Thursday, May 21, 2020   
Mississippi State donates mask sterilizer to veterans home
The Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems (CAVS), part of the Mississippi State University Bagley College of Engineering, designed and donated a sterilizer to the Mississippi State Veterans Home in Kosciusko, Miss., to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Researchers at Mississippi State University and MSU engineering students created the sterilizer to be able to disinfect personal protective equipment. The Sterilizer is a modified truck tool-box that can sterilize up to seven masks in thirty minutes. Dr. Wilburn Whittington, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at MSU, said that the team researched the idea from Nebraska Medicine to use ultraviolent light to decontaminate the extremely valuable N-95 masks. He credited his students with coming up with the practical idea of using a truck tool box. "It has the aluminum reflectivity that you want, they outfitted it with the lights, safety features and did the dosage experiments to validate the performance," Whittington said.
Mississippi State donates mask disinfectant to Kosciusko home
The Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems (CAVS), part of the Mississippi State University Bagley College of Engineering, designed and donated a sterilizer to the Mississippi State Veterans Home in Kosciusko to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Researchers at Mississippi State University and MSU engineering students created the sterilizer to be able to disinfect personal protective equipment. The Sterilizer is a modified truck tool-box that can sterilize up to seven masks in thirty minutes. The partnership with MSVA came when Executive Director Stacey Pickering heard about the device in one of Gov. Tate Reeves's daily press conference. He sent a team to Mississippi State to gather information about it. "By the time we made contact with MSU and the CAVS staff, we had our first cases of COVID-19 at the MSVA Veterans Home in Kosciusko. The generosity and quick response of the Bulldog family has allowed our staff to continue caring for our Veterans," Pickering said.
Grant Presidential Library plays major role in upcoming History Channel miniseries
The Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Library on the Mississippi State University campus played a pivotal role in the upcoming History Channel miniseries, titled simply "Grant," which will air beginning on Memorial Day. Grant Presidential Library Executive Director John Marszalek said the effort is based on the book of the same title by famed historian Ron Chernow. Marszalek said the series will air beginning on Memorial Day from 8 p.m. until 10 p.m. central time, with Tuesday and Wednesday having the same schedule for the other two parts.
Walk-On's Sports Bistreaux puts time frame on area openings
The franchisees for Walk-On's Sports Bistreaux locations in Starkville, Tupelo and Meridian say they plan to have the restaurants open within four years. The full-service restaurant and sports bar with Cajun flair was recently recognized as the No. 1 brand in Entrepreneur's 2020 Top New Franchises Ranking. The franchisees for Starkville, Tupelo and Meridian are brothers Eddie and Alan Gant. The Gants are Mississippi natives, and both attended Mississippi State University. The duo has been working to grow and diversify its restaurant industry portfolio, which currently consists of two Zaxby's franchise locations in Grenada and Cleveland. The Gant brothers are currently looking for sites and aim to debut the first of their three restaurants Summer 2021. "Growing our presence in Mississippi and throughout the Southeast is an exciting chapter for our growth story as we remain steadfast in our franchise development efforts," said Walk-On's President and COO Scott Taylor.
Walk-On's Bistreaux hopes to open within a year in Starkville
Bring on the gumbo, y'all. Starkville is getting a taste of the Louisiana life with a different kind of sports bar. After opening a franchise in Hattiesburg, Walk-On's Bistreaux is further expanding into Mississippi with Starkville, Meridian and Tupelo locations coming soon. The sports bar founder and owner Brandon Landry said Starkville is the "priority" location for Mississippi. Walk-On's first opened in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and has since expanded to more than 38 locations, with more than 100 in development. Starkville franchise owners Eddie and Allen Grant are already in the midst of their real-estate search, Landry added. By this time next year, Landry hopes to have the restaurant open for business. "We're excited to be (in Starkville)," Landry said. "It's a market that's right for us. ... Wherever we go, we get involved in the community -- with charities, schools, churches. We want the community to hold us to that. That's what got us off the ground 17 years ago and it's what we're about." Landry said the Starkville sports bar will be about 7,000 square feet, accommodate 250 guests, have 80 televisions, an outdoor beer garden and up to 50 beers on tap.
City leaders reflect on two months of uncertainty
Starkville Mayor Lynn Spruill's "idea of something wonderful" is seeing the city hustle and bustle, she said, a view she usually has from the window behind her desk in her City Hall office. So watching the city slow down to points of near-inactivity over the past two months due to the COVID-19 pandemic has been "surreal, to say the least," Spruill said. "The pain that comes with the virus is like a gut blow to me because we were on a trajectory that I thought was just phenomenal," she told the Starkville Rotary Club at its virtual meeting Monday. Spruill told The Dispatch she fielded a variety of comments on Twitter and Facebook when the city required both employees and customers of businesses that could reopen to wear protective face masks for about two weeks. Commenters on one end of the spectrum claimed the virus was a hoax or that being required to wear a mask was a violation of constitutional rights, and those on the other end said they thought everyone should wear a mask at all times until a vaccine is developed.
Troopers gear up for holiday weekend
Motorists should expect to see more law enforcement officers on the road this Memorial Day weekend. The Mississippi Highway Patrol will kick off the 2020 Memorial Day Travel Enforcement Period starting Friday morning at 12:01 a.m. and running through midnight Monday, May 25. MHP will also participate in Operation CARE (Crash Awareness and Reduction Effort), a national effort to increase officer presence on interstates and federal highways across the nation during specific high crash periods. "Due to easing restrictions regarding COVID -19 and lower fuel prices, MHP is anticipating heavy traffic on Mississippi roadways," said MHP spokesman Capt. Johnny Poulos. "State Troopers will place emphasis on saturation patrols to combat speeding and reckless driving." During the 2019 Memorial Day holiday period, troopers investigated 148 crashes including one fatality.
Gov. Tate Reeves: State may offer coronavirus guidelines for the Neshoba County Fair
No decisions have been made on the state level regarding the Neshoba County Fair, Gov. Tate Reeves said in his daily press briefing Wednesday, hinting the state may offer coronavirus guidelines closer to the event that is about two months away. Reeves was asked by a reporter whether or not the state was giving guidance for larger events throughout the state such as the Fair. "I've been to the Neshoba County Fair every years since 2003," Reeves said. "I've spoken on Founders Square since 2003, and I enjoy the opportunity to get out and meet all of my friends and constituents there in Neshoba County and beyond." He said they were "looking at" the Fair but given it was two months out they had not developed any particular guidelines yet. The Fair Board has said the Fair will go on as planned July 24-31.
