Tuesday, April 21, 2020   
Agriculture officials stress that food supply, safety remain top priority
Food supplies in the U.S. are abundant and safe, despite some challenges in packaging and distribution related to COVID-19. Robert Johannson, chief economist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, acknowledged "widespread worries that the disease could threaten the nation's food production and supply systems and stoke inflation" in a statement issued April 16. Despite these worries, consumers will still be able to find and afford the food they need, including pork, poultry and beef, according to agricultural economists and food safety specialists with the Mississippi State University Extension Service. At the beginning of the outbreak, consumers stocked up on food at their local grocery stores because of restaurant dining room closures and stay-at-home orders. Extension agricultural economist Josh Maples said wholesale meat prices since then reflect these demand shifts. A webinar with experts from the MSU Extension Service will address pressing questions about the effects of the novel coronavirus pandemic on food production in the U.S. The webinar begins at 11 a.m. on April 24.
Reed Mosher named director of Institute for Systems Engineering Research
Reed Mosher, an engineer with decades of military research experience, is now leading the Institute for Systems Engineering Research, a collaborative effort between the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center and Mississippi State University. Mosher, director emeritus of ERDC's Information Technology Laboratory and most recently a research data scientist at Jackson State University, is the new director of ISER, housed in Vicksburg at ERDC. Mosher spent 40 years at ERDC before retiring in 2018. A Maine native, Mosher earned his master's degree from Mississippi State and his doctorate from Virginia Tech, both in civil engineering. He spent 15 years working in ERDC's Geotechnical and Structures Lab, including four years as the lab's lead technical director for military engineering. From 2008-2018, he served as director of ERDC's Information Technology Lab and as a member of the U.S. Army's Senior Executive Service.
Coronavirus creates buyer's market for home and car sales in Mississippi
Homes and cars. They're selling big right now in Mississippi -- something one might not expect in times of social distancing and widespread unemployment. But the COVID-19 pandemic has had a surprising effect: lowering interest rates. It has set up deals on cars for the right kind of buyer. It has created low inventory in the housing market. And it has eliminated the "just looking" crowd. "I think the market is still pretty hot," Katie Warren, owner of Turn Key Properties and Central Mississippi Realtor president said. "You don't see a lot of looky-loos. If they are out looking, they're writing contracts." Mortgage brokers, real estate agencies and car dealers are considered essential services, according to Gov. Tate Reeves' executive orders. While all are doing good business in Mississippi, national trends may differ. Surveys show car and home sales have decreased in other parts of the country.
Toyota Mississippi to resume production May 4
Since stopping production last month after a team member had tested positive for the coronavirus, Toyota Mississippi has been running on a skeleton crew of about 200. While no Corollas were rolling off the line, service parts continued to be made, plus other critical areas of the plant had to be maintained. However, the rest of the 2,000 team members will return to work May 4. "We've been off for some time for a lot of reasons, but the safety of our team members is No. 1," said Toyota Mississippi president Sean Suggs. "When this all started about four weeks ago, we didn't know as much then as we know today ... but in that time we've grown and know more about this virus and the impact it has in helping us get ready for the restart." The automaker has sanitized the 2 million-square-foot plant from wall to wall with micromisting and other high-tech methods. Team members will have their temperatures taken before entering the plant, and masks and face shields will be distributed as needed.
Lauderdale County takes steps to resume business
Some businesses and government buildings in Lauderdale County have started to reopen after weeks of restrictions in place for COVID-19. According to Mayor Percy Bland, all non-essential businesses in Meridian, including florists, bookstores and retail stores are allowed to conduct curbside sales, and daycares have been permitted to reopen. The city on Friday reopened Bonita Lakes Park, the softball field at Northeast Park and the Sammie Davidson Softball Complex, and about 50 to 60 percent of city employees returned to work on Monday. Several county facilities are back open, including the Raymond P. Davis County Annex Building, the road department and the tax assessor's office. Public riding will resume at the Agri-Center on May 1 and public events will resume there May 4, according to County Administrator Chris Lafferty. Anderson Regional Medical Center was hospitalizing 12 patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 Monday.
Mississippi lottery revenue dips in March amid pandemic
State revenue from the Mississippi Lottery decreased in March as people began facing restrictions because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Mississippi Lottery Corporation said it deposited $9.9 million into the state treasury -- the net proceeds from lottery games played during March. Mississippi has collected more than $37.5 million from the lottery since it started operating in November. The state collected $11.6 million from lottery games played in February, $8.4 million during January and $7.6 million in December. Mississippi Lottery Corporation president Tom Shaheen said in a news release Friday that he expects lottery ticket sales will keep declining during the pandemic. "May and June transfers may also decline, as a result," Shaheen said. He said the corporation has suspended its TV and radio advertising indefinitely.
