Thursday, March 12, 2020   
MSU extends Spring Break, delays student return until March 23
Citing an abundance of caution, Mississippi State University today announced that classes will be suspended for the week after Spring Break, March 16-22, as MSU continues to monitor the potential impacts of COVID-19 in Mississippi and makes additional operational plans. This class suspension applies to students only; faculty and staff will continue with normal operating procedures. "Our primary responsibility is to safeguard our students, faculty, and staff during this health crisis," said MSU President Mark E. Keenum. "At this juncture, as COVID-19 is now a growing reality in Mississippi, this course of action is prudent and provides us the best opportunity to make the transitions necessary to most effectively meet our educational responsibilities as well." In addition to coronavirus updates, resources for faculty and staff to teach and take courses online are available at Questions can be addressed to
Mississippi Public Universities Modify Class Schedules In Response To Coronavirus
Mississippi's eight public universities have modified the schedules for the spring semester classes to inhibit the spread of the coronavirus. "The health and safety of our students, faculty and staff are paramount," said Dr. Alfred Rankins Jr., Commissioner of Higher Education. "Our universities are modifying the schedules for the spring semester out of an abundance of caution." All eight universities, including Alcorn State University, Delta State University, Jackson State University, Mississippi State University, Mississippi University for Women, Mississippi Valley State University, the University of Mississippi and the University of Southern Mississippi are observing Spring Break this week and will extend Spring Break an additional week, which will allow faculty members time to prepare to offer classes remotely. Classes will resume the following week, on Monday, March 23, and will be taught online and via other alternative instructional methods. Students are encouraged to remain at home and will participate in their classes remotely. Students enrolled in professional and graduate programs will be notified of any exceptions.
SEC suspends regular season/championship competition
Based on the latest developments and the continued spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), the Southeastern Conference today announced the suspension of regular season competition for teams in all sports on SEC campuses, as well SEC championship events, until March 30. This does not apply to teams and individuals in NCAA competition, at this time. The SEC reminds everyone to be attentive to everyday preventive actions identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Travel bans grow amid warnings viral pandemic will worsen
Sweeping travel bans accelerated around the globe Thursday, walling regions apart, keeping people inside their homes and slowing the engines of commerce to try to stem the unfolding coronavirus pandemic. President Donald Trump, who had downplayed the virus for weeks, suddenly struck a different tone, delivering a somber Oval Office address announcing strict rules on travel from much of Europe to begin this weekend. The State Department followed with an extraordinary warning to Americans to "reconsider travel abroad" as well. The European Union quickly slammed Trump's "unilateral" decision, declaring the virus a "global crisis, not limited to any continent and it requires cooperation rather than unilateral action." The virus detected three months ago in China has produced crippling outbreaks in Asia, Europe and the Middle East, ignited global financial panic and in the last week has seen dizzying developments that are erupting by the hour.
Coronavirus disrupts presidential campaigns
The coronavirus outbreak is hitting the presidential campaigns hard, forcing the cancelation of rallies and campaign events, and forcing a Sunday debate between Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders to play out before a nearly empty arena. The outbreak is canceling sporting events, closing schools and sending workers home, and it may also pose a challenge to the signature rallies of President Trump. The president postponed some scheduled campaign appearances on Wednesday after insisting he would continue to hold rallies as he seeks to project confidence in his administration's handling of the virus. Trump on Wednesday night announced he was restricting all travel to the U.S. from most of Europe in his most dramatic move yet to seek to curtail the spread of the coronavirus. The cancelations, emergency declarations and quickly rising number of coronavirus cases in the United States have put a cloud of uncertainty over most aspects of public life, and it's unclear how long the disrupture will last. While less than three-dozen people have died of coronavirus in the United States, the number of cases has risen above 1,000. Elderly people are in serious danger from the virus, and the cancelation of events and other social distancing tools are designed to prevent it from spreading.
