Monday, May 4, 2020   
Mississippi colleges holding virtual commencement for grads
Commencement ceremonies in Mississippi are looking a bit different than usual as graduates began to receive their degrees via virtual celebrations. Mississippi State held its graduation ceremony Friday and livestreamed the event to comply with social distancing restrictions in place because of the coronavirus pandemic. "This is not what any of us could have envisioned for the end of the Spring 2020 semester and the completion of an important time in the lives of our graduating class. But we are committed to celebrating our graduates and their accomplishments and wishing them well as they begin careers and assume leadership roles in the world that will make us all proud," MSU President Mark E. Keenum said in a news release. Keenum also gave an honorary Doctor of Public Service degree to the Honorable Judge John J. Fraiser Jr., who served in WWII as a member of the 15th Army Air Force.
Mississippi State graduates react to virtual graduation
Mississippi State University held their first virtual graduation ceremony. The university was forced to change their ceremony style because of the coronavirus. Although it wasn't what seniors were expecting at the beginning of the semester. "I'm thankful that Mississippi State put this ceremony on for us, even though I wish I was able to put on my cap and gown and walk across the stage, I got my degree," Dondreia Blanchard said. Blanchard decided to go back to school to get her bachelor's degree. She persevered through challenges that non-traditional students face, and even the coronavirus. "I'm beyond cloud nine right now. Is that even possible?," Blanchard said.
MSU-Meridian grads celebrate
Photo: Like many universities across the state and nation, Mississippi State University is offering virtual commencement in lieu of the traditional ceremony. That didn't stop MSU-Meridian students Steven Miller, DLana Griffin, Margaretta Campbell and Robert "Trey" Long, who headed to Dumont plaza in downtown Meridian to celebrate on Thursday. Miller, of Laurel, earned his Professional MBA degree; Griffin, of Meridian earned a Bachelor of Business Administration degree with a concentration in Healthcare Administration; Campbell, of Meridian earned a Bachelor of Applied Technology degree in Healthcare Services and Long, of Rose Hill earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology.
MSU grad gets key to city, neighborhood parade
Spencer Kirkpatrick didn't get to walk across a stage in front of thousands of well-wishers to receive his college diploma, but the 24-year-old was far from disappointed Friday. Close family members gathered at his home in Tupelo at 2 p.m. to watch his virtual graduation from Mississippi State University's ACCESS program, a four-year, non-degree program for students with intellectual or developmental disabilities. Spencer is the son of Kevan and Maribeth Kirkpatrick of Tupelo and Joanna and Matt Gagliardi of Minneapolis, Minnesota. "They played 'Pomp and Circumstance' and Dr. Keenum and others gave speeches," Kevan Kirkpatrick said. "Spencer was really into watching the virtual graduation. He knew that it was a celebration -- the end of college. It helped provide some closure to his college career."
Mississippi universities look to fall semester with virtual recruiting and safe practices
It was welcome news to many in a letter sent last week from University of Southern Mississippi President Rodney Bennett to a host of recipients, including current students, faculty, staff, admitted students and officials who help students win admission to Southern Miss. I am pleased to share that we are planning to resume on-campus operations this fall," Bennett wrote. But what fall semester will actually look like is still up in the air. On April 28, Commissioner of Higher Education Alfred Rankins Jr. established the Safe Start Task Force with representatives from each of the IHL Board's eight universities. The task force will come up with a system-level plan for starting and completing the Fall 2020 semester in the safest way. For now, Southern Miss and the state's seven other universities have to concentrate on enrolling new students for fall semester, without the usual techniques they rely on. At Mississippi State, John Dickerson, assistant vice president for enrollment and registrar, is preparing for next semester -- virtually. "(With virtual) campus visit presentations, Facebook Live events, one on one sessions, we have had well over 1,000 students and parents participate," he said. "We will certainly have fall semester -- no question about that." Like Southern Miss, what fall semester will be like is uncertain, Dickerson said.
MSU Extension partners in initiative linking servicemen, veterans with ag jobs
Mississippi State University Extension is helping U.S. Rep. Trent Kelly (R-Tupelo) and other partners in launching a new FARM Corps program to connect furloughed or unemployed veterans and members of the National Guard, Reserve and all service branches with local farm and ranch jobs. While the COVID-19 crisis has caused economic hardships for many Mississippians and others around the U.S., agriculture producers also are lacking foreign labor typically made possible through the H-2A visa program, now subject to strict travel restrictions. Harvesting, planting and other workers are needed in the agricultural sector, while the industry works to ensure a stable food supply. Rep. Kelly spearheaded the Farm and Ranch Mission (FARM) Corps initiative that partners with Mississippi Farm Bureau, Mississippi National Guard and Reserves, the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce, Mississippi Veterans Affairs, and other agricultural and veterans organizations. MSU Extension is playing a key role in providing organizational support, identification of opportunities and serving as a clearinghouse for open positions, locations and point of contact for each position.