How Mississippi became a COVID-19 testing leader despite 'bottlenecks,' lack of federal help
Mississippi ranks No. 6 among all states in testing for the new coronavirus, state officials say, despite a lack of federal help acquiring needed supplies. The five states doing more testing than Mississippi, as of April 15, all have dealt with more serious outbreaks of COVID-19, case records show. Still, State Health Officer Thomas Dobbs said he wants to see the number of COVID-19 tests double, which would be about 160 people per 100,000 a day. Mississippi is currently testing an average of about 84 people per 100,000 a day, the best available data shows. "We want to do a lot more," Dobbs said during a regular news conference Monday afternoon with Gov. Tate Reeves. "There have been significant bottlenecks." Reeves said testing numbers are increasing, but slower than he wants to see. The state has tested 51,434 people, the latest numbers on the State Health Department website show, or about 1.7% of the total population.
Mississippi reaching 'plateau' in virus cases, governor says
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said Monday that he believes the state is reaching a "plateau" in the increase of new coronavirus cases, and he will consider in coming days how the state should ease into reopening parts of its economy. "We are confident ... that our health care system is not going to be overwhelmed," Reeves said during a news conference, joined by the state health officer. Reeves's statewide stay-at-home order began the evening of April 3 and remains in place until April 27. Many businesses deemed "nonessential" have been closed, and claims for unemployment benefits have skyrocketed in Mississippi, as in other states. Reeves on Monday cautioned that health officials must remain vigilant about the potential for virus outbreaks among vulnerable people, particularly in long-term care facilities. And, he said social-distancing measures will remain in place even after more businesses start reopening.
'Time to be even more vigilant': Mississippi coronavirus cases plateauing, Gov. Tate Reeves says
On Monday, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said the number of the state's coronavirus cases are plateauing and efforts to "flatten the curve" are proving successful. Even so, Reeves warned it will be a long time before things return to normal. "This is the time to be even more vigilant," Reeves said during a news conference Monday. "Stay smart, stay safe. Use common sense ... Let's do the little things for the next few days and weeks and it will go a long ways to help ourselves and our fellow Mississippians." Reeves urged people to wear face masks in public and said even as the state plans to begin lifting some restrictions, gatherings of 10 or more will not be allowed. Reeves has said he intends to open the Mississippi economy as soon as it's safe and has created a private-sector task force, called "Restate Mississippi," to help the state economically recover from the pandemic.
Camp Shelby reports damage from Sunday storms
Camp Shelby is dealing with the aftermath of strong storms that caused damage in several Pine Belt counties Sunday evening. Mississippi National Guard officials tell us two buildings sustained major damage and 70 others had minor damage. No injuries were reported. Crews were hard at work Monday cleaning up the damage. "Every crew. Timber crew cutting trees, we have all of our power crews out restoring power here at Camp Shelby, so all of our crews within our department of public works are fully engaged today and will be for the next few days," said Col. Bobby Ginn. Trees are scattered across the base, including nearly a dozen at the front gate, which was closed Monday due to the debris. The storm hit the parade field the hardest. "Behind us here, we have our bleachers here in the parade," Ginn said. "They were put out in the middle of the parade field and mangled up, and a lot of trees around our white house were blown down as well."
Millsaps poll: President Trump holds 11-point lead; voters embrace mail-in-balloting for November
Mississippians are deeply concerned about the coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having on their health and safety as well as the economy and their communities. The spring quarterly Millsaps College/Chism Strategies State of the State Survey finds nearly 90% of Mississippi voters are very or somewhat concerned with the pandemic and the possibility of themselves or someone in their family becoming ill. The survey finds Mississippians have seen their lives significantly disrupted by the pandemic, with 83% reporting being somewhat or significantly disrupted while nearly three-quarters are practicing 100% compliance with social distancing and stay-at-home restrictions. Overall, Mississippi voters tend to believe the federal, state and local governmental response to the coronavirus outbreak has been handled in a way that protects the health and safety of citizens. The survey finds voters approve of the federal government's response 62% to 34%, approve of the state government's response 64% to 33%, and the response of their local governments 66% to 31%.
Millsaps survey says black support for President Trump in Mississippi in double digits
The spring quarterly Millsaps College/Chism Strategies State of the State Survey finds that 10% of black voters in Mississippi support President Donald Trump. The poll says that Biden would carry 75% of black Mississippi voters with another 15% undecided or willing to support someone other than Trump or Biden. Biden carried Mississippi with 81% of the vote in the Democratic primary largely attributable to his popularity to black voters. The President holds an 11 point lead over Biden statewide with a 49% to 38% tally. "Overall, 64% of voters say they are either extremely or very enthusiastic about voting in the November election, while only 32% say they are only somewhat or not enthusiastic," the Chism poll reports. Nearly half of Mississippi voters (47%) believe the state is heading in the right direction while 30% see the state moving in the wrong direction. "This represents the largest percentage of respondents to report the state is heading in the right direction since the inception of the State of the State Survey," according to the poll.