'We'll get you out': Travelers race to get home, prices soar after Europe coronavirus travel ban
In the wake of President Donald Trump's travel ban from Europe, Americans are scrambling as they figure out how to get home amid the coronavirus pandemic. Travelers on Thursday found that prices for major U.S. airlines had soared for flights back to the United States from Europe. As of Thursday at 8 a.m. ET, one-way flights from Paris to New York on Friday through United Airlines appear to range from $2,400 to $5,700. From Paris to New York the same day through American Airlines, flights are shown for $2,000 to $7,300 on their website. And for the same parameters, Delta's website shows a range of $2,200 to $5,900. American Airlines told USA TODAY Thursday that they are placing fare caps on flights to tackle this issue. There are already limited seats on most flights due to the spring break holiday. Travelers who are scrambling to change or cancel their flights to Europe are also encountering long waits for a response from airline reservation centers and on Twitter.
UMMC working to stop theft of masks, hand sanitizers
The University of Mississippi Medical Center is taking steps to keep safety and cleaning equipment from disappearing amid coronavirus concerns. The hospital has started randomly searching employees before they leave work, UMMC officials said. The hospital is trying to keep masks, hand sanitizers and other items from being stolen, Marc Rolph, with UMMC, said. "It is something that is not new, but we are ramping it up right now," Rolph said. "Our campus police are randomly spot-checking bags. This is an effort to conserve our supply of personal protection equipment." Rolph said UMMC has started to reduce public access to some of its safety equipment, including gloves and mask dispensers, to stop people from walking out of the hospital with entire containers.
USM cancels children's book festival over coronavirus concerns
Concerns over the spread of the coronavirus have prompted organizers of the 53rd annual Fay B. Kaigler Children's Book Festival at The University of Southern Mississippi to cancel this year's event. The event had been scheduled to take place April 1 through April 3 in Hattiesburg. The festival presents awards to new authors and illustrators and features addresses from a number of people in the field of children's literature. Organizers say some speakers had already cancelled plans to attend the event. Each year, about 500 people from around the world attend the festival. This will be the first time it has ever been canceled.
House Passes Bill to Change How College Board Appointed
Currently Mississippi's governor selects the 12 members of the state's college board for staggered nine-year terms. Republican Scott Bounds of Philadelphia is on the House Universities and Colleges Committee. He says House Bill 870 would change the process. "What this bill would do would allow for four appointments to continue from the governor, four from the Lt. Governor and four from the speaker," said Bounds. Bounds says the measure provides a balance in how college board members are selected. House Democrat Gregory Holloway of Hazlehurst is also on the universities and colleges committee and opposes the bill. Faculty and staff at several universities have complained about not being apart of the decisions made by the college board. Holloway told Bounds he wants all state-funded universities represented. "Why aren't we addressing that issue when we're were talking about balance? You said balance. Let me ask you a question my friend do you think that all state, all eight state institutions should have someone at the table,?" said Holloway. Bounds says the bill would allow legislators to recommend representatives from universities to the governor, lt. governor and house speaker.
Auburn speakers talk up workplace diversity
Auburn University's recent Diversity Promising Practices conference tackled the workplace issues of diversity, equity and inclusion. Leaders throughout the country recently joined with local officials inside the Auburn University Hotel and Dixon Conference Center to speak and learn more about inclusion and diversity in the workplace for two days in February. "Auburn University is committed to serving the citizens of Alabama, the region, the country and the world for that matter," said Bill Hardgrave, university provost. "Given this responsibility, we continue to work tirelessly to serve as a resource, as a leader advancing organizational inclusion and diversity." This conference was the third that Auburn University hosted for diversity and inclusion.
LSU discouraging spring break travel; could close campus if deemed 'beneficial' amid coronavirus
LSU officials said Wednesday they are discouraging students from travel during spring break and that leaders are considering whether closing the school after the break makes sense. Also, moving to online classes only remains an option. In a message to students and families, the school said there are no confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus at LSU. "As of this time, there is no reason to believe anyone at LSU is clinically affected," according to the statement. Spring break is the last week of March. "We realize many students had plans for spring break, and some have already spent money on those plans," it says. "But we ask you to consider where you would be traveling and to and what the situation would be like when you get there."The statement says, "We are considering whether closing after spring break would be beneficial. We will keep you posted on that decision when it is made. At this time, all options are being considered to enable you to complete the semester in a safe way." If that happens, students who could not return home would be accomodated. The goal, the school said, is to ensure that all students finish the spring semester and get full credit for their classes to avoid graduation delays.
