Friday, May 8, 2020   
Mississippi State announces additional 'gap' scholarship for summer students
Mississippi State University announced additional scholarship funds for eligible students who are enrolling in summer terms. MSU Director of Financial Aid Paul McKinney said the university has a limited amount of funding available to help full Pell Grant eligible students attend summer school with their tuition and capital improvement fees covered 100%. Mississippi State University's summer 2020 classes all will take place online to help students stay on their academic paths despite the COVID-19 pandemic. MSU summer terms include Maymester [May 6-29], First Term [June 1-29], Second Term [July 6-August 4], as well as a Summer Ten Week Term, [June 1-August 4]. McKinney said the scholarship program is a "gap fill" that awards the difference between a student's tuition/capital improvement fee charges minus their Pell and Student Educational Opportunity Grant (SEOG) awards. He explained that awards will be made until the program funding is fully utilized. "If students still have a balance owed after their Pell and SEOG grants are applied, we will cover it with this scholarship while funds are available," McKinney said.
College graduates navigate uncertain job market during pandemic
At the end of March, Madeline Burdine and Ryan Ladd both had full-time jobs lined up for after their graduation from Mississippi State University. They graduated May 1 -- Burdine with a bachelor's degree in communications and Ladd with one in electrical engineering. But neither of them has a post-grad job anymore. Their prospective employers had rescinded the offers by April 1 as cost-cutting measures due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. They are among many college graduates entering an uncertain job market in a harsh economic downturn, and while not all have had to change their plans, they have had to be aware of how the pandemic affects their chosen field and potential employers' decisions. "I didn't expect that our nation could shut down like this in 2020, but it's been very eye-opening, the things that can disappear just like that," Burdine said. Lisa Gooden-Hunley and Towanda Williams said they have never seen this much uncertainty in the job market in the 15 years they have both worked in career advising for college students. Gooden-Hunley is one of the associate directors of MSU's Career Center, and Williams is the career specialist at MUW's Office of Career Services. The Career Center received an "overwhelming response" from employers when asked if they were still interested in hiring MSU graduates and discussing opportunities with them, Gooden-Hunley said.
MSU experts: No Asian hornets in Mississippi
News reports of a new, invasive hornet spotted in the Northwest has heightened people's awareness of flying insects. The Asian giant hornet, also called a murder hornet, has been confirmed in the state of Washington. Mississippians likely will not see the aggressive species for some time, if at all, said Mississippi State University Extension Service entomologist Blake Layton. However, some people believe they have already seen the Asian hornet here. "I had a call on Monday morning from a lady in Alabama who was pretty sure they'd killed an Asian hornet at her house over the weekend," Layton said. "They killed it after it lit on her daughter's shoulder, and they sent me a photo. It turned out to be a periodic cicada." Periodic cicadas are one of four insects found in Mississippi that can be confused with the Asian giant hornet, Layton said. European hornets, cicada killers and Southern yellowjacket queens also are similar in appearance to this pest. Asian giant hornets are not pests that Mississippi beekeepers or anyone in the Southeast should be overly concerned about right now, said Jeff Harris, MSU Extension bee specialist. "There is no evidence that we have high numbers of this pest or that they have established colonies in the U.S.," Harris said.
MSU Participating in JROTC-CS Computer Program
Mississippi State University's Department of Computer Science & Engineering is partnering with computing non-profit CSforAll, the Air Force Junior ROTC Headquarters and other companies and organizations to launch a new program called JROTC-CS, which aims to increase computing education at the high school level. MSU is the only university currently involved in the program, a release from the university says. JROTC-CS will reach more than 400 Air Force Junior ROTC cadets at 30 schools across 16 states during its initial phase, the release says. The program will include activities and mentoring during each cadet's four years of high school, including participation in CyberPatriot, an advanced placement class in computer science principles. JROTC-CS also features a summer Cyber Academy and links to cybersecurity professionals during participants' senior years through internships and other touchpoints.
Officials Boost Meat Supply Lines in Mississippi
Mississippi farmers have plenty of cattle to process, but the coronavirus is hurting the state's supply chain. Many large meat processing plants across the country that Mississippi farmers rely on are shutting down or decreasing production because of the disease. Josh Maples, with the Mississippi State Extension Service, says beef production went down 35 to 40 percent last week. "It's caused lower supplies coming through the system in the short run," says Maples. "So we are seeing higher prices for beef items at the grocery store. And we're seeing some products aren't always available. So those are the short term disruptions that we're kinda working through right now." To boost the state's meat production, Mississippi's Agriculture Commissioner Andy Gipson announced Thursday emergency funds for local meat processors. Gipson says "What I'm proposing, and what I'm asking all of our existing processors to do, is to submit proposals to span their plants to become USDA Certified so that meat process there can be sold in any grocery store, or anywhere else. And it's that kind of supply chain we need to grow here in Mississippi so that we don't depend too much on these other out of state processors." Commissioner Gipson has also signed an emergency order eliminating the maximum number of owners of an animal -- when using custom slaughter. Mike McCormick, President of the Mississippi Farm Bureau, says these initiatives will make it easier for a group of people to purchase and process livestock together, and split the meat amongst themselves.
USPOULTRY approves new research grants
The U.S. Poultry & Egg Assn. (USPOULTRY) and the USPOULTRY Foundation have approved approximately $400,000 for seven new research grants at six institutions through the comprehensive research program. The research funding was approved by the boards of directors of both organizations, based on recommendations from the Foundation Research Advisory Committee. The committee evaluates research proposals to determine their value to the industry and then makes recommendations to the boards for funding. The research grants for each institution include: "Comparative Genomics & In Vitro Screening Approach for the Identification of Vaccine Candidates for Food-Borne Pathogen Campylobacter Jejuni" at Mississippi State University.