Farm workers to be exempt from President Trump's immigration ban
President Donald Trump's plan to suspend immigration into the U.S. will not apply to foreign farm workers, according to three industry sources familiar with the decision. Trump tweeted on Monday night that he will sign an executive order to temporarily ban immigration to try and stem the spread of coronavirus. The Department of Homeland Security is reportedly still working on the order. Little information is known about its scope or when it will be signed. The agriculture industry has increasingly relied on the H-2A guest worker program to fill empty jobs on farming operations. In recent weeks, the Trump administration has eased requirements for farmers to hire seasonal workers from other countries as the labor supply has been disrupted by the pandemic.
Former VP Joe Biden, President Trump ponder campaign options in coronavirus era
President Trump is seeking to reopen the economy and pave the way for a resumption of his campaign efforts, creating a conundrum for his presumptive opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden. Trump has not announced any new plans to resume his campaign rallies, but said last week he hoped to do so eventually. Biden's campaign is trying to figure out how the Democratic presidential nominee in waiting can venture out to hit the campaign trail. "It will put pressure on the campaign to do something," one longtime ally who speaks to the former vice president said, echoing a concern Democrats have as the general election begins to take shape. "Just not sure what that looks like." In interviews with more than a dozen Democrats, they say they worry about how Biden will take on Trump as the president leaves the White House to hold campaign events, as they expect. In remarks at the White House on Friday, Trump said he hoped to be back on the campaign trail ahead of November's election, saying the rallies are "a tremendous way of getting the word out."
State report: Russian, Chinese, and Iranian disinformation narratives echoing each other
China, Iran and Russia are using the coronavirus crisis to launch a propaganda and disinformation onslaught against the United States, the State Department warns in a new report. The three governments are pushing a host of matching messages: that the novel coronavirus was an American bioweapon, that the U.S. was scoring political points off the crisis, that the virus didn't come from China, that U.S. troops spread it, that America's sanctions are killing Iranians, that China's response was great while the U.S.'s was negligent, that all three governments are managing the crisis well, and that the U.S. economy can't bear the toll of the virus. The report, which is not public, was produced by the department's Global Engagement Center -- a fledgling office focused on the global information wars -- and reviewed by POLITICO. It makes the case that propaganda and disinformation narratives from those country's governments have converged as coronavirus has spread. And it says that while the three governments have pushed out the same messages in the past, the global pandemic has seen the convergence of their messaging accelerate.
U. of Mississippi to hold 'virtual celebratory event' instead of May graduation
Though university leaders are still evaluating the possibility of an in-person graduation ceremony, Ole Miss will still honor the class of 2020 with a "virtual celebratory event" on May 9. Before the event, all graduating students will be mailed a cap and tassel in a "grad pack" that will contain other "celebratory items." According to a statement, the university will also create a collection of stories, photos and personal online announcements to recognize graduates. Chancellor Glenn Boyce said that the university is committed to honoring graduates in person when it is safe, and that the virtual event is not intended to replace an in-person graduation ceremony. The virtual event will be at noon Central Standard Time on May 9, and more details will be released closer to the event date.
Tougaloo College to serve as drive-through coronavirus testing site
Tougaloo College is serving as a one-day, appointment-only drive-through COVID-19 testing site. From 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday, April 23, local residents who meet specific criteria have the opportunity to secure an appointment. They will be tested via nose swab, without leaving their vehicles. Testing will take place in the parking lot adjacent to Tougaloo's George A. and Ruth B. Owens Health and Wellness Center. This joint effort to stem virus transmission is facilitated by the University of Mississippi Medical Center and Mississippi State Department of Health, in partnership with the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency and the Mississippi National Guard. Anyone experiencing symptoms related to COVID-19, such as fever, cough, shortness of breath and/or sore throat, is first required to undergo a free screening from a UMMC clinician, either through the C Spire Health UMMC Virtual COVID-19 Triage telehealth smartphone app or by phone.
Foundation grant to help Meridian Community College students impacted by COVID-19
Meridian Community College is one of 15 Mississippi public community colleges selected to receive a grant to assist qualifying students who are affected by COVID-19 to help stay on track for graduation. The Mississippi Community College Foundation was granted $310,000 from the Woodward Hines Education Foundation to help qualifying Mississippi community college students impacted by COVID-19 stay on track towards graduation. MCC's portion is $20,000 of the grant funds. The grant will establish student relief funds at all 15 Mississippi community colleges. Money can be used to help students -- including MCC students -- with unanticipated financial emergencies caused by the pandemic. Possible examples may include internet access stipend, technology equipment, exam fee, credential fee, e-books. "We can't forget that, for many students, the difference between success and failure is an open door and an opportunity," MCC President Thomas Huebner said.
