interview in his Capitol office on Feb. 24, the Jackson Free Press asked Sen. Brice Wiggins, R-Pascagoula, if his push for Senate Bill 2459 is a way for Mississippi to have its own little Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. He looked surprised at the question, but answered yes while nodding. "It's similar to RICO---the mob is running, whatever, the convenience store out there in furtherance of the mob," Wiggins said while sitting under an awards plaque from the Mississippi Association of Gang Investigators, which lobbies hard for an expanded law to make it easier to arrest those identifying with or recruiting street-gang members in Mississippi.
They're doctors. They're politicians. They were using hand sanitizer before it was cool.
Running for office is a germfest, and being an expert doesn't always help. "You cannot live germ free," Sen. Bill Cassidy reminded me. He would know -- the Republican from Louisiana was a gastroenterologist before coming to the Hill. "We do the crawfish boil handshake," Cassidy said of his strategy on the campaign trail. "You bump elbows." The joke is that at a real sauce-drenched Louisiana feast, your fingers would get too messy to shake hands anyway. But elbow-bumping is also a medically sound technique, recommended by the World Health Organization during previous outbreaks, from swine flu to ebola. It's advice that's popped up once again now that a novel coronavirus is spreading around the globe. The latest outbreak is coming in an election year, as candidates prepare to do what candidates do. Personal space is hard to come by on the campaign trail, where shaking hands and kissing babies is the proverbial routine. Throw in some meet-and-greets and the occasional close-talker (it's not just a bit from "Seinfeld"), and elbow-bumping, however dorky, starts to look pretty appealing.
Joe Biden claims 9 Super Tuesday victories, including Texas
A resurgent Joe Biden scored victories from Texas to Massachusetts on Super Tuesday, revitalizing a presidential bid that was teetering on the edge of disaster just days earlier. But his rival Bernie Sanders seized the biggest prize with a win in California that ensured he -- and his embrace of democratic socialism -- would drive the Democrats' nomination fight for the foreseeable future. And suddenly, the Democratic Party's presidential field, which featured more than a half-dozen candidates a week ago, transformed into a two-man contest. Biden and Sanders, lifelong politicians with starkly different visions for America's future, were battling for delegates as 14 states and one U.S. territory held a series of high-stakes elections that marked the most significant day of voting in the party's 2020 presidential nomination fight. The other two high-profile candidates still in the shrinking Democratic field, New York billionaire Mike Bloomberg and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, were teetering on the edge of viability.
Joe Biden to visit Jackson church ahead of Mississippi Democratic primary
Former Vice President Joe Biden is scheduled to attend a Sunday service at the New Hope Baptist Church in Jackson, an official said Tuesday. Jerlen Canada, communications director for New Hope, said the church, located at 1555 Beasley Road, expects to get an itinerary from the Biden campaign by Thursday, though Biden is expected to arrive in time for the 9:30 a.m. service, if not earlier. "We know he will be there at 9:30 a.m.," Canada said. The Biden campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The visit comes two days before Mississippi holds its presidential primary, along with a handful of other states. It's unclear whether Biden will speak during the service. Canada said she thinks Biden picked New Hope because its pastor, Jerry Young, is a well-respected, high-ranking Baptist official in the area.
Dow jumps as investors weigh Joe Biden resurgence, efforts to guard economies against coronavirus
U.S. stocks rose Wednesday as investors weighed a big night for former Vice President Joe Biden in the Democratic primaries and the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak. The Dow Jones industrial average rallied 450 points. The Standard & Poor's 500 climbed 1.3%, led by gains in health care shares. The Nasdaq Composite rose 1%. Biden capped a strong Super Tuesday by winning Texas, the third-largest overall prize in the Democratic primaries, and at least eight other states. Bernie Sanders, a strong critic of Wall Street, won the biggest prize of Tuesday's primaries with a victory in California. "The market's reaction Wednesday shows that investors have a clear preference for Joe Biden over Bernie Sanders," says Michael Sheldon, chief investment officer and executive director at investment advisor RDM Financial Group at Hightower. "The main reason investors prefer Biden is that he's a more established candidate and investors know what they're going to get since he was in the Obama administration," Sheldon says.