MSU Extension partners to promote FARM Corps initiative linking servicemen, veterans with ag jobs
Mississippi State University Extension is helping U.S. Rep. Trent Kelly (R-Tupelo) and other partners in launching a new FARM Corps program to connect furloughed or unemployed veterans and members of the National Guard, Reserve and all service branches with local farm and ranch jobs. While the COVID-19 crisis has caused economic hardships for many Mississippians and others around the U.S., agriculture producers also are lacking foreign labor typically made possible through the H-2A visa program, now subject to strict travel restrictions. Harvesting, planting and other workers are needed in the agricultural sector, while the industry works to ensure a stable food supply. "MSU Extension is delighted to support Farm Corps with the most advanced technology available to digitally interconnect Mississippi agriculture producers who produce our food with veterans who need employment," said MSU Extension Director Gary Jackson. "Farm Corps is a great example of how MSU Extension is using technology to foster collaborative relationships that provide opportunities for individuals, families, businesses and communities."
Environmental impacts of COVID-19 explored by MSU's humanities institute
A Mississippi State University faculty member specializing in environmental anthropology and conservation politics will offer insight into the environmental impacts of COVID-19 in a virtual format open for pubic interaction. David M. Hoffman, associate professor in MSU's Department of Anthropology and Middle Eastern Cultures, will present "Is the Pandemic Good for the Environment" on Thursday, May 7 at 2 p.m. on the university's Institute for the Humanities Facebook page. In an interview with Julia Osman, director of the Institute for the Humanities and professor of history, Hoffman will share his thoughts on the pandemic's "massive and overnight shift of the political economic landscape" and the impacts the pandemic has -- and will continue to have -- on the environment. Osman said she hopes the discussion will help participants understand lessons to be learned through the pandemic.
Roses and thorns, 5-3-20: A rose to Mississippi State University
A rose to Mississippi State University, which has again turned to the talent of its faculty and staff to aid health care facilities in obtaining critical supplies during the COVID-19 crisis. Most recently, a team from the university's Bagley College of Engineering and researchers at the university's Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems, produced face shields by combining 3D-printed head bands with transparent plastic sheets and elastic bands generally found at office supply stores. Using 10 different 3D printers, the team is producing approximately 250 shields per week. The first batch was donated this week with over 100 going to both Rush Foundation Hospital and Anderson Regional Medical Center in Meridian, where they are being used by medical professionals caring for patients with COVID-19. Previously, MSU faculty helped convert battery-powered ventilators to AC for use at UMMC in Jackson and donated hundreds of N95 face makes to the county hospital. We applaud MSU for using its expertise in helping fight this crisis.
Starkville church vandalized
Police are asking the community for help to find the person or persons responsible for vandalizing a downtown Starkville church. During the overnight hours Thursday April 30 into Friday morning, someone broke into the Episcopal Church of the Resurrection at 105 North Montgomery St., just south of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive (Highway 182). The church was both burglarized and vandalized. Police have not released what was stolen, but pictures show a cross staff was broken, papers strewn and a Christian screen torn. Police are continuing to collect evidence and may release more information in the future. If you have any information please contact the Starkville Police Department at 662-323-4131 or Golden Triangle Crime Stoppers at 1-800-530-7151.
Local legislators expect scaled-down agenda when session resumes
When Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann and Speaker of the House Phillip Gunn announced last week that the Mississippi Legislature will reconvene on May 18 to complete its 2020 session, members of the local delegation were left to wonder how much of the roughly 40 days remaining in the session would be addressed. Rep. Gary Chism (R-Columbus) insisted that the Legislature would "pick up where we left off" but conceded the landscape has been greatly altered since the session was suspended on March 18. Other members of the local delegation say many of the bills that might have gone through previously will be viewed more critically when the Legislature returns to Jackson. Rep. Rob Roberson said he also expected a scaled-down agenda. Roberson said another likely casualty in this year's session will be a bond package, which helps fund projects in municipalities and counties throughout the state. "I can't say for sure, but I would not be surprised if we don't have a bond package this year, given the circumstances," Roberson said.
Mississippi governor: Waiting for two-week decline in cases 'just doesn't work in states like ours'
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) on Sunday defended the steps his state has taken to reopen its economy without meeting the White House guideline of two weeks of declining cases, saying each state's situation is different. "You have to understand that Mississippi is different than New York and New Jersey," Reeves said on "Fox News Sunday." "What we have seen is for the last 35 to 40 days, we've been between 200 and 300 cases without a spike. Our hospital system is not stressed. We have less than 100 people in our state on ventilators." Pressed by Fox News's Chris Wallace on the two-week guideline as well as the spike in confirmed cases since the state announced the next phase of reopening, the governor responded, "Sometimes the models are just different for different states. ... We believe that particular gating criteria just doesn't work in states like ours. We have never had more than 300 cases in any one day, with the exception of Friday in that data dump." Reeves also blasted a vote by the GOP-controlled state legislature to restrict his authority to spend more than $1 billion in federal coronavirus aid.
Area legislators vote to remove Gov. Tate Reeves' power to spend federal COVID-19 relief funds
All of the state lawmakers from Northeast Mississippi on Friday voted to approve a bill that removes Republican Gov. Tate Reeves' power to be the sole person responsible for disbursing more than a billion dollars in federal COVID-19 relief funds. The area legislators, nearly all of which are Republican, backed a proposal by House Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, and Republican Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann, to have the Legislature assert control in what they view as $1.25 billion from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds that have not been specifically designated for one group or person to spend. The Mississippi House of Representatives first amended Senate Bill 2772 to move $1.15 billion in the federal relief funds to a budget contingency fund. The money in this fund cannot be spent without approval from the Legislature. The rest of the money will be placed in a separate fund for state agencies to utilize for immediate needs related to COVID-19. The Mississippi House of Representatives ultimately voted to approve the legislation 112-0. In the state Senate, two senators voted against the bill and one senator voted present. None of the three senators represent districts in north Mississippi.
