Thursday, May 28, 2020   
Mississippi State again named Mississippi's top 'Best Value College'
Mississippi State was recently recognized as the state's top "Best Value College" in 2020 for giving students the best return on their educational investment. In its annual Best Value Colleges study, New York-based financial technology company SmartAsset determined that MSU graduates earn higher average starting salaries than their peers from other state colleges and universities. According to the study, MSU graduates receive an average starting salary of $51,100, $2,600 higher than the next highest university in the rankings. The average starting salary for all Mississippi higher education graduates is $44,557. Along with average starting salary, SmartAsset examined cost of tuition, student living costs, student retention rate, and average scholarships and grants awarded.
Could coronavirus give Mississippi school districts a chance to reset?
After a spring semester filled with unprecedented challenges, Mississippi educators are planning for what school schedules and classrooms will look like in fall under the continued threat of the coronavirus. There are numerous unknowns, but all agree on one certainty: The pandemic will transform Mississippi's education landscape. "I don't know if we'll ever go back to what we were doing before March 16," said Kelly Riley, executive director of Mississippi Professional Educators. Many are using the catastrophe as a chance to rethink old systems. The transition to distance learning for Mississippi's universities and community colleges was relatively seamless. But community colleges are running into trouble suddenly teaching some vocational and technical classes online. David Shaw, provost and executive vice president of Mississippi State University, said the school is "definitely going to be open for business this fall" with safety precautions in place. Officials plan to make more lectures available online, prepare dining halls with more disposable items and possibly scale back access to residence halls only to students, he said.
MSU Foundation fills two key fundraising positions
As its "Infinite Impact" capital campaign continues, the Mississippi State University Foundation has added a new fundraiser for the gift planning area and places a veteran in a key role to lead fundraising efforts for the College of Business. Kevin Randall of Starkville fills the newly created position of assistant director of gift planning to support the university's efforts to secure private gifts through charitable estate planning. Randall grew up in Starkville and attended Mississippi State for prerequisite coursework before earning a Bachelor of Science in physical therapy from the University of Mississippi Medical School in 1999. Additionally, Stephen Lack of Starkville assumed responsibilities as lead fundraiser for the College of Business beginning in May. Originally of New Orleans, Louisiana, Lack joined MSU in 2018 as assistant director of development for the James Worth Bagley College of Engineering, assisting with alumni and development efforts for the college. Lack received a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies from the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg in 2010. In 2013, he earned a Master of Arts in Migration and Refugee Studies from the American University in Cairo, Egypt.
3 generations of Cullman aerospace engineers to watch SpaceX launch together
One Cullman family has been looking forward to the SpaceX launch for a long time. They have three generations of aerospace engineers: A father who started building parts for rockets in 1959, his daughter, and her son. "I can remember when there was only a half a dozen vehicles in the whole county. One would go by, and everybody would run out and watch it. A plane would come over and everybody would run out and watch it and you'd see one maybe once a month," says Joseph Hayden. He built parts for NASA and other companies that had contracts with NASA. Little did he know he'd have a daughter and a grandson with the same aerospace fascination. "I like the discovery part of it. Trying to figure out what is out there and what is there to find," says James Hovater, Hayden's grandson. Hovater is a rising senior in the aerospace engineering program at Mississippi State University. "I'm proud that he's following in our footsteps," Hayden says.
Ruby Tuesday closes in Starkville
Ruby Tuesday in Starkville has closed permanently. Though a sign poised in the window announced its "temporary" closure, the restaurant has vacated from the Ruby Tuesday website. During the month of May, scattered news organizations have reported Ruby Tuesday closures in New Jersey, North Carolina, Alabama and now, Mississippi. Corporate restaurant officials did not return multiple messages to The Dispatch by press time. However, when I contacted customer service, a Ruby Tuesday representative confirmed the Starkville restaurant closed on April 29. STAGgerIN Sports Grill will no longer operate at 106 Maxwell St. Robert Camp of Dan Camp Family Real Estate LLC, who owns the building, said STAGgerIN's lease expired March 31. The sports bar first opened in 2011. "Both (STAGgerIN owner) Jason Roden and our family mutually agreed months prior, that we all needed fresh starts with our location and his business," Camp said. "We are in talks with prospective new tenants for our 106 Maxwell St. location, and will publicly announce when things finalize." It is unclear if STAGerIN is closed permanently or plans to relocate elsewhere in Starkville. Roden did not return messages to The Dispatch by press time.
Starkville hopes to reduce auto insurance claims
Starkville officials say city employees must take steps to avoid accidents and fender-benders with city owned vehicles after Liberty Mutual dropped the city as a property, vehicle and equipment policyholder due to the number of claims. Liberty Mutual paid $611,395.52 in claims from Starkville between Jan. 1, 2017 and Feb. 12, 2020, according to data City Clerk Lesa Hardin provided The Dispatch in response to a public records request. Company representatives sent the city a notice of non-renewal on May 1, and coverage expires June 30. The board of aldermen voted unanimously on May 19 to accept Travelers as its new provider. The city removed all vehicles worth less than $5,000 from the city's compensation plan and increased its deductibles on vehicles and equipment, Ward 3 Alderman David Little said.
Governor: Mississippi reopening plan has 'freedom with risk'
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said Wednesday that he will allow all types of businesses to reopen Monday but they must follow safety guidelines to try to minimize spread of the new coronavirus. "This does not mean the threat is gone," Reeves said. "COVID-19 is a deadly enemy that is still in our midst. We live in a dangerous time, and it is up to all of us to protect ourselves and to protect our loved ones." The Republican governor said that although new cases of the virus continue to be confirmed, Mississippi has had a "plateau" rather than a sharp spike, and its hospitals have not been near capacity. The state is also facing economic problems, including high unemployment. "Freedom with risk is better than a prolonged shutdown that threatens livelihoods and lives through government action," Reeves said. "I trust you. I trust the people of Mississippi."