Mike Bloomberg suspends presidential campaign, endorses Joe Biden
Former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg suspended his presidential campaign on Wednesday, endorsing Joe Biden after pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into his own failed White House bid. "Three months ago, I entered the race for president to defeat Donald Trump. Today, I am leaving the race for the same reason: to defeat Donald Trump," Bloomberg said in a statement. "It is clear to me that staying in would make achieving that goal more difficult." Bloomberg's exit comes hours after a disastrous showing in the Super Tuesday primaries, which netted the former mayor only a single first-place victory in the territory of American Samoa. "I'm a believer in using data to inform decisions. After yesterday's results, the delegate math has become virtually impossible – and a viable path to the nomination no longer exists," Bloomberg said Wednesday.
Donald Trump tweets about Jeff Sessions runoff: 'This is what happens'
The president said former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions did not have "wisdom or courage" hours after voters determined Sessions will likely compete in a runoff for his old Senate seat. Sessions will likely have to compete against former Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville for the seat. With 96.93% of precincts counted, Tuberville narrowly led with 32.24% percent of the vote, compared to Sessions' 31.15%. Neither man was near the 50% needed to avoid a runoff. U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne was in third place, with 26.76% of the vote. Former Alabama State Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, the Republican nominee during the 2017 special Senate election, held onto just 6.98%. President Donald Trump tweeted early Wednesday morning about the race. "This is what happens to someone who loyally gets appointed Attorney General of the United States & then doesn't have the wisdom or courage to stare down & end the phony Russia Witch Hunt," he tweeted. "Recuses himself on FIRST DAY in office, and the Mueller Scam begins!"
EMCC leaders seek solutions to plunging enrollment, address financial transparency
As the number of enrolled students keeps plummeting, East Mississippi Community College's administrators and board of trustees are searching for ways to boost enrollment. At a Monday board meeting at Lion Hills Center, administrators suggested new investments to draw potential students, and several board members cautioned against making financial commitments without a clear picture of where EMCC's finances stand. Student enrollment at EMCC -- a major source of revenue for the college -- has been steadily shrinking over the past 10 years, coinciding with the trend among two-year institutions nationwide, according to Susan Baird, director of institutional research and effectiveness at the school. Last fall, 3,882 students were enrolled at EMCC, a 5-percent decline compared to the 4,086 students in the previous fall, she said. Joe Max Higgins, who was appointed as a Lowndes County trustee in January, referred to the enrollment decline as the "new normal." Instead of spending money on boosting enrollment numbers, he said, the board should be cutting costs to build up operation funds.
State lawmaker pushes for more funding for community colleges, workforce development
A state lawmaker said he would push for more funding for community colleges and workforce development. District 16 Representative Rickey Thompson attended the opening of Itawamba Community College's academic and student center and said adequate funding of community colleges is an investment for the entire state. The first-term lawmaker also believed more funding would be available for workforce development. Thompson said there aren't enough teachers for workforce development courses across the state. "One of the big things we are looking at is workforce development side of it, is where we are trying to get more teachers in classroom for skills that are very much needed because we know some students will not want to go to college and have an opportunity to fulfill their dreams, and that's one of the things we are working on in Jackson, is to take some restrictions off some things as far as requirements when it comes to classroom teaching different skills," explained Rep. Thompson.
UM Faculty Senate criticizes, requests further review of proposed media policy
University Marketing and Communications (UM&C) representatives Jim Zook, Rod Guajardo and Ryan Whittington attended the Faculty Senate meeting Tuesday night to get feedback regarding the new communications policy draft. No faculty members spoke in support of the policy, and many called for further review of the proposal by more campus constituencies. Randy Watkins, associate professor of chemistry, said that he no longer says that he works for the university on his Facebook page after reading the policy. Watkins said the ambiguity of the draft policy is what concerns most faculty because the policy can be actionable within their departments, which UM&C did not object to when asked about it. Zook reiterated several times that UM&C did not have to bring the draft policy before the Faculty Senate for approval and that they were doing so in an effort to be transparent at the request of the Provost's Office. He added that UM&C has taken input from deans and the provost's office in addition to meeting with the Faculty Senate executive board and journalism school faculty regarding the draft policy.