Meridian woman can't walk at graduation for second time
All traditional graduation ceremonies have been altered this spring, and for one Meridian woman, it's the second time in three years she's been unable to walk across the stage, but that's not hurting her spirit. Newscenter 11 first introduced you to Tammie Jennings in 2017 when she was preparing to graduate from Meridian Community College, which is something that was 27 years in the making. Jennings was eager to walk the stage, but in 2017 the fall graduation ceremony never commenced due to snow. Fast forward to now, Jennings furthered her education at MSU Meridian in event planning and hospitality. Now that she's ready to graduate again, the coronavirus had other plans. "I'm putting things into perspective. I'm not upset about it. I am a little disappointed that I can't walk again," Jennings says. "I would love to walk. I just want to walk the stage. I want to shake the president's hand and get my degree. I do." "People are losing their lives and suffering from this sad disease and that's more important than walking across the stage," Jennings says.
Starkville restaurants open inside dining, customers not required to wear masks
Starkville restaurants are preparing to reopen their inside and outdoor dining areas. The Board of Aldermen adopted restrictions that said customers dining in-house at restaurants and bars are not required to wear face coverings, but should comply to all of the restrictions and limitations in executive order 1478. Some restaurants like Buffalo Wild Wings and Salsarita's opened its inside dining areas to the public this week. Other restaurants like Harvey's are reopening its inside dining areas next week. Moe's Original Barbecue owner Kiel Herbert said his restaurant will reopen either this weekend or next week. He said workers are fixing up their dining room. Herbert said it's going to take some time for employees to implement the new systems like properly cleaning the tables and the utensils and utilizing single use plates and utensils.
Area restaurants see tepid customer response with reopened dining rooms
On Thursday, Mississippi restaurants were allowed to open their dining rooms to customers for the first time since Gov. Tate Reeves announced a statewide order limiting service to carry-out and delivery on April 3. While many, perhaps most, restaurants in Starkville and Columbus didn't open their dining rooms Thursday, those who did generally took a low-key, cautious approach. "I really didn't know what to expect," said Mark Welch, owner of 1883 Steakhouse on Highway 12 in Starkville. "It's pretty quiet so far," said a restaurant manager just down the road at Newk's Eatery. There was one exception, though. At the front of Starkville Cafe on Main Street, Bill Cook played guitar and sang while restaurant owner John Peeples manned a fryer, preparing catfish meals given away to the city's first responders. Clark Beverage provided an event tent and provided free drinks to accompany the meals.
Restaurateur Robert St. John doesn't think 50 percent capacity guideline can work
Recently, Governor Tate Reeves announced that small businesses such as restaurants are allowed to reopen in the state of Mississippi. However, Hattiesburg, the state's fourth-largest city, has decided to put a halt on reopening restaurants. Robert St. John, who owns six restaurants and two bars in Hattiesburg, joined The Gallo Show on Thursday morning to talk about Mayor Toby Barker's decision to keep restaurants closed. "The mayor in Hattiesburg has decided to wait until Monday to give it another call, and I think he based his on recent numbers that he has gotten at Forrest General Hospital," St. John said. "I think you have half the population chomping at the bit ready to open everything back up and get at it and about half the population still wanting to shelter in place. It's with most decisions. You make half the people happy and half the people mad" The strict guidelines that come with Reeves' executive order will force restaurants to open at 50 percent capacity, and St. John says this will be an issue for numerous food businesses across the state.
Mississippi gov and lawmakers claim unity on virus spending
Mississippi Republican Gov. Tate Reeves did a dramatic about-face Thursday, saying that state legislators will have a role in deciding how to spend $1.25 billion the state is receiving from the federal government as part of a massive coronavirus relief package. "They've assured me that they want what I want, which is to get this money to those people that need it," Reeves said during a news conference. Some Mississippi restaurants, meanwhile, were starting to cautiously reopen their dining rooms and patios under the governor's new guidelines that took effect Thursday. Other restaurants stuck to carry-out or delivery service, or remained closed altogether. In some cases, restaurant owners were waiting for hand sanitizer and other required supplies or were making other adjustments before restarting table service. Reeves appeared at his news conference Thursday with Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann and House Speaker Philip Gunn -- fellow Republicans who challenged Reeves' assertion that the governor has the power to spend money without legislative consent during emergencies.
Mississippi Legislature reaches deal with governor on coronavirus relief spending
After feuding with Gov. Tate Reeves for over a week about who has the authority to disburse over a billion dollars in federal coronavirus relief funds, state legislative leaders on Thursday pledged to invite the Republican governor's input over how best to spend the funds. Republican Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann and House Speaker Philip Gunn (R-Clinton) briefly joined Reeves at his daily press briefing on Thursday afternoon, announcing that the three state leaders reached an agreement to work together to spend the funds. "It is critically important that we, as a state, come together during these challenging times," Reeves said. Gunn announced that the Legislature would appropriate the federal dollars with input from Reeves and the governor will administer the funds to various state agencies. On May 1, the Legislature in a near unanimous vote passed a bill that removed Reeves of his ability to be the sole person responsible for spending $1.25 billion in federal COVID-19 relief funds. Nearly all lawmakers from Northeast Mississippi voted in favor of the bill.