As outbreak expands, U. of Arkansas, Fayetteville setting up for shift to online
Faculty members and instructors at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville are being told they need to prepare to be ready by no later than March 30 for a shift to remote methods of instruction. On-campus classes are continuing "at this time," according to an update posted Wednesday to the university's web page with campus news related to the spread of the covid-19 illness. Effective immediately, Chancellor Joe Steinmetz on Wednesday announced a 60-day ban on university-sponsored travel outside the state -- but with Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek clarifying in a statement that athletic teams for now are approved to travel for competition -- and that all study-abroad students are to return home. Other colleges and universities in the state also say preparation has begun for a shift away from face-to-face instruction in response to the virus threat.
U. of Florida students urged to go home, officials in 'mitigation mode'
The University of Florida has ordered faculty to move all classes online by Monday after the first positive COVID-19 case was reported in Alachua County, and local health officials said Wednesday they've shifted to "mitigation mode." The county's health department learned Tuesday evening that a 68-year-old female from Georgia -- who has been in Alachua County since last week -- has tested positive for coronavirus. She, and those she had contact with, have been isolated. At the same time, UF's associate provost instructed faculty to shift all classes online as soon as possible, and no later than Monday. A late afternoon message from UF President Kent Fuchs said classes will be delivered online at least through March 30 and students are urged to go home. For students who can't easily get home, campus dining halls and dorms will stay open.
U. of Tennessee System, Rhodes College suspend in-person classes amid coronavirus outbreak
The University of Tennessee System, including the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis, is suspending in-person classes, it announced Wednesday. Rhodes College in Memphis is also suspending in-person classes, announcing it was moving to remote learning. Classes are canceled for next week and would resume online and through other remote-learning methods thereafter. The campus will not be fully closed and some international students are expected to remain. "With careful consideration and after intensive research and discussion, we have made the difficult decision to move to remote learning for the remainder of the semester," President Marjorie Hass said. "This is an unprecedented decision for the college, and we ask for your patience as we work out the details of what this remote learning plan will mean. This is a difficult situation for everyone," Hass said. "We will rely on the spirit of resilience and shared concern that defines us as members of this community at Rhodes College." The announcements from Rhodes and UT were among the flurry of cancellations and class suspensions announced by higher education institutions nationwide in the wake of the coronavirus, or COVID-19, pandemic.
U. of Tennessee-Knoxville has suspended all in-person classes beginning March 23
The University of Tennessee-Knoxville has suspended all in-person classes and will offer them online because of concerns about the coronavirus. Students are expected to stay home after spring break, UT-Knoxville Chancellor Donde Plowman said in an email to students, faculty and staff. Students unable to stay home can register for an exemption to stay on campus. At this time, the university has no cases of coronavirus. This will go into effect for classes beginning March 23 and they will be suspended until at least April 3 for Knoxville and Martin as a proactive measure in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, according to a release from the university. UT Chattanooga will be suspended until at least March 30. UT is also cancelling all non-athletic events that would involve gatherings of 50 or more people, beginning March 16, Plowman wrote."This remains a fluid situation," Plowman wrote. "The uncertainty of spring break travel adds to the changing dynamics of the situation specifically related to campus. Additional updates may be forthcoming." Campus facilities, however, will remain open.
Coronavirus prompts UK, other Kentucky universities to shift classes online
The University of Kentucky will transition to online instruction for two weeks after its scheduled spring break next week in an effort to curb the spread of novel coronavirus, officials announced Wednesday. The University of Louisville and Western Kentucky University made similar announcements. In a campus-wide email, UK President Eli Capilouto said the university will remain open and that staff operations will continue as normal. Research and health care activities will continue as planned. Campus events will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. UK dorms will remain open during the two weeks of online classes and students will have the option to participate in class from their "apartments, home community or any other location," the email said. All UK-sponsored or endorsed travel internationally is suspended indefinitely, and all travelers arriving from Europe and Japan will be required to self-isolate for 14 days after their arrival in the U.S. before being allowed back on campus. UK also "strongly discouraged" domestic travel.
Texas A&M provost posts message advising students, faculty to return from Europe
A message posted late Wednesday advised Texas A&M students, faculty and staff who are in one of 26 countries in the Schengen area of Europe to return to the United States, prompted by concerns about the coronavirus. According to the message from Texas A&M University Provost Carol A. Fierke, university-sponsored education-abroad trip participants in the Schengen area are being told to return to the U.S. Additionally, students, faculty and staff returning from spring break are advised to keep their current itineraries. Texas A&M is helping other students who need assistance to return, the message stated. Any Texas A&M student, faculty or staff member in the region, whether on university-sponsored travel, third-party programs or personal travel, is asked to register on the university's travel reporting portal. Anyone returning must self-isolate for 14 days before returning to campus, the message stated.