UM faculty object to proposed communication policy's ambiguity, control
University of Mississippi faculty and staff held a meeting in the Overby Center on Monday afternoon to discuss the draft of communication policy changes with University Marketing and Communications (UM&C) officials. One associate journalism professor who was present, Kristy Swain, said the meeting made clear that "anyone running afoul of the policy could face disciplinary sanctions for doing so." No changes were made in the proposed policies after the Monday afternoon meeting. Most attendees were faculty from the journalism school, but there were also representatives from the biology department, provost's office and university ombuds, along with other areas of campus. Shortly before the meeting began, Cynthia Joyce, associate professor of journalism, asked the members of the meeting if anyone had a problem with asking a Daily Mississippian reporter to leave the room. Joyce said that some people in the meeting might not feel comfortable about making comments with reporters in the room.
USM research vessel named after civil rights icon
The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) performed a keel-laying ceremony on Tuesday, highlighting their newest research vessel named after a leader in the Civil Rights Movement. The ship was named after Dr. Gilbert Mason, who was a family practitioner in Biloxi and most notably remembered for his leadership in the Gulf Coast wade-ins. He led the fight to integrate the beaches in Harrison County and the Biloxi school system. His fight for equality furthered the slogan for the vessel: "aequa mari," or "equal access to the sea." The $100 million ship will be operated by the Gulf- Caribbean Oceanographic Consortium (GCOC) and led by USM and the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium (LUMCON), according to USM. The research vessel is 199 feet long and will feature science labs, deck space for scientific deployments and state-of-the-art technologies, including tools for seafloor mapping.
U. of Kentucky would open cannabis research center with $4M in state cash
A bill establishing the Kentucky Center for Cannabis Research at the University of Kentucky to advance study of cannabis use for medical treatment received tentative approval Tuesday from a legislative committee. The proposed center would allow UK to become a leader in United States on the topic, officials said, conducting research that would include clinical studies and trials; pharmaceutical development; analysis of potential risks or side effects; and reviews of other research. House Bill 463, sponsored by State Rep. Kim Moser, R-Taylor Mill, and approved by the House Education Committee in the General Assembly, now goes to the full House of Representatives. Moser told lawmakers that the proposed cannabis research center would establish Kentucky as a national leader. UK already has a strong relationship with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and is approved by the National Institutes of Health to conduct cannabis research, according to Moser.
South Carolina colleges, universities ramp up coronavirus planning, cancel more study-abroad programs
South Carolina colleges and universities are continuing to ramp up their coronavirus planning efforts. Since there are no confirmed cases of the COVID-19 virus in South Carolina, many school officials have focused their attention on students studying abroad. Clemson University announced Monday that it would end all of its study-abroad programs currently underway. This means that all Clemson students studying abroad must return to the United States. The decision affects 385 students studying in six countries, according to spokesman Joe Galbraith. This was a difficult decision to make, Galbraith said, but the future challenges students might face abroad as the virus continues to spread made it a necessary one. The University of South Carolina has suspended all university travel to China and on Saturday school officials strongly recommended that students studying abroad in Italy return to the United States. It has also strongly recommended that students studying in South Korea return home, according to spokesman Jeff Stensland. Students studying abroad in China left in January.