Natchez Trace Parkway to begin opening up facilities Sunday
Following federal, state and local pandemic guidelines, the Natchez Trace Parkway will begin the process of opening up to the public this weekend. Starting Sunday, May 24, the parkway will resume providing visitor information at the Parkway Visitor Center. "Visitors will be able to speak to a park ranger and receive brochures and information about the Parkway, and passport stamps," said acting Chief of Interpretation Jane Farmer. "The restrooms at the visitor center will be open with group size restrictions." While the main visitor center in Tupelo is resuming limited activities, all other rest room facilities and contact stations will remain closed to the public at this time, as will the Meriwether Lewis Campground. All other outdoor spaces, including all roadways, trails, pullouts, and roadside exhibits along the parkway remain accessible to the public. Parkway officials will continue to examine each facility function and service provided to ensure those operations comply with current public health guidance and will be regularly monitored.
Ag Commissioner Andy Gipson Encourages Farmers to Sign Up for the USDA's Coronavirus Food Assistance Program
Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce Andy Gipson applauds the Trump administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture on the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, which provides direct payments to farmers and ranchers whose business has been significantly damaged by COVID-19. "I encourage all of our farmers across the state to take advantage of this unique opportunity," said Commissioner Gipson. "This program will provide up to $16 billion in direct payments to producers impacted by COVID-19 and is available to livestock, dairy, specialty crop and non-specialty crop producers." To ensure the availability of funding throughout the application period, producers will receive 80 percent of their maximum total payment upon approval of the application. The remaining portion of the payment, not to exceed the payment limit, will be paid at a later date as funds remain available. The application process for payments will begin on May 26.
Mississippi Casinos Re-Open
The COVID-19 pandemic shut down casinos across the state for almost two months, but LuAnn Pappas, CEO of the Scarlet Pearl Casino Resort said she didn't expect it to be that long. From what she can see, customers are eager to return, too. "Based on the bookings into our hotel, it's been received very well," Pappas said. "People are just excited to try to have some normalcy in their life." Some things will seem normal, but others won't. Pappas is discouraging people 65 and older, and those with chronic health problems, from entering the casino, because public health experts say they're most vulnerable to the virus. Staff will check guests' temperatures before they enter, and they'll only allow half the usual capacity inside. Casino staff also will wear masks and make sure visitors maintain safe distance from each other. About 16,000 people work the games, prepare and serve food and drinks and provide security at Mississippi's casinos.
Gov. Tate Reeves OKs business grants from virus relief fund
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said Wednesday that he is signing a bill that creates a $300 million grant program for small businesses hurt by the coronavirus pandemic. Legislators passed the bill with broad bipartisan support last week, using part of the $1.25 billion Mississippi has received from a federal relief package. Republican Reeves and his staff helped write the legislation, but the governor said he wanted to thoroughly review the bill before signing it into law. Asked on Wednesday how soon the state might start sending checks to businesses, Reeves said: "As soon as possible."
Mississippi Legislature could adopt new state budget after fiscal year ends
How Mississippi's state budget shakes out is anyone's guess at this point. Leadership in both chambers are likely to wait as long as possible to take corrective action on the current FY 2020 state budget which ends June 30th, as well as on the adoption of the FY 2021 budget set to begin July 1st. The reason is simple -- the lingering uncertainty of the economic shutdown's impact on tax revenue. "We still have a month and a half left in this fiscal year, and need to see what the revenue projections are and how we are able to make our way through the rest of this year," Mississippi Senate Appropriations Chairman Briggs Hopson told Y'all Politics walking into the Capitol. "We have April's numbers in and they were not good. They were north of $200 million short and fortunately we did have some surpluses preceding that month. We had done well this year. We had had a good fiscal year in Mississippi but in one month we ate up almost all of the excess revenue that Mississippi had gained." Hopson said he and budget writers will look at May's numbers when they come in to determine the extent of the bleeding.
Lieutenant Governor announces lawmakers back in session May 26th
State lawmakers will return to the Capitol May 26th -- that word from Lieutenant Governor Delbert Hosemann. He told me there's a lot of work to be done when it comes to Mississippi's economy amid the coronavirus outbreak. Hosemann said the session starts at 10 Tuesday morning, May 26th. At 10:30 am, lawmakers will hear what will likely be sobering news from the state economist on what kind of financial shape the state of Mississippi is in. The budget has to be balanced by June 30th. Asked how hard the state has been hit so far, Hosemann replied, "240-million dollars last month and then this month probably will be close to that. We'll have to wait and see, but we're going to have a deficit for the year." Hosemann notes state revenue was ahead 200-million-dollars before the outbreak last month, so that figure is more like 40-million-dollars down. Also, on the agenda, addressing the impact on Mississippi's schools.
Court of Appeals Judge Sean Tindell nominated as Mississippi public safety commissioner
Mississippi Court of Appeals Judge Sean Tindell of Gulfport is in line to become the new public safety commissioner in Mississippi. Republican Gov. Tate Reeves announced his nomination of Tindell on Wednesday. It must be confirmed by the state Senate. Tindell served as a Republican in the Senate from 2012 until he was appointed to the bench by then-Gov. Phil Bryant in 2017. The previous public safety commissioner, Marshall Fisher, held the job from 2017 until the end of 2019. He retired as Bryant was preparing to end his second term. Reeves became governor in mid-January. The department also handles driver's license services, and licensing stations have had problems with long lines and long waiting times in recent years. Tindell said Wednesday that he will focus on fixing those problems.
Ex-Louisiana warden Burl Cain chosen to lead Mississippi prisons
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said Wednesday that he is nominating a former warden of Louisiana's Angola prison to take charge of the Mississippi prison system that is under federal investigation and has struggled for years with tight budgets, short staffing and shoddy living conditions. During his 21-year tenure at Angola, Burl Cain was credited with improving conditions and decreasing violence. He was also known for pushing the expansion of religious outreach. But ethical and legal questions arose during his final years there. After his 2016 resignation, a state Legislative Auditor's Office report said nearly $28,000 in public money was used for the unauthorized purchase of appliances and household furnishings for Cain's home on prison grounds. It also said Cain's relatives stayed overnight in state-owned homes at the prison nearly 200 times. "Those allegations were unfounded," Cain said in response to questions Wednesday. "There were no crimes committed."