Analysis: Pandemic cash causes power clash in Mississippi
Mississippi Republican Gov. Tate Reeves found few defenders when state lawmakers returned to the Capitol on Friday to take control of more than a billion dollars the federal government is sending the state for response to the coronavirus pandemic. The Mississippi Constitution specifies that the Legislature has the power to make budget decisions. However, Reeves said a 40-year-old state law gives the governor some spending authority during emergencies. "The governor says that by letting him spend the money, he can get where it needs to go more quickly," Republican House Speaker Philip Gunn said. "That makes for a good soundbite. But what voice does that give the citizens in that decision making process?" Days before lawmakers returned to the Capitol, Reeves talked about long-term priorities for the federal money, including job training programs for adults and distance learning programs for children in homes with little or no access to technology.
Masks Become a Flash Point in the Virus Culture Wars
As the nation edges away from lockdown and people once again share public spaces in the middle of a pandemic, wearing a face mask -- or refusing to -- has become a flash point in a moment when civic rules are being rewritten, seemingly on the fly. The result has been dirty looks, angry words, raw emotions and, at times, confrontations that have escalated into violence. The decision not to wear a mask has, for some, become a rebellion against what they regard as an incursion on their personal liberties. For many others, the choice is a casual one more about convenience than politics. As many states have moved toward reopening but have also set their own pace in doing so, an elaborate patchwork of orders and restrictions has emerged that differs from state to state, even municipality to municipality. The shift toward reopening businesses reflects a larger recalibration in the balance that officials have tried to strike between aggressively curbing the virus and avoiding further economic devastation. "We have a public health crisis in this country, there's no doubt about it," Gov. Tate Reeves of Mississippi said in an appearance this week on "Fox News Sunday." "But we also have an economic crisis."
Death toll from virus in Mississippi grows to more than 300
Mississippi's death toll from COVID-19 has topped 300, with the state health department announcing Sunday that 12 more people have died from the disease. After a single-day high of nearly 400 new cases was reported Friday, the Mississippi State Department of Health reported the number of new positive tests for the coronavirus had slowed by Sunday, with 109 more infections confirmed. More than 7,500 Mississippians have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the data. In an interview on "Fox News Sunday," Republican Gov. Tate Reeves called Friday's new case announcement "a one-day blip" caused by a large number of tests being reported from out-of-state private labs, what he described as a "data dump" rather than the start of a large spike in Mississippi's virus outbreak.
Mississippi lawmaker loses his mother -- a nurse on the front lines of pandemic -- to coronavirus
The mother of a Mississippi state representative died of coronavirus on Friday. Rep. Tom Miles, D-Morton, said on Saturday that his mother, Sheena Miles, passed away from the disease. It is probable she contracted the virus as a result of her work as a nurse on the front lines of the pandemic, he said. Sheena Miles was a registered nurse of 35 years and oversaw the emergency room at Scott Regional Hospital in Morton on the weekends, where she cared for patients in one of the state's coronavirus hot spots. The county of just over 28,000 residents had the third highest number of COVID-19 cases in the state, with 339 cases and 10 deaths, according to a report on Friday from the state Health Department. Miles said his mother probably contracted the virus from a patient despite "doubling up" on personal protective equipment and taking extensive safety measures. He said his mother first felt symptoms on Easter Sunday and got tested the following Tuesday. That Thursday, she was admitted to the University of Mississippi Medical Center. The virus eventually spread to her lungs and took her life on Friday. She was 60.
President Trump threatens to terminate China trade deal
President Donald Trump on Sunday night said he will "terminate" the phase one deal with China if Beijing fails to buy an additional $200 billion worth of U.S. goods and services over the next two years as promised. During a "town hall meeting" on Fox News, Trump danced around a question from a food products business owner about whether he would consider reducing or eliminating the tariffs he has imposed on $350 billion worth of Chinese goods. The business owner said he has an additional $60,000 a month in costs because of Trump's duties. "We're looking at a lot of things, but you have to remember I've taken those tariffs and given a lot of them to the farmers," Trump said, referring to slightly more than $23 billion in direct payments the USDA has made to farmers in the past couple of years to offset the damage to U.S. farm income as a result of China's retaliation over Trump's duties.
Live and online: Supreme Court breaks new ground this week
It took an international pandemic to drag the Supreme Court a bit further into the internet age, but the justices on Monday will hold oral arguments for the first time via telephone so that anyone will be able to hear them live. The COVID-19 outbreak shuttered the Supreme Court building and then delayed oral arguments in March and April. With no clear end to social distancing or when it will be safe to reopen, the famously tradition-bound high court decided to hold two weeks of oral arguments with the justices and counsel all participating remotely. Among the cases: The Trump administration's new rules on exceptions to the contraceptive coverage mandate in the 2010 health care law on Wednesday; and President Donald Trump's personal challenge to congressional subpoenas for his financial and tax records from Mazars USA and Deutsche Bank on May 12. The novelty of the live high court action will certainly bring more interest for the first case under the new format, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office v., about whether online companies with a generic term plus ".com" can get trademark protection. What happens could determine whether live Supreme Court audio is here to stay -- or more likely, not.