State audit knocks U. of Florida's Preview, IFAS severance packages
State auditors have criticized University of Florida officials in a new report for overcharging incoming freshmen for orientation and paying departing faculty members more than state law allows. The Florida Auditor General report, which examined UF's operations in 2018, was issued Feb. 28. Auditors found that UF officials charged anywhere between $115 to $165 more per student than state law allows for its two-day freshman orientation, called Preview, which also was deemed mandatory. That allowed UF to collect roughly $4.1 million more in orientation fees than it would have if the university had abided by the $35 capped by state law, auditors wrote. The Sun first reported in September that UF students were overcharged and wrongly required to attend Preview orientation. The discovery resulted in a lawsuit against the university, filed by the mother of a UF student, who demanded the school reimburse students. The case is still open. UF countered in the auditors' report that students who paid more than the state limit received perks covered by the fees, such as meals and overnight housing. But when auditors asked for records to prove the higher-than-allowed rates were legitimate, UF could not produce records to show that. Officials agreed to cap Preview fees in accordance with state law in response to the auditors' findings.
Rev. James Lawson's nonviolent teachings led to his expulsion from Vanderbilt 60 years ago
What if someone spat on them? they asked. What if a friend was attacked? What if they were hurt? For every question the young black men and women posed to James Lawson, the reverend had one response: You will not fight back. For years, Lawson led early morning classes at local churches in Nashville. A handful of idealistic students from Fisk, Tennessee A&I and the American Baptist Theological Seminary gravitated toward the sessions. There, Lawson taught techniques of passive resistance. He prepared them for the sit-ins they would lead at downtown lunch counters -- for the hatred they would encounter, for the possible violence against them. Students role-played as demonstrators and attackers. They practiced stillness and silence, just as Lawson learned when he studied Gandhi's nonviolent techniques in Nagpur, India. Despite the peaceful efforts, Vanderbilt officials were incensed about Lawson's protest activities. On March 3, 1960, Lawson was dismissed from Vanderbilt Divinity School for his involvement as a leader of the movement.
U. of Missouri brings 23 home from Italy; bans travel to San Antonio
The University of Missouri will bring its students in Italy home and cancel all study abroad trips there, spokesman Christian Basi said Tuesday. University-sponsored travel to San Antonio, Texas, also has been canceled after that city declared a public health emergency over the coronavirus outbreak, Basi said. It's the first instance of MU restricting travel within the U.S. Both actions are being taken because of concern over the spread of the coronavirus, or COVID-19. "We were notified yesterday that our provider who coordinates the study abroad programs canceled all travel to Italy," Basi said. "Because of that, we're requiring our students in Italy to come home." The 23 students are in several programs and spread throughout the country, Basi said. The university had previously just begun working with individual students and their parents and with public health officials about a course of action.
30 years after Americans with Disabilities Act, college students with disabilities say law is not enough
Kyle Cox was on his way to class during an ice storm in January 2019 when an outdoor wheelchair elevator at Texas A&M University malfunctioned. For 30 minutes, Cox, a graduate student, was trapped outside with sleet pelting him on an unseasonably frigid day in College Station. Building staff draped him in blankets and coats while they worked to free him from the handicap accessible lift designed to help disabled students access the building with ease. By the time he had cleaned up and composed himself, class was over. Cox, 24, of El Paso, Texas, who is pursuing a master's in public administration, is hearing impaired and has Duchenne muscular dystrophy, which requires him to use a wheelchair. While school officials work to make Texas A&M accessible to people with disabilities, Cox says he still faces challenges navigating the campus. This year marks 30 years since the Americans' with Disabilities Act was enacted and while significant strides have been made to accommodate students with disabilities at colleges and universities across the country, some students and disability advocates say the law doesn't go far enough to meet the needs of the disabled.
Separate but equal at the MLA? Modern Language Association planned separate panels for scholars of color and their white colleagues
The Modern Language Association clarified Tuesday that a pair of 2021 meeting panels "designated" for people of color and white people, respectively, are open to everyone. "We shouldn't have used the word 'designated' and we'll revise the wording" of the calls for papers, said Paula Krebs, the MLA's executive director. "All sessions at the convention are open to all members, of course." The roundtables in question, planned for next January, are both on decentering whiteness in academe. Whiteness studies examines topics such as structural racism and the white supremacist underpinnings of society. "This session will acknowledge the role of and consider strategies and tactics to decenter whiteness and white supremacy in the university," reads one of the MLA's calls for papers. "This space is designated for scholars of color to speak with each other." The second session's call says essentially the same but notes, "This space is designated for white scholars to do the work of decentering whiteness."