Museums, ballparks, movie theaters can reopen Monday
Gov. Tate Reeves announced Wednesday that all businesses in Mississippi will be permitted to reopen Monday, June 1 with certain restrictions. The Safe Return order is in effect at 8 a.m Monday until Monday, June 15. Reeves issued another executive order to reopen museums, movie theaters, libraries and ballparks on the same day. The Mississippi Arts + Entertainment Experience will reopen Tuesday, according to Mark Tullos Jr., president and CEO. Tullos said he was excited to reopen and museum staff have been training and getting protective gear ready. Reeves outlined strict social distancing guidelines in his order. When social distancing is not possible, groups are limited to gatherings of 20 people or less indoors and 50 people or less outdoors, according to the order. When social distancing is possible, groups are limited to gatherings of 50 people or less indoors and 100 people or less outdoors.
One funeral led to another as coronavirus spread in Mississippi, state official says
Mississippi's top health officer, Dr. Thomas Dobbs, said Tuesday that there has been a recent case where someone suffering from COVID-19 attended a funeral, exposing people who were in attendance. Dobbs said the person was showing clear symptoms of the virus at the time. "Last week, we did have an event at a funeral where a contagious patient went to a funeral where they exposed many, many people," Dobbs said. "Please, this is not over. Funerals in churches and mass gatherings were instances where we saw breakouts early on. "We don't want a funeral to lead to more funerals, which we have seen that." He added more details about the recent incident at Wednesday's press conference, saying it happened in northeast Mississippi. About 50 people gathered in an indoor space that wasn't a church, and one contagious person has so far led to 13 confirmed COVID-19 cases and another 8 possible cases. Dobbs said the person was symptomatic at the funeral, triggering an investigation that will involve contact tracing to determine who may need to warned of the exposure.
Lawmakers vote to extend session through 2020 to deal with coronavirus response, funding
Mississippi lawmakers advanced a plan Wednesday that would allow them to return any time to deal with coronavirus funding and response through the end of this year. Mississippi legislative sessions start in January and typically last 90 days, or up to 125 days at the start of a new term. They wrap up in the spring, unless the governor calls legislators back for a special session. But this year went haywire when lawmakers were forced to leave the Capitol in mid-March over concerns about the virus. They returned twice briefly since then to hammer out bills on virus relief funding. And they were back full-time this week, many wearing masks and complying with social-distancing guidelines. On Tuesday, the House unanimously passed a resolution that would allow lawmakers to take the unusual step of extending the session for "successive periods of thirty days" until Dec. 31. They will likely depart once again after passing a budget in the coming weeks. But the indefinite extension would allow them to occasionally return to the Capitol any time through Dec. 31 to deal with coronavirus health response and funding. The resolution now goes to the Senate, which is expected to consider it Thursday.
Mississippi legislators could extend their disrupted session
The Republican-led Mississippi Legislature is working to extend its session that has already been disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic. With bipartisan support, the House adopted a resolution Wednesday that could extend the session until Dec. 31. Legislators would not remain at the Capitol the whole time. The extension gives House Speaker Philip Gunn and Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann the power to bring legislators back to the Capitol at any time to deal with any issue, without the need for Republican Gov. Tate Reeves to call a special session. House Speaker Pro Tempore Jason White said legislators had worked 56 of the allotted 120 session days by Wednesday. He said extending the session through Dec 31 should not cost the state any extra money. During a news conference Wednesday, Reeves was asked about the issue. "That's the prerogative of the Legislature if they're going to work," Reeves said. "My understanding is that it was said on the (House) floor that this wasn't going to cost taxpayers any more money. And so, if they're going to work for free, then I think that's good."
Mississippi House adopts resolution that would extend legislative session
The Mississippi House of Representatives on Wednesday voted to adopt a new resolution that would allow lawmakers to extend the 2020 legislative session in 30-day increments beginning on July 10. The measure would allow the lawmakers to meet throughout the end of the calendar year. "This is at no extra cost to the taxpayer," state Rep. Jason White, R-West, said. By previous legislative measures, the last day of the legislative session, called sine die, was originally scheduled for July 12. Under the newly passed House measure, this date has now changed, and the latest day for the Legislature to adjourn the session is Dec. 31. If the Senate also adopts the resolution, this would likely eliminate the governor calling the Legislature into a special session to take a legislative item up. The resolution would also do away with any typical legislative deadlines for any bills related to COVID-19, which would allow the lawmakers to address any new matters related to the virus.
Mississippi lawmakers to remain in session through December
In a short discussion with no questions, members of the House voted unanimously to do something that's never been done before in modern history: stay in session until the end of the calendar year. The Legislature returned Tuesday to resume the work of the regular 2020 session, and on Wednesday the House passed a resolution that would allow lawmakers to remain in session until the end of the year if necessary, to pass any necessary bills surrounding the coronavirus. The resolution would allow for the Legislature to extend the session by 30 days at a time and unless approved by both chambers, sine die, or the final day of the session, would be Dec. 31. This would apply specifically for bills of any sort related to the coronavirus; regular legislative deadlines would not apply. The Legislature would still have to pass a budget for the state and finish regular business according to those deadlines, which run into mid-July. "This would allow us to do what we were elected to do, respond to this pandemic and the needs of our state," said Rep. Jason White, R-West.
