Wednesday, April 22, 2020   
Kari Babski-Reeves named head of industrial and systems engineering at Mississippi State
A well-respected leader in the fields of human factors and ergonomics has been selected as the new department head for industrial and systems engineering within Mississippi State University's Bagley College of Engineering. Kari Babski-Reeves, a three-time Mississippi State engineering alumna, will officially begin her tenure as department head on July 1, 2020, pending approval of the State Board of Trustees, Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning. She transitions into her new role on a full-time basis after having served as the interim department head since July 2019. "Kari has been an exceptional leader in the dean's office and I have no doubt that she will be an outstanding leader for the industrial and systems engineering department," said Jason Keith, dean of the Bagley College of Engineering. "She has succeeded in every position she's had in the college and I look forward to working with her in this new role."
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. Meat product safety concerns arose after reports of more than 600 cases of COVID-19 being linked to the closure of a pork processing facility in South Dakota. Consumers are right to be concerned about precautions being taken in the meat processing sector, said Extension meat scientist Byron Williams. However, the industry as a whole is reducing or staggering shifts at some processing facilities to keep employees safe and to implement additional sanitation practices with additional uses of personal protective equipment, he said. "It is important to remember that there is no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with transmission of COVID-19, and there is currently no scientific evidence to show that COVID-19 is contracted by consuming food, even if it potentially was handled by a production employee who tested positive for coronavirus," Williams said.
A tiny, ugly scientific marvel: Olaf the IVF toad brings hope to at-risk species
Olaf grasps Diane Barber's gloved hands with his sticky, four-fingered legs. His skin is bumpy and moist, the colour of pebbles at the bottom of a river when dappled sun hits them. Olaf's eyes are deep amber. His body lifts and falls with each breath. "The males get really pretty," says Barber, ectotherms curator at Fort Worth zoo in Texas. "Sometimes they'll turn a solid yellow when they're in breeding form." In some ways, this toad shouldn't exist at all. He is the progeny of an egg from a captive mother and sperm from a wild father -- a hybrid from parents who were both dead. Olaf is not the first amphibian to be born via IVF -- that has been happening for years -- but he is the first to be born from sperm that was frozen and thawed. "We were able to recover a genetic lineage that had disappeared, so we were able to produce an offspring from dead parents," says Andy Kouba, an ecologist at Mississippi State University, who assisted with the project. "So that was an exciting first, to reintroduce genetic lines back into the population."
College graduates worry how they will find jobs amid the coronvirus pandemic
Unemployment rates are at record high's across the nation amid the pandemic. Many employers furloughed or laid off workers leaving many colleges students in the Class of 2020 worried how they will find a job. One of those student is Mississippi State University senior Tehya Collier. Collier is a Mechanical Engineering student set to graduate in May. She said senior year is meant to celebrate milestones and to find a job. Collier said the latter hasn't been easy. She had an internship, but the company called it off because of the pandemic. Like many students, Collier is also worried about her student loan debt. Kelly Atwood works at the Career Center at Mississippi State. She said the center is holding virtual job fairs and helping students with cover letters and resumes.
Eddie Peasant: Leading SOCSD during a pandemic takes 'good common sense'
Eddie Peasant worked for the Gulfport School District in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast. The district returned to school a few days later, he said. "We started working, and we didn't think about anything else except work, and getting our students back in school and getting our buildings going and opening our community up," Peasant told the Starkville Rotary Club at its virtual meeting on Monday. "We went full speed ahead, and about three to four months after doing that, we hit a brick wall. And it was very challenging for us emotionally and physically. Our mental health suffered a lot because of that approach." As the superintendent of the Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District, Peasant said he has made it his mission to ensure SOCSD did not end up in the same boat as GSD while dealing with the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. He regularly tells district faculty to pace themselves and reminds them that they are learning as they go, he said. Meanwhile, construction of the Partnership School at Mississippi State University resumed Thursday after it was briefly halted due to the pandemic. Peasant said construction crews are adhering to social distancing guidelines and hope to be finished in four to five weeks.
Starkville Community Market open for business this weekend
Are you in need of some fresh produce products? If so, this Saturday is your chance. Starkville Community Market announced a new opening date this Saturday from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. at Fire Station Park. But under one circumstance, people must follow all social distancing guidelines provided by the CDC. "Those include mask and gloves are required to enter," said market manager Paige Watson. "There will be a few gloves that are available at the door if you don't have gloves. There will also be things like sanitizer stations. Our vendors are going to be spaced 10 feet apart at least. So we're going to have everything really open there and spread out and we will only let 10 people in at a time and everybody in line will be socially distanced." Watson said despite these tough times, the community has been extremely helpful in helping one another. "It's really comforting and assuring to know how well the community is coming together," she said. "So many people have been doing things for other people and that is really inspiring and uplifting to see now more than ever."