University labs are joining drug companies in the dash to develop coronavirus vaccines and medications
Universities across the country are part of the urgent effort to research the virus SARS-CoV-2 and the disease it causes, COVID-19, together colloquially called the coronavirus. Globally, the virus has infected over 90,000 people and resulted in over 3,000 deaths, including nine in the United States. After receiving approval from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh have received vials of the virus for study. The Center for Vaccine Research at the university, where Dr. Jonas Salk developed the polio vaccine, will be working on a potential vaccine candidate. Paul Duprex, director for Pitt's Center for Vaccine Research, told the Pittsburgh Business Times that the research may require hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding. "Making vaccines [is] not cheap," he said. A team at the University of Texas at Austin also is working on new coronavirus research. Last month those researchers created the first molecular map of the virus's spike protein, the part that attaches to and infects human cells. This map will be essential in creating vaccines and drugs for the disease, the university has said.
The Coronavirus Threatens to Upend Higher Ed. Here Are the Latest Developments.
The novel coronavirus and Covid-19, the disease it causes, are becoming a public-health threat across the world, fueling fears of a possible pandemic. As more cases are reported, colleges are re-evaluating their study-abroad programs, moving courses online, and taking other preventive measures. Meanwhile, some academic associations are canceling their conferences. As of March 3, more than 100 cases of the virus had been reported in the United States. There were scattered reports of connections to college campuses. Because most reported cases are abroad, many American colleges and universities are advising students studying abroad in countries where coronavirus cases have been reported to return home. Some colleges are also imposing self-quarantines on people returning from affected countries. Some colleges are preparing for even-more-disruptive scenarios. Syracuse University said on March 2 that it was devising a plan to continue instruction in case it has to "suspend residential learning."
Why so many epidemics originate in Asia and Africa, and why we can expect more
The coronavirus disease, known as COVID-19, is a frightening reminder of the imminent global threat posed by emerging infectious diseases. Although epidemics have arisen during all of human history, they now seem to be on the rise. In just the past 20 years, coronaviruses alone have caused three major outbreaks worldwide. Even more troubling, the duration between these three pandemics has gotten shorter. I am a virologist and associate director of the Animal Diagnostic Laboratory at Penn State University, and my laboratory studies zoonotic viruses, those that jump from animals and infect people. Most of the pandemics have at least one thing in common: They began their deadly work in Asia or Africa. The reasons why may surprise you.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) isn't the first pandemic to threaten Mississippians
Syndicated columnist Sid Salter writes: While the state of Mississippi currently has no known or reported cases, the growing global concern over probable U.S. impacts from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic certainly should not be wasted on Mississippians. To be sure, unwarranted panic or fear of COVID-19 should be discouraged. The Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) is currently reporting: "The risk of infection to the Mississippi public continues to be low. To date, there are no cases in Mississippi and no suspects under investigation for potential infection." Additionally, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control as of Feb. 29 reports there were a total of 62 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the U.S., including those repatriated to the U.S. from cruise ships abroad or from Wuhan, China. Various university medical schools around the country have gauged the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases at 74 and 76. Again, none of those cases are in Mississippi and none have been reported in the Southeast. That's the good news. But pandemics, particularly influenza, are a significant part of the history of the U.S. and that history touches Mississippi.