Mississippi health care fights coronavirus and an economic crisis
As Mississippi battles an economic crisis wrought by a virus, no industry -- not even the medical field -- has been left unscathed. Hospitals and clinics could shutter or reduce services. Health care workers, some of whom have been on the front lines of the pandemic, could lose their jobs or income. While the pandemic is far from over, two major developments are emerging: there is a renewed push for the state to expand Medicaid, and telemedicine is here to stay. According to Mississippi's Medicaid Director Drew Snyder, many hospital executives have told him they have "low cash on hand" because patients are not seeking care outside of coronavirus treatment. Snyder said his agency had given out $170 million in emergency supplemental payments to keep hospitals afloat until elective procedure business returns. The University of Mississippi Medical Center is expecting revenue losses of roughly $150 million by year's end and is seeing an uptick in patients without insurance due to job loss. Ryan Kelly, executive director of the Mississippi Rural Health Association, said revenue for most of Mississippi's rural hospitals and clinics has plummeted 25%.
Healthcare Providers and Agencies Seek Federal CARES Act Funding
Mississippi lawmakers are hearing from agencies and healthcare providers seeking some of the state's $1.25 billion in federal relief funds. From food banks to nursing homes, organizations say Covid 19 has decimated their bottom lines, leaving some to possibly close, others to file bankruptcy. Dentists in Mississippi are taking a financial hit due to the coronavirus according to Jimmy Hollingsworth of Newton. The practicing dentist and past president of the Mississippi Dental Association appeared before the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee to talk about the economic blow Covid 19 has dealt dentists statewide. "The partial closing of offices caused a big unemployment issue. Closure and or bankruptcies of small dental practices are likely as a result of most of the practices are in small rural areas. For the state this means many more unemployed, substantially less taxes for the long and short term," said Hollingsworth.
Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann withdraws request for ethics decision over small business grants for lawmakers
Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann has withdrawn a request to the Mississippi Ethics Commission asking whether lawmakers could apply for coronavirus small business relief funding that the Legislature approved earlier this month. The Legislature recently passed Senate Bill 2772, which commits $300 million in federal coronavirus relief funds to small businesses in Mississippi. The funds will be distributed via automatic $2,000 payments to certain small businesses, as well as through an application program for grants up to $25,000. Hosemann on May 18 sent a letter to the commission asking if a lawmaker could apply for the funds. Several senators who run small businesses had asked if they could participate in the small business grant program themselves. Hosemann told them he did not think it was allowed, but "told members he would request an opinion to accurately determine the boundaries of the ethics laws," Leah Rupp Smith, Hosemann's deputy chief of staff, previously told the Clarion Ledger. Smith declined to comment on why Hosemann withdrew the request. Hosemann declined to talk with a Clarion Ledger reporter at the Capitol on Wednesday.
How many jobless Mississippians are receiving unemployment benefits? State employment office won't say.
While the Mississippi Department of Employment Security has received more than 290,000 jobless claims as COVID-19 ravaged the nation's economy, the number of people actually receiving unemployment benefits remains a mystery. For weeks, the employment office has failed to respond to several public records requests and questions from Mississippi Today, including how many unemployed people it has paid during the pandemic. Officials at the agency say they're too busy to comply with the Mississippi Public Records Act. Federal data shows about 30,000 jobless Mississippians on average have filed new unemployment claims each week since the beginning of the economic crisis on March 15. As of May 23, about 200,000 people were still filing weekly claims, which is how they notify the department they're still unemployed. But the agency has not said how many people they've officially approved and of those, how many have actually gotten their money.
'I got absolutely no help': Dysfunction within the Mississippi Democratic Party leads to historic 2019 loss
The Mississippi Democratic Party, once a powerful organization that controlled every sector of state government and politics, had no organized structure during the crucial 2019 statewide election. Bobby Moak, a former state representative who was elected chairman of the Democratic Party in 2016, has served as the party's de facto strategy chief and fundraiser the past four years. "In a nutshell, the role of the state party is supporting candidates and supporting our elected officials," Moak told Mississippi Today. "I think we've done a good job. Do we have more work to do? Yes. But we've sure made a lot of progress in the last four years." But over the past several weeks, about two dozen Democratic candidates and elected officials told Mississippi Today they received no support from the state party in 2019. The lack of staff structure contributed to that failed mission last year, several people who worked directly with party officials said.
Sanderson Warns Coronavirus to Weigh on Poultry Production
Sanderson Farms Inc. warned the coronavirus is expected to increase expenses and weigh on production volumes for the rest of its fiscal year, another sign of how the pandemic disrupted meat production. "We anticipate these lower production rates and higher operating costs will continue until the effects of Covid-19 on our company, our customers, our employees and the communities in which we operate diminish," Joe Sanderson, chief executive of the poultry processor, said Thursday. Sanderson, based in Laurel, Miss., said it has taken steps to protect its workforce, and on March 31 announced it would add $1 per hour to pay for employees who worked their scheduled hours through June 26. At an investor conference last week, Mr. Sanderson said the company was seeing about 600 absent employees a day out of roughly 18,000 workers overall. For each employee who contracts the disease, the company sends home, with pay, another two to five people who worked in close proximity to the infected worker for two weeks to try to avoid outbreaks.
Joe Biden's 'You ain't black' draws different views from black elected leaders in Mississippi
Appearing on "The Breakfast Club" with Lenard McKelvey, aka Charlamagne tha God, last week, Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden told the black radio host that if he cannot decide whether to vote for Biden or President Donald Trump, then he "ain't black." The former Vice President walked back his comments soon after the firestorm erupted, telling the U.S. Black Chambers, "I shouldn't have been so cavalier," and adding, "I shouldn't have been such a wise guy... No one should have to vote for any party, based on their race or religion or background." Supporters of Biden for President have referred to the comment as a joke, seemingly taking their cues from his Senior Advisor Symone Sanders. Mississippi Senate Minority Leader, Derrick Simmons said Biden's comments did not sway his support of the Presidential candidate. He echoed Sanders' proclamation that it was a joke and that the candidate's record is clear. Sen. Simmons added that he was unaware if Biden's remarks gave any other members of the Mississippi Legislative Black Caucus pause.
