Thursday, June 4, 2020   
Business and innovation leader named director of MSU Advanced Composites Institute
Christopher Bounds, a polymer scientist with extensive training and experience in business, marketing, leadership and innovation, is the new director of Mississippi State's Advanced Composites Institute. The unit is part of MSU's Raspet Flight Research Laboratory, the nation's leading academic research institute dedicated exclusively to the advancement of Unmanned Aircraft Systems. Bounds joins MSU from Albemarle Corp., headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., where he served in positions of increasing technical and leadership responsibility for the past eight years. Most recently, Bounds led global innovation and business development efforts within the chemical giant's Bromine Specialties Business Unit. A native of Newton, Bounds holds both a doctorate in polymer chemistry and a Master of Business Administration from LSU and a bachelor's degree in chemistry from the University of Southern Mississippi.
Think 'dairy' to support industry hard-hit by pandemic
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, many tough sights have come our way via national news and social media. One of them is footage of thousands of gallons of milk being pumped out onto the ground. June is National Dairy Month, but the dairy industry -- and produce farmers in general -- have been hard-hit by a coronavirus that gutted demand. Closures of schools and a hammered hospitality industry abruptly left dairy farmers with a limited market. But even when consumption dries up, cows still need milking -- even if there is nowhere for that milk to go but down the drain. COVID-19 has heaped pressure on Mississippi dairy farmers who were already under strain, especially smaller family farms, said Amanda Stone. She is an assistant professor and Extension Service dairy specialist with Mississippi State University. How might consumers help dairy farmers outlast the pandemic's effects? We can remind ourselves dairy products can be go-tos for nutrients from calcium to potassium to protein.
Catfish producers can make case for relief funds
Catfish producers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic have the opportunity to provide the U.S. Department of Agriculture information on why they should be eligible for economic assistance through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program. Although the catfish industry was not included in the final rule announced on May 19, a separate amount of funds is available for other eligible industries, including aquaculture and nursery crops, if the USDA gets all the needed information. "USDA has just announced they are looking for data from catfish farmers related to price declines, loss of marketing outlets and the amount of fish that remain unharvested as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic," said Jimmy Avery, Mississippi State University Extension Service aquaculture specialist. "This clearly shows USDA's commitment to make catfish producers eligible for direct payments under the program. But the Farm Service Agency won't be ready to accept applications from catfish producers yet," he said. Farmers can take two steps to help ensure they are eligible to apply for and receive direct monetary payments once funding is determined, Avery said.
Mississippi State's Jacob Mlsna selected as Swayze Scholar by Mississippi Bankers Association
Jacob Mlsna, a senior at Mississippi State University, has been selected as the 2020 Orrin H. Swayze Scholar by the Mississippi Bankers Association Education Foundation and the Mississippi Young Bankers section of the MBA. Mlsna was chosen from applicants across Mississippi to receive the $5,000 scholarship, which is given annually to Mississippi's most outstanding banking and finance student. The Orrin H. Swayze Scholastic Awards, first awarded in 1979, are given each year to five outstanding college seniors who are majoring in banking and finance at state-supported universities. The awards are presented in honor of Orrin H. Swayze, who was a widely-respected banker in Mississippi and a pioneer in continuing education in the field of banking. Other Swayze finalists included Mandy French, Mississippi State University; Alese Jones, University of Southern Mississippi; Brandon Cade, University of Southern Mississippi; and Pruthvi Patel, University of Mississippi.
STAGgerIn Topgolf Swing Suites coming to College View
Jason Roden opened STAGgerIn Sports Bar in the Cotton District on April 1, 2011. No joke. Nearly a decade later, the sports bar will soon relocate to College View with a few surprises in store for its loyal customer base. Partnering with Topgolf Swing Suites, STAGgerIn will have your classic sports bar favorites with an interactive simulator to put your athletic capabilities to the test. Roden anticipates the new attraction to bring in a large crowd and hopes to add an additional gaming screen if things take off. Moving into 385 College View, the Mississippi State University development just off campus, Roden said he'll have more than 3,000 square feet to work with. "When I signed (my lease) at College View, I always wanted to have more of a gaming area," Roden said. "I checked out Swing Suites in Atlanta and South Carolina and fell in love with it. ...It's going to be something pretty good. I really feel like it's just a home run." Due to COVID-19, Roden said he's run into more than a few roadblocks. Now, he's finally happy to get the ball rolling. Barring any more delays, he hopes to have construction start by the end of June and open by mid-September.