Aldermen approve furloughs, pay cuts for city staff until further notice
Starkville aldermen approved a series of measures Tuesday to cover nearly all of the $1.3 million that Mayor Lynn Spruill estimates the city will lose in sales tax revenue this fiscal year due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Starting Friday, the beginning of a new pay period, 47 of the city's 306 employees (15 percent) will be furloughed until further notice. Sales tax revenue is part of the city's general fund, and 35 furloughs from departments paid for by the general fund will save about $350,000, Spruill said. The remaining 12 furloughs will come from the sanitation, water and utilities departments, which are paid by the city's enterprise fund. "None of this is something any of us wanted to do," Spruill said. "Our employees are our greatest asset, and for us to have to furlough them is the saddest day that I can think of that I've encountered, certainly since I've been involved in city government in any kind of way. We will make this as quick as we can."
Oktibbeha supes OK fee-in-lieu for potential solar power facility
Oktibbeha County will enter a "fee-in-lieu of ad valorem taxes" agreement with a potential solar energy project if it is secured and built, thanks to a unanimous vote from the board of supervisors on Monday. Renewable energy sources are attractive to large companies, and the facility could draw new businesses to the region, Golden Triangle Development LINK CEO Joe Max Higgins told The Dispatch. "More and more companies will pay more to have renewable power," he said. "My generation was, 'I want it as cheap as I can get it.' (The younger) generation is kind of like, 'If I've got to pay a little bit more but it helps the environment, I'm willing to do it.'" Higgins did not name the company behind the potential project and said he was not at liberty to disclose where it would be built in the county. The codename is Project North Star, but Higgins said the project is not affiliated with the North Star Industrial Park under construction at the intersection of Highways 82 and 389 in northern Starkville.
SDN to cease production of Monday edition
The Starkville Daily News, Oktibbeha County's oldest print newspaper, will soon end its three-decade run of publishing seven days a week, as the SDN will no longer publish a Monday edition beginning next week. SDN Publisher Joe Robertson informed staff this week of the change, which will go into effect on Monday, April 27. The newspaper will continue to publish in print six days a week, with the SDN putting a renewed focus on providing digital updates on its website and social media on the days without a print product. "The Starkville Daily News is proud to be the local community news source for Starkville and Oktibbeha County" Robertson said. "During this uncertain time, the Starkville Daily News' importance for our community has been even more evident. We look forward to continuing to serve the people of Starkville and Oktibbeha County for many years in the future."
Tornadoes, storms, flash flooding possible Wednesday night, Thursday morning
Following tornado outbreaks on April 12 and 19 that killed a total of 15 people in Mississippi, parts of the state could experience more severe weather Wednesday night into Thursday morning. According to the National Weather Service, the greatest threat lies in the western part of the state form the northern tip of Adams County to central Yazoo County to the Mississippi River north of Greenville. That area has an enhanced risk and could see damaging winds up to 70 mph, large hail and possibly tornadoes tonight into Thursday morning. Areas of central Mississippi are at slight risk of damaging winds, hail and tornadoes after midnight. The primary concerns will be for damaging straight line winds and hail. There's also a flash flood threat. Heavy rain falling on very moist ground could lead to flash flooding in some areas. A Flash Flood Watch is in effect from the Mississippi River through central Mississippi into the northeast corner of the state for this evening through Thursday morning.
Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians receives grant from National Endowment for the Humanities
The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians is in line for a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The grant, which totals more than $390,000, will allow the Tribe to fund the production of a print and electronic dictionary of the Choctaw language. "This project funded by NEH will help the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians in our Language and Cultural revitalization efforts through documenting modern Choctaw language, publishing a Mississippi Choctaw Dictionary, and providing a digital resource for learning the Choctaw language," said Jay Wesley, Director of Chahta Immi for the MBCI. "In these somber times, when every individual, community, and organization in America is feeling the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, it is a joy to be able to announce new projects that will produce vibrant humanities programs and resources for the reopening of our cultural centers and educational institutions," said NEH Chairman Jon Parrish Peede.
Mississippi's two big indie bookstores await Grisham title
Independent bookstores are always facing changes in the marketplace that can threaten their very existence. First came the chains, then the Internet, which gained the upper hand over all booksellers. Then Amazon, which as the name suggests, has become the biggest retail bookseller in the world. Now the coronavirus pandemic has cast an invisible net over the whole book publishing industry. Entangled in the big net are the ultimate survirors of publishing: the indies. Two bookstores in Mississippi have established themselves as go-to places for those with a literary hunger during the no-go epoch. Square Books in Oxford and Lemuria Books in Jackson. Selling signed books is a magnet for Lemuria and Square, and no name is bigger in that category than John Grisham, a one-man industry who turns out at least one bestseller a year. This year, it will be two.