Itawamba Community College students' art, poetry to be featured in journal
The work of several area students will be featured in The Calliope, which is scheduled for publication during the 2020 fall semester at Itawamba Community College. The students and their work include Pam Dankins of Amory, "untitled poem;" Rain Walker of Fulton, "I Am not Your God;" Alfonso Fernandez of Houlka, "Milk for the Mona Lisa;" Alex Pearson of Houlka, "I'm Alright;" Brianna Turner of Maben, "Stories;" Michael Cook of Pontotoc, "Circles;" Mary Moore of Red Bay, Ala., "The Clocks Have Died;" Emily Shaffer of Saltillo, "1:54 am;" and Jay Biffle of Thaxton, "Empathy." The Calliope is ICC's art and poetry journal, which was developed by Shawn Whittington of the Fine Arts Division. The poetry editor is Keith Morris of the Communications Division.
Auburn University lecturer dies from COVID-19 complications
An Auburn University senior lecturer has died from COVID-19 complications, according to Fred Kam, medical director for the Auburn University Medical Clinic. Roger Rice was a senior lecturer in Auburn's McWhorter School of Building Science, according to the University. "Auburn University is deeply saddened by the recent passing of senior lecturer Roger Rice, who taught in Auburn's McWhorter School of Building Science," the University said in a statement. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends at this difficult time." Auburn University said it cannot confirm COVID-19 as the cause of death, only that Rice had tested positive for it. Kam also said there are nine employees and 11 students who have tested positive for COVID-19.
Auburn campers look into their own brains
Auburn University researchers and professors spend their summers helping high school students scan their brains. The Auburn University Brain Camp is a neuroscience camp for juniors and seniors in high school, as a way to introduce them to Auburn and the neuroscience field. "It's an opportunity for [students] to learn about neuroscience and stem careers that are associated with neuroscience," said Jennifer Robinson, an associate professor at Auburn University. Student Jenna Robertson had her college choices narrowed down to the University of South Carolina and Auburn. She had no family connections to Alabama and had only visited campus once. She was, however, interested in neuroscience and thought she might check and see if Auburn had any summer camp opportunities. Robertson said she thought it would be a great chance to get acquainted with the school. The camp worked out well for her, Robertson is now a rising junior at Auburn University.
Many believed college admissions would never change. Then COVID-19 hit.
High school juniors and seniors would usually be preparing for final standardized tests, polishing their college applications and rounding out their adolescence with senior photoshoots and promposals. But, normal hasn't been for almost two months. College campuses have been closed to the majority of students for weeks, and K-12 students have been learning from home for just as long. And being "college-ready" is difficult when the main admissions key, a high ACT or SAT score, has been put on hold. In response to the cancelations, some colleges in Alabama have been making a temporary shift to test-optional admissions, meaning that students can choose an alternate form of admissions that would assess their application on the grounds of other criteria, like an essay, their high school grade point average, their extracurricular activities, community service and more. Auburn University at Montgomery, Alabama State University, University of Mobile and the University of South Alabama have all made the switch. "This is going to take a lot of stress off the students," said Terri Rector Michal, board representative for District 2 at Birmingham City Schools. "They aren't getting their proms. They're not getting their graduations. This is a hard time to be a senior in high school."
Architect becomes U. of Arkansas' first SEC Professor of the Year
The latest honor for University of Arkansas, Fayetteville professor and architect Marlon Blackwell comes with a $20,000 honorarium from the Southeastern Conference. Blackwell on Monday became the first UA faculty member named SEC Professor of the Year, an award created in 2012. The top academic officers at SEC member schools decide on the award, choosing from each school's winner of the SEC Faculty Achievement Award, which includes a $5,000 honorarium from the athletic conference. A total of about 14,000 full-time, tenured faculty members teach at 14 SEC schools, according to the conference. The honor comes after Blackwell in December won a top prize in architecture, the 2020 Gold Medal from the American Institute of Architects. Blackwell, 63, has taught at UA since 1992, and currently is a distinguished professor and the E. Fay Jones Chair in Architecture.
U. of Florida students encouraged in an email to participate in rent strikes
On Monday, an email with the subject line "COVID-19 RENT STRIKE NOW" appeared in the inboxes of about 53,000 UF students. It was sent by UF Student Government Sen. Zachariah Chou (Inspire, Murphree) on behalf of Gainesville Housing Justice -- a coalition of students and community members that formed as a resource for people who want to rent strike. A rent strike is a form of protest during which a large group of tenants must all agree not to pay their rent until a list of demands is met by the landlord. In this case, Gainesville Housing Justice added a list of potential demands to the email, including rent reduction or stoppage, early termination of housing agreements and a waiver of late fees. If support exists for a rent strike, the coalition plans to organize tenants on a complex-by-complex basis around the demands that best suit the needs of those tenants. It is the climax of a month-long struggle between landlords and college tenants over rent payments during a pandemic, and it all started with a petition.