Historic financial decline hits doctors, dentists and hospitals -- despite covid-19 -- threatening overall economy
Even as the novel coronavirus pandemic draws attention and resources to the nation's doctors and hospitals, the health-care industry is suffering a historic collapse in business that is emerging as one of the most powerful forces hurting the U.S. economy and a threat to a potential recovery. The widespread economic shutdown deployed to reduce transmission of the coronavirus hit hospitals and health-care providers with particular force as they prepared to face the pandemic. Most elective surgeries nationwide were postponed beginning in mid-March. Dentists offices were closed. Physicians stopped seeing all but the sickest patients in their offices. Stay-at-home orders didn't just prevent people from dining in restaurants -- they led people to avoid medical services, too, amid concerns about the virus's disease, covid-19. The result was that health-care spending declined at an annualized rate of 18 percent in the first three months of the year, according to Commerce Department data released last week, the largest reduction since the government started keeping records in 1959. The breathtaking downturn underscores that the health-care sector is not only crucial to saving lives but also is vital to an economic recovery.
How Might the Change of Seasons Affect Covid-19?
The maps that the National Weather Service publishes every month, forecasting what may happen in the months to come, predict above-average temperatures and rainfall for much of the United States in May, June, and July. In normal times, that would be unnerving news, a sign of storms coming and a climate wrenched awry. Right now, though, the predictions are fueling a weird hope: that a hotter, wetter summer might put the brakes on Covid-19. In the temperate zones of the world, other respiratory pathogens, and even other coronaviruses, lose their power as temperatures and humidity rise. But for the coronavirus fueling this pandemic, that remains only a hope. The research showing whether it possesses what virologists call "seasonality" is early, and much of it is contradictory. There is no clear proof yet that summer might save us. The reason everyone's so interested in whether summer can kill the novel coronavirus is simple: So far, not much else has worked.
The W launches interactive online orientation
Incoming students at Mississippi University for Women will experience a new orientation. Started May 1 and occurring every two weeks, The W will offer online orientation sessions to incoming students. The sessions will feature multiple videos including a welcome video from President Nora Miller, information on student life, academics and financial aid. W students host engaging video quizzes throughout the orientation. The new online orientation is mobile friendly. "The W's online orientation platform was built to serve as an equivalent of our traditional in-person sessions. When students go through this orientation, they will receive all the information that they will need to be ready for advising and registration," said David Brooking, director of the Student Success Center at The W.
New department announced at The W
To continuously improve the lives of local, regional and state communities, Mississippi University for Women has announced the Department of Psychology and Family Science. As of July 1, the Department of Psychology and Family Studies will transition to the Department of Psychology and Family Science. Both the family studies major and minor will now be family science. The request was approved by the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning in March. "We may not wear white coats, but we are social scientists. We want to emphasis the scientific nature of our discipline. It is research based and evidence formed. We use research and theories to inform our work with individuals, families, and communities," said Dorothy Berglund, department chair and professor of family studies. Berglund said that renaming not only gives greater creditability to the program but also allows students to establish an identity as a family scientist that will take them into their careers.
UMMC Vice Chancellor: Mississippi hasn't reached peak in COVID-19 cases
The vice chancellor for the University Mississippi Medical Center said Mississippi has not reached its peak of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases. According to Dr. LouAnn Woodward, the numbers of COVID-19 positive patients, hospitalizations and deaths are increasing: The numbers of COVID-19 positive patients, hospitalizations, and deaths are increasing. We have not hit our peak. We are not on the other side of this. Stay safe, Mississippi! @UMMCnews @msdh -- LouAnn Woodward M.D. (@LAWoodwardMD) May 4, 2020"
How are college closings impacting graduating lawyers and accountants?
Weeks before college students were set to graduate and enter the workforce to begin their careers, the pandemic upended the remainder of the school year and beyond. For students studying law and accounting in the state's colleges and universities, classes were shifted online as campuses closed and students returned home. Administrators quickly adopted new grading systems and began adjusting plans for graduation ceremonies, summer classes and the fall term. For some graduates, job prospects are in flux for now. The decision to move the Ole Miss Law School classes online was made during spring break, which was extended by a week to make the switch beginning March 23. "The big push was to get the faculty trained and get them to where they felt comfortable" with the new online course management system, said Dean Susan Duncan. The faculty went all out to learn a new way of teaching, she said. "They really care about their students and they are trying to do their best to get them through this."
USM Psychology Clinic offers free telehealth sessions to health professionals and their families
As many around the state and nation are giving back to healthcare professionals, the University of Southern Mississippi (USM) Psychology Clinic is also joining in. While those on the frontlines in hospitals try their best to help those diagnosed with COVID-19, pressures add up. Whether they worry about coming home and potentially infecting loved ones or experiencing firsthand traumas in the hospital, they may need someone to help them cope with feeling burned out, stressed or overwhelmed. This is where the USM Psychology Clinic comes in. They are providing three 50-minute telehealth sessions for health professionals and their families. The sessions "include evidence-based psychological services for stress and emotion regulation, among other issues." "It's a trying time now for healthcare professionals who are working longer hours, doing new tasks, and dealing with more harrowing situations than is normal, with many worried about bringing COVID-19 home to loved ones, so they may not be spending as much time at home as normal," said Dr. Nora Charles, interim director of the clinic and an assistant professor of clinical psychology. "Their families may also be struggling because they are worried about their loved one's health, and also missing them at home. It's understandable that healthcare workers and their loved ones would be stressed or overwhelmed right now, and we want to help."