How COVID-19 Is Impacting Mississippi Tourism
The birthplace of America's Music brings in billions of dollars in tourism every year, according to the Mississippi Development Authority. But the COVID-19 pandemic means casinos, shows, museums, and festivals are postponed, closed and canceled. In areas known for arts and culture, like the Mississippi Delta, towns like Clarksdale have come to a halt. Bubba O'Keefe, the director of Visit Clarksdale, says he wants to continue to engage people who cannot physically be in the Delta. "We realized that we needed to try to figure out something to keep Visit Clarksdale out in front of people so that they wouldn't forget us here." The music the region is known for is moving online. The Juke Joint Festival was able to be streamed to people all over the world. There's also a website, Live from Clarksdale, that continues Clarksdale's promise of music seven days a week -- by offering music seven days a week. The streamed concert have had viewers from around the world support blues musicians -- with virtual tip jars, comments of encouragement and an engaged audience. Other local arts and culture sites are hoping to transition to engaging people online, too.
Mississippi gov: Restarting economy won't be 'light switch'
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said Tuesday that the state economy will reopen gradually after health officials and others say it's safe to do so during the coronavirus pandemic. He cautioned that life will not immediately return to normal. A day after other Republican governors in parts of the South announced plans to start reopening some businesses in coming days, Reeves said he is still considering how to ease into more changes in Mississippi. "This is not going to be a light switch that we can turn on," Reeves said. The governor and Mississippi Department of Employment Security director Jackie Turner also announced Tuesday that pandemic unemployment benefits are now available to thousands of people who are self-employed or are gig workers, independent contractors or employees of charities and faith-based organizations.
Gov. Tate Reeves: Mississippi expanding unemployment benefits for coronavirus
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves announced Tuesday the state is expanding unemployment benefits during the coronavirus crisis to cover people who did not previously qualify for assistance. People who are self-employed, independent contractors, employed by a church and gig workers are among those who will benefit from the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program, Reeves said during a Tuesday news conference. Tens of thousands of Mississippians have found themselves suddenly without a paycheck as much of the state's economy has ground to a halt during the pandemic. The increase of claims in recent weeks has been "astronomical," said Jackie Turner, director of the Mississippi Department of Employment Security. On a typical week before the pandemic, Turner said the state paid out about $1 million. Last week, the state paid out $72 million, she said, and the first two days of this week alone has totaled more than $72 million. More than 130,000 residents have filed for unemployment.
Southern states largely go it alone in reopening decisions
Governors in 17 states have committed to regional coordination to reopen their economies during the coronavirus outbreak -- but none are in the South, where leaders are going it alone, just as they did in imposing restrictions. As questions about when and how to ease virus-control measures becomes increasingly politically charged, governors in the Deep South have resisted any appearance of synchronization, instead driving home their message that each state must make its own decision. The outbreak has hit different parts of the country in different ways -- and the response has been just as varied -- so there isn't one playbook, said Dr. Richard Oberhelman, an infectious disease specialist at Tulane University's School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine in New Orleans. "Coordination makes sense, but the flip side is different states are in different parts of the epidemic," Oberhelman said, adding that communication remained key.
Ban on elective procedures/surgeries impacts rural hospitals already at risk of closure
Gov. Tate Reeves' temporary ban on elective procedures and surgeries in an effort to help slow the spread of the coronavirus has challenged many rural hospitals financially, with patient numbers dropping and some facilities dipping into their own reserves to keep doctors and nurses on staff. Before the coronavirus pandemic, Field Health System didn't make a profit, CEO Chad Netterville said. The network of five clinics and a Centreville hospital broke even. Now it's even worse, because Netterville said elective surgeries helped keep those workers paid and the doors open. "If you want me to have these services somewhere down the road, I can't just close them and keep a general surgeon around," Netterville said. "I can't close my [operating room] and elective procedures and not do them, and keep OR nurses sitting around." While Reeves' executive order banning elective surgeries and procedures, signed into law on April 10, is expected to expire April 27 unless extended, many of Mississippi's rural facilities remain still burdened by financial strain, according to Ryan Kelly, who serves as executive director of the state's rural health association and chairman of the governor's rural health care task force.
As Covid-19 rips through black communities, African American leaders demand inclusion on response teams
As millions of dollars begin flowing into Mississippi to aid in the economic recovery following the COVID-19 pandemic, black leaders in the state are demanding officials give more involvement from the black community, which has been hardest hit by the disease. In a letter to State Health Officer Thomas Dobbs dated April 14, a coalition of black leaders also demanded that the state increase black representation in its response teams; greater invest in COVID-19 interventions and solutions for disadvantaged communities; target messaging to the black community; expand testing and release more data about COVID-19 cases and testing. The Mississippi State Health Department began releasing statistics April 8 that show Mississippi is no exception to the national trend of the virus' devastating affect on black residents.