What is tear gas?
Jan Chambers, the director of the Center for Environmental Health Sciences and a Giles Distinguished Professor at Mississippi State University, writes for The Conversation: In the past week, there have been reports of tear gas being used to control crowds protesting the death of George Floyd, so questions have arisen on the dangers of crowd control chemicals. I am a toxicologist interested in chemicals that could be used as weapons and I do research to develop therapies for some of these chemicals. The term tear gas refers to a group of chemical irritants that can be used to control or disperse crowds. The chemicals that are used for this purpose cause irritation of mucous membranes and of the eyes including tearing (hence the name "tear gas"), twitching around the eyes, cough, difficulty breathing and irritation to the skin. They are believed to be short-term irritants and unlikely to kill or cause permanent harm, especially if delivered at relatively low levels, on a single occasion and in open spaces. At high levels in closed spaces, though, they can be lethal.
Black Lives Matter protest set to take place in Starkville this weekend
The death of George Floyd has sparked hundreds of protests across the country over the past week. The group Stand Up Starkville is hosting a protest in Starkville this Saturday. Wednesday morning, the group met with Mayor Lynn Spruill and Starkville Police Chief Mark Ballard to lay out plans for the peaceful protest. Pastor Joseph Stone hoped that with the help of city officials, they would be able to peacefully spread their message. Mississippi State University student Jala Douglas wanted people to know the real meaning behind Saturday's protest. "This is not a anti-police event," said Douglas. "This is a partnership with the police to show that Starkville does not stand for that and that we stand for love and peace and we work together as a community." Leslie Fye, a counselor and longtime Starkville resident, wanted to help bridge the divide between blacks and whites in her community. "I want the African-American community in my small town to know that the white community is here to support you," said Fye.
Engineers: No conflict of interest for Clyde Pritchard on county lake dam project
The allegation that Oktibbeha County Engineer Clyde Pritchard has a conflict of interest in the potential replacement of the Oktibbeha County Lake Dam is unfounded, according to Pritchard and peer engineers from other counties. Pritchard is a private consultant for the county, not an employee, and the county owns and maintains the dam. His firm, Pritchard Engineering, regularly does engineering projects for the county but does not work on private development projects because, he said, it would be unethical for him to take on a project he would have to approve before the county board of supervisors in order for them to authorize it. "There is no conflict of interest," Pritchard said. "The county engineer is appointed to do engineering work for the county." The suggestion of a conflict of interest has been circulating for weeks, and the board of supervisors decided two weeks ago to ask the state attorney general's opinion on the matter. The debate over whether to replace the dam started in January, when Pritchard said the levee showed early signs of breaching. It would have forced a mass evacuation of the neighborhoods surrounding it if the county's emergency action hadn't relieved enough pressure to keep the dam from breaking.
Meridian, Lauderdale County, EMBDC launch economic recovery campaign
The East Mississippi Business Development Corporation, the city of Meridian and Lauderdale County launched a campaign to restart the local economy, as the region continues to feel the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The goal of the "Restart, Restore, Recover" campaign is to help build momentum and confidence as local businesses reopen, according to a news release. "We want to responsibly restart our local economy, help restore jobs and services, and recover our quality of life," EMBDC President and CEO Bill Hannah said. Lauderdale County hotels that were traditionally at 68 percent occupancy were at 25 percent occupancy for the month of April, said Executive Director Dede Mogollon with Lauderdale County Tourism. Meridian's food and beverage sales tax revenue decreased about $16,652 from February to March this year, according to city records. The campaign aims to create momentum for local shopping and dining and visits to entertainment venues and other local businesses.