US layoffs climb to 41 million, despite business reopenings
An estimated 2.1 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week despite the gradual reopening of businesses around the country, bringing the running total since the coronavirus shutdowns took hold in mid-March to about 41 million, the government said Thursday. The figures underscored the continuing damage to businesses and livelihoods from the outbreak that has now killed at least 100,000 people in the U.S., more than the number of Americans lost in the Vietnam and Korean wars combined, and more than 33 times the death toll on 9/11. The U.S. unemployment rate was 14.7% in April, the highest since the Depression, and many economists expect it will near 20% in May. First-time applications for unemployment, though still extraordinarily high, have fallen for eight straight weeks, and states are gradually letting stores, restaurants, salons, gyms and other businesses reopen. But other employers are still laying off workers in the face of a deep recession.
Pace of economic recovery could shape races in swing states
The economic downturn from the coronavirus pandemic has hit some swing states with close electoral races harder than others, with federal data indicating damage that may linger through the November elections. Across the country, unemployment rates have climbed, business formation has declined and a majority of businesses fear they may not recover. Michigan Democratic Sen. Gary Peters, who is running for reelection this fall, said the handling of the crisis will shape voter views at the ballot box. "What everybody's focused on is getting through the COVID-19 crisis," Peters told CQ Roll Call. "So it's certainly going to continue to be an issue in November." The worst-hit states include Peters' Michigan as well as a handful of others with competitive elections for the House, Senate and White House. That includes Nevada, Georgia and Pennsylvania. All four of those states have seen one-quarter or more of the workforce apply for unemployment since February, including furloughed employees.
President Trump to sign executive order on social media amid Twitter furor
President Donald Trump is expected to sign an executive order aimed at social media companies Thursday, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters Wednesday evening, a move that comes as the president and his allies have escalated their allegations that companies like Twitter and Facebook stifle GOP voices. The announcement revived fears within the online industry that the Trump administration will target a 1996 statute that protects the companies from lawsuits -- an avenue that a growing number of Republican lawmakers are advocating as they press their bias accusations about Silicon Valley. The statute has helped tech giants earn many billions of dollars from users' tweets, posts, likes, photos and videos, with limited legal liability, while giving them broad leeway to remove material they consider "objectionable." But Trump and his supporters contend they are abusing that power. Any attempt to go after the tech companies through regulations could face serious obstacles, however.
'Unbelievable devastation': 1 dead as George Floyd protests boil over again
A man was shot to death as protests over the death of George Floyd dissolved into looting Wednesday night in south Minneapolis, with streams of people pulling goods from Target, Cub Foods and other local businesses. Fires, some of which are still burning, engulfed the Lake Street area in smoke. Police said they were investigating Wednesday night's death as a homicide and had a suspect in custody, but were still investigating what led to the shooting. Protesters began gathering in the early afternoon near the city's 3rd Precinct station. Police deployed chemical irritant gas early in the evening as some protesters threw rocks at the building and tensions escalated. Hoping to avoid a repeat of Tuesday night's chaos and violence, Gov. Tim Walz weighed in on Twitter, asking people to protest peacefully. The chaos erupted again a day after four Minneapolis police officers were fired in the wake of a video showing a white Minneapolis police officer with his knee on Floyd's neck Monday night. Handcuffed and face down, Floyd told the officer he couldn't breathe. He later died.
President Trump asks DOJ, FBI to expedite probe into George Floyd death
President Trump on Wednesday said he asked the Department of Justice and FBI to expedite an investigation into the death of George Floyd, who died in the custody of Minneapolis police earlier this week. "At my request, the FBI and the Department of Justice are already well into an investigation as to the very sad and tragic death in Minnesota of George Floyd," Trump tweeted Wednesday evening. "I have asked for this investigation to be expedited and greatly appreciate all of the work done by local law enforcement. My heart goes out to George's family and friends. Justice will be served!" he added. The FBI was already said to be investigating Floyd's death, along with local authorities. All four police officers involved in the incident have been fired from the Minneapolis Police Department. Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey (D) earlier Wednesday called for charges against the officer who knelt on Floyd's neck.
College Bound: Mississippi State, Ole Miss top choices for Northside graduates
The numbers are in, and for the fourth year in a row, Mississippi State University is the top choice among Northside graduates. This fall, 273 seniors say they will attend the Starkville university, while 252 will be attending the University of Mississippi. Mississippi State proved to be the top choice for students at St. Joseph Catholic School and Madison-Ridgeland Academy (MRA). St. Joe will have 13 seniors attend MSU in the fall. Like St. Joe, MRA will be well represented in Starkville this fall, with 31 graduates expected to attend the North Mississippi school.
UMMC laying off 250 positions due to financial deficit from coronavirus pandemic
The University of Mississippi Medical Center is laying off 250 people from their workforce. The information was outlined in a memo sent out to employees Wednesday morning. The hospital cites financial hardships from the coronavirus pandemic. The memo states in part: "Despite some areas within our organization being busier than ever in response to COVID-19, patient volumes dropped significantly and revenues decreased correspondingly. We have experienced a patient care revenue loss of more than $1 million per day since mid-March, and this loss continues day after day... Our internal projections show a negative $100 million financial impact to UMMC." Dr. LouAnn Woodward, UMMC vice chancellor for health affairs says the hospital has never faced this type of challenge: "I would dare say UMMC has not faced a challenge of this magnitude before in all of its 65 years of existence. It will take guts, grit and fortitude to pull through to the other side. Today's action is an example of how very tough decisions with difficult consequences will be required. However, I am confident we can, and we will, weather this storm and emerge stronger than ever,"
COVID-19: UMMC Expert on Emerging Knowledge of the Virus
In March, Dr. Bhagyashri Navalkele watched the crowds gathering on America's beaches during spring break with a heavy weight on her shoulders. Mardi Gras came and went, crowds swelling in the French Quarter of New Orleans, and the consequences of that event and others were not lost on her two months after she began to prepare for the coming catastrophe. "It was extremely concerning," Navalkele said in a May 21 phone interview with the Jackson Free Press. Navalkele is the medical director of infection prevention and control at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. By Christmas last year, the "virus of unknown origin" had caught her eye, then mostly contained in China's Hubei province. It would not be long into 2020 before the gravity of the disease dawned on Navalkele. By the end of January, the UMMC staff was already anticipating what the crisis would look like when it finally hit the Magnolia State. "On January 27, we started to do education for our employees and our staff ... providing them with what we knew about the virus so far, and what measures could prevent exposure," Navalkele said.