Meridian Community College student sees future in construction industry
In the male-dominated world of construction, Meridian Community College student Markielah Lyles hopes to break down barriers so she can run her own construction company one day. Lyles, 19, who will graduate from MCC's Construction Trades program in May, is undaunted by the challenges that lie ahead. Of all of the people who work in construction, women make up 10.3 percent of the workforce and are largely office employees, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' January 2020 survey. African-Americans make up 6.4 percent of the workforce. Those statistics are not discouraging to Lyles; they make her more determined. "I have never been one to walk away from a challenge or to step down from a fight. I mean that metaphorically and not physically ... I am just not going to quit because something might be hard," said the Birmingham, Ala., native. Lyles is the only woman out of about a dozen students who will earn their certificates next month from MCC's Construction Trades Program. In addition to the certificate, the students will have earned their National Center for Construction Education and Research Core Curriculum and NCCER Carpentry Level 1 credentials.
U. of Memphis plans to approve no tuition increase for upcoming school year
The University of Memphis intends to approve no tuition increases for the upcoming academic year. An approval of the proposal would mark the fourth time in seven years that the college has had no increase to tuition, according to a media release. Over that time, the university said its average tuition increase has been 1.5%. "Our commitment to lowering costs for our students has had significant impact, and that commitment has never been more important than now," U of M President M. David Rudd said in a statement. U of M's Board of Trustees will vote on the proposal in June, said Chuck Gallina, spokesperson for the university. The next quarterly board meeting is scheduled for June 3. Rudd has often cited U of M's dedication to low student costs, noting in a recent presentation to the board that the university has had the lowest cost increases in the state of Tennessee. The university has prioritized simplified student fees in recent years. Rudd has said plans are underway for a return to campus in the fall.
Auburn students respond to satisfactory, unsatisfactory grading
Auburn University's option to allow for satisfactory or unsatisfactory grading is leaving students with mixed feelings. Provost Bill Hardgrave stated on March 20 that students may decide to leave their grades in the traditional format or switch to the alternate system. Further announcements regarding this grading policy have continually been released, adding more distinctions to the pass/fail grading system. These distinctions provide two different forms of passing, SS and SP. SP denotes grades that would have a received a C or higher in a class. SS denotes grades that would have received a D. "The two different levels are to help students who must have a C or better to progress while still having the option of using pass/fail," said Beth Yarborough, director of student services in the College of Science and Mathematics. Advisors said SS and SP will not be distinguished from one another on students' transcripts.
U. of Kentucky graduates will still get to hear their names called in unorthodox public ceremony
Thousands normally pack Rupp Arena every December and May to watch University of Kentucky graduates cross the stage and hear their names called out on the arena's loud speakers. With social distancing still in effect, and large crowds forbidden, no tassle-swinging, gown-wearing graduates will cross the arena stage this month. Yet the university's student-run radio station has found a way to at least recapture the sound of a traditional commencement ceremony. "We all suggested airing the grad names over the air," said Allison Pin, the general manager of WRFL, and a UK senior graduating in December. "Everyone loved that idea and we just kind of ran with it." Starting at 1 p.m. Sunday, the traditional sound of the UK Wind Symphony and Symphony Orchestra will take over the airwaves of WRFL, while the booming voice of Carl Nathe -- best known to Cats fans as the PA announcer at UK football games --- will announce every graduating student's name.
UT-Knoxville announces virtual celebrations for 2020 graduates
While graduation ceremonies will not be held in person this spring at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, students will be honored virtually next week. UT will create web pages for each college at the university, including information and photos of participating graduates. The pages will go live at specific times next week, and will feature messages from each college's dean and other guests. In-person ceremonies will be held on campus "as soon as it's safe," according to a release from UT. Graduates also will receive a congratulatory gift in the mail. "We felt it was important to do something special for our graduates in May, when they would normally walk across the stage," said Chancellor Donde Plowman. "UT's Class of 2020 graduates truly represent what it means to be a Volunteer with how they have supported each other and succeeded in the face of tremendous adversity. I'm incredibly proud of them, and I know their families and friends are as well."
Enrollment picture cloudy for Missouri higher education
The only certainty is uncertainty as it relates to enrollment for colleges and universities. That is included in a summary statement of a poll of 1,107 high school seniors conducted by the Art & Science Group. In it, 12 percent of students who had made a deposit at a college or university said they've changed their plans and won't enroll. Another 40 percent hadn't made a deposit. Fifty-two percent said a parent had been laid off or furloughed. It's in this environment that universities and colleges are navigating as they prepare for fall semester enrollment. At the University of Missouri in Columbia, the state's largest single campus, 5,329 prospective students had paid deposits by last week. That's down slightly from the 5,460 deposits by May 1 last year, which at that time foreshadowed a strong freshman enrollment. Kim Humphrey, MU vice provost for enrollment management, said the relatively flat deposit numbers could change before classes resume on campus in August. While there are many unknowns, her team is working to ensure the enrollment numbers are positive. "We're going to be open," Humphrey said. "We want students to come back."