Mississippi governor, lawmakers reach truce in coronavirus spending battle
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann and House Speaker Philip Gunn announced Thursday they have reached a truce in a battle for control over $1.25 billion of federal coronavirus relief money. The news came on the same day the Legislature resumed to begin divvying up the money to help Mississippi small business owners struggling during the coronavirus crisis. The fight over money from the federal CARES Act has been heated and public. Reeves accused lawmakers of trying to "steal" the money when they voted Friday to block him from seizing control of the funds. In a strongly-worded letter, Gunn accused Reeves earlier this week of "cheap theatrics and false personal insults." However, at Thursday's joint news conference -- seated several feet apart from each other at a long table -- they presented a united front. "It is critically important that we, as a state, come together during these challenging times. It is critically important that we work for the greater good," Reeves said. Gunn thanked the governor for his leadership. "We are here ready to move forward and help Mississippians," Gunn said.
Lawmakers, not Gov. Tate Reeves, will control $1.2 billion in federal coronavirus relief
After days of bickering over who should control the spending of $1.2 billion in federal coronavirus relief, legislative leaders joined Gov. Tate Reeves at his Thursday press briefing to announce they would control the spending and listen to the governor's advice. Reeves for weeks insisted he had sole spending authority over the federal stimulus funds. But Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann and House Speaker Philip Gunn abruptly called lawmakers back to Jackson last week to pass a bill that shored up their spending authority over the funds. Reeves then threatened to veto the bill, and Capitol politicos scrambled to whip votes for a possible veto override. But just hours before Reeves' deadline to sign or veto the bill, the leaders announced on Thursday they would try to work together on the federal spending authority after discussing it Wednesday evening at the Governor's Mansion. "I want to thank the governor for working with us to reach an agreement in this matter because as you know we've had some disagreements," Gunn said. "The conclusion that we've reached is the Legislature will appropriate those dollars while working in conjunction with the governor administering those dollars." Gunn and Hosemann said the funds would work through the normal legislative appropriations process.
Back in Session, State Legislatures Challenge Governors' Authority
Until recently, intergovernmental friction over individual state responses to the virus and plans for restarting state economies has been dominated by skirmishes between executives, with tension between mayors and governors, and governors and the president. Yet as more state legislatures reconvene, and as states take tentative steps toward some semblance of normalcy, lawmakers have increasingly asserted themselves, demanding to define a clearer role for the legislative branch and challenging governors who have become the face of their state's response. Mississippi had been gripped by an intramural fight between the Republican governor, Tate Reeves, and the Republican-led Legislature after lawmakers voted just shy of unanimously to wrest control of federal stimulus dollars from the governor. Mr. Reeves, who had built a reputation for a bruising behind-the-scenes style during his years as lieutenant governor, has tried to cast himself during the pandemic as a commanding and almost avuncular figure, going as far as ending his daily virus briefings with a long list of birthday wishes solicited from around the state. But the showdown has prompted Mr. Reeves to come out swinging at lawmakers.
Legislative Black Caucus requests $457M from CARES Act funds
The Mississippi Legislative Black Caucus submitted a letter to Governor Tate Reeves and Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann on Thursday. MLBC is requesting the distribution of federal CARES Act Funds to support plans to strengthen the African American community during the COVID-19 pandemic. The request entitled, "Black Empowerment RESET Initiative," is a plan to revitalize the public sector, private businesses and the faith-based community. "COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on the African American community, in part because of disparities that existed before the pandemic," said Angela Turner-Ford, MLBC Chairperson. "We are requesting that a portion of CARES Act funds go to support some of the infrastructures that support the African American community." Some requests included in the "Black Empowerment RESET Initiative" are ensuring broadband access and laptops to all students and more funding to historically black colleges and universities.
April Unemployment Rate Rose to a Record 14.7%
The April unemployment rate rose to a record 14.7% and payrolls dropped by an unprecedented 20.5 million as the coronavirus pandemic hit the economy. April's jobless rate eclipsed the previous record rate of 10.8% for data tracing back to 1948. The job losses due to business closures triggered by the coronavirus produced by far the steepest monthly decline on records back to 1939. By comparison, nearly 2 million jobs were lost in one month in 1945, at the end of World War II. "The sharp increases in these measures reflect the effects of the coronavirus pandemic and efforts to contain it," the Labor Department said. The job losses and high unemployment mark a sharp pivot from just a few months ago, when the economy was pumping out hundreds of thousands of new jobs, and joblessness was hovering near 50-year lows. The jobs bust has been widespread.
Experts Knew a Pandemic Was Coming. Here's What They're Worried About Next.
You might feel blindsided by the coronavirus, but warnings about a looming pandemic have been there for decades. Government briefings, science journals and even popular fiction projected the spread of a novel virus and the economic impacts it would bring, complete often with details about the specific challenges the U.S. is now facing. It makes you wonder: What else are we missing? What other catastrophes are coming that we aren't planning for, but that could disrupt our lives, homes, jobs or our broader society in the next few years or decades? It's the government's job to think about this: Every year, the intelligence community releases the Worldwide Threat Assessment -- a distillation of worrisome global trends, risks, problem spots and emerging perils. But this year, the public hearing on the assessment, usually held in January or February, was canceled, evidently because intelligence leaders, who usually testify in a rare open hearing together, were worried their comments would aggravate President Donald Trump. And the government has not yet publicly released a 2020 threat report.