Pine Belt colleges, K-12 schools look to reopen campuses this fall
Hattiesburg's two universities plan to see students on campus fall semester after spending most of spring semester closed due to coronavirus. Meanwhile, officials in the K-12 system are looking at a variety of scenarios that include students returning to the classroom after these schools also closed after spring break. As local and state leaders look to reopen businesses to jump start the economy, these education entities are also working to plan a safe way to return students to campuses by fall. The University of Southern Mississippi expects fall semester to begin Aug. 24. "As we continue to navigate the ever-evolving COVID-19 pandemic, I am pleased to share that we are planning to resume on-campus operations this fall," Rodney Bennett, Southern Miss president, wrote April 29 in a letter to recipients including current students, faculty, staff and admitted students. Those operations include face-to-face classes, said Kate Howard, assistant vice president and dean of admissions. University officials were not ruling out protective face coverings, social distancing, increased sanitation of high-traffic areas and course modifications, Bennett said in the letter. He said large gatherings, like athletic events, would depend on public health guidelines.
JSU's Gwen Bouie-Haynes is new executive director of Mississippi Chapter of National Association of Social Workers
Dr. Gwen Bouie-Haynes has been chosen as the new executive director of The National Association of Social Workers, Mississippi Chapter. Bouie-Haynes, who recently served as an adjunct professor at JSU in the Master of Social Work program, taught courses focusing on children/youth, oppression, health and human behavior. Her professional experience in social work includes legislative advocacy work, nonprofit development, grant-writing, consulting, community organizing, program development and implementation. Bouie-Haynes earned a Ph.D. in Social Work with a concentration in Social Policy, Planning and Administration from Jackson State.
Millsaps College Builds on Fulbright Record
The number of Millsaps College students who have received Fulbright awards continues to grow. Recent graduate Mary Austin Willis has been selected for a Fulbright award, with plans to serve as an English Teaching Assistant in South Korea. Her award brings the total number of Fulbright grant winners from Millsaps to 17. Cailey Ness and Wayne Dowdy, also spring 2020 graduates, have been named as alternates for ETA awards. Ness hopes to serve in Vietnam, while Dowdy is aiming for Colombia. This spring marked the first time the college has had three semi-finalists at the same time. Students who apply for Fulbright grants are mentored through the process by Dr. Lynn Raley, associate professor of music and a Fulbright Scholar himself in 2012-13. Raley taught at the National Chiao Tung University in Taiwan and performed several solo concerts on the island that featured new scores by American and Taiwanese composers. Now a Fulbright Program Adviser, Raley helps applicants navigate the application and interview processes.
William Carey University hosts virtual education recruitment session
Dean of Education and Executive Vice President of William Carey University Dr. Ben Burnett said the coronavirus pandemic caused the Department of Education to rethink how it connects with students, and that includes recruitment. Like with many interactions now, the university is virtually recruiting graduates of education. "This is not just for Mississippi or people in the area, because our online graduate programs are really reaching all over the country," Burnett said. Burnett said WCU will spread that national reach with a live virtual graduate of education recruitment session on Facebook and William Carey's YouTube page on June 2. Burnett said they will cover everything future educators need to know about licensure, admission requirements and more.
William Carey faculty member elected president of state education association
Dr. Kim Benton of William Carey University is the new president-elect of the Mississippi Education Leadership Faculty Association, which represents colleges and universities that have educational leadership programs. "MELFA provides a structured forum for educational leadership faculty to collaborate and strengthen graduate programs across our state. It is truly an honor to serve in this capacity and represent William Carey University," Benton said. Benton worked in public education in Mississippi for 37 years. In summer 2018, Benton joined William Carey University, where she serves on the faculty of the Educational Leadership Department of the School of Education. Benton and her husband, Dr. Gary Benton, retired chair of education at Mississippi State University in Meridian, have five children and 12 grandchildren.
ERDC researcher awarded top honor from U. of Alabama
Dr. Tim Rushing of the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) in Vicksburg has earned one of the top awards at the University of Alabama -- the 2020 Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering Department Distinguished Fellow Award. Rushing, who is chief of the Airfields and Pavements branch in the Geotechnical and Structures Laboratory, graduated with a bachelor's in civil engineering from Alabama in 2000. After earning a master's and doctoral degree from Mississippi State University, he joined the ERDC team in 2005 as a research civil engineer. Throughout his 15-year career, Rushing has primarily researched expedient matting systems, which are flat, lightweight planks that can be quickly assembled to build temporary roads or airfields for the military. Since the 1940s, the ERDC, formerly known as the Waterways Experiment Station, has led all matting evaluation efforts for the Department of Defense.