Gov. Tate Reeves taps embattled former Angola warden to run Mississippi's 'broken' prison system
A warden who left Louisiana's largest prison in January 2016 following a string of investigative articles about his private financial dealings has been tapped to run Mississippi's prison system. Gov. Tate Reeves announced the decision to hire Burl Cain at a press conference Wednesday. Cain spent 21 years as warden at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, which is commonly known as Angola. The Baton Rouge Advocate reported that Cain was a legendary figure in Louisiana and was frequently likened to Boss Hogg, the crooked county commissioner from "The Dukes of Hazzard." Cain is a Louisiana native whose brother, James David Cain, was a prominent Republican politician. Cain announced his resignation as warden in late 2015 after the Baton Rouge Advocate detailed private business dealings Cain had with the families of some inmates. Reeves called MDOC "broken" at Wednesday's press conference. "It was personally horrifying for me," Reeves said of the deaths of inmates. "... I have no intention of hiding our problems I have every intention of fixing our problems."
Burl Cain, former Louisiana prison warden, to lead MDOC
Gov. Tate Reeves announced on Wednesday that he appointed Burl Cain, the longtime warden of the Angola State Prison who resigned in 2015 after newspaper reports questioned his business and real estate dealings, to oversee the troubled Mississippi Department of Corrections. Reeves said he selected Cain, the 77-year-old who gained a national reputation for incorporating his Christian theology into the fabric of the notorious Louisiana prison, after a nationwide search because of his track record of reducing violence and crime at Angola. The appointment comes after the Mississippi prison system was rocked in 2013 with a scandal resulting in the conviction and sentence of 20 years for then-Commissioner Chris Epps, who received bribes to award contracts to private vendors. Cain was a controversial figure in Louisiana. An audit by the Louisiana legislature found that 10 corrections employees performed work on Cain's private residence -- and some apparently while being paid by the state. "The search committee was aware of the allegations. I was personally aware of the allegations," Reeves said on Wednesday. "We did extensive research, and it seems like that once the politics were removed the accusations were basically dropped."
Former Angola warden with checkered past is Mississippi's new director of prisons
Mississippi has hired the former warden of one the nation's most notorious prisons to take over as commissioner of the Department of Corrections. Gov. Tate Reeves announced Wednesday he has hired Burl Cain, who served for 21 years as the warden at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, La. Cain stepped down from Angola on Jan. 1, 2016, following reporting by The Baton Rouge Advocate that investigated private real estate deals he entered into with relatives and friends of inmates. "Those allegations are unfounded," Cain said Wednesday. Reeves heaped praise on Cain on Wednesday as a highly respected figure in his profession. "Angola was once known as the bloodiest prison in America," Reeves said during a media conference on Wednesday. "Then, Burl Cain brought faith, security, safety and significant pride to the prison. Inmates that were on lockdown are now working productive jobs, moving freely throughout the grounds. He proved that he's able to treat the most violent criminals as human beings. He is a nationally cited expert." Reeves said he and members of the search committee were aware of the allegations made against Cain at Angola.
New MDOC Commissioner brings decades of corrections experience
His was a very personal way of dealing with prisoners when Burl Cain was Warden at Angola in Louisiana. "The second execution I had the guy asked me to hold his hand, so I did." As he takes the office of Commissioner of the Mississippi Department of Corrections, Burl Cain brings 21 years of experience. Angola is one of the country's most notorious prisons. He says his way of doing things always included treating the prisoners with respect. After all, they're people too, he said. For a while he had it posted where everyone can see it -- the Bible verse Phillippians 3:13. "'We cannot change the past, we press on to change the future,' so that was our motto," he said. "Quit looking at what you did. Let's look at what you're going to be." He instructed his guards that if the inmates wanted to tell them something or ask them a question, they were not to blow them off. Treat them like people, he said. You never know if they're trying to tell you about a hit on someone or another problem that needs addressing. When you look at the big picture, the victims and their families come first, Cain said. But to keep peace in a prison, you have to keep inmates' families informed and connected. He's also looking for a better way to treat the families of the inmates.
Jailed ex-MDOC Commissioner Chris Epps, wife must pay $69,489 in state taxes
Imprisoned former Mississippi Department of Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps and his wife must pay nearly $70,000 in state income taxes after a court ruling. In an order issued Tuesday, the state Court of Appeals affirmed a Hinds County Chancery Court ruling dismissing Epps' and his wife Catherlean's appeal of a Department of Revenue's order for the couple to pay $69,489 in individual income tax for 2007-2014 tax years. Epps was MDOC commissioner from 2002 to 2014. After resigning on Nov. 5, 2014, he was indicted on charges of accepting bribes and kickbacks in exchange for contracts and illicit activity with various corrections facilities. Epps was sentenced in May 2017 by U.S. District Judge Henry Wingate to almost 20 years in federal prison and fined $100,000 for running one of the largest and longest criminal conspiracies in the state's history. Epps' wife was never implicated in any wrongdoing.
Dems question judicial nominee Cory Wilson about past partisan remarks
Democratic members of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday repeatedly asked a federal appeals court nominee from Mississippi about derisive comments he made in newspaper opinion pieces and on social media about former President Barack Obama and his signature health care legislation. "Did you call the passage of the Affordable Care Act 'perverse' and 'illegitimate' and say that (you) 'hope the court' -- you meant the Supreme Court -- 'strikes down the law?'," Democratic Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii asked the nominee, Cory Wilson, during a hearing shown online. Wilson, 49, is nominated for a seat on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which hears cases from Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas and is considered one of the most conservative appeals courts. The American Bar Association has rated Wilson as "well qualified" for the federal appeals court judgeship. But, his nomination has drawn opposition from advocates for voting rights, expanded access to health care and marriage equality, among a range of Democratic priorities that Wilson has pilloried.