Mississippi AG Fitch, Congressman Palazzo seek to hold China legally accountable for coronavirus
Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch announced today in a release that she is preparing to file a lawsuit against China to hold the Communist nation "accountable for the malicious and dangerous acts that caused death, health injuries, and serious economic loss from the COVID-19 crisis." "Too many Mississippians have suffered as a result of China's cover-up," said Attorney General Fitch. "They must not be allowed to act with impunity. Mississippians deserve justice and I will seek that in court." General Fitch's case will seek damages under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) and is similar to a case filed earlier this week by the State of Missouri. General Fitch also wrote a letter to the Mississippi Congressional delegation to ask their support for legislation sponsored by Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Congressman Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) that would create a very specific exception in FSIA for Americans to seek such damages, creating an even clearer pathway to victory for the people of Mississippi.
US pork farmers panic as virus ruins hopes for great year
After enduring extended trade disputes and worker shortages, U.S. hog farmers were poised to finally hit it big this year with expectations of climbing prices amid soaring domestic and foreign demand. Instead, restaurant closures due to the coronavirus have contributed to an estimated $5 billion in losses for the industry, and almost overnight millions of hogs stacking up on farms now have little value. Some farmers have resorted to killing piglets because plunging sales mean there is no room to hold additional animals in increasingly cramped conditions. For many pork producers, the coronavirus pandemic may be the final straw, said Nick Giordano, a vice president at the National Pork Producers Council. "We are hearing from lots of producers. They're hanging on for dear life," Giordano said. Besides seeking the purchases for food banks and direct payments to producers, the group wants to make agricultural businesses eligible for a federal economic injury disaster loan program.
Trump keeps his hands off ag labor
The president plans to sign an executive order to temporarily halt most green cards as soon as today -- but the administration will continue to process visas for temporary workers, like farm laborers, who account for the largest source of immigration at the moment. The agricultural exemption is critical for U.S. farmers, who have faced a labor shortage for years. Producers have increasingly relied on the H-2A visa program to fill jobs on their farms with foreign guest workers. In 2019, the Labor Department certified more than 250,000 such visas, a 10 percent increase from 2018. The coronavirus has further exacerbated the shortfall, due to border and travel restrictions and less capacity to process visas. In response, the Trump administration has eased rules surrounding the program, like no longer requiring in-person interviews for applicants and lifting a three-year limit for ag laborers. Congress and the Trump administration reached a bipartisan deal on Tuesday to add about $321 billion to the depleted Paycheck Protection Program, giving farmers and ranchers another chance to apply for forgivable loans to maintain their workforces.
CDC Director Robert Redfield warns second coronavirus wave could be 'more difficult,' hit same time as flu
The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Tuesday that a second wave of the coronavirus outbreak in the fall could be worse than the current one hitting the U.S. because it would come at the opening of the flu season. "There's a possibility that the assault of the virus on our nation next winter will actually be even more difficult than the one we just went through," CDC Director Robert Redfield told The Washington Post. "We're going to have the flu epidemic and the coronavirus epidemic at the same time." The current outbreak has killed more than 45,000 people in the U.S. and more than 178,000 worldwide, according to the data from Johns Hopkins University. Many health experts, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, have also warned of a potential second wave of infection. There are many unanswered questions about the virus that could determine whether there will be a second wave of infection and how bad that wave might be.
Kroger to require employees to wear masks, CEO says
Kroger CEO Rodney McMullen said this week that the grocery chain would require all employees to wear face masks while working to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in its stores. McMullen said in an interview with NBC's "Today" show on Wednesday that the policy would go into effect later this week. The company previously required employees only in "hot spots" to wear personal protective equipment (PPE). "In our hot spot divisions we require our employees to wear face masks ... and gloves. Later this week we will move that to require all associates to wear face masks, as well," McMullen said. McMullen also addressed supply chain issues in his interview, telling "Today" show hosts that essential items such as paper towels and toilet paper would be restocked within days as grocers resolve supply issues.
Delta State University receives $3,500 grant for Safe Space Program
Delta State University received a $3,500 grant from the LGBTQ Fund of Mississippi to apply to the Safe Space initiative on campus. School leaders said the money will be used to purchase curriculum and promotional materials, provide incentives for participants, and make other improvements to the longstanding campus effort. Delta State's Safe Space is part of a national training program. "As the new Safe Space coordinator, it was imperative for me to delve into this program so that it informs as many faculty, staff, students, and community members as possible on crucial matters such as gender and sexual identify, homophobia, discrimination, fear of reprisal, and being an ally for the LGBTQ community," said Dr. Jacqueline Goldman, assistant professor of psychology. "The money from this grant will extend the reach of this vital program and enhance the trainings for our campus."