U. of Kentucky will avoid layoffs in budget
As the spring semester comes to a close and the initial wave of revenue loss, belt-tightening and staff reductions subsides, colleges are looking ahead to next year's budget. Many colleges say that 2021 budgets will feature layoffs to account for revenue shortfalls. The University of Kentucky is bucking that trend. Kentucky said last week that its 2021 budget would not include any "reductions in force," a sharp contrast to an April announcement that the university predicted 1,700 furloughs as a result of the pandemic. Instead, the university is planning to weather its estimated $70 million revenue shortfall through a hiring freeze, changes to employee retirement fund contributions and by delaying an expansion of its family leave policy. Additional furloughs are also still on the table, though none are planned at the moment. But the university hasn't had to furlough so many employees, said Jay Blanton, a spokesperson for the university. To date, 700 clinical employees at UK Healthcare have been furloughed, in addition to nearly 300 university staff in dental clinics, dining services and parking -- just over half of the university's expected temporary staff reductions.
U. of South Carolina will require everyone on campus to wear a mask beginning June 1
The University of South Carolina is requiring everyone on its main campus to begin wearing a mask because of the coronavirus pandemic. Students, faculty, staff and visitors are required to wear a mask in classrooms, Thomas Cooper library, Russell House student center, Student Health Services and anywhere it is difficult to remain six feet or more away from someone, USC President Robert Caslen announced Wednesday. "We wear face coverings in order to protect others, and as Gamecocks we pledge to demonstrate concern for others," Caslen said in the message. "The research is clear: an infected person wearing a face covering may reduce the spread of COVID-19 to others." USC will provide reusable, washable face masks for every student, faculty and staff member, Caslen said. The policy will go into effect June 1, when some students and faculty will begin returning to campus.
Coronavirus: How U. of Tennessee plans to reopen in fall
As universities prepare to reopen, there is no question that classes, dorms and schedules will not be the same. But University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Chancellor Donde Plowman says the campus community is ready to work together this fall. "We've really never had a challenge like this in higher education that I can think of that required all of us to share in this problem and in its solution," Plowman said. "We're going to be relying on students to buy into the culture of taking care of each other," she later said. "Until this virus subsides or until we have a vaccine or until we know more, something different than we know now, we will go by the guidelines." Preparing to return to campus during a pandemic will require everyone to commit to the changes the university makes, she told Knox News. Some aspects of campus life will look vastly different. Among the key changes will be how classes are held, how students are living on campus and the option for employees to continue working from home.
The New Communication Plan? Overcommunication
How much to say, when to say it, and to whom, are key questions for higher education leaders as they approach the high-stakes gamble of whether to reopen their campuses in the fall. While the students, faculty, and staff members who've experienced months of disruption -- and local businesses who depend on lively campuses -- would love to see that happen, reopening will present big risks. A failure to communicate effectively now may cause confusion and suspicion. If things go wrong, resulting in a wave of infections and even death, shattered public trust may stain a college's reputation for decades. Students are perhaps the group yearning most for a normal campus experience. Colleges want the same thing, which makes it all the more important -- and difficult -- for them to be honest about the risks of doing so. Employees are probably more sensitive than many students to the risks of returning to campus. Remember that communication with employees has a ripple effect.
Colleges Applaud Proposal to Expand National Science Foundation
The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities praised the introduction of a bipartisan bill in the U.S. Congress that would dramatically expand the National Science Foundation and pump $100 billion into the agency over five years to increase research in areas like artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics and advanced manufacturing. Under the Endless Frontiers Act, the NSF would be renamed the National Science and Technology Foundation. The new agency would have two deputy directors -- one to oversee the NSF's current operations and another to lead a new technology directorate to advance technology in 10 areas as the U.S. faces greater competition from China and other countries. Peter McPherson, APLU's president, said in a statement, "Federal investment in R&D has languished in recent decades. As a share of the economy, it's a third of what it was at its peak. China and other countries, meanwhile, have vastly expanded their investments in research and development. The current pandemic has underscored the critical need to redouble public investment in research and development. We must ensure more of these innovations and advancements take place in the U.S. rather than elsewhere around the globe."
Proposed Legislation Would Bar Chinese STEM Graduate Students
Two Republican senators and a Republican congressman introduced legislation on Wednesday that would bar Chinese nationals from receiving student or research visas to the United States for graduate or postgraduate studies in science, technology, engineering or mathematics fields. Senators Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and Representative David Kustoff, also of Tennessee, announced their proposals, which they framed as intended to combat espionage and intellectual property theft on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party. "We've fed China's innovation drought with American ingenuity and taxpayer dollars for too long; it's time to secure the U.S. research enterprise against the CCP's economic espionage," Blackburn said in a press release. The introduction of the bill represents an escalation in efforts by Republican lawmakers to restrict Chinese students, who accounted for about 13.5 percent of the 42,227 students earning doctorates in science and engineering fields at U.S. universities in 2018. Cotton suggested on Fox News last month that lawmakers need to take "a very hard look" at visas for Chinese students, especially those studying advanced science at the graduate level.
U.S. to Expel Chinese Graduate Students With Ties to China's Military Schools
The Trump administration plans to cancel the visas of thousands of Chinese graduate students and researchers in the United States who have direct ties to universities affiliated with the People's Liberation Army, according to American officials with knowledge of the discussions. The plan would be the first designed to bar the access of a category of Chinese students, who, over all, form the single largest foreign student population in the United States. It portends possible further educational restrictions, and the Chinese government could retaliate by imposing its own visa or educational bans on Americans. The two nations have already engaged in rounds of retribution over policies involving trade, technology and media access, and relations are at their worst point in decades. American universities are expected to push back against the administration's move. The visa cancellation could affect at least 3,000 students, according to some official estimates. That is a tiny percentage of the approximately 360,000 Chinese students in the United States. But some of those affected might be working on important research projects.