Analysis: Mississippi State boasts clear path to bump its March seeding in SEC tournament
Mississippi State still has plenty to play for -- at least in Vic Schaefer's eyes. Sitting at 25-5 and 13-3 in conference play, MSU heads to Greenville, South Carolina as the No. 2 seed in the Southeastern Conference Tournament. And while the Bulldogs won't know their opponent in Friday's quarterfinal until later this week, Schaefer's bunch have plenty on the line in the Palmetto State. "I've been telling them we've got a lot to play for," Schaefer said following MSU's win over Arkansas last week. "If we can do some things, something now in the next three, four games you've got a chance to improve where we are. We have so much to play for." Slotted at No. 11 overall the NCAA's final top 16 that was released Monday night, the Bulldogs would be a No. 3 seed in the Dallas regional alongside No. 2 Baylor, No. 7 Stanford and No. 13 Iowa. And while it looks to be MSU headed for a No. 3 seed come Selection Monday on March 16, a run to the semifinals or beyond in Greenville, could push MSU up to the No. 2 line.
Mississippi State's Jordan Danberry, Rickea Jackson, Jessika Carter earn All-SEC honors
Three Mississippi State women's basketball players earned regular season recognition from the Southeastern Conference Tuesday morning. Senior Jordan Danberry, sophomore Jessika Carter and freshman Rickea Jackson were named to the All-SEC second team. Danberry was also named to the All-Defensive team, while Jackson earned All-Freshman honors. With three players on the All-SEC squad, the Bulldogs matched a program record in Schaefer's tenure. Danberry also became the 10th ever All-Defensive team selection. The lone senior on the roster this season, Danberry sits second in the SEC with 73 steals and has recorded multiple steals in 19 games. The Conway, Arkansas native also sits inside the top 15 in the conference in field goal percentage (51.6 percent), steals per game (2.1), assist/turnover ratio (1.7) and assists (3.6).
Gamecocks vault past Bulldogs
Following Mississippi State's victory against South Carolina on Feb. 19, MSU coach Ben Howland likened playing a Frank Martin-coached team to undergoing a root canal. Figurative dental surgery didn't go as smoothly the second time around. The visiting Bulldogs (19-11, 10-7 SEC) were dealt a 83-71 loss by the Gamecocks (18-12, 10-7) Tuesday in Columbia, one that may be detrimental to their NCAA tournament at-large consideration. It was the team's last chance to add a quadrant one victory in the regular season. MSU will enter its finale against Ole Miss desperate for a victory, and will likely need to make a big run in the Southeastern Conference tournament to make its second straight NCAA tournament. Looking bigger picture, the Bulldogs can earn a double-bye in the SEC tournament by beating Ole Miss Saturday along with Florida losing one of two of its remaining games (on the road at Georgia Wednesday, at home against Kentucky Saturday).
Mississippi State's NCAA Tournament odds take a hit with loss to South Carolina
Pop. That's the sound a bubble makes when it loses all its air in an instant. The Mississippi State Bulldogs might've heard it Tuesday night inside Colonial Life Arena. MSU has been living life on the NCAA Tournament bubble for weeks and weeks. Every time one team's bubble bursts, another's fills with air and floats closer and closer toward the tourney cut line. Mississippi State and South Carolina could have traded places with Tuesday's result. The Gamecocks beat the Bulldogs, 83-, in a game that meant so much to both team's postseason aspirations. MSU fell to 19-11 overall and 10-7 in SEC play with the loss. USC improved to 18-12 overall and 10-7 in league games. The Gamecocks' avenged their 79-76 defeat to the Bulldogs two weeks ago in Starkville. Mississippi State now needs a marquee win or two in the conference tournament to have any chance of making the big dance.
Seven Bulldogs show out at NFL Combine
Mississippi State sent seven players to the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, Indiana last week to showcase their talents for all 32 teams ahead of the draft in April. The Bulldogs will also hold an on-campus pro day in Starkville, although a date has not yet been announced.
'I felt like I was on top of the world': Jackson State basketball manager goes viral with deep shot
While the Jackson State men's basketball team earned a 76-56 victory over the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Monday night, it was something else that captured the attention of the sports world. Thomas "Snacks" Lee, a senior at Jackson State, has served as a student manager for the men's basketball team for 16 years and has been around the university all of his life. It is not uncommon to find Lee working out with players and shooting the basketball in the Lee E. Williams Athletic and Assembly Center. "Being a manager gives me hands-on experience of being around the game I love,' Lee said. "I am so grateful because this is the career I want to pursue." But as he worked with the players, Lee always had the dream of playing in a college basketball game. "I always joked around with Coach Brent about giving me a chance,' Lee said. "When the season started, he told me I would get my chance on senior night if the team was up by enough points." Lee's dream came true. With nearly two minutes left in the game, he graced the court for his first college basketball game. When he did, fans and students inside the AAC went crazy, according to Lee.