Reeves urges caution for graduations, but Bay High is thinking big with 'Jeepers'
With school buildings closed during graduation season, South Mississippi high schools are looking for alternate ways to honor seniors during the new coronavirus pandemic. Gulfport, George County and Bay high schools have scheduled graduation events that allow for some level of social distancing. They allow some family members to watch students receive diplomas and allow students to have cap-and-gown photos taken. But Bay High has the most elaborate plan so far, allowing for its 127 graduates and their parents to ride in Jeeps to watch speeches from the stadium parking lot, drive past a stand to get a diploma and professional photo, then parade past tents on U.S. 90 holding up to 10 friends and family members for each graduate. With some schools still weighing their options, Gov. Tate Reeves said Monday he hopes school officials will be cautious while planning events. When asked what he recommended for schools planning drive-in events, he said if he were running a school district he would try to be patient and look into doing the ceremony online.
How a global pandemic is changing Auburn's Dungeons and Dragons scene
Sometimes, they were a band of characters taking jobs and quests from around a kingdom, trying to help enough people and solve enough conflicts to be appointed as royal advisors. Other times, they were an outcast gang of misfits turned space pirates, who were planning a heist to steal a spaceship. But every time, they were a group of Auburn students gathered around a table or on the floor, rolling dice and playing the role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons. During the COVID-19 pandemic, however, these students, who often spend multiple nights a week playing what they described as a collaborative storytelling experience, are having to adapt the game to an online format. Christian Bookout, junior in aerospace engineering, was playing in four D&D games before Auburn's campus closed. However, one of his games, which had been running since October, was not able to transition online, so it was shelved. While he said they might return to it once they are back on campus in the fall semester, there is a chance it could get left behind.
U. of Kentucky to do furloughs, layoffs over budget deficit
The University of Kentucky will furlough and lay off employees because of revenue deficits that in large part are the result of the economic havoc the coronavirus pandemic has wrought, UK President Eli Capilouto announced Tuesday. "The challenges are as daunting as our institution has faced in decades," Capilouto said in a campuswide message Tuesday. "Every college, department and unit -- including my office and all those that report to me -- will face budget cuts. We will not, however, make cuts across the board," he said. "On average, across the institution, the cuts will be 10 percent." Capilouto did not specify how many employees would be furloughed or how many would lose their jobs. The cost-cutting plans include: Furloughs of employees who work in units where work has stopped or been significantly reduced and cannot be done remotely. Layoffs or a reduction in force in some units. A continuation of its current hiring freeze. The University of Louisville has announced furloughs, pay cuts, a hiring freeze and other moves it's making as it tries to manage its own financial problems.
Deep clean of U. of Missouri campus underway
Crews of University of Missouri Campus Facilities started a campuswide cleaning effort Monday. Gary Ward, MU vice chancellor for operations, announced the cleaning process in a virtual town hall last Tuesday. "We're going to start ... a deep cleaning effort for the entire campus," he said. "What that will mean is we will clean all the public spaces, of course all the restrooms, all the offices, all the classrooms, all the auditoriums." MU spokesperson Christian Basi said in an email that crews are using Hillyard Q.T. 3 to clean those spaces. According to the company's website, it is a disinfectant specifically for hard surfaces that has had success at getting rid of viruses similar to the COVID-19 virus. Crews started by cleaning Jesse Hall on Monday, and Basi said they will clean the rest of campus over the next two weeks. Basi said the goal is to disinfect and clean as many surfaces as possible as university officials prepare for faculty and staff to eventually come back to campus.
Online Muster remembers Aggies who died in past year
Photos of loved ones at their last family dinners and during other precious moments flooded a new Aggie Muster website Tuesday as more than 21,000 viewers joined together online for Texas A&M's virtual campus Muster ceremony. The tradition -- in which Aggies around the world gather each April 21 to call "here" for those who died in the past year -- saw remarkable changes this year, as response efforts to the COVID-19 pandemic postponed ceremonies and pushed others online. A&M's flagship campus ceremony was filmed -- with no audience or family members in attendance -- last week. It aired at 7 p.m. Tuesday on The names of 106 people were read. A&M senior and Aggie Muster Committee Chair Kaley Markos acknowledged the change as significant in her statement in the video, but she pointed out that the tradition brought together the campus community despite the challenges.
Can Colleges Survive Coronavirus If They Stay Closed In The Fall?