The devastatingly sad and hilarious ways U. of Tennessee seniors are coping without graduation
One day in early May is magical in Knoxville. Hardworking seniors at the University of Tennessee proudly gather in Thompson-Boling Arena with their adoring families cheering them on. This year, UT seniors won't share that turning point in their lives. The coronavirus robbed them of that communal experience. On Thursday before spring break, students received an email about UT's decision to shift classes exclusively online for a while. When they left, seniors had no idea they'd have less than a day left on campus, leaving all kinds of loose ends after four years. "We were all like super excited because we thought it'd be spring break forever," Kennedy Sanders said about getting the email about online classes. "We didn't think it was all going to end right there and then. It'll never be the same." During spring break, students got another email announcing that classes would be online for the rest of the semester and that all events, including graduation commencement, were canceled. Sanders was heartbroken. Sanders is still planning to graduate on her original commencement date – in her living room. The ceremony will be in front of her parents and led by her dog, dressed as UT chancellor Donde Plowman, of course.
U. of Missouri prepares for layoffs as budget cut details emerge
The University of Missouri is planning for a 12.5 percent budget cut on the Columbia campus, with layoffs and furloughs likely, in the coming fiscal year, a message sent to MU faculty and staff Monday stated. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced colleges and universities, including MU, to send students home and attempt to transition to online instruction. The economic disruptions accompanying the pandemic have led to state budget withholdings for the current fiscal year that total $36.5 million for the UM System. The decision came as a handful of protesters gathered in Kansas City to demonstrate against stay-at-home orders. Orders for the state's largest cities and a statewide order issued by Gov. Mike Parson had originally been set to expire on Friday but have been extended to May 3 statewide and to May 15 in the Kansas City area. The financial uncertainty, from losses in state funding, investment income and potentially enrollment, create an uncertain future and more actions may be necessary after the fiscal year begins July 1, stated the letter to the Columbia campus signed by UM System President and interim Chancellor Mun Choi, Provost Latha Ramchand and Vice Chancellor Rhonda Gibler.
Coronavirus stimulus: College students wonder, where is my money?
When the federal government announced it would distribute nearly $6.3 billion to colleges to give to students in need, the aid was met with fanfare. The Education Department said April 9 the coronavirus money was on its way. For nearly every student, the money still hasn't arrived. Whoever is at fault, the effect is clear. Students across the country don't have access to emergency funds that could help them, and some of them don't even know the money is supposed to be available to them. That was the case for Alyssa Weeley, 22. She is in her final year studying photography at the University of South Carolina, and the last few weeks have felt precarious. She normally works two part-time jobs, one at a local vintage thrift store and the other as a manager of a photography lab at the university. She hasn't been able to work at either for roughly two months, and she worries about her ability to buy groceries. She is behind on her April rent, though her landlord is giving her more time to pay. She has applied for unemployment, but hasn't heard anything yet. Her tax refund has yet to arrive, and she wasn't eligible for the stimulus checks made available through the CARES Act. She also said she was looking to receive some aid from the university tied to her job, but she hasn't seen that money either.
Feds deny state requests to waive student requirements for SNAP
Advocates have long argued against requirements college students must meet to be eligible for the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. Dozens of states pleaded the same case as the coronavirus pandemic spread throughout the country. The federal assistance program requires students who attend college at least half-time to work 20 hours per week to qualify. As the pandemic causes a recession and unemployment skyrockets, state officials said students are being left in the lurch. But the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food and Nutrition Service agency denied the states' request. It's unclear how many students are affected by this decision because there isn't much data on it, according to Lauren Walizer, a senior policy analyst at the Center for Law and Social Policy. But some of the states provided estimates for how many students currently receive SNAP benefits, or estimates for how many additional students would gain eligibility, in their waiver requests. For example, Illinois said about 11,000 people who currently receive SNAP are college students. New Hampshire estimates another 6,800 people would become eligible for SNAP, in addition to the students who are currently eligible.
Under Covid-19, University Budgets Like We've Never Seen Before
Unprecedented times require unprecedented strategies and actions. Reality is setting in: Covid-19 is here to stay. We have shut down campuses, keeping our communities as healthy as possible, and are close to finishing the semester online. The financial impact of these changes is just being calculated, but the losses from room-and-board refunds and decreased revenue from executive education, the spring sports season, and auxiliary services will be considerable. While the $14 billion for higher education from the Cares Act is helping to cushion the blow, most chief financial officers I talk to say that their allocated amounts are not covering the short-term losses associated with this crisis. For example, the University of Wisconsin recently announced that it will lose $170 million from refunds of housing, dining, and parking fees to students, and other unexpected expenses. At the University of Michigan, president Mark S. Schlissel anticipates losses of $400 million to $1 billion through the end of the calendar year. As bad as it may seem right now, it is about to get worse. College leaders must now turn their attention to next year's budget. While academic budgeting has heavily relied on prior-year numbers, incremental changes, and investments in new strategic initiatives, this year's budgeting process will be very different.