Plans for fall assume professors will be willing to teach. Will they?
As colleges and universities agonize over whether students will return in the fall, either to campus or online, they're making a big assumption: that faculty members will show up to teach. The expectation isn't ill founded. Faculty jobs, especially the good ones, were hard to come by even before hundreds of institutions announced pandemic-related hiring freezes. No one wants to be out of a job right now. But no one wants to get sick, either. Teaching online for another semester is so far outside many professors' original job descriptions that it is nearly as unpalatable, to some, as being shut in a room with students. Even so, many professors say they'd prefer a remote term, or even a delayed academic year, to teaching face-to-face again too soon. "So far, no one has really talked about protecting the faculty," said Alan Czyzewski, a professor of accounting at Indiana State University who is over 60 and statistically at a greater risk of falling ill with COVID-19 than many of his students and some of his colleagues. "I'm not saying we shouldn't be doing everything we can for students, but the faculty are equally important. If we get sick, or three to four of us get sick all at the same time, who's going to be teaching class?"
College choice: Reopen and risk virus spread or face financial ruin
Public colleges and universities face intense pressure to throw open classroom doors even as health officials warn of potential spikes in coronavirus cases come the fall. College presidents and their boards have a seemingly impossible task: Protect school finances without putting student and faculty lives in danger. Colleges could be sued if schools reopen dorms and dining halls as a second wave of infections strikes. But financial woes in the billions loom if campuses stay shut, especially at small, historically black colleges. "I hope that we will not have a great deal of political pressure to move ahead with opening up a campus, particularly given that we have various means of teaching, given the vulnerable populations that we have on a campus," University of North Carolina business school dean Doug Shackelford said. Flagship universities in GOP-led states like Texas and Georgia say they plan to welcome students back this fall as well as Purdue University in Vice President Mike Pence's home state of Indiana. But there is nothing uniform about decision-making: Indiana University President Michael McRobbie says a full return to in-person teaching and research this fall is "highly unlikely" though no decision has yet been made for his campuses.
Boston U. investigating whether students cheated on online exams
Boston University is investigating whether some students in classes including chemistry and physics have cheated on quizzes and exams now that they are taking them online, far from campus and the watchful gaze of professors and teaching assistants. The university has launched a probe into whether students used online resources, such as Chegg, a California-based company that provides tutoring services, to get answers to exams while taking them from their homes, according to BU officials. The potential cheating scandal has sparked a flurry of messages in online chat rooms and has highlighted a potential flaw in this new, remote learning and testing environment that undergraduates and faculty members have been thrust into due to the pandemic. Cheating has always been a problem for colleges, whether students bought term papers or illicitly shared the answers before a test. But COVID-19, which forced schools to quickly shut down dormitories and shift to online learning, has meant that the tests that professors would have administered in their classrooms and lecture halls are suddenly being taken remotely and with potentially greater access to banned outside help. The new environment may provide students with more opportunities to cheat.
Georgia Tech warns physics students who cheated: Admit it or risk failing
The Georgia Tech campus is buzzing about the allegation that students in a physics class posted questions from their final exam to the online tutoring service Chegg where tutors provided answers. "We are aware of the situation and are, of course, disappointed that students were involved with cheating through a digital homework site," said Renee Kopkowski , Tech's vice president of institute communications Thursday evening. "We are addressing it in conjunction with the Office of Student Integrity. At this point, we have offered students a chance to come forward admitting their misconduct on this exam, and we are working to determine if others are involved." In a letter from Tech, physics students were told: "It has come to our attention that a small fraction of students cheated by using solutions posted on Chegg. We take the honor code seriously here at Georgia Tech where we aim to develop not only the next generation of scholars and engineers, but future leaders of good character. We are incredibly disappointed; and at the same time we are trying not to become too cynical. "
University-affiliated hospitals suffer huge revenue losses
The pandemic -- and the financial ruin it brought -- has left no industry or institution unharmed, including the institutions playing a key role in ending it: hospitals connected to colleges and universities. Many states in March halted elective surgeries in order to clear out hospital beds and make room for potential COVID-19 patients. Restrictions on elective surgeries -- surgeries that can be scheduled in advance -- have led to a drop in patient visits and torpedoed a significant revenue stream for hospitals. "Many of our member institutions are experiencing a 30 percent, 40 percent, 50 percent drop in the number of patients who are in the hospital," said Janice Orlowski, chief health care officer at the American Association of Medical Colleges. Moody's Investors Service in March changed the outlook for nonprofit hospitals from stable to negative, citing declining revenues due to the loss of elective procedures and increased costs to prepare for COVID-19 patients.