Jobless claims total 2.4 million, still elevated levels but a declining pace from previous weeks
First-time filings for unemployment insurance totaled 2.44 million last week as the tail effects of the coronavirus shutdown continued to impact the U.S. jobs market. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones had been looking for 2.4 million claims. The seasonally adjusted total, while still well above anything the nation had seen in pre-coronavirus America, represents the seventh straight week of a declining pace following the record peak of 6.9 million in late March. In addition, a review from last week brought the number down substantially, from 2.98 million to 2.69 million. In the nine weeks since the coronavirus-induced lockdown has closed large parts of the U.S. economy, some 38.6 million workers have filed claims. The level of continuing claims painted a clearer picture of how unemployment is persisting even as states are increasingly taking steps to bring their economies back on line. The total for the week ending May 9 was 25.07 million, an increase of 2.52 million from the previous week. Though the total national numbers are on the decline, the unemployment numbers remain staggering and well beyond anything the U.S. has seen before.
A 'Hyperactive' Hurricane Season Is About to Strike
Climate scientists are predicting that as many as 20 named hurricanes will develop in the Atlantic basin during the six-month season that officially begins on Monday. The prediction of a super-busy season comes from separate teams at Colorado State University, Pennsylvania State University, and AccuWeather and is based on sea surface temperatures in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans that help spawn these powerful tropical storms that threaten millions of US residents each year. Michael Mann, author of the Penn State study, wrote in an email to WIRED that his team's model indicates a "hyperactive" season. "The extreme current tropical Atlantic warmth is a key driver of our forecast," he wrote, but added that other factors will contribute, including La Niña conditions, which are characterized by cooler water along the eastern tropical Pacific for several months at a time. This weakens high-level winds across the Atlantic, which allows hurricanes to grow in frequency and strength. "That's the same combination of factors, incidentally, that was behind the record 2005 season (with 27 named storms)," he wrote. That's the year that Hurricane Katrina pummeled New Orleans and was one of four storms to reach Category 5 levels.
CDC releases new guidance for colleges on reducing coronavirus spread
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidance on Tuesday for colleges as they reopen their campuses. Colleges will be looking to the CDC as many prepare to welcome back students, 19.9 million of whom were enrolled at U.S. colleges last fall. While the guidance does not address when or whether colleges should resume in-person classes, it describes practices colleges can put in place to reduce coronavirus spread and promote a healthy student body and workforce. It also outlines steps they should take to address suspected COVID-19 cases on their campuses. The CDC guidance notes that institutions of higher education "vary considerably in geographic location, size, and structure. As such, IHE officials can determine, in collaboration with state and local health officials, whether and how to implement these considerations while adjusting to meet the unique needs and circumstances of the IHE and local community. Implementation should be guided by what is feasible, practical, acceptable, and tailored to the needs of each community."
IHL Board of Trustees votes to resume traditional operations at universities
The Institutions of Higher Learning Board of Trustees voted to resume traditional operations at Mississippi's eight public universities for Fall 2020. According to the Oxford Eagle, the board voted to offer as many in-person classes as possible. The board is also taking into consideration COVID-19 guidance from the Mississippi State Department of Health and Governor Tate Reeves.
U. of Mississippi announces Future Planning Task Force
The University of Mississippi took another step on Tuesday toward making its goal of resuming in-person classes by the fall semester a reality. Chancellor Glenn Boyce announced the formation of the Future Planning Task Force to develop an operational framework for the fall semester, which could include the semester looking different from normal. "As I've noted previously, we look forward to welcoming students back to campus for in-person instruction for the Fall 2020 semester on the Oxford and regional campuses," Boyce said. "Our return to campus will include a series of protocols and parameters designed to protect the health of our community." What those protocols might be are yet to be determined, but Boyce previously stated he intends to announce Ole Miss's plans for the fall semester by no later than June 30. The Task Force is comprised of nearly 50 administrators, faculty and staff who have led various aspects of the University's response to COVID-19 since campuses shut down in March.
Profile: Dr. Glenn Boyce, Chancellor of the University of Mississippi
If somebody had told Dr. Glenn Boyce that one day he would be chancellor of the University of Mississippi he wouldn't have believed them. Especially considering the first time he drove onto the campus was over forty years ago in a beat-up Buick he drove from upstate New York to attend school there. But, as the future would have it, Boyce returned to the university in October 2019 as the 18th Chancellor at Ole Miss. Boyce is originally from Watkins Glen, New York and says he wasn't really destined for college growing up. "My sister and I were first generation college students." he says. "We grew up in what New Yorker's called the countryside, and like most of us from the country back then, were a very self-sufficient family. I learned how to use my hands and work hard at an early age and still consider this the greatest legacy my dad left me. Other than school, I did not come across many people who had been to college." Boyce says that long-range objectives for the university at this point are still evolving. "My vision is still coming into focus, but certainly I want to stabilize enrollment. Now that is more of a short range than long-range objective, but in this day and time stabilizing enrollment is very important because we are in an incredibly competitive field."
Madison native to study in Morocco
A Madison native will continue his collegiate studies this fall in Morocco after receiving a prestigious scholarship. Caleb Ray is one of two University of Mississippi students who recently received a David L. Boren Scholarship from the National Security Exchange Program. Ray was accepted into the 2020 Fall Arabic Language Flagship Capstone Program in Meknes, Moroco. Ray is to attend Arabic classes taught at the Arab American Language Institute in Morocco language center in Meknes, as well as classes at Moulay Ismail University. The program also involves an internship component, which can include a variety of disciplines, from media to law to carpentry. Boren Scholars and fellows will live in 39 countries throughout Africa, Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, Eurasia, Latin America and the Middle East. They study 30 different languages. The most popular languages include Arabic, Mandarin, Russian, Portuguese, Swahili and Hindi.
Former USM history professor William Scarborough, expert on Old South, dies at 87
A longtime history professor at the University of Southern Mississippi died Sunday. William Scarborough died at his home in Hattiesburg. He was 87. He taught in the history department for 45 years, 10 of which he also served as department chair. One student was Andrew Wiest, who later was hired by Scarborough and became a colleague of his former professor. "He was one of those teachers who was a master of narrative storytelling," Wiest said. "When you showed up in their class, you almost forgot to take notes because it was spellbinding. It was almost like sitting there watching a good movie." But Scarborough's reach wasn't limited to Hattiesburg, Wiest said. "His legacy is multi-faceted, not only for students here but for people who read his work," he said. "He was respected throughout the country as a scholar of the Old South. He was one of those go-to guys when you needed to know the true history of what the Old South was. His legacy goes well beyond us."