The Big Question for Colleges: Will There Be a Fall Semester on Campus?
Colleges across the country are trying to decide whether they can reopen campus for the fall, and how long they can put off a final decision. Schools are mapping out different scenarios, depending on the seriousness of the coronavirus pandemic in the fall. College campuses almost couldn't be set up much worse for the coronavirus. They are built on the idea of lots of people living and learning in close quarters and gathering in large groups -- all measures that work against any social distancing needed to fight the spread of the pandemic. "Opening isn't going to be an event, it will be a process, it will take a couple of years to find a new normal," said Ted Mitchell, president of the American Council on Education, a higher-education advocacy group that estimates the number of students on campus will decline by 15%, leading to $23 billion in lost revenue. Purdue President Mitch Daniels suggested removing door handles may be one tactic to slow the coronavirus. He created a task force and gave it three weeks to investigate the possible problems the school will face under different scenarios and come up with strategies to bring back students safely.
College groups tell Congress to put off debt cancellation
Associations representing the nation's colleges and universities told congressional leaders on Monday they should put off considering canceling student debt until later. Instead, the American Council on Education, and other associations representing four-year institutions as well as community colleges, in a letter said Congress should focus right now on providing short-term help for borrowers as it considers at least one additional stimulus package. The groups proposed, for example, extending the moratorium on making loan repayments that Congress approved in its last stimulus package, until the nation recovers from the recession being caused by the pandemic. But on broader proposals such as canceling student debt, the associations wrote, "we believe that should more appropriately occur as part of reauthorization of the Higher Education Act." However, many who signed the letter are skeptical that Congress will get to the update of the nation's main higher education law this year.
Early journal submission data suggest COVID-19 is tanking women's research productivity
It was easy to foresee: within academe, female professors would bear the professional brunt of social distancing during COVID-19, in the form of decreased research productivity. Now the evidence is starting to emerge. Editors of two journals say that they're observing unusual, gendered patterns in submissions. In each case, women are losing out. Editors of a third journal have said that overall submissions by women are up right now, but that solo-authored articles by women are down substantially. In the most obvious example of the effects of social distancing carving into women's research time, Elizabeth Hannon, deputy editor of the British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, wrote on Twitter that she'd received "negligible" submissions from women within the last month. "Never seen anything like it," she added. It's not that men don't help with all this, or that they're not also individually overwhelmed by work and family life. But women already juggled more domestic and affective, or emotional, labor with their actual work prior to the pandemic.
5 ways that colleges and universities are pitching in to deal with the coronavirus pandemic
From conducting crucial research regarding the COVID-19 pandemic to transforming student dorms into housing for the sick and quarters for medical personnel, colleges and universities are pitching in to help everyone cope with the new normal. We research how schools contribute to society in ways that go beyond teaching students. These efforts to serve the common good at the local, state, national and global levels are, in our view, a natural extension of what institutions of higher education do in good times and in bad. University-based researchers are working in the U.S. and around the world to discover and develop treatments and vaccines that might slow or even stop the spread of the new coronavirus. In many cases, they are collaborating in new ways with governments, the private sector and nonprofits. Universities are a key source of accurate, science-based information that can inform policymakers and the public about everything from how to sanitize work spaces to the history of past pandemics.
In this new virtual world, area colleges move classes -- and campus events -- online
To keep their students and employees socially distant as the coronavirus spreads, area colleges and universities moved nearly all of their classes online last month. Perhaps not surprisingly, a few other campus activities followed lectures, labs and seminars into the virtual space. Though college students are now separated by hundreds and even thousands of miles, schools in the region are trying to preserve connections among classmates and to the campus. Every spring for the past 14 years, Wake Forest University has held a noon-to-midnight dance marathon to raise money for the Brian Piccolo Cancer Research Fund. Planning starts the summer before for an event that draws 1,500 dancers. And this year was going to mark two milestones: It would be the 15th Wake 'N Shake, and it would be the 50th anniversary of the untimely death from cancer of Brian Piccolo, a Wake Forest football star. But the March 21 event was rescheduled for April 4, and organizers had less than a month to move the whole thing online. And they did, all 12 hours of it.