With virus, US higher education may face existential moment
The dramatic and widespread fallout from the COVID-19 virus has thrown the U.S. higher education system into a state of turmoil with fears that it could transform into an existential moment for the time-honored American tradition of high school graduates heading off to college. "What every college and university is facing is an immediate cash flow crisis," says Terry Hartle, senior vice president of the American Council on Education. "We're dealing with something completely unprecedented in modern history. There is just so much ambiguity how this will continue to evolve." Across America, campuses have become ghost towns, graduation ceremonies have been canceled and school administrators watch as the pandemic rips through budgets, costing billions of dollars in refunded room and board. Some students are seeking partial repayment of their tuition, arguing that online classes can't compare to campus learning. Hiring freezes have been imposed at some schools, and laid-off professors such as Bolker face difficult job prospects. Colleges, Hartle says, operate very much like businesses: "If there are no customers, there's no revenue and layoffs become inevitable."
Mississippi should safeguard meat-processing plant workers
Syndicated columnist Bill Crawford of Meridian writes: Gov. Tate Reeves wisely took a cautious approach to re-opening Mississippi's economy last week. He replaced his shelter-in-place edict with a safer-at-home order, good through May 11. The order was not as cautious as the guidelines issued by President Donald Trump, but was far from the open-everything-up notion some protestors want. Reeves appears to be heeding his top health advisor, State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs. "This thing is not over," Dobbs said. "We need to continue to be careful." While, Reeve's order calls for continued social distancing and no group gatherings of more than 10 people, he did open up operations for many businesses. He provides guidelines to open up retail businesses while continuing to restrict operations for restaurants and prohibit operations at bars, gyms, clubs, tattoo parlors, and more. He provides guidelines for health care professionals and facilities and for nursing homes. Surprisingly, the order included no specific mention of manufacturing operations, particularly meat-processing plants. The latter became a distinct issue last week when Trump used his authority under the Defense Production Act to order meat-processing plants to stay open.
Gov. Tate Reeves more trustworthy than Legislature in Covid-19 crisis
Ross Reily, editor of the Mississippi Business Journal, writes: While I don't agree with every decision Gov. Tate Reeves has made during this Covid-19 crisis, I do believe he is acting with the best interest of the State of Mississippi in mind. He probably should have issued a shelter in place order a week or two sooner, I would argue. However, he sees what is going on in Mississippi right now for what it is, a threat the to the health of all Mississippians. ... His team has acted valiantly and within the law to mitigate the problems Mississippi has faced since the Covid-19 crisis began. The legislature wants to change the plan in the middle of the game and take control of federal CARES Act funds to be doled out to Mississippians. This is a legislature that has shown little leadership up until now. Again, agree with everything or not, Reeves has owned his leadership. He has admitted he has not made every single decision perfectly. That honesty is something we sorely need in state and national leadership.

Analysis: How a shorter MLB Draft would affect Mississippi State
The MLB Draft has become an annual coronation of Mississippi State baseball in recent years. In the past two years alone, 18 former Bulldogs have been selected in the 40-round event -- including four players in the draft's first six rounds. But with the COVID-19 crisis continuing to affect professional baseball, it remains to be seen how many members of MSU's 2020 squad will hear their names on draft night this summer. "The biggest thing is we always tell them, 'Make sure that you get what you think your value is,' and that really hasn't changed even with a different format of the draft," MSU pitching coach Scott Foxhall told The Dispatch. "We still think they should take whatever they think their value is and nothing less because they're in a great situation whether they're a high school recruit or on our current roster, this is the best place to play in the country." At present, MLB has yet to decide on an actual format for the draft this season, though it's been widely speculated the draft will last just five rounds instead of its usual 40 -- likely leaving a slew of draft-eligible Bulldogs to sign as undrafted free agents or to return to school.
Mike Leach talks Lane Kiffin, recruiting in Mississippi as most compelling chapter of his career begins
Where do you want to start with this latest version of Mike Leach? Before answering, consider there's no easy way to summarize this man, who has spent a career shredding tradition as savagely as opposing defenses. So, disclaimer out of the way, where does one start with Leach on his latest chapter of his career? Best to let him guide us. "There's no tourists down here," Leach said recently from his Key West, Florida, home. "They closed all the hotels. It's almost a 'Twilight Zone' deal. You go down the street, you can haul ass on your bike." Leach, 59, made Key West his home a few years ago. It made sense. A pirate near the ocean. Framed with the threat of the coronavirus, Leach is as frustrated with sheltering as the rest of us.
Former Mississippi State athlete shares special Michael Jordan stories
From the day he started watching basketball, Joe Courtney wanted to be Like Mike. Courtney wasn't a sports fan growing up, but his parents wanted him to get involved in sports. He initially considered football, but learned it "wasn't his gig." So his mom suggested basketball. Courtney said he'd never seen a second of the game being played until his mom turned on the TV and found a Chicago Bulls game. A sophomore at Callaway High School in Jackson at the time, Courtney couldn't take his eyes off a certain Bulls rookie phenom. Seeing Michael Jordan for the first time changed the course of Courtney's life. MJ's combination of dominance and grace hooked Courtney on basketball. Courtney showed up at school the next day wearing wristbands like Jordan. Callaway's basketball coach saw him and asked him if he wanted to try out for the team. He did. And made it. From Callaway, Courtney went to Starkville and played two seasons at Mississippi State. He wanted more playing time, so he transferred to Southern Miss for his final two college seasons. He averaged 8.6 points and 5.6 rebounds per game as a senior for the Golden Eagles. Following his college career, Courtney floated around the NBA for five seasons as a role player and contributor. His first chance in the NBA came playing alongside the man who hooked him on basketball while he was at Callaway.