The Covid-19 Census Could Cost College Towns Millions
After months of preparation, Cornell University in early March was ready to launch its plan to get its entire student body counted in the 2020 Census. It was a tall order: Students are historically a hard-to-count population. But for a community like Ithaca, N.Y., a small, remote college town whose population is about 50-percent students, the task is critical, said Kate Supron, Cornell's campus-community liaison. The once-a-decade count of the nation's population is used, among other things, to distribute billions of dollars in federal funds for a host of services, to divide state and federal legislative districts, and to help businesses decide where to invest. But as the university was about to open its Census campaign, the Covid-19 outbreak shut down the campus, and many students returned to their hometowns, a sudden development that added an extra dose of confusion to the survey process. And it risks costing communities like Ithaca dearly. For many cities and towns, a Census undercount could mean losing out on millions of dollars in federal funds.

Ole Miss, Mississippi State give thoughts on attendance for football
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, pulling off a college football season could be a logistical nightmare. "I can assure this: it will not be perfect," Mississippi State athletic director John Cohen told the Clarion Ledger. "It will not be perfect anywhere. It doesn't matter if it's the Superdome, it doesn't matter if it's Gillette Stadium or Scott Field in Starkville, Mississippi. It will not be perfect, but we're going to make every effort to make it as perfect as it can be." Cohen has been devising ways to make Davis Wade Stadium a fan-friendly venue come September when the football season starts. Cohen said it will be paramount to know how many people are allowed to enter the stadium. "Is that number 40% of capacity? Is it 20%? Is it 60%? At this point, we don't know," Cohen said. "I am very optimistic about getting fans into the gates at this point. I just can't latch onto a number until we get more information." That information, of course, is incredibly volatile. "How much has the world changed in the last three months, and how much is it going to change in the next three? That's the challenge," Cohen said. "So here's what I do -- I drive my staff crazy with every possible contingency we can think of."
MSU football coach Mike Leach describes what it's like trying to coach football during the pandemic
All college football teams have been in the same boat the last couple of months when it comes to preparing for the upcoming season and that means working remotely. It's also challenging for first year head coaches like Mike Leach. The Mississippi State football coach is known for the Air Raid offense but that will take some time to teach to his new players. MSU's new head coach spoke with Laura Rutledge on the SEC Network's "No Off-Season" series about what he's been dealing with when it comes to preparing players and his staff remotely. "We watch some film but it gets a little awkward when you don't have the face to face engagement. When you're not in the same room together where you can't have quite the exchange of questions and things like that," Leach said. "You know everything from giving somebody the pen and saying here draw it up and let's see if you remember this type of thing. Everything from walk through to a physical aspect I guess is the most important thing. You give them a picture of it on video in the meeting room and then you try to execute physically and obviously you can't do that."
For Mississippi State volleyball, standout freshmen and talented transfers offer reasons for optimism
Margaret Dean hasn't been a member of the Mississippi State volleyball team -- nor of the team's group message -- very long. The graduate transfer from Stephen F. Austin was only officially announced as a Bulldog on April 15, but as soon as she was added to the players' group text, Dean's new teammates showed the friendliness the setter had come to hope for. "They were all so welcoming," Dean said. "I could tell they all have each other's backs, which is so important on a team." After their spring training, supposed to be a "preview" of the competition they'll see this fall, was cut short by more than a month due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bulldogs are raring to return to the court as soon as they can -- although they don't yet know when that will be. "'Whenever we can come back, we're all in,'" captains Logan Brown and Kendall Murr have stressed to their teammates. When that long-awaited return does eventually happen -- and the Bulldogs have confidence it will -- Mississippi State will boast a completely new look.
3 things Southern Miss fans can expect at football games this fall
When college football returns, Saturdays at the Rock won't look the same. The Southern Miss athletic department is putting together a plan for fans to enter into stadiums in a safe and secure manner for the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Athletic director Jeremy McClain said the university's health department is assisting in the effort. "I think the main thing for us is if we get the green light and we feel comfortable with coming back, we've got a plan," McClain said. "It's not going to be come back and business as usual. We've got a plan, and we're working to fine tune that plan on how you clean up after practice, how do you handle the locker room, how do you clean your shoulder pads?" Despite losing approximately $1.5 million in the second quarter of 2020, McClain said he doesn't anticipate season-ticket prices to increase to make up for the previous losses. The capacity at M.M Roberts Stadium is 36,000. With the social distancing rules put in place today, McClain said the limit for attendance would stand at about 30%, which would be 10,800.
Return of Mississippi high school sports: 'Social distancing pretty much goes away' during competition
In Mississippi, athletes playing spring sports saw their seasons come to a premature end. The Mississippi High School Activities Association announced its decision on April 15 to cancel all sports competition until the start of the 2020-21 academic year because of the coronavirus pandemic. However, some activities for high school athletes are on the verge of returning. On June 1, players can begin summer practices, workouts, skill developments, weightlifting and conditioning as long as schools approve and are open for use. For many, soon the focus will shift to fall competition. "It would be a sense of normalcy for everybody and having football this fall would bring our community together," West Point athletic director Chris Chambless said. "It has been tough being away from the coaches and the guys, but safety and our student-athletes come first." As players are forced to adjust, fans will likely have to do the same. "There may be some restrictions on having or not having fans or allowing the parents to attend the events on behalf of their children," MHSAA executive director Don Hinton said. "We will know once we get the guidelines."
Governor issues guidelines for return of youth sports
Governor Tate Reeves released guidelines on how youth athletic teams should proceed with returning to practices and games as part of an executive order announced Wednesday. For practices, players must be screened by a coach for COVID-19 before stepping onto the field and will be sent home if they exhibit any symptoms. Players and coaches must use hand sanitizer before and after practices, social distancing between personnel should be ensured and parents must remain in their cars if they choose to stay and watch. Additionally, players should use their own equipment, which should be kept 6 feet apart, and bring their own drinks and food. Drinking fountains and other shared items are not allowed. While dugouts will be closed for practices, they are allowed to be used during games, which a maximum of 100 people will be allowed to attend, including coaches, players and fans. Many of the same rules of practices apply to games for players such as being screened for symptoms, using hand sanitizer and not sharing equipment or personal items.