Rep. Bennie Thompson announces $467,080 awarded to Jackson State University
Congressman Bennie Thompson announced the National Science Foundation awarded $467,080 in funds to Jackson State University. The money was awarded through the Condensed-Matter-and-Materials-Theory program in the Division of Materials Research and by the HBCU-UP program in the Division of Human-Resource Development. This research will be carried out at JSU and will aid the development of human resources capacity in a historically black university that primarily serves educational needs of local minority students.
Millsaps College taps Beth Clarke as vice president of enrollment
Millsaps College has selected Beth Clarke, current senior executive director of admissions strategy and counseling at Sweet Briar College, as vice president of enrollment. Clarke will lead the admission and financial aid efforts at Millsaps, and spearhead the college's comprehensive efforts to grow and sustain enrollment. Clarke will begin her new role at Millsaps on July 6. "I am thrilled to welcome Beth Clarke to the Millsaps College family," said Dr. Robert W. Pearigen, president of Millsaps. Clarke has served in her current role at Sweet Briar since 2018, and also served as acting vice president for enrollment from August 2019 – December 2019. She helped drive significant growth for the fall of 2020, with applications up 18%, admitted students up 19% and deposits up 12% compared to the previous year. She also led efforts to develop a new comprehensive financial aid model. Clarke earned her Bachelor of Arts in communications at Virginia Wesleyan University and a Master of Education in educational policy, planning and leadership with a specialization in higher education administration at The College of William and Mary.
Jackson Prep to offer summer school classes for students across Mississippi
Students across Mississippi will have the opportunity to get ready for their next grade level by taking Jackson Prep's summer school classes. "We recognized that many students in Mississippi may have fallen behind in their school work during the last 9 weeks. We are offering an opportunity for them to 'catch up' to where they need to be in order to roll into the fall semester prepared for the next grade level," said Reta Haire, incoming Head of Junior High. With that goal in mind, Jackson Prep created four unique three-week, non-credit courses open to any student from any school: PREParing for 6th Grade, PREParing for 7th Grade, PREParing for 8th Grade and PREParing for 9th Grade These courses are specifically designed to prepare students to be successful as they matriculate into their next grade level. Students will work with teachers in math, grammar, composition, and reading comprehension. "The most exciting part of our PREParing courses is that any student from any school can attend. The courses are not exclusive to Prep students, although we welcome Prep students to take them. We see this educational opportunity as a way to serve our community as a whole," said Head of School Lawrence Coco. Students in grades 6th through 12th will be able to take classes in a mix of learning environments--- from remote learning to in-person classroom experiences.
Plan to keep U. of Arkansas System's tuition flat advances to trustees today
Tuition would remain flat for most students within the University of Arkansas System this fall under a proposal from system chancellors that advanced through a committee Wednesday. The board of trustees' Academic and Student Affairs Committee approved largely flat proposals from chancellors Wednesday after being asked earlier this spring by the full board to do so. The resolution that was approved Wednesday, which must be accepted by the full board today, permits trustees to revisit tuition and fee rates again in the fall, for the spring semester, "should the economic condition necessitate such action." The flat charges are intended to bring some semblance of relief to students and their families who may be experiencing contracting finances because of the coronavirus pandemic's impact on the economy, such as record unemployment. The only tuition rate increases would be at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, which has been hit hard financially by the costs of addressing covid-19.
U. of Florida survey: Coronavirus has decimated some Florida farms
The coronavirus has turned much of Florida's winter vegetable crop into waste. When Gov. Ron DeSantis issued executive orders shutting down the state to stop the spread of the coronavirus, people stayed home and changed their buying habits. Large food buyers like schools, resorts and restaurants became missing links in the food supply chain, leaving farmers with no market to sell their goods. A team of University of Florida agricultural and food economists has now surveyed 729 farmers on how the stay-at-home directives and social-distancing guidelines have affected the state's farmlands. They found that 84% of the growers said they lost a substantial amount of business. Most of the respondents are considered small businesses, with annual revenue of less than $250,000. "March to May is a big harvest season," said John Lai, an assistant professor of agribusiness and part of Institute of Food and Agriculture Services research team, during a Tuesday virtual news conference. The group's five surveys conducted earlier this month measured economic activity around the production, processing and selling of agriculture and aquaculture compared to the same time last year.
Online 'abuse' aimed at family after 4 Kentucky cheerleading coaches fired over probe
A University of Kentucky cheerleader and her mother have faced a wave of online criticism after the prestigious team's four coaches were fired following a three-month hazing, alcohol and nudity investigation. The cheerleader, who just finished her freshman year, and her mother Karen Oldham have been the subject of memes and other social media postings claiming Oldham was the initial whistleblower in an investigation that included 60 interviews with team members and coaches. Oldham has disputed the accusations in her social media posts. The source of the initial complaint was not identified in UK's investigation findings. According to a publicly disclosed summary of the investigation, the investigation began after the family member of a cheerleader contacted a UK faculty member raising concerns about some of the team's conduct and the coaching staff's oversight of that conduct. The faculty member, as a mandatory reporter, forwarded the concerns on to the Dean of Students office, sparking the investigation.
Former Miss South Carolina sues USC over tuition refund for 'deficient' online classes
A former Miss South Carolina is suing the state's flagship college to win tuition refunds for online classes required amid the coronavirus outbreak that she considered inferior to in-person instruction. Davia Bunch, who graduated this month from the University of South Carolina, is seeking to have her lawsuit become class-action and draw some of the other 32,000 students kept off campus since mid-March to halt the spread of COVID-19. Bunch's suit calls the online classes "a material deficient and insufficient alternative" and cites a 2017 Brookings Institute study that found students received lower grades in online courses compared to in-person classes and that taking online classes increased the likelihood of students dropping out of school. She argued she also missed "a true collegiate experience" that includes access to labs, student union, intramural sports, cultural events and networking opportunities. USC canceled activities and will hold a virtual commencement ceremony. Bunch, 2018′s Miss South Carolina now working at a Charleston political consulting firm, does not specify how much she seeks in tuition refunds.