Most campuses in the United States are sitting empty. Courses are online, students are at home. And administrators are trying to figure out how to make the finances of that work. "The math is not pretty," says Robert Kelchen, who studies higher ed finance at Seton Hall University in New Jersey. "Colleges are stressed both on the revenue side and on the expenditure side." On one end of the equation, colleges are spending money to take classes online, in some situations purchasing software, training professors or outsourcing to online-only institutions. That's on top of refunds for room and board and parts of tuition. On the other side, money isn't coming back in, in the form of expected tuition and revenue from events such as athletics, conferences on campus and summer camps. College endowments, which can sometimes offer some insulation from hard financial times, have also taken a hit. "This will touch every sector of higher education. Every size of institution, every region of the country," says Dominique Baker, a professor of education policy at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. And it already has. The University of Michigan estimates it may lose up to $1 billion by the end of the year. For the University of Kentucky, it's $70 million.
Colleges Have Been Waiting for Guidance on How They Can Send Stimulus Money to Students. Here It Is.
Over the past few weeks, college administrators have been grappling with how to distribute coronavirus stimulus money to their students. On Tuesday, they got some clarity -- as well as some new complications. In newly released guidance, the U.S. Department of Education informed administrators that they are only allowed to issue funds to students who are eligible for Title IV financial aid. That cuts out international students and undocumented immigrants -- including those receiving Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) protections -- from receiving any of the roughly $6 billion that the Cares Act allocates directly to emergency student aid. Those limitations came even as the stimulus law itself made no mention of eligibility for federal student aid to qualify for the emergency money. In addition, the formula Congress used to allocate the money included all students, not just those who can receive the Title IV dollars. Some higher-education associations questioned whether the department had made a reasonable interpretation of the legislation.
2 Campuses Give Early Answers to Higher Ed's Biggest Question: What Happens This Fall?
Few college leaders have taken on the most pressing question many campuses face: whether Covid-19 will prohibit them from resuming normal operations in the fall. But early this week, two institutions announced their intentions -- and they differed markedly. Pamella Oliver, provost of California State University at Fullerton, said on Monday that the university planned to start the fall semester online and, should governmental and health authorities allow, gradually move back to on-campus operations. On Tuesday, Mitchell E. Daniels Jr., president of Purdue University, said that his university intended to bring students back to campus in August. He wrote in an email that Purdue was "determined not to surrender helplessly" to the difficulties of the virus. Shutting down campus, he wrote, "has come at extraordinary costs, as much human as economic, and at some point, clearly before next fall, those will begin to vastly outweigh the benefits of its continuance."
Financial peril prompting calls to close some public college campuses, but systems can often make smarter choices, experts say
The coronavirus outbreak has torpedoed the budgets of public and private colleges alike. Revenue shortfalls, student fee refunds, possible declines in fall enrollment and unexpected cost increases have set the stage for a difficult financial future. Public college systems are facing all of that and another threat: impending cuts to state higher education funding. It all means renewed debate over the controversial idea of closing public college campuses. The Vermont State Colleges System, projecting a near-term operating deficit of up to $10 million this fiscal year, announced plans last week for a "substantial transformation" of its colleges that included closing several campuses. Days later, the board deferred a vote on the plan amid public backlash. The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education forecasts a $52 million loss, even after federal stimulus money is applied. The University of Alaska system projects a $35 to $40 million loss. The University of Maine system is looking at a $20 million short-term loss. Many states have announced, or will announce, budget cuts as a result of the coronavirus, and higher education funding is expected to take a big hit.
Special Report: Colleges Mobilize to Combat the Coronavirus Crisis
As the pandemic has closed campuses, forcing higher education to reinvent itself, many colleges are also meeting this unprecedented moment with a renewed sense of purpose about their role in the community. Faculty and staff members, as well as students, are contributing and producing medical equipment, preparing buildings for use as health-care facilities, providing Wi-Fi to local residents, and offering services like public information, small-business support, legal aid, and spiritual counseling. It is an extraordinary time of daunting challenges, but also opportunities "to establish our higher-education institutions as pillars of the community," says Ora Hirsch Pescovitz, president of Michigan's Oakland University. Public trust in colleges and universities has been declining for years, fueled by rising tuition, concerns about the value of a degree, political and ideological debates, and doubts over whether the system still serves the common good. Making the case for higher education's role in society means assuming public responsibility in a crisis.
The Deepwater Horizon Disaster Fueled a Gulf Science Bonanza
After the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded a decade ago this month, killing 11 workers and spewing a massive black curtain of crude oil across the Gulf of Mexico, thousands of first responders and cleanup workers arrived on the scene. So too did an army of scientists. Aboard seagoing research vessels and wading along beaches and marshes, they came to assess the catastrophe and track it over time. British Petroleum, owner of the rig, agreed to fund a scientific stimulus package of $500 million just a few weeks after the April 20, 2010, blowout. Looking back, the scientists who responded to the Deepwater Horizon spill say that the past decade has brought a bonanza of new research. “It was a horrible tragedy and 11 men died,” the University of Georgia's Joye says. “But the scientific community rose to the challenge and we learned a tremendous amount from that disaster.” Despite the toxic contamination she found during years of dissecting fish guts, Pulster says she still prefers locally caught seafood. “I eat gulf fish, oysters, and shrimp,” she admits. “They are too good not to eat. But I wouldn’t eat the liver.”