Class action: U. of Colorado student sues for tuition reimbursement after COVID-19 closure
A lawsuit filed this week by a University of Colorado student and her father alleges that the university and the CU Board of Regents have breached their contracts with the student body by shutting down the Boulder campus amid the COVID-19 outbreak and refusing to refund tuition and fees. Attorneys representing Emily Carpey, a CU student from Pennsylvania, and her father, Stuart Carpey, filed a class-action petition with U.S. District Court in Denver for reimbursements on behalf of all eligible CU students. The suit claims that CU has failed to live up to its end of the bargain with students who paid to attend classes and participate in collegiate life on campus. "There are hundreds, if not thousands, of institutions of higher learning in this country. Many institutions of higher learning provide curriculum and instruction that is offered on a remote basis through online learning, which do not provide for physical attendance by the students," according to the complaint. "Defendant's institution offers in-person, hands-on curriculum. Plaintiffs and members of the proposed class did not choose to attend another institution of higher learning, but instead chose to attend defendant's institution and enroll on an in-person basis. Defendant markets the on-campus experience as a benefit of enrollment."
43% of College Fund Raisers Don't Expect to Meet Goals
Higher-education fund raisers largely have a bleak outlook for the year ahead, according to a new survey of 415 advancement professionals at 48 colleges and universities. The survey, conducted by the educational advancement firm Washburn & McGoldrick, found that 43 percent of college and university fund raisers do not expect to meet their institution's fund-raising goals this fiscal year. Just 22 percent do expect to meet those goals. Universities that award master's degrees reported the lowest confidence levels in their fund-raising abilities this year: Fifty-four percent of those institutions said they did not expect to meet their goals. At liberal-arts colleges, that share was 46 percent. In survey responses, fund raisers voiced confusion about how to articulate their needs to donors without sounding out of touch with the pandemic, economic troubles, and other aspects of the current climate. Roughly a third of respondents said they fear a misstep in their appeals could discourage donations.
Pandemic expected to have an effect on site selection factors
Columnist Phil Hardwick writes for the Mississippi Business Journal: Each year, Area Development magazine publishes the results of its survey of corporate executives regarding their expansion plans and the factors that rank highest in their site selection decisions. In this column, we will look back seven years and compare those site selection factors with those in 2019. We will also speculate about which factors will be most affected by the coronavirus outbreak in next year's survey.

Mississippi State LB, NFL Draft prospect Willie Gay is 'full of life'
All it took was a five-hour round trip. Susan Woods transformed from a high school math teacher into a chauffeur one Saturday in spring of 2016. One of her Algebra II students had wisdom teeth trouble and needed to see a dentist, so Woods drove him to one. The dentist was Woods' son, who worked at a clinic in Hernando. The student was Willie Gay Jr., a Starkville native and one of the stars of the Yellow Jackets' football team that won the 6A state championship a few months prior to his dental difficulties. Two and a half hours was the usual time frame for Gay to rack up tackles by covering ground on the turf. Or, as he would in the final two games of his senior season at Starkville High School, cover ground as a run-first quarterback who gained 565 yards on 81 carries in the final two games of the season. That day, though, two and a half hours was the interval in which he sat painfully in Woods' car as it covered over 150 miles on the pavement. "It was the longest drive ever," Gay quipped in an interview with the Clarion Ledger this week. But he never complained. Gay was cordial, compliant and content. He was accompanied by his mother, Bridgett, who exhibited the same qualities as her son during the drive. Woods already had an idea of what the Gay family was all about.
What could the 2020 high school football season look like?
Starkville High School football coach Chris Jones was supposed to be getting a first look at the best offense the Yellow Jackets have had in his four years at the helm. Monday was supposed to be Starkville's first spring practice of the season, allowing Jones his first real chance to watch the 2020 edition of the Jackets take the field. But Starkville's home stadium is empty, and it won't be full for some time. The high school is closed for the rest of the year due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, and when Jones' players can crowd the turf again remains unknown. "It sucks, man," Jones told The Dispatch on Thursday. "I wish we could be playing, but I understand, of course. You don't want to rush and get out there and get everybody infected." Jones said he and other high school coaches have been calling each other out of boredom, curious as to their opinions on playing this fall as scheduled. So far, the Jackets' coach is staying positive. "I'm gonna be real optimistic and say that we're gonna play this year," Jones said. "I think America needs it. I think the economy needs it. We need something to get us motivated again." He knows, however, that a prompt and normal return to play isn't easy. Myriad obstacles face high school football teams around the Golden Triangle as they hope for a full 2020 season.
College baseball summer leagues still up in the air
As the nation prepares for a restart amid what many believe is a flattening of the curve regarding COVID-19 cases and impact not all facets of the summer sports world are at the starting line ready to go. The status of college baseball's summer developmental leagues remains up in the air with some observers thinking its chances are not good. SEC Network college baseball analyst Ben McDonald on Monday expressed serious doubt that summer leagues -- such as the Cape Cod League and others -- will take place. "I'm hearing it's very iffy right now," said McDonald, a former No. 1 pick. Three weeks ago Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco -- McDonald's catcher at LSU – was optimistic the summer leagues would happen. Bianco hasn't given up on the summer leagues yet. "I'm still holding out hope there will be some kind of summer baseball such as a shortened season starting in July," he said. "I'm less confident now that it will happen."