Double-hit: Closure and major exhibit postponement hits Mississippi Museum of Art hard
The Mississippi Museum of Art has been hit twice. Unlike the recession of 2008, when the museum was still open for business, MMA, like other attractions across the state, has been temporarily shut down as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. Executive Director Betsy Bradley estimates the museum is losing around $100,000 a month in revenue, funds that she's not sure how the nonprofit will be able to make up. The museum closed in mid-March. The COVID-mandated closure has been worse on the museum than the previous downturn in the economy, she said. Then, the museum's endowment revenues dropped, but at least patrons were still coming through the doors. "Our endowment wasn't generating any revenue we could use. Now, we have that situation, plus we can't open," she said. "It's kind of a double-hit." The closure couldn't have come at a worse time. The museum's doors were shuttered right before the opening of "Van Gogh, Monet, Degas and their Times: The Mellon Collection of French Art."
Mississippi legislation providing COVID liability protection to businesses likely
The State of Mississippi fully reopened, under restrictions, on June 1, 2020, after nearly three full months of restrictive regulations due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The virus has hit the economy hard, adversely impacting businesses of all sizes across the world. There have also been indications that businesses could face liability lawsuits as reopening continues. Scott Waller, President and CEO of the Mississippi Economic Council, said moving forward, there needs to be an assurance to businesses and visitors that all involved are taking the appropriate measures to ensure safety. He said one way this can happen is through legislation protecting businesses from potential lawsuits specific to COVID-19. "It's all about giving that confidence to not only the businessperson but it will also give confidence to the consumer that the business has a certain responsibility to follow protocols," said Waller. Potential legislation would provide protection from someone coming in and claiming they contracted COVID-19. It would also protect the business from employees or others making similar claims. Waller hopes that the issue will be addressed quickly by the Legislature, and it seems this is an area where the Legislature and Governor's office are in sync.
Mississippi teacher pay raises doubtful in budget
A pay raise for all public school teachers -- it was the one thing that seemingly every politician in Mississippi could agree on last fall. Candidates from both parties made pay raises a central part of their election campaigns. As recently as February, it looked like a lock that public school teachers would be getting at least a $1,000 raise, after the Senate unanimously passed a bill in early February. A lot has changed since then. The coronavirus pandemic shuttered industries and put tens of thousands of Mississippians out of work. Tax revenue is expected to plummet, and budget cuts appear inevitable. State Economist Darrin Webb likened the economic downturn to going over a cliff. The teacher pay raise bill, SB2001, is currently awaiting action by the House Education Committee, which is chaired by Rep. Richard Bennett, R-Long Beach. The bill might never leave committee. "(Lawmakers are) still trying to look and see what our numbers are gonna be," Bennett said of the state budget. "... We're looking at cutting every agency." The teacher pay raise is a priority, he said, but there's a lot of uncertainty.
Mississippi license offices to reopen with virus precautions
Mississippi driver's license offices will reopen Monday after being closed for about two months because of the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Tate Reeves announced Wednesday. The Department of Public Safety is setting guidelines to try to minimize wait times as officials acknowledge a backlog in the demand for new licenses and license renewals. The 31 offices have been plagued for years with long lines that often require people to take entire days off work just to get a license. Because of short staffing, some license offices have closed on short notice, forcing people to drive long distances to other offices or to return on other days. "Let's be honest -- they were not the most efficiently run operation in the history of the world before COVID-19," Reeves said Wednesday. "The pent-up demand created by this pandemic is only going to make the existing challenges even worse. We believe that we have a plan to make it run as safely and smoothly as possible, but we also know that there's a lot of structural work we've got to do for a real fix."
Mississippi elections chief opposes more mail-in voting
Mississippi Secretary of State Michael Watson said Wednesday that he opposes widespread use of mail-in voting, even during the coronavirus pandemic. However, the Republican said he thinks current Mississippi law allows flexibility for early voting by absentee ballot, and that could shorten lines at polling places on election day. Watson, who is the state's top elections official, said voters could seek absentee ballots by declaring they have a temporary disability because of COVID-19. That could include people who are ill with the virus or who have compromised immune systems or underlying health conditions that make them vulnerable to it. He said local election clerks would determine whether to grant the request and allow that person to vote absentee. "They're going to know if somebody is pulling their leg," Watson said to reporters after he spoke to members of the state House and Senate elections committees.