Ole Miss student shares journey as first-generation college grad
There will be no walk across the stage. The coronavirus pandemic ended that. There will be no mother to give her a hug the day before Mother's Day. A homicide ended that. But by DeAndria Turner's side, as always, will be her father, when Ole Miss holds its virtual commencement ceremony Saturday. On that day, the 22-year-old from Gautier, Mississippi, will become the first on her mother's side and the first of her four siblings to graduate from college. It's not been an easy journey for the young woman whose mother was addicted to drugs, who was bullied, in part because she's biracial, who attended an alternative school before making some changes in her life. When the first case of coronavirus was reported in Mississippi in March, Turner was in North Carolina as one of 12 student journalists around the country selected for the CBC-UNC Diversity Fellowship. It was the latest venture for the budding journalist who had previously interned with "NBC Dateline" in New York. When she returned to Mississippi, because of the pandemic, there would be no return to campus. And, it soon became clear, there would be no traditional graduation.
Itawamba Community College to broadcast online commencement ceremony May 14
Itawamba Community College will broadcast an online commencement ceremony to honor the Class of 2020 at 7 p.m. May 14. The ceremony will be broadcast via ICC's Facebook Live and on "The historical format of the ceremony will continue, including the listing of names of all of the graduates, the announcement of honors and conferral of degrees," said ICC President Dr. Jay Allen. "Special music will be provided by students enrolled in ICC's music department." ICC announced earlier the postponement of the ceremony from May 8 due to MSDH and CDC guidelines as a result of the impact of COVID-19. "It is our goal to provide the class of 2020 an opportunity to march in a traditional ceremony, pending the status of the public health emergency," Allen said. "Once a date has been determined, graduates will have the opportunity to register to participate. The times and number of ceremonies will be based on the number of participants."
William Carey University announces virtual commencement ceremony
William Carey University has announced that virtual commencement ceremonies will be held next Saturday. WCU President Dr. Tommy King congratulated the Class of 2020 during the announcement of the ceremonies. "First, let me say how much we admire your persistence in completing your degree requirements," said WCU President Dr. Tommy King. "Many of you went through the 2017 tornado and are now enduring the 2020 COVID crisis, yet you have not let these hindrances keep you from achieving your goals. We are so proud of you."
Drive-by pinning ceremony for Holmes Community College nursing students
The Holmes Community College-Ridgeland Campus held a drive-by pinning ceremony for students in the Associate Degree Nursing Program. The school's faculty members gave students balloons as they rode by on Thursday. The student's parents were able to pin their child. "It was different. I cried still, you know, I knew I was going to cry. But, it was still special. It was good to know that they did everything that they could for us. That they made it as special as they really could, and I thought it was really nice that they took the time to still think about how big of a milestone this is for us. And for them to still do this for us was really special for them to come out and spend time you know, I really appreciate it," said Tamara Sims. Sims said once they officially graduate, they'll eventually be given a temporary permit to perform as nurses while under supervision.
CDC Guidance Lays Out Plans For Reopening Schools, Day Care And Summer Camps
No field trips. No game rooms. No teddy bears. These are some of the CDC's guidelines for reopening schools, childcare centers and day camps safely in places where coronavirus cases are on the decline. The guidance, which also covers restaurants, churches and other public places, was obtained by The Associated Press, which reports that the White House tried to keep it from coming to light. The CDC does not have authority to enforce its guidance, which is intended for public information only; the actual policy decisions are up to state and local governments. Schools are closed through the end of the school year throughout much of the country, with the exception of Montana, which welcomed a handful of students back this week. Child care protocols are different in different states. But millions of parents need child care so they can work, and socialization and stimulation for children who have been confined to home by lockdowns for weeks on end. This is the guidance that summer camps and day cares have been waiting for to make decisions about reopening safely.
Troy U. to reopen campus June 1; no word yet from Auburn
One state university is about to reopen, but no date is set yet for Auburn University. Troy University Chancellor Jack Hawkins Jr. announced that the university will reopen its campuses June 1 and offer classroom instruction this fall, but summer classes will continue online. Auburn officials, however, still are evaluating the situation. Auburn's board of trustees was briefed by administrators Thursday morning. Class withdrawals were down 12 percent this spring, and summer school enrollment is up 7 percent thus far, according to Provost Bill Hardgrave. Associate Vice President of Facilities Management Dan King said all 12 building projects are proceeding as scheduled, including the Tony and Libba Rane Culinary Science Center and the academic classroom and laboratory complex. Senior Vice President for Student Affairs Bobby Woodard said he expects the dorms this fall to be full, with a waiting list. If necessary, he added that two residence halls can be used for isolation.
Furlough plan approved for Georgia public college employees
The state Board of Regents approved a furlough plan Thursday for University System of Georgia employees as college presidents begin planning for a tentative 14 percent budget cut next year. The tiered plan would hit higher-paid employees with more unpaid furlough days; top administrators such as University of Georgia President Jere Morehead would have weeks of furlough days amounting to about a 10 percent salary reduction, University System of Georgia Chancellor Steve Wrigley told Regents, the body appointed by Georgia governors to oversee the University System of Georgia, the state's 26 public schools and colleges. The Board of Regents set Morehead's annual compensation at about $911,000 when the board set presidents' salaries in May 2019. Lower-paid employees would take four to eight unpaid days off. Next year's reduction in state allocation is only part of the fiscal hardship facing UGA and other schools, which have lost an estimated $350 million in revenue as schools shut down campuses and converted to online instruction for the second half of spring semester and summer terms.