During chat with John Calipari, former President Bill Clinton likens life to basketball, not golf
Basketball and the coronavirus pandemic came together on the second episode of the "Coffee with Cal" show on Facebook on Monday. Kentucky Coach John Calipari asked his guest, former president Bill Clinton, about striking an optimistic tone. Clinton answered with a reference to sports. "Life is more like basketball than golf," he said. "You play it together." Calipari lamented what he called "tribalism," which he defined as a widespread us-versus-them mentality in the country. Clinton said that issues can and should be debated. But disagreement should not invite a demonization of someone on the other side. One of the country's strengths is its diversity, he said. Clinton offered two examples of disagreement not devolving into personal attacks. He recalled being told that Trent Lott, then the leader of Republicans in the Senate, called him a "spoiled brat" on a Sunday morning interview show. Clinton said he called Lott to commiserate about such shows. He said he told Lott he imagined the senator did not want to do the show, had a headache and was baited into calling the president a brat. Lott said that was more or less what led to the comment. "We had three or four good weeks just because I put myself in his shoes instead of mine," Clinton said. "We need to do more of that."
Q&A: Greg McGarity on Georgia's finances, football season scenarios, COVID-19 impact
Greg McGarity had to venture into his office inside Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall on Monday morning. Only two other people were working on his floor --- one in somewhat-close proximity in the Georgia athletic director's quarters and the other across the hallway inside the business office. Otherwise, no one else could be found inside the athletic department's base camp that would usually be buzzing with discussion and optimism on a Monday following the scheduled football spring game. Not quite the case this April, and McGarity yearns for face-to-face interaction. All of the employees are instructed to work from home due to the COVID-19 outbreak, so McGarity can't visit a colleague to brainstorm or host a meeting in his office. That has all been redirected to the impersonal-yet-optimal Zoom video conference call. "It's an uncertain time. I think everybody has had enough," McGarity said in a Monday morning phone interview with The Telegraph. "I'm ready to get back to our world."
It's not a Grumor: Jon Gruden drops in on U. of Tennessee online class
Start up the Grumor mill. As part of an ongoing, weekly segment called "VFL Class Crash," students in an online data class at the University of Tennessee were treated to a guest appearance by Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden. While it's not the appearance that most Tennessee fans hope for during every coaching search, students in the class, including Vols running back Ty Chandler, seemed pleased. "We're getting ready for the NFL Draft. I don't have a lot of time," Gruden said in a video posted by the UT Knoxville Twitter account. "We're really sorry to interrupt. I'm a huge Tennessee fan." Gruden initially struggled with Zoom, the online platform that UT uses to conduct all of its online classes. He was not able to turn on his webcam until his wife, Cindy, a Tennessee graduate and former cheerleader, came in with the assist. "I had some of my best memories right down there at Cumberland Avenue," Gruden said. Peyton Manning, Josh Dobbs and Chamique Holdsclaw have all dropped in on remote classes at some point in the past few weeks.
Kirk Herbstreit on COVID-19: Comments 'misrepresented,' just trying to show 'how real pandemic is'
Kirk Herbstreit turned college football upside down last month when he questioned whether there would be a season to play this fall. The ESPN "GameDay" analyst's comments started a verbal assault on the message and the messenger. On Monday, Herbstreit clarified his comments. "It was kind of misconstrued, misrepresented based on what I said in a radio interview and how it was taken by a lot of people," Herbstreit said in a conference call Monday, per 247 Sports. "...I was almost just thinking out loud. It was the day baseball was supposed to start, Opening Day, and we were reminiscing about how sad it is that we weren't having any baseball. I was like, 'Hey, man, this thing's scary. We may not even have football.' I was kind of thinking out loud at that point. ... I'm not making any predictions. I really wasn't that night. I was trying to explain how real this pandemic is."
Collapse of Sports Brings Dire Scenarios to Schools Like Clemson
The U.S. economic slump is rippling through college budgets across the country. And it's only going to get worse if the football season -- the largest source of sports revenue at most big schools -- is scrapped or delayed this fall. For a snapshot of how U.S. universities are coping, look no further than Clemson -- the only school to participate in each of the past five College Football Playoffs -- where athletic officials are hoping for the best but also planning for the worst. At its most optimistic, Clemson sees a revenue drop of about $7.5 million, a manageable hit on a sports budget that grew to $132 million last year. From there, administrators turn to more dire possibilities: a partially disrupted college football season or, in the worst case, one that doesn't happen at all. That last scenario has been the topic of apocalyptic talk across college sports. Iowa State Athletic Director Jamie Pollard notably compared a year without football to the Ice Age.

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