Secretary of State says existing law allows mail-in voting expansion during coronavirus pandemic. Is that enough?
A section of existing Mississippi law could be used to allow some people to vote early by mail to avoid coronavirus exposure at the polls in November, Secretary of State Michael Watson told legislators Wednesday. Mississippi is one of six states nationwide that have not taken steps to expand voting by mail because of the coronavirus. The House and Senate Elections committees held a joint hearing on Wednesday regarding voting issues in November if the coronavirus is still a concern. In the hearing, Watson said it should be up to local circuit clerks in each county to determine whether a person could vote early under a provision of law that says people with a temporary disability can vote early by mail or in person. But Watson, who is the state's chief elections officer, said he opposed a blanket expansion of vote by mail, though he said he would support an expansion to allow people to vote early in person at local courthouses. Watson added that if a person was seen at Walmart or a sporting goods store the day before, they had no reason to say they were afraid to go to the polls on Election Day to vote.
Mississippi sends Guard troops to Washington amid unrest
About 400 members of the Mississippi National Guard have been deployed to Washington, D.C., amid mass protests over the killing of an African American man in police custody in Minneapolis. Republican Gov. Tate Reeves said Wednesday that Mississippi was one of about eight or nine states to send troops to the nation's capital "at the request of our federal partners." He said the Guard members were sent to protect people who are protesting peacefully and to help ensure "that those who are not peacefully protesting, those who are going across that line and rioting, are dealt with." Reeves has said this week that he respects people's right to peacefully protest. He also said the state would be prepared to respond swiftly to any violence or destruction of property.
Jackson Protest to Honor George Floyd, Call for End to Systemic Racism
alvert White, vice president of Alcorn State University's chapter of the NAACP, says George Floyd is a "martyr," killed by an oppressive power complex that affects everyone in the country. White cautions that the nationwide protests represent far more than outrage over Floyd's killing alone, however. "George Floyd's death is symbolic of police brutality all over the nation. It's very clear that the justice system is inherently flawed," White told the Jackson Free Press. White, along with co-organizer Maisie Brown, are organizing a peaceful protest at the Governor's Mansion in Jackson at 3 p.m. Saturday, June 6, against police brutality and the systemic racism that bolsters and protects it. The organizers of the Jackson protest uniformly stress that the action will be peaceful, including voices from black students, activists, community leaders and artists. The Saturday event will follow Friday’s gathering organized by Mississippi’s Poor People’s Campaign, which will take place outside Attorney General Lynn Fitch’s office at the Walter Sillers Building on June 5 at noon.
Republicans face looming unemployment dilemma
Forty million Americans are unemployed and extra unemployment benefits expire at the end of next month. Meanwhile, Senate Republicans are grappling with deep ideological divisions over what to do with the popular program in the middle of a pandemic and an election year. Most Republicans have roundly rejected the House Democrats' approach of extending a $600 weekly boost to unemployment checks though January 2021, and some say the enhanced benefits may need to end altogether. Many Republicans think the extra money makes it less enticing for Americans to go back to work -- already a concern for people considering the dangers of being infected by coronavirus in the workplace. "We're never going to recover economically from the pandemic if everybody is at home watching Netflix," said Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.). "The way we're doing it now ... has as much chance of passing as my son has of getting a Porsche for his birthday. Not going to happen. Nonnegotiable." Fights over unemployment benefits amid a recession have long been politically charged, pitting the need to aid a reeling population against against Republicans' decadeslong efforts to shrink government. And some in the GOP concede that Congress can't just cut off that relief money cold turkey.