Fayetteville couple donate $500,000 to U. of Arkansas
A Fayetteville couple's gift of $500,000 in honor of a former law dean will establish a law and sexuality research fund at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. The planned gift from Michael Hollomon and Eric Wailes will create the fund in honor of Richard B. Atkinson, who died in 2005 at age 58 while serving as dean of the UA School of Law. Hollomon was Atkinson's partner. In a statement released by UA, Hollomon said "few areas of law and policy have changed as quickly or as dramatically as those regulating the legal rights of members of the LGBTQ community." Wailes, in a statement, said the gift aims to "help shape and enhance the School of Law's academic and clinical programs to advance understanding of the law, especially as it pertains to the issues and challenges of law and sexuality." In addition to their planned gift, the couple is providing $20,000 each year to UA so programs can begin sooner, UA spokeswoman Darinda Sharp said. Various proposed projects include a national writing competition focused on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender law topics and a travel award for guest speakers.
U. of Florida student bill would pass $500K for rent relief
A bill that would make half a million dollars available in rent relief for students is in the works by the University of Florida's Student Government. Last week, the student government's executive committee approved to draw $500,000 from the group's reserves to cover rent for students living in off-campus apartments who are facing financial hardships during COVID-19. Some UF parents and students have worried about paying rent for apartments in Gainesville abandoned after university officials urged students to return home in March to help prevent the spread of the virus. "Our off-campus students were left out to dry because they're bound to their leases with their landlords," said Trevor Pope, student body president. "We wanted to provide those students in need with financial aid to make sure they're able to pay rent." Details such as who qualifies for the funds and how much students can get have not been finalized. Pope said the organization is considering a cap amount.
Texas A&M to honor spring graduates online
Texas A&M University postponed graduation due to COVID-19, but digital festivities are lined up to celebrate the record number of 10,796 students who earned their degrees this spring. The more than 10,000 students are from the College Station flagship campus and educational sites around the state such as the College of Dentistry in Dallas, the School of Law in Fort Worth and campuses in Galveston and Doha, Qatar. Thursday evening, the university posted a video on its social media channels describing the symbolism behind the tradition of Aggies turning their class rings around after finishing their degrees. Today, an online graduation celebration video will be posted to It will feature a virtual conferring of degrees and words from leaders including System Chancellor John Sharp and President Michael K. Young. At 10 a.m., the names of each of the 10,000-plus graduates will begin scrolling on the scoreboard in Kyle Field. It will take approximately seven hours for all names to be displayed, and it will be livestreamed on A&M's Facebook and YouTube pages.
Texas A&M AgriLife experts form 'murder hornet' task force
Texas A&M AgriLife experts have formed a task force regarding the Asian giant hornet -- sometimes called the "murder hornet" -- according to AgriLife Today. The hornets prey on honeybees and have been spotted in Washington and Canada starting late last year. The task force, formed at the request of Gov. Greg Abbott, includes experts from Texas A&M AgriLife Research, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, the A&M Department of Entomology and the Center for Cross-Border Threat Screening and Supply Chain Defense. "Although this pest has not been spotted in Texas, the hornet poses a threat to both agriculture and public health," said Patrick J. Stover in the AgriLife story. Stover is vice chancellor of Texas A&M AgriLife, dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and director of Texas A&M AgriLife Research. "Because of this, we are bringing to bear the diverse expertise and knowledge base that exists within Texas A&M AgriLife to collaborate with federal partners and extension agents across the country to protect our state and the global food supply."
U. of Missouri committee to identify programs for restructuring, elimination
A new committee at the University of Missouri will examine university programs for modification or elimination as the COVID-19 pandemic causes economic hardship. Co-chairs of the Program Audit and Restructuring Committee are Matthew Martins, associate provost for academic programs, and Alexandra Socarides, faculty fellow in the provost's office and chair of the English Department. "Over the next few months, the committee will work to gather data on program/course enrollment, graduation rates, program/departmental research productivity and relevant fiscal information," reads an email from University of Missouri President and interim MU Chancellor Mun Choi and MU Provost Latha Ramchand. "They will also leverage prior reports, such as the 2018 Academic Programs Task Force Report as they conduct their review." The university laid off 49 employees last week, including 32 at MU Health Care.
U. of Missouri looks at antibody testing for students for fall semester
To prepare for the fall, the University of Missouri is developing a task force for COVID-19 antibody testing and contact tracing, UM System President Mun Choi said Thursday. University officials are determining whether MU should provide tests to students or ask them to get antibody tests where they reside, Choi said at a meeting of the MU Faculty Council. His comments on testing were more specific than they were when he addressed the council two weeks ago, when he said MU was working to increase its capability in testing for the virus. Choi also said research will begin to resume on campus starting May 20 following health and safety guidelines. He said Environmental Health and Safety officers will be monitoring research to make sure researching faculty, staff and graduate students are acting safely. Although Choi reiterated his plan to have normal operations in the fall, he also said that faculty members should prepare fall courses in both in-person and online formats.
U. of Memphis again ranked safest large campus in Tennessee
The University of Memphis was ranked the safest large campus in Tennessee, the sixth time in eight years, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation's 2019 Crime on Campus Report. TBI's report showed crime increased by 3.6% across all Tennessee colleges and universities last year. Reported crimes at U of M campuses decreased 1.8% from 12.2 per 1,000 students to 11.9. That is the lowest figure since the university started tracking on-campus crime per 1,000 students in 2001, the school said Thursday. "We have established a strong safety record by focusing on putting students first and coordinating with our local campus neighborhoods," U of M President M. David Rudd said. "The Crime on Campus Report is one of several tools we use to measure progress, and it is gratifying to see that we continue to be the safest large university campus in Tennessee." U of M officials attributed the school's decreased crime rate to several factors, including the university's police force, 800 on-campus security cameras and a lighting retrofitting program that saw 800 outdoor LED light fixtures installed in parking garages, along on-campus streets, at building entrances and along walkways.