Student sues U. of Missouri over COVID-19 response
The University of Missouri System broke its contract with students when it ended in-person instruction for the coronavirus pandemic and should repay tuition and face punitive damages, a new lawsuit charges. The suit, filed in Boone County by an unnamed student on behalf of all university students, states that, while reasonable, the move to all online courses deprived students of the educational experience they paid for. "It's not fair to make students pay for services not provided," St. Louis attorney Richard Cornfeld said by phone. "All of us who attended a university know that things like interacting with professors one-on-one and going to the library are all part of the campus experience." The UM System has refunded around $30 million in prorated housing costs and other fees, but not tuition. The lawsuit does not state which of the university's four campuses enrolled the student. "We vigorously deny the claims asserted in this lawsuit," university spokesman Christian Basi said in an emailed statement.
U. of Missouri diversity finalist: New Title IX rules will have chilling effect
New Title IX regulations governing how sexual assaults on university campuses are investigated will be a major challenge, said a finalist for University of Missouri vice chancellor for inclusion, diversity and equity. "These things will probably have a chilling effect on individuals' willingness to come forward," said Tamra Minor, chief diversity officer and assistant vice president for the office of diversity and inclusion at State University of New York-Albany, at a Wednesday campus forum on Zoom. The new regulations give the accused the right to cross examine victims in the Title IX hearings and narrows the scope of cases colleges are required to investigate. "Issues related to Title IX will be a major challenge to campuses, I think," Minor said. When students enter college, they typically have more freedom than they had living with their parents under supervision. Education in respect and consent is required, she said. "We've been doing a better job in education, especially potential victims," Minor said. "Our profile in this space has gotten elevated." Minor has been in her current position since 2007. She earned her bachelor's degree in animal science from MU in 1981. She was in Marching Mizzou and displayed photos of herself as a drum major in her presentation.
Fearing a Second Wave of Covid-19, Some Colleges Will End Fall Semester Early
With infectious-disease experts forecasting recurring waves of Covid-19 contagion, a number of colleges are coalescing around a plan to send students home by Thanksgiving this fall. Hundreds of institutions have pledged to return to in-person classes in August, after the coronavirus forced them to move instruction online in the spring. While some of those colleges intend to return to normal operations, others have configured their calendars with earlier start and end dates. Rice University, a private institution in Houston with about 7,000 students, will have an abbreviated fall semester. While students will report to campus as scheduled, the semester will end in November -- about a month earlier than usual. "We decided to make that decision more quickly than other schools in order to make sure we have the maximum time to prepare," said David W. Leebron, Rice's president. He added that the decision was made in late April. Many institutions that plan to resume face-to-face fall classes are taking steps to keep students and their teachers safe. Requiring masks in public spaces, checking temperatures as students enter classrooms, and disinfecting and cleaning more frequently are all on the table as institutions mull scenarios for reopening.
Colleges plan fall opening, but campuses won't look the same
Growing numbers of U.S. colleges are pledging to reopen this fall, with dramatic changes to campus life to keep the coronavirus at bay. Big lectures will be a thing of the past. Dorms will be nowhere near capacity. Students will face mandatory virus testing. And at some smaller schools, students may be barred from leaving campus. Even as some universities abandon hope of in-person instruction next semester, citing concerns from public health officials, dozens are announcing plans to welcome students back in August. They acknowledge that an outbreak could force classes back online, but many of their leaders say the financial and political pressures to reopen are too large to ignore. Once students are back on campus, the primary goal will be to keep them spaced out, colleges say. A growing number of colleges say they will offer a "hybrid flex" model, in which classes are offered online and in person at the same time, and students can choose either option.
Universities determine how to enforce social distancing
As colleges unveil intricate reopening plans to regularly test and trace students for coronavirus infection when they return to campuses this fall, large graduation celebrations among students in recent weeks have served as stark reminders of the difficult work that lies ahead. Widely circulated videos and news images of students partying -- without face masks and seemingly oblivious to social distancing guidelines -- made it clear that protecting students from each other, as well as the larger campus and neighboring communities, will not be limited to classrooms and residence halls. Martha Compton, president of the Association of Student Conduct Administrators, or ASCA, compared colleges' social distancing enforcement plans to the way some campuses have banned the use of tobacco products by educating students from a public health standpoint first, and only reprimanding for repeat noncompliance with conduct codes, Compton said. Colleges will not be successful in promoting good behavior if they have an initially "derisive" response, she said. Compton said college leaders should first educate students about more recent COVID-19 data that shows young, traditional college-aged people can be severely sickened by the illness, as well as identify the risks that social gatherings pose to more vulnerable people in their communities.
More institutions are suspending or cutting retirement plan contributions
Facing devastating financial losses related to the coronavirus pandemic, colleges and universities are cutting costs just about everywhere they can. Increasingly, that includes faculty and staff retirement benefits. Duke, Georgetown, Northwestern and Texas Christian Universities are some of the institutions to announce cuts to retirement contributions in recent days. Some of these decisions have been more severe and more controversial than others. No one wants to see their retirement contributions cut, least of all employees closest to retirement. But these cuts have been particularly ill received at Texas Christian, where some faculty members say the university is using the crisis to wage a longer-term battle against employee retirement benefits. The cuts at Texas Christian also appear to be permanent, unlike the temporary suspensions at Duke, Georgetown and Northwestern. Andy Brantley, president and CEO of the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources, said campus leaders are grappling with budget challenges as the new fiscal year starts, which in most cases happens July 1.
Lori Loughlin to plead guilty in admissions scandal, documents show
Actress Lori Loughlin, who maintained her innocence for 14 months, will plead guilty to fraud in the college admissions scandal, according to a plea agreement filed in federal court. Loughlin was arrested in March 2019 and charged with conspiring with William "Rick" Singer, a Newport Beach consultant at the heart of the admissions scandal, to pass off her two daughters, Olivia Jade Giannulli and Isabella Rose Giannulli, as promising rowing recruits, all but guaranteeing their admission to USC. Loughlin and her husband, Mossimo Giannulli, paid Singer $500,000 in all, prosecutors charged. Giannulli has agreed to plead guilty to fraud as well, court documents show. For more than a year, the couple had insisted Singer misled them into believing the money was destined for legitimate university purposes, not bribes to corrupt school employees. Earlier this month, a judge batted down their request to have the charges dismissed for outrageous government misconduct.