Minority groups hit hard by crisis seek more congressional aid
Minority groups that are losing jobs at higher rates amid the pandemic-driven economic crash are looking to Congress for quick action, but it may be months before lawmakers can deliver more help. Current record-high jobless numbers among minorities suggest the crisis may hit these communities harder than during the Great Recession. In April, unemployment hit 16 percent among African Americans and 18 percent among Hispanics. The rate was 14.5 percent for Asian Americans. The Bureau of Labor Statistics will release May unemployment numbers on Friday. University of California economics professor Robert Fairlie said the longer the crisis goes on, the more damage it will wreak on minority households and their wealth. The economic blow comes at the same time minorities are getting hit disproportionately hard by coronavirus infections. African Americans, in particular, are dying of COVID-19 at higher rates than whites, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Former Defense Secretary James Mattis denounces President Trump in blistering statement on protests
Former Defense Secretary James Mattis condemned President Trump for his handling of the protests over George Floyd's death in a fiery statement released Wednesday. "I have watched this week's unfolding events, angry and appalled," Mattis wrote in a statement to The Atlantic. "The words 'Equal Justice Under Law' are carved in the pediment of the United States Supreme Court. This is precisely what protesters are rightly demanding. It is a wholesome and unifying demand -- one that all of us should be able to get behind. We must not be distracted by a small number of lawbreakers," he added. Mattis said Trump is the first president in his lifetime "who does not try to unite the American people -- does not even pretend to try." "We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership," Mattis added.
Are public pensions doomed because of the coronavirus pandemic? State, local budgets feel pain
Corey Shelton, an eighth grade science teacher in Jackson, Michigan, has earned a pension after more than 20 years on the job, but now he's concerned that the economic devastation from the coronavirus pandemic will threaten the monthly checks he's been counting on to fund his retirement. Before this crisis even began, state pension plans across the country were already more than $1 trillion short of the funding needed to pay their future obligations to retirees, according to retirement experts at The Pew Charitable Trusts. Now, with stocks well below recent highs and state and local government budgets crunched due to the coronavirus, public pensions are suddenly at risk of even greater shortfalls. Facing an immediate gap in state revenue of $650 billion over the next three years, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, officials may postpone pension contributions and slash future benefits for teachers, police officers, firefighters and state workers. Pension funds in states like Illinois, New Jersey and Kentucky are in particularly rough shape, while cities like Chicago and Dallas have faced steep pension shortfalls for years.
NIH Director Francis Collins Hopes For At Least 1 Safe And Effective Vaccine By Year's End
As the number of confirmed coronavirus cases globally approaches 6.5 million, scientists are racing to develop a vaccine. Currently, there are 10 vaccine candidates in development around the world that are in the beginnings of human trials. Some will be ready for large-scale testing as soon as the beginning of July, says Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health and a member of the White House coronavirus task force. These phase 3 trials involve roughly 30,000 volunteers for each candidate vaccine, with half the volunteers receiving a placebo, he says. "That is a phenomenal thing to be able to say, considering these things usually take several years," and considering how recently the virus was identified, Collins tells All Things Considered. He hopes that at least one vaccine that's been proved safe and effective against the coronavirus will be ready in 2021.
Dentists Struggle to Protect Themselves From Covid-19
Spending lots of time in patients' faces makes dentists and their staff uniquely vulnerable to contracting Covid-19. But dental offices are struggling to find the protective equipment they need, even as they begin to reopen across the country. While dentists are spending tens of thousands of dollars on air-purifying gadgets, air-suction devices and room filters, they are having issues securing the basics: personal protective equipment like N95 and KN95 respirators, high-grade surgical masks, gowns and face shields. Dental workers are among those who are at the highest risk of getting the virus, according to the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration. That doesn’t mean it’s unsafe for patients to visit the dentist, said Chad Gehani, president of the American Dental Association. “Dentists know what infection-control measures they need to take,” he said. He doesn’t know of any recorded cases of a dental worker getting Covid-19 from a patient while performing a dental procedure, or vice versa.
CEO of Chicken Giant Pilgrim's Pride Charged in Price Fix Probe
The chief executive officer of Pilgrim's Pride Corp., America's second-biggest chicken producer, was charged by U.S. prosecutors with conspiring to fix prices as part of an antitrust investigation of chicken-processing companies. Jayson Penn was indicted by a grand jury in Colorado along with Roger Austin, a former vice president of the company, the Justice Department said Wednesday. They face a statutory maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine. The allegations against the leader of a top American poultry producer were the latest bombshell to hit the meat industry that's been reeling from thousands of workers sickened by Covid-19, forcing shutdowns at processing plants. The U.S. government is also probing potential market manipulation at beef processors, who were turning big profits while farmers suffered from plant outages. It's rare for the CEO of a company the size of Pilgrim's Pride to be indicted by federal prosecutors. Penn is the most high profile executive to be charged by the department's antitrust division since Chesapeake Energy Corp. co-founder Aubrey McClendon.