House Dems Want More Education Spending in Stimulus
Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives are planning to propose adding more money for education aid for states in the next coronavirus relief package, a House Democratic aide told Inside Higher Ed. Democratic lawmakers said they want to add more money for state and local governments, which face large budget shortfalls from the economic fallout from the pandemic. And Representative Bobby Scott, the Virginia Democrat who leads the education committee, said during a morning call with reporters that helping states is essential for preventing cuts to education, including higher education. "If we don't help states with their revenue estimates, they have to balance their budgets and -- to a large extent -- we believe it's going to come at the expense of education, so we have to come up with state and local funding," he said, but he didn't mention giving higher education additional money beyond the $14 billion the CARES Act provided for higher education, which included emergency grants for students. Democrats, who control the House, are working on their proposal for a new stimulus package, and it's unclear if their proposal will include an amount anywhere close to the additional $46.6 billion in funding colleges and universities have said they need. Associations representing the industry also are pushing for the state aid to come with requirements to not cut state funding for higher education.
State Funding of Public Colleges Is At Risk With Coronavirus
Most state funding for public colleges and universities is still not up to pre-recession levels -- and it could put schools in a difficult position as they reckon with financial effects of the coronavirus crisis. State and local support for higher education institutions increased 2.4% per student and crossed $100 billion for the first time in the 2019 fiscal year, according to a report out Tuesday from the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association. Although that caps off nearly a decade of increases in per-student education spending, the majority of states have not been able to fund schools at the levels they were before 2008. As a result, colleges are relying more than ever on students for cash. And with another recession looming, that need for revenue from tuition and fees will likely grow. Colleges are already putting out estimates of coming losses. The University of Kentucky said it's predicting a $70 million deficit next year; Iowa State University has projected an $88 million shortfall. Nationally, education advocates have forecast a 15% enrollment drop and a $23 billion revenue loss.
GOP Senators Seek to Suspend Foreign Student Work Program
Four Republican senators wrote to President Trump Thursday calling on him to suspend the optional practical training program, a program that allows international students to stay in the U.S. to work for up to three years after graduating while staying on their student visas. The letter from Senators Tom Cotton, of Arkansas; Ted Cruz, of Texas; Chuck Grassley, of Iowa; and Josh Hawley, of Missouri, argues that "there is certainly no reason to allow foreign students to stay for three additional years just to take jobs that would otherwise go to unemployed Americans as our economy recovers." The letter also calls on Trump to suspend certain categories of guest worker visa programs, including the H-1B skilled worker program, which is used by many in higher education-related jobs. The ability to work in the U.S. after graduating through OPT is attractive to many international students. A study commissioned by the Business Roundtable in 2018 found that reducing international student enrollment and OPT participation would negatively affect the economy and lead to job losses, a result the study said "reinforces the findings of myriad prior studies that show that foreign-born workers actually create jobs for native-born workers on aggregate, rather than displace them."
Public and private measures of colleges' financial strength spark more discussion
Efforts to clearly quantify colleges' and universities' financial health are back in the limelight amid two developments at the end of this week -- one relating to regulatory oversight and the other focused on students and families as consumers. A regulatory body for postsecondary distance education on Wednesday decided to keep using a federal financial composite score over higher education associations' objections. And a start-up company that last year was beaten back from releasing estimates of individual private nonprofit colleges' years left before closing is publishing a new, modified version of its findings. The regulatory development came from the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements, or NC-SARA, a group creating common interstate standards under which postsecondary distance education operates. NC-SARA's board voted to keep using federal financial composite scores as a factor in determining whether institutions are eligible to be members of the group.
Fed mulling lending program for colleges, medical nonprofits, official says
The Federal Reserve is thinking carefully about setting up a method to provide loans to colleges, universities and nonprofit medical institutions, said Philadelphia Fed President Patrick Harker on Thursday. Harker was president of the University of Delaware before joining the Fed in 2015. "As a recovering academic and university president myself, I'm acutely aware of the stress this crisis is inflicting on, for instance, the higher education sector," Harker said in a speech to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. The Fed has set up nine lending facilities that will assist companies, cities, and states grappling with the coronavirus pandemic. Harker said the key to the economy's future is to make sure the reopening of the economy is done "intelligently."
With commencements moved to virtual realm, one school experiments with robots
Colleges across the county are grappling with how to make their spring commencements more meaningful for students and parents disappointed about not being able to attend in person. With ceremonies moved to virtual formats due to the COVID-19 pandemic, one institution went out of its way to make its event stand out. It used robots as stand-ins for the graduating students. "To be honest, my team thought I was completely crazy," said Sanjeev Khagram, the dean and director general of Thunderbird School of Global Management, at Arizona State University. "I was like, 'I want robots, we've got to do robots!'" Thunderbird rented telepresence robots, also known as avatar robots, so that graduating award winners could "walk" across the stage at their virtual graduations from the safety of their own homes. Students used computer controls to direct the robots -- which were topped with tablet computers showing video screens of their faces -- across the stage.