Former Columbus High, Starkville Academy standout Maggie Proffitt named assistant at Mississippi College
Basketball has taken Maggie Proffitt to Arkansas, Louisiana and even Germany, but she's ready to come back home. The Columbus High School and Starkville Academy standout played the sport at the University of Central Arkansas, went overseas to play for Bender Baskets Grunberg in Germany and coached as an assistant at Louisiana Tech and Ouachita Baptist in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. Now Proffitt is returning to the Magnolia State, hired as an assistant women's basketball coach at Mississippi College on April 24. "It's definitely gonna be nice to be about two hours down the road," Proffitt told The Dispatch on Thursday. With the Choctaws, an NCAA Division II member, the former local prep star will focus on recruiting. She said the connections she built with area players during her high school days will factor in considerably in her new position. "I'm very excited," Proffitt said. "I'm honored for the opportunity."
Coronavirus jeopardizes 'million-dollar month' for Jackson State athletics
Business was booming for the Jackson State athletic department two months ago. On March 2, the Jackson State women's basketball team won the Southwestern Athletic Conference women's basketball regular season championship. It was also the night the world came to know Thomas "Snacks" Lee during a men's basketball game. The conference tournaments for both the men and women were on the horizon, and so was the school's Blue & White Week at the end of March. The COVID-19 pandemic canceled all three of those events. Now Jackson State is worried about financial challenges. Ashley Robinson started Blue & White Weekafter he became Jackson State's athletic director in 2018. It includes a faculty vs. Greeks basketball game, a day of service, the annual student-athlete banquet, a golf tournament, a fundraiser walk and the football team's spring game. Robinson calls the event his "$100,000 weekend."
Florida AD Scott Stricklin making plans as if fall football season will happen
As Florida moves toward reopening parts of its economy following a shutdown to slow the spread of the coronavirus within the state, Florida athletics director Scott Stricklin continues to plan for some sort of fall football season. Right now the focus is on kickoff as usual, while considering contingency plans in the event of a second outbreak in the next few months or what a failed reopening in May and June could mean. "There's probably more we don't know right now than we do know right now, so I think it's important when you have things you don't know you don't try to speculate or guess too much, because that's not helpful and it leads to a lot of conversation that's probably not going to be productive," Stricklin said Sunday morning on The Sam Pittman Show on 96.1 JAMZ in Tallahassee. "But I can tell you our focus is we're going to kick off Sept. 5. I hope we can do it in a way that looks like it's always looked, but really at the end of the day it's not up to us to decide that. It's up to the health experts and how the virus is in our community or our state at that time." Stricklin has been working with the University Athletic Association and other top executives to discuss ways they might safely conduct a fall season.
UGA looks to 2023 as next chance to host NCAA events lost to coronavirus
The University of Georgia's Gabrielsen Natatorium pool reflects a reminder of how sudden the novel coronavirus brought college athletics to a halt. Blue and white flags dangle over the pool's eight lanes that are still divided with the NCAA's colors in preparation for the 2020 Women's Swim and Dive Championship. The competition will never happen. The NCAA canceled remaining winter and spring championships on March 12, six days before the Bulldogs were set to host the swimming championships for the fourth time. "Walking in is a really strange feeling because we're all dressed up with nowhere to go," said UGA swim coach Jack Bauerle, who noted that he's the only person strolling in and out of the natatorium with campus being closed. The NCAA has scheduled host sites for swimming and golf championships and regionals through 2022, but it will allow schools who lost events because of the epidemic an opportunity to, "place a bid in the 2023-26 cycle if they had not done so during the original timeline," it announced.
College football private coaches booming during pandemic
Christian White's training sessions do not normally lack physical contact. After all, what's the point of practicing bump-and-run without the bump? But these days, amid virus-related social distancing regulations, White's cornerbacks and receivers are contactless. There are no one-on-one battles, no press-and-release work and no man-to-man drills. "We're more focused on the technique side than anything," says the Dallas-based defensive back trainer. "It's a crazy time." In Atlanta, Ron Veal, the private quarterback coach for college stars Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields, lathers footballs in disinfectant between training sessions, and in Los Angeles, Danny Hernandez finds himself coaching more through FaceTime calls than face-to-face meetings. But there are no complaints among these guys. While the coronavirus pandemic has slowed much of the sports world, the private coaching industry is, for many involved, booming.
NCAA adopts policy to vet college athletes for sexual assault, but lets them stay eligible
The NCAA will make it harder for athletes involved in sexual assault or other acts of violence to slip through the cracks, the organization confirmed on May 1, less than five months after the USA TODAY investigation "Predator Pipeline" exposed how some schools unknowingly recruited such athletes. Under a new policy adopted by the national college sports organization's highest governance body, the Board of Governors, athletes must annually disclose acts of violence that resulted in an investigation, discipline through a Title IX proceeding or criminal conviction. It covers sex offenses, dating and domestic violence, murder, manslaughter, aggravated assault and assaults that cause serious bodily injury or involve deadly weapons. Schools must also adopt written policies directing staff to gather that information from new recruits' and transfer athletes' previous institutions. It will take effect at the start of the 2021-22 school year.

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