APLU Helps Develop Playbook with Every Learner Everywhere on Best Practices For Moving Teaching Online
The COVID-19 pandemic has compelled higher education faculty nationwide to move their instruction online with limited preparation or guidance. A newly released playbook helps faculty navigate this pedagogical shift while maintaining focus on student success. Delivering High-Quality Instruction Online in Response to COVID-19 is a faculty-focused playbook intended to improve course design, teaching, and learning in online environments. With special attention to the needs of instructors teaching online for the first time, the guide offers strategies for getting started and improving over time. "Faculty admirably shifted their classes online this spring in far from ideal circumstances, said Karen Vignare, Executive Director of APLU's Personalized Learning Consortium, and who helped create the resource. "As they prepare for the fall with the possibility that some or all of their instruction will be online, faculty can take more time to carefully think through the best ways to design and deliver their courses so that students receive the maximum benefit. This free resource provides faculty with an easy to follow playbook for developing high quality courses in the age of COVID-19."

NCAA to lift moratorium on football, basketball workouts
The NCAA Division I Council voted Wednesday to lift a moratorium on voluntary workouts by football and basketball players effective June 1 as a growing number of college leaders expressed confidence that fall sports will be possible in some form despite concerns about the coronavirus pandemic. This decision clears the way for individual workouts by athletes, mostly on their own, subject to safety and health protocols decided by their schools or local health officials. NCAA officials noted that the workouts could go on as long as all local, state and federal regulations are followed. The status of voluntary workouts for other sports will be determined later. The Division I Council also passed a series of waivers that included suspending the minimum football attendance required of Football Bowl Subdivision members for two years. Most athletic departments need the revenue generated from football to fund their other sports. Hundreds of schools are reeling financially from the effects of the pandemic. Athletic departments, particularly at smaller schools and in Division II, have already cut a number of sports.
Why Nikki McCray-Penson is poised for success at Mississippi State
Call Nikki McCray-Penson what you want. A two-time SEC Player of the Year and a three-time SEC Champion with Tennessee. A two-time Olympic gold medalist with Team USA and a three-time WNBA All-Star. A winner of four SEC championships and a national title as an assistant at South Carolina. A Conference USA Coach of the Year at Old Dominion. A member of the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame. The new coach at Mississippi State. You may Use any of those accolades to define McCray-Penson, but LSU coach Nikki Fargas doesn't. A former Lady Vols teammate of McCray-Penson, Fargas goes beyond basketball to describe her life-long friend. "One word to me that sums up Nikki McCray is a fighter," Fargas told the Clarion Ledger. "We're going to battle for loose balls, we're going to battle on the court and all that stuff, but to be able to see her battle and come through what she's been through, it's pretty inspiring." McCray-Penson was diagnosed with breast cancer in November 2013. She beat the odds and is the coach she is today because she won that battle. She wouldn't be the coach she is today, however, without the people who shaped her during every step of her basketball journey to make her a champion and fighter.
MUW, EMCC athletic directors say no cuts are coming as schools navigate pandemic
Jason Trufant is still trying to figure out what's next. Two months after the Mississippi University for Women athletic director suspended the Owls' athletics programs indefinitely amid the outbreak of COVID-19, Trufant is still left with more questions than answers. He's not sure how the virus affects the timeline for The W's planned baseball park, unclear on what financial consequences the virus could inflict on Owls sports down the line. Even a more immediate occurrence -- this fall semester -- could play out in myriad ways, and Trufant knows it's far too early to commit to just one course of action. "We don't know what's gonna happen in the next 30 minutes, let alone in the next three months," Trufant told The Dispatch on Wednesday. "All we can do is prepare and be ready to serve our student-athletes and be ready to serve our campus." Trufant stressed that the Owls aren't "anywhere near" discontinuing any of their athletic programs, which has been a cost-cutting measure employed by several major schools.
Reservoir officials expect fewer boaters, activities this summer
In May 2010, the Northside Sun reported that officials and police at the Barnett Reservoir were preparing for approximately 500 boats to make their way to the body of water near Old Trace Park for Pepsi Pops. May is typically the beginning of the Barnett Reservoir's "busy season," kicking off with Pepsi Pops. Ten years later Reservoir Police Lt. Trevell Dixon said the department had anticipated a similar turnout for this year's event and for the busy season to get underway. That was before coronavirus hit. "We're seeing fewer boats, and the larger activities have been canceled because they will have more than 20 people," said Pearl River Valley Water Supply District Executive Director John Sigman. Last week, the reservoir reopened its parks. "We will see how the social distancing goes there," Sigman said. "Most everybody has been pretty cooperative." However, despite the reopening of parks and the lake to recreational activities, Sigman predicts this summer will be different from years past due to COVID-19. Sigman is hopeful that residents will continue to take advantage of recreational activities at the reservoir.
As live sports are put on hold, esports take center stage
The world of sports has been put in a new situation for everyone involved due to COVID-19. The world stood still as all sports were either canceled or put on hold until further notice, all but one. Esports have continued to push on through the pandemic. For example, ESPN has aired an NBA 2K players-only tournament featuring NBA players facing off against one another on the virtual court. The NBA is not the only league to highlight an event like this with the MLB doing a similar tournament with its video game. Esports and streaming have been on the rise over the years with the increase in people who play video games. Now with people sheltering in place and staying home, esports is continuing to gain momentum. One group directly connected to the competitive esports scene is Auburn University's Auburn Esports club. Auburn Esports offers gamers an opportunity to participate in a competitive team environment with their classmates through esports. The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically affected the club's plans for the year.