'Foot on the gas,' Mitch Daniels, Purdue trustees lay groundwork for bringing students back to campus this fall
After weeks of Purdue President Mitch Daniels signaling that the university was prepared to do all it could to bring students back to campus as a coronavirus pandemic continued, the university's trustees laid the groundwork Thursday with a fall semester that would end at Thanksgiving and other measures meant to make that happen. Daniels said the six recommendations approved Thursday were a "first installment" from more than 100 being reviewed by his 15-member Safe Campus Task Force, who he said had been on a "crash course" since being appointed March 31 to come up with ways to make a fall 2020 semester happen, as Purdue anticipates a record freshman class. "Everyone should expect many, many more as fast as we can vet them and determine that they are practical to accomplish," Daniels said. "It weighs on us constantly that we need every day if we're going to do this right by the end of August. That's why we have not delayed. Obviously, we're going to watch events. But we weren't going to wait and watch events, because it would probably subvert our opportunity to make this campus the safest and best prepared it possibly can be." Trustees set a second round of meetings, the first coming May 26, to go through more details.
Parking lot Wi-Fi is a way of life for many students
Academe has more than risen to the challenges posed by the rapid transition to remote instruction. But the entire shift was predicated on the notion that all students have access not only to a computer, but to reliable internet access. In reality, many do not. While some students report finishing up the semester with only their phones, many institutions have done their best to loan laptops to computerless students who would otherwise be working in on-campus computer labs. The internet access problem is more complicated, however. Some students, especially in rural areas, have no broadband internet availability. Others have generally spotty Wi-Fi or experience router overload when multiple devices are working at once within a home. Data plans get maxed out, too. That's just connectivity. The other issue is affordability, or whether or not students can pay for internet access where it's available. Many can't. All these concerns existed prior to COVID-19. But the pandemic has exposed them and exacerbated them in ways that may only widen documented achievement gaps.
Virus Will Cost NIH $10 Billion in Lost Research, Director Warns
The coronavirus pandemic will cost the NIH about $10 billion in taxpayer-funded research, the agency's director told a Senate panel Thursday. That estimate comprises nearly a quarter of the National Institutes of Health's more than $41 billion budget, more than 80% of which goes to research grants at universities and other research institutions. NIH Director Francis S. Collins said that number includes both lost productivity from shuttered laboratories as well as keeping scientists and their staff employed. "This is a heartache, seeing the rest of the scientific enterprise pretty much put on hold," Collins said during a Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on Covid-19 testing. "The estimates are something like $10 billion of NIH funded-research that is going to disappear because of the way in which this virus has affected everybody requiring this kind of distancing and sending people home." NIH announced flexibilities in grants and deadlines to mitigate the impact of these costs, but that's unlikely to cover all costs. Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) said one university in his state spent $20 million extending research programs, but that won't be enough.

MSU AD John Cohen 'optimistic' about sports in the fall
Over the past three years as Mississippi State's athletic director, John Cohen has made a habit of checking on Bulldog student-athletes in their perspective sports. That details stopping by the practice fields or courts or track and field to see how Mississippi State athletes are doing on and off the field. But these days, that isn't the case for Cohen or any other athletic director in the country. Coronavirus has put a hold on college sports across the country and yes, it is a "strange" feeling on Mississippi State's campus. As to when things return to normal, well, that remains to be seen and there's still as many unknowns today as it was two months ago. But in recent days, officials at Arkansas and Alabama along with other Power 5 programs reported that they expect to have students back on campus in August. Thus far, Mississippi State has not made that decision one way or the other. "I have the benefit of working for someone who is very strategic," said Cohen of Mississippi State President Dr. Mark Keenum. "Dr. Keenum will not make any statements until we are fully prepared for that. I think we are all optimistic about it and we are planning to have students on campus for the fall. But we also have contingency plans in case that doesn't happen."
Bulldogs' AD John Cohen has been busy
As athletic directors go, Mississippi State's John Cohen has been busier than most during the past month or so. Not only does Cohen have to manage an athletic department on the smallest budget in the Southeastern Conference in the midst of a pandemic, he also had to hire a head coach for one of his most successful sports when women's basketball coach Vic Schaefer abruptly took off to Texas last month. "It's just part of it, that's what we sign up for," Cohen said. "It's been interesting for sure." Cohen said he supports the NCAA's decision to award eligibility back to spring student-athletes who had their seasons cut short by the coronavirus outbreak. The NCAA ruled that all student-athletes involved in spring sports -- not just seniors -- will receive an extra year of eligibility added to their careers. Cohen's background as a college baseball player and coach has him hopeful that the NCAA will also address its antiquated scholarship stance with that sport. Baseball currently has 11.7 scholarships to scatter among 27 players on a 35-man roster.
Mississippi State men's basketball will play Dayton in 2020 Holiday Hoopsgiving
The Mississippi State men's basketball team will face Dayton as part of the 2020 Holiday Hoopsgiving tournament Dec. 12 in Atlanta. Tournament organizers announced Thursday that the Bulldogs and Flyers will play for the third time in the past four seasons. The game time and television network have yet to be announced for the game at State Farm Arena. Dayton finished the 2019-20 season with a 29-2 record and the No. 3 ranking in the country. The Flyers will lose star Obi Toppin to the NBA draft. Mississippi State's nonconference schedule also features the Cancun Challenge on Nov. 24-25 in Mexico. Clemson, Illinois State and Purdue round out the tournament field. The Bulldogs will host a game in the SEC/Big 12 challenge on Jan. 30, 2021, in Starkville.
Mississippi State to meet Dayton in December
Mississippi State is one step closer to finalizing its men's basketball schedule, with the announcement that the Bulldogs will take on Dayton on Dec. 12 at State Farm Arena in Atlanta as part of the Holiday Hoopsgiving. Dayton, led by former Alabama and VCU coach Anthony Grant, will be coming off a brilliant 29-2 season that ended prematurely with the team on a 17-game winning streak. It was No. 3 in the season's final AP poll. It will be the third time in four years that MSU has faced the Flyers. The Bulldogs edged Dayton 61-59 in Starkville in 2017 and also won 65-58 the following year in Dayton. State is 3-0 all-time against the Flyers, also owning a 56-54 win in Dayton in 1975.