Arkansas AD Hunter Yurachek talks reopening plan
University of Arkansas Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek said Wednesday that athletes returning to the UA campus in the coming days will undergo "very robust" physical examinations and screening, but will only be tested for covid-19 if they are symptomatic. Yurachek made the remarks on a video teleconference in advance of the reopening of some UA athletic facilities on June 8 in tandem with many other SEC athletic departments. All on-campus athletic activities across the SEC have been suspended since March 13. "Based on the recommendation of the SEC task force, our student-athletes, before they will be allowed to get into any of our facilities, they'll have to pass a physical exam," Yurachek said. "There will be daily screenings for symptoms, they will be temperature screened, they will be asked to maintain social distancing. They will be asked to wear masks when entering and exiting the facilities. They will not be required to wear a mask while they're working out."
'It's got to take a lifestyle change.' UGA works on approach for athletes return to campus
The University of Georgia is taking a methodical approach when it comes to its athletes returning to campus next month. Only football players will be in the first wave back even though the SEC gave the go-ahead last week for all of its athletes to begin voluntary workouts starting on June 8. "We're focused on one sport and one facility," athletic director Greg McGarity said. "Our efforts are all focused on that because we all realize that we have one chance to get it right. If we don't get it right then every other sport is at risk. It's imperative we get football right." Men's basketball and women's basketball were initially included with football when the NCAA Division I Council last week approved athletes returning to campuses starting June 1 for the first time since the novel coronavirus crisis shut down college sports. Then two days later all athletes were given the OK by the NCAA and the SEC to also start workouts. Soccer, volleyball and cross country -- Georgia's other fall sports -- don't have a set restart date yet, McGarity said Monday. He said director of sports medicine Ron Courson is overseeing when UGA teams may return.
College move-in is a big milestone. New Gamecocks face added wrinkles during pandemic
Dee Amos settled on a phrasing for her feelings. "Concerned? Yes," Amos said. "Worried? No." Being retired military, Amos is good as long as there's a plan. She's about to send her son Rashad off to college. In normal circumstances, that's enough to raise the emotions of a parent. But as a soon-to-be University of South Carolina football player, he's part of an early wave of students returning to college campuses after the coronavirus shut down colleges, sports and numerous other elements of American life. The State spoke to parents of three incoming Gamecocks signees. Asked if there was an extra level of worry because of the pandemic, each parent indicated a sense of faith the school will do what is necessary to keep their sons safe. Players will get "daily symptoms and temperature check(s)," according to plans shared by South Carolina's athletics department. They will also be kept in small workout clusters of four to six people to prevent spread if someone contracts the virus. The school also said facilities "have undergone a strict cleaning process to ensure they have been fully disinfected and will include additional hand sanitizing stations." Masks and hand-washing are also being required.
Tennessee football at Neyland Stadium in 2020? Here's what it could look like
David Berri sees a positive future for sports attendance -- just likely not in 2020. The professor of economics with a specialty in sports at Southern Utah University expects an uptick once the coronavirus pandemic passes. "Once people feel safe, you are going to see a blip up in attendance," said Berri, who has spent the past two decades researching sports and economics. "People will go that might normally not have because they can now. I have likened this to what happened at the end of World War II. There was a huge spike in baseball attendance in 1946." Similarly, Berri thinks attendance at a place like the University of Tennessee could surge in the future. "I don't see any reason to think football won't be a popular sport," Berri said. "The same reason why it was popular before, it will be popular again. This is all temporary." But what does it look like in the temporary stages before Berri's projected rebound? Assuming Tennessee plays its full schedule as planned this fall and permits limited fans to attend at some point, college football stadiums still will look different. "What can you do that will make people feel safe?" said Gil Fried, a professor at the University of New Haven and expert on stadium safety and risk management. "You have a lot of people that might be scared to go to places because they think it isn't safe."
Memphis AD Laird Veatch: Still much uncertainty in the future
The only thing Laird Veatch is certain of today is that nothing about tomorrow is certain. Which is why the first-year University of Memphis athletic director has and continues to stress preparedness and flexibility. The novel coronavirus that resulted in the ongoing COVID-19 global pandemic may have caught many in college athletics off-guard. The seismic financial blow it has dealt the industry has been well-documented. And, Veatch admits, the immediate outlook is potentially even more bleak. "The more uncertainty is about next fiscal year and what that looks like," he said. Veatch, who played linebacker at Kansas State for Hall of Fame coach Bill Snyder, is largely optimistic the 2020 college football season will be played. But how will the likelihood of limited or no fan attendance affect Memphis' bottom line in 2021? Memphis generated $55,815,109 in total revenue for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2019. Veatch expects the university's athletic department will fall short of its projected revenue total for fiscal year 2020 by about $2.5 million.
U. of Minnesota restricts ties with Minneapolis Police after George Floyd's death
Two days after Minnesota resident George Floyd was killed after being pinned to the ground by police, University of Minnesota president Joan Gabel announced the school will no longer use the Minneapolis Police Department for large events such as football games, concerts and ceremonies. Gabel also said the MPD would no longer be used for specialized services, like those provided by K-9 explosive detection units, at other university events. "Our hearts are broken after watching the appalling video capturing the actions of Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) officers against George Floyd leading to his tragic death," Gabel said in a letter to students, faculty and staff. "As a community, we are outraged and grief-stricken. I do not have the words to fully express my pain and anger and I know that many in our community share those feelings, but also fear for their own safety. This will not stand." The Minnesota Vikings also voiced their support on Twitter, as the incident occurred near U.S. Bank Stadium.

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 28, 2020Facebook Twitter