Vanderbilt names Candice Storey Lee full-time athletics director, drops interim tag
Vanderbilt has named Candice Storey Lee its full-time athletics director, dropping the interim tag she had held since Malcolm Turner's abrupt resignation in February. The university announced Lee as Turner's permanent successor Thursday morning. "Candice is perfectly positioned to lead our athletics program to new heights of success on and off the field of play," incoming chancellor Daniel Diermeier said in a statement. Lee is Vanderbilt's first female athletics director, and she is the first African-American woman to lead an SEC athletics program. She also takes on the role of vice chancellor for athletics and university affairs. Lee has the strongest ties to Vanderbilt of any athletics director in recent history. She was a Commodores basketball player, a three-time graduate and longtime athletics department staff member. Beginning her ascent in 2002, Lee was a university intern, athletics academic adviser, compliance director, associate athletics director, senior women's administrator, deputy athletics director under Turner and David Williams and finally the new athletics director.
Coronavirus cluster slows construction at Bryant-Denny Stadium
An outbreak of the coronavirus at Bryant-Denny Stadium has endangered the safety of the construction crew and subcontractors working on the University of Alabama's renovation project, has learned. More than 10 people have tested positive for COVID-19, according to people familiar with the outbreak, but the number could be much higher. With so many exposures, there is a fear that more positive cases linked to the job site are inevitable. Michael Hebron, owner of Rama Jama's restaurant across the street from the stadium, said he saw a long line of stadium construction workers lined up to take COVID-19 tests on Monday. "It was a huge line of people," Hebron said Wednesday. The University of Alabama has emphasized proper safety precautions on campus and provided protective equipment and supplies, according to a statement.
Pat Dye hospitalized with kidney issues, positive for COVID-19
Legendary former Auburn coach Pat Dye has been hospitalized with kidney issues and has also tested positive for COVID-19, his family has reported. His son, Pat Dye Jr., told ESPN on Thursday that he is being treated in Atlanta. He said that Dye is resting comfortably and the family is expecting a recovery. Dye is an icon at Auburn, after coaching the Tigers from 1981-92. He is 80. Word of Dye's struggles first spread Wednesday night when a request for prayer made by family members was confirmed to media. Dye Jr. eased concerns by saying his father has largely been asymptomatic of the coronavirus, with kidney trouble being what's sent the coach into medical care. "As has previously been reported, my dad has tested positive for the COVID-19 virus," Dye Jr. said in a statement sent to ESPN. "However, his positive test occurred a number of days ago during a routine precautionary test pursuant to his hospitalization for kidney-related issues. He has essentially been asymptomatic for the virus and is resting comfortably."
Masks, paperless tickets among possible changes at Razorback home games this fall
Potentially requiring fans to wear masks and enter the stadium without paper tickets are among the University of Arkansas' considerations in preparing for the upcoming football season, UA athletics director Hunter Yurachek told UA trustees Wednesday. Yurachek said his department is working with Arkansas Department of Health, the university's environmental health department and has received guidance from a group of UAMS professors in helping shape guidelines for attending sporting events. No formal decision has been announced regarding whether or how fans will attend games this year. "We're planning right now for full capacity," Yurachek said of the Razorbacks' home football games, "but also making plans for if that's a half or a third (capacity), based on some guidance we receive as this continues to evolve." Arkansas is scheduled to open the season with a Sept. 5 game against Nevada at Reynolds Razorback Stadium. It is the first of seven scheduled games in Fayetteville this year, including four games against teams from the SEC.
Gov. Brian Kemp on UGA football Labor Day opener in Atlanta and a 'new norm' at stadiums
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said Wednesday that he has talked to Bulldogs football coach Kirby Smart and UGA president Jere Morehead about how college and pro sports can come back this year in the state during the novel coronavirus pandemic. In an appearance on the Paul Finebaum Show on the SEC Network, Kemp spoke about Georgia's scheduled football season-opener against Virginia on Labor Day in Atlanta's Mercedes-Benz Stadium. "I believe it's a little too early to tell whether we're going to open on Labor Day with a packed house or a sparse crowd or no crowd at all," Kemp said. "I know everybody wants to have a crowd there. I would urge people to continue to follow the guidance so we can drive these numbers down so that we can do that, but we stand ready to work with them." Kemp said he's also been in touch with the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta Braves and Augusta National Golf Club when it postponed the Masters until November. UGA has worked on models for reduced crowds in Sanford Stadium to account for fans being able to socially distance, but has not revealed any plans yet.
New wrinkle in UGA game contracts offers protection if pandemic impacts schedule
UGA and Bowling Green athletic officials last week signed off on a nonconference men's basketball game to be played in Stegeman Coliseum in the second week of November. It's a standard move in the springtime to fill out holes in a schedule for the coming season. What was different in the two page document -- obtained by the Athens Banner-Herald from Bowling Green in an open records request -- was the language that reflects planning for future sports events in the time of COVID-19. It refers for the first time in a UGA contract to "epidemic, pandemic or public health emergency," in a force majeure clause that would make it "impossible or impractical the playing of the Game or which prevents the participation of at least one of the Parties in the Game." "I don't want to get into hypotheticals here, but if you've got a certain area of the country that's a hot spot, certainly that will cause some concern from both ends," UGA athletic director Greg McGarity said. "Not only from a school coming here or athletes coming here but for also for our fans as well. What that looks like we really don't know yet, but we don't have to make those decisions now. We'll know a lot more about testing and the protocols over the coming weeks and those questions would be answered at those times."
Senators anxious for football to start, but maybe not as anxious as President Trump
It's been more than two months since a major American sport has held a contest. March 11 was the day the NBA suspended play indefinitely after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus. The NHL followed suit, as did Major League Baseball, postponing opening day while it works on a plan to start the season, possibly without fans in the stands. But professional and college football are perhaps in the best position of all the leagues, having ended their seasons just before the COVID-19 pandemic ramped up in the United States. Football, the nation's No. 1 sport, is as close as it gets to a money printing machine. The NFL generates billions in revenue from ticket sales, television broadcast deals and advertisers who are eager to partner with the league because of the eyeballs it draws. Meanwhile, college football conferences rake in millions with television deals. It's hard to overstate how important the sport is, particularly in the South and Midwest. It's an economic engine for schools, a recruiting tool and the center of identity and social life for many of its fans. The political implications surely aren't lost on President Donald Trump, who has attended several college games while in office. The return of football could restore some semblance of normalcy on weekend afternoons and boost the national mood, particularly among constituencies crucial to his reelection this fall.

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