Analysis: Breaking down Mississippi State's defensive line heading into the summer
With spring commencement at Mississippi State now officially passed, summer has arrived in Starkville. And while the MSU football team has yet to endure its usual regimen of spring practices due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, there remains a growing optimism a 2020 football season will be played -- though when that would happen and the logistics behind such an occurrence remain unknown. Over the next week-plus, we're going to dive into the Bulldogs' depth chart heading into the summer and what it might look like once competition is allowed to begin. With that said, let's keep things going with the MSU defensive line.
Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) sends letter to NCAA about athlete name, image, likeness
Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) on Thursday sent the strongest signal yet concerning Congressional interest in legislation relating to college athletes' ability to make money from the use of their name, image on likeness. Wicker sent a letter to the NCAA, each of the Power Five conferences and dozens of other college sports organizations and schools asking for responses to 20 questions related to the issue. The letter cites the Commerce Committee's "jurisdiction over matters related to interstate commerce generally and sports in particular," and asks for written responses by June 5. This indicates the likelihood that there will be a hearing on the matter before the full committee and that the committee will be the launch point for any bill that originates in the Senate. A Commerce subcommittee held a hearing on this issue in February that included live testimony from NCAA President Mark Emmert. Thursday's letter comes a week after the NCAA Board of Governors, the association's top policy-making group, approved a broad set of recommendations concerning rules changes related to athletes' use of their name, image and likeness (NIL).
SEC commissioner Greg Sankey no fan of hypotheticals in discussing return-to-play topics
Greg Sankey does not have time for hypotheticals. As the head of the most powerful college football conference in existence, his opinion is valued. But any "what if?" question these days is met with a stonewall of an answer from the SEC's commissioner. "I gave them credit," Sankey said of a recent radio interview. "They very rarely said, 'If ...'" Like his FBS peers, Sankey is at the center of the return-to-play discussion for college football. Except he's in a leadership position. People notice what the SEC does because it is the most powerful conference. "It's an interesting learning environment if you kind of open yourself up to having to adapt and accept that things will be different," Sankey said. Part of that leadership: The league office already has reduced its expenditures by about 15%, freeing up $3 million to be distributed back to SEC members.
Alabama AD Greg Byrne: Decision about season needed by early July
Alabama athletics director Greg Byrne said during a virtual town hall Thursday night that a decision about whether there will be changes to the upcoming football season will have to be made within the next two months. "I think when we get into late June and the first week of July, we're gonna have to make some decisions," Byrne told a group of ticket-holders and donors. "Coach Saban and I have had a number of discussions about it: what do we need for the safety of our kids to be able to come back and be ready, be football ready at the SEC level? That's four at the very minimum but very likely six weeks of preparation to get ready. And so how you pull that all together when that to comes mid-July to late-July, we're gonna have to have some decisions made on what that looks like." Alabama would typically open fall camp around Aug. 1, with its season opener scheduled for Sept. 5 in Dallas against USC, although Saban has proposed a non-contact teaching period ahead of the start of fall camp that would presumably take place in late July.
University, Tennessee Vols athletics offer update on fall sports amid uncertainty of pandemic
The University of Tennessee athletic department is planning as if the fall sports season will unfold as scheduled, while making clear that nothing has been decided. The university and athletic department each offered updates Thursday via Twitter. "We've received questions about plans for fall athletics," the university tweeted from its official account. "The health of our community is our first priority. No decisions about fall athletics have been made. Those decisions will be made at the appropriate time by the SEC, in consultation with health care professionals. "Chancellor (Donde) Plowman and AD (Phillip) Fulmer are in regular contact with the SEC. We commit to continuing to communicate decisions about athletics and campus operations." The athletic department added in a subsequent tweet: "We continue to plan for our fall sports seasons as scheduled." Questions linger about whether fall sports will go off as scheduled.
UGA players got taste of renovated tennis facility, but pandemic brings pause to future projects
On back-to-back weekends before Georgia's spring break, the Bulldogs' men's tennis team took down four straight ranked opponents in its renovated home venue. It could have signaled what was to come this spring at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex. Maybe -- just maybe -- a team that rose up to No. 10 in the rankings would have been in position to host one of eight NCAA super regionals that were scheduled for this weekend. Of course, the novel coronavirus pandemic shut down all NCAA spring sports including men's and women's tennis. Three more regular season home matches were wiped out for coach Manuel Diaz's team. It took away much of the first season that was to spotlight an $8.5 million renovation that brought a new grandstand to Henry Feild Stadium with chair back seating in the lower levels, permanent concession stands, restrooms and a new 1,750-square foot press box. The renovation, along with an in-the-planning-stages of a new indoor tennis facility with six courts, would be selling points to help bring back the NCAA tennis championships as soon as 2023. A feasibility study already has been completed for the indoor facility which would give Georgia an additional two indoor courts, but athletic director Greg McGarity said it has "hit the pause button," on future facility projects until there is more clarity on finances.

The Office of Public Affairs provides the Daily News Digest as a general information resource for Mississippi State University stakeholders.
Web links are subject to change. Submit news, questions or comments to Jim Laird.
Mississippi State University  •  Mississippi State, MS 39762  •  Main Telephone: (662) 325-2323  •   Contact: The Editor  |  The Webmaster  •   Updated: May 8, 2020Facebook Twitter