Non-profit media bias alive and well in Mississippi
Frank Corder writes for Y'all Politics: Every one has a bias, even (and probably especially) news outlets. You often hear President Trump aggressively call out CNN, MSNBC, and other national media as "fake news." The implication is that these left-leaning news organizations are agenda setting, attempting to determine which issues become the focus of public attention by what and how they cover the news of the day. Of course, for-profit journalism enterprises are much more free to espouse their opinions, either through editorials or the delivery of the news itself. They pay for the privilege. But with the rise of non-profit media essentially replacing for profit newsrooms, those well funded organizations are more limited in how they can try and sway political issues. They are not supposed to use their publication to advocate for policy positions, so their play is to endeavor to create stories (storytelling, in their parlance) that cover the partisan issues they want to advance.
Pandemic points out escalating public health care challenges for Mississippi's poor
Syndicated columnist Sid Salter writes: The COVID-19 pandemic has focused a new bright light on a set of old and familiar realities for Mississippi. First is Mississippi's persistent, endemic poverty. That poverty begets poor healthcare access and ultimately poor healthcare outcomes. According to the Census Bureau's American Community Survey, 43 percent of Mississippians had employer-provided health insurance and an additional 5 percent had other group health insurance. Medicaid covered another 23 percent while Medicare covered 14 percent and military benefits covered an additional two percent. Some 12.1 percent of Mississippians have no health insurance of any kind. Remember, those were the percentages before COVID-19 was part of the daily lexicon. Those were the numbers before Mississippi, like the rest of the country, saw tens of thousands in our state lose their jobs and the healthcare benefits that were attached to them. Without question, Mississippi has a significant number of citizens who have transitioned from insured to uninsured as part of the pandemic. And with that transition comes the rest of the story on how health care is delivered to the poor in Mississippi. Second is the structure of health care finance in Mississippi.

Andersson Garcia signs with Mississippi State men's basketball team
The newest member of Mississippi State's men's basketball team has a little international flavor. Forward Andersson Garcia, who hails from the Dominican Republic, signed a national letter of intent with the Bulldogs on Tuesday after giving his commitment to Ben Howland earlier this month. "We are very excited about Andersson's commitment to join the Bulldog family," Howland said. "He's a terrific player who is very skilled. He has a great feel on offense and moves well with and without the ball. Andersson is an outstanding defensive player due to his quickness, his length and his anticipation. He also is a very good rebounder. Combined with the fact that he is an outstanding person who is extremely motivated and hardworking, Andersson comes from a great family. He will be an excellent addition to our program and look forward to having him at Mississippi State." The 6-foot-6, 195-pounder is currently attending Hamilton Heights Christian Academy in Chattanooga, Tennessee, which is the same program that produced current MSU center Abdul Ado.
Mississippi State freshman golfer Ashley Gilliam named honorable mention all-American
Mississippi State freshman golfer Ashley Gilliam was named an honorable mention all-American by the Women's Golf Coaches Association on Tuesday. This season, Gilliam set Mississippi State's program record for stroke average at 70.61, which ranked sixth in Division I and second in the Southeastern Conference. "Ashley has been a committed Bulldog for years now," head coach Ginger Brown-Lemm said in a news release from Mississippi State. "She has grown so much as a freshman in every aspect of her life. This kind of growth is a testament to her dedication to getting better. Her obvious work ethic, changes she has made in her nutrition, strength and conditioning, and expanding her mental game skill are why she is reaching the unprecedented heights as a freshman here at Mississippi State."
'All or nothing': How Mississippi State's Tyre Phillips became an NFL Draft prospect
Tyre Phillips called it an act of God. Then a junior at Grenada High School, the 6-foot-5, 320-pound Phillips was often found on the football field. But instead of pants, pads and a helmet, Phillips wore a marching band uniform while wielding a trumpet. Phillips quit football after his freshman season to focus on his musical talent, which he acquired from playing the keyboard at church with his father, James Phillips, who works as a pastor. Tarsha Phillips, Tyre's mother, will never forget the day her son gave the game up. "He went to every practice that summer, and about two days before school started he said, 'I'm no longer going to play football,'" Tarsha Phillips told the Clarion Ledger. "I was upset because I don't believe in my kids quitting. If you start something, I want you to finish it." At some point, Phillips will finish it. Just not yet. He picked football up again late in his junior year after being encouraged to do so by a plethora of people. One voice rang louder than the rest.