SEC doesn't expect conference tournament delays amid tornado aftermath
The SEC does not expect any interruptions to its conference tournament next week in Nashville, where a tornado hit early Tuesday morning. The tournament begins March 11 at Bridgestone Arena. "While the assessment of damage resulting from the tornado in Nashville continues, we do not anticipate there will be any changes to the schedule for the SEC Men's Basketball Tournament at Bridgestone Arena next week," the SEC said in a statement on Tuesday. "The SEC sends condolences to the family and friends of those lost in this tragedy and prayers to a great city in this time of recovery." At least 24 people died across four counties in Middle Tennessee. In Nashville, a tornado affected east Nashville and the Germantown area. The overnight disaster injured scores of people and damaged or destroyed homes, businesses, schools and churches.
Alabama used an app to keep students at football games. How did it work?
It was the app that captured a news cycle, stepping out of the sports realm and into the political fringe. Tide Loyalty Points was Alabama's answer to sagging student attendance late in football games -- one that tested the bounds of technology while sparking privacy concerns. Six months after its launch, usage data offers a look at the effectiveness of the smartphone solution to Bryant-Denny Stadium's emptying bleachers. In the five home games the app functioned properly, and temperatures didn't cause safety concerns, 49.7 percent of the students who scanned into games participated in the program. The data for the Tide Loyalty Points program was provided to through a public records request. Just showing up, however, isn't the main idea. It was staying in the stadium for the fourth quarters of games that haven't always been competitive. So, was the program a success? "We thought it was a good step this year, yes," Alabama athletics director Greg Byrne said in an interview with
Welcome to The Jungle: How Auburn Arena became one of college's best homecourt advantages
Jacob Varner remembers the dark times. Those were back in 2013-14, in the final year of Tony Barbee's tenure at Auburn. Then just a freshman, Varner recalls going to games at Auburn Arena and having his pick of seats; it was just him and maybe "30 other people" sitting at midcourt in the student section's lower-level bleachers during Tigers home games. Amid a sub-.500 season and a 12th-place finish in the SEC, Auburn ranked 13th in the league in average home attendance. It was a far cry from the homecourt advantage that Auburn Arena, by way of "The Jungle," has come to enjoy in recent seasons. "We don't have an opportunity to beat some of the teams we've beaten, some of the great teams that have come in here without just the incredible support of (The Jungle)," Bruce Pearl said. Auburn is 45-3 at home over the last three seasons, including 22-3 in SEC games. By contrast, Auburn was just 42-30, including 13-21 in the SEC, at home during Barbee's four seasons on the Plains. Now, the Tigers are one of only four teams in the country to win at least 15 games at home in each of the last three seasons -- along with Gonzaga, Kentucky and Maryland -- and The Jungle crowd is a major reason why.
NCAA Leaders Say 'Everything Is on the Table' for March Madness
The National Collegiate Athletic Association is examining all options for the upcoming men's basketball tournament, including the possibility of holding games without fans, as coronavirus continues to spread across the U.S. "If you can think of it, it's something that we've gone through an analysis around," NCAA Chief Operating Officer Donald Remy said in an interview. "We've contingency planned for all circumstances." The massive tournament -- slated to start in two weeks, with games in 14 U.S. cities -- accounts for more than 80% of the NCAA's annual revenue. Over the weekend, an advocacy group for college athletes suggested holding the event without an audience present, and as the virus fears mount, some have openly wondered if March Madness games will be held at all. As it considers its options, the NCAA is speaking daily with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and has formed a medical advisory group that includes former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy and NCAA Chief Medical Officer Brian Hainline.

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