U. of Missouri suspends classes
The University of Missouri will suspend classes for the remainder of the week and transition to online coursework next week due to the growing coronavirus pandemic. The announcement Wednesday afternoon came after about 20 students and faculty members were asked to isolate themselves after attending a journalism conference also attended by someone who has tested presumptively positive for COVID-19. The suspension and change to online work comes as the annual spring break approaches. The university hopes to resume on-campus classes March 30, when students return, spokesman Christian Basi said. The suspension went into effect at 5 p.m. Wednesday and will continue through Sunday afternoon. "The university remains open, and faculty and staff are expected to report to work," Chancellor Alexander Cartwright wrote in a message sent to faculty, staff and students.
As colleges confronting coronavirus tell students to move out, many urge attention to the needs of vulnerable students
As colleges and universities move to clear their campuses of students and offer courses online to minimize the risk of exposure to or spread of the coronavirus, many institutions have urged students to go home and remain there. But those efforts are raising concerns about students who can't just easily pick up and go or may not have an actual home to which to return. The precautions colleges are taking are creating logistical and financial hardships, among other challenges, for low-income and other vulnerable groups of students as well as international students, including students from China, Italy or other countries with high numbers of cases of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the virus. "What I worry is the responses can actually exacerbate pre-existing inequalities," said Anthony Abraham Jack, an assistant professor of education at Harvard University whose research focuses on lower-income undergraduate students. Harvard is one of a number of institutions that have asked students not to return to campus after spring break, which starts this weekend. While Harvard said students with extenuating circumstances will be permitted to stay, they've been warned to prepare for "severely limited" campus services.
Rules Eased on Colleges Seeking to Close Their Campuses Amid Outbreak
The Education Department has moved to ease rules on colleges and universities looking to shift their classes onto the internet, as closures of campuses cascaded on Tuesday with the hastening spread of the coronavirus. With fears growing in higher education, the department has granted what it said was "broad approval" to schools seeking relief from federal standards as they activated "distance learning" programs that still must comply with higher education laws. A guidance document promised colleges and universities flexibility to adjust calendars and course schedules to accommodate students who cannot meet enrollment requirements or complete internships or study abroad programs. The department will also allow schools to maintain financial aid eligibility for students who qualify for federal work-study and Pell grants, even if they are not on campus. Those moves helped push higher education to the forefront of virus containment. Colleges see themselves as natural hotbeds for viral transmission because they host large groups of people who live and work together for long periods.
What to expect as colleges and universities move classes online amid coronavirus fears
Moving classes online in the midst of an emergency isn't unprecedented. It's been done before with local disasters, such as hurricanes and earthquakes. But contending with COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, is a different situation. This is a global problem. A sudden shift to temporary or long-term online learning poses a challenge for brick-and-mortar universities to quickly scale up their online learning offerings under less than ideal conditions. It will require that professors and other instructors think about courses in a new way, learning to use new tools and trying new teaching techniques. ... Assessment is an area where I can see many challenges arising. Instructors may struggle with how to administer and proctor tests and exams, or assess activities such as presentations, speeches and performances that normally occur in person in class. There are both instructional and technology-based solutions for each of these challenges.
Senate Republicans Join Democrats in Rejecting DeVos's Borrower-Defense Rules
The U.S. Senate on Wednesday sent a rare bipartisan rebuke to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. Senators voted 53 to 42 on a bill to revoke the Education Department's new "borrower defense" regulations, which are set to take effect in July. Ten Republicans in that chamber's majority voted to approve the legislation, sponsored by Sen. Dick Durbin, Democrat of Illinois. The U.S. House of Representatives approved a companion bill in January, with six Republicans joining 225 Democrats who hold the majority in that chamber. The legislation now heads to the desk of President Trump, who has threatened to veto it. If he does, it would be his first on a piece of domestic legislation. The department first devised the regulations under the administration of President Barack Obama in the wake of the closures of major for-profit colleges like Corinthian and ITT.


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