An NFL Draft Q&A with The Athletic's Dane Brugler
One year after watching three former Bulldogs go in the first round, the next slate of former Mississippi State players are slated to begin their professional football careers on Thursday as the NFL Draft gets underway. And while fans may not see quite as many names fly off the board as last year, MSU boasted plenty of NFL-caliber talent in 2019. The Dispatch caught up with The Athletic NFL Draft Analyst Dane Brugler this week to break down the Bulldogs' crop of prospects. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
NCAA athletes' food shortage heightened by coronavirus
Before the world turned upside down, University of Mississippi senior linebacker Sam Williams would eat five-to-six meals per day at campus dining halls -- each one necessary to fuel his 6'3", 250-pound body. His scholarship came with a meal plan, ensuring that he could get the calories necessary to train and perform at the level expected of him. But like many of the 460,000 NCAA athletes who were suddenly sent home last month, he now has to scramble to afford the food he needs. In late March, he tweeted out his frustrations from his family's home in Montgomery, Ala. "We worked so hard to get out the hood but forced back to the hood," Williams wrote. "Still gotta pay rent so all our money be gone and I can't swipe my ID nowhere in Alabama. Then if we get help it's a 'violation'. I just don't understand." Speaking over the phone last weekend, he explained, "I still need to pay my rent back there [in Oxford] and so after that and my car insurance, it's whatever is left to pay for groceries." The challenges Williams is facing are almost certainly widespread.
Oil bust could affect Texas A&M athletics going forward
When Texas A&M athletic director Ross Bjork stepped into his job a year ago, he immediately knew he needed to form relationships with both the Jimbo Fishers and J.R. Ewings of the state of Texas. It was no stretch of the imagination to realize oil lined the pockets of many donors to A&M athletics, Bjork said Tuesday on his bi-weekly video teleconference. "I made sure I had the commodity app on my phone the day that I started on July 8," Bjork said. "You've got to pay attention to that living here in Texas." Monday, oil prices fell below zero for the first time ever, indicating that buyers of the commodity would be paid to take barrels off contractors hands as demand has fallen due to the effects of the spread of COVID-19. How that oil bust will impact the A&M athletic department is yet to be determined, Bjork said. "It's hard to say exactly how much we're dependent on it," Bjork said.
LSU's Steve Ensminger has a proposed raise to $1 million per year
How much does it cost to maintain a championship coaching staff? For the LSU Tigers, the cost is more than $13.5 million. It's the sum total of the contracts athletic director Scott Woodward has submitted to the LSU Board of Supervisors, who will decide Thursday whether to approve a 27.55% increase in coaching salaries. Some of the contracts have already technically been approved. Head coach Ed Orgeron's six-year, $41 million contract and new defensive coordinator Bo Pelini's three-year, $2.3 million-per-year deal were both approved by the board March 6. The March agenda included drawn-up contracts for new passing game coordinator Scott Linehan, defensive backs coach Corey Raymond, new running backs coach Kevin Faulk and defensive line coach Bill Johnson; but board members pushed back those contracts to the April meeting. LSU offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger has a proposed $1 million-per-year contract through the 2021 season, a new deal that would be a 25% increase from the $800,000 he made in 2019.
Coronavirus impact on football season not affecting purchase of season tickets
The coronavirus outbreak forced the cancellation of spring sports and threw a monkey wrench into plans to restart them. It also put the fall football season in doubt, with college and state officials from all over the country chiming in with their views of how the pandemic will affect them. But nobody has a clear answer or a solution, and college athletic departments are proceeding as if football will be played on schedule in the fall. They have no choice but to do so, as their budgets for next year (and thus most of the funding for their other sports) depend on football. Renewal forms for football season tickets have been sent to donors at South Carolina, Clemson and The Citadel, but what do they say to warn hesitant buyers about the potential impact of COVID-19? Athletics director Ray Tanner said Tuesday during a radio interview that he was surprised at the renewal numbers. "I expected that with this situation we're in some people might be cautious, but we're slightly up, which I'm delighted about," Tanner said. "People understand they're not going to lose their money if something happens."
Memphis AD Laird Veatch projects $2.5 million loss of revenue for fiscal year
The University of Memphis athletic department is facing a projected $2.5 million loss of revenue this fiscal year, athletic director Laird Veatch said Tuesday. Addressing The Rotary Club of Memphis virtually via Zoom, Veatch said the shortfall can be largely attributed to the cancellation of the NCAA Tournament in March due to the coronavirus pandemic. But the Tigers' first-year athletic director said it is not a cause for significant concern. "The way I've been saying it, we're going to be OK," he said. "We are certainly down in revenues, there's no question. A lot of that, for us, has fortunately been offset by expense savings and we also had a good year financially." All things considered, the hit Veatch is expecting Memphis athletics -- which generated $55,815,109 in total revenue for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2019 -- to take this fiscal year could be worse. But like many other university athletic departments, the biggest concern is next fiscal year, as plenty of uncertainty hovers over what the 2020 college football season will look like.

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