George Floyd Protests Reignite Debate Over Confederate Statues
As protests against racism and police violence spread across the nation, demonstrators in at least six cities focused their anger on symbols of the Confederacy, seizing the opportunity to mar statues and monuments that have ignited debate for years. Many of the monuments were vandalized with spray paint; protesters tried to topple others from their bases. In response, at least two cities this week have seen them removed from public spaces. In Oxford, Miss., the words "spiritual genocide," along with red handprints, were painted on a Confederate monument on the University of Mississippi campus on Saturday, The Oxford Eagle reported. The school's chancellor said planning had begun months ago to relocate the statue from the center of campus. In an open letter dated Sunday, the chancellor, Glenn F. Boyce, said the death of Mr. Floyd and those of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia and Breonna Taylor in Kentucky "have evoked much anger, horror and disbelief" and "continue to tear apart the fabric of our country and impact our campus." "This is a time for change," he wrote.
Lafayette County Sheriff says threats made to deface Oxford Confederate statue
An unidentified number of people have threatened to damage certain county-owned property in Lafayette County and the Confederate monument that stands in the Square in Oxford, according to Lafayette County Sheriff Joey East. The first-term sheriff told the Daily Journal that law enforcement officers are now monitoring the statue and some county-owned property. Entrances to the Lafayette County Courthouse have been roped off after 5 p.m. so that people cannot go onto the property after business has closed for the day. "We're just trying to keep people from destroying anything and, hopefully, preventing any type of conflict," East told the Daily Journal. East, the former Oxford Police Department chief, said that the law enforcement agency believed the threat to be viable, so he felt the need to tighten security in the area. Even though the statue is in the Oxford city limits, the statue stands on county-owned property. The new security measures on the Square come at a time when a former graduate student of the University of Mississippi allegedly spray painted "spiritual genocide" on the Confederate monument on the college campus.
USM's Marine Education Center nationally recognized for architectural design
The University of South Mississippi's Marine Education Center at the Gulf Coast Research Lab has the new title "best in the country" for its architectural design. It was recently recognized with a 2020 Committee on the Environment Top Ten Award from the American Institute of Architects. The center has the first project awarded this honor in Mississippi. The prestigious award recognizes projects all over the world for their integration of design excellence with environmental performance. USM's Marine Education Center includes outdoor classrooms, laboratories, administration offices, assembly spaces, exhibit areas and a pedestrian suspension bridge. "The building is designed to be energy efficient," said Jessie Kastler, interim director of the Gulf Coast Research Lab Marine Education Center. "It's designed to be resilient and very very strong structurally, in case of high winds. And it's a little higher, so we have something built in against flooding. It's designed to let the wildlife move around. And when students come here, they get to see all of that and they get to learn why that's important."
U. of Tennessee, Knoxville, names longtime faculty member as new provost
The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, has named a new provost as David Manderscheid, the most recent provost, returns to a faculty position. John Zomchick has been named the provost and senior vice chancellor for UT Knoxville, effective immediately, Chancellor Donde Plowman announced on Thursday. Zomchick was most recently vice provost for faculty affairs, and served as interim provost from 2016 to 2018. He has been at UT since 1985, when he came to the university as an English professor. In his time at UT, he also served as the executive associate dean in the College of Arts and Sciences. "John's experience and institutional knowledge position him well to lead our academic enterprise in a way that prioritizes the health and safety of our entire campus community while honoring the academic spirit animating our teaching, research, and service," Plowman said. In an email to faculty, Zomchick said he will be guided by "creativity, compassion, and flexibility" through the coronavirus pandemic and as a leader.
U. of Tennessee investigating video of incoming cheerleader's racial slurs shared on Twitter
People are calling on the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, to take action against an incoming student -- who also will be on the cheerleading squad -- for a series of racial slurs she posted on social media. Screenshots and recordings of the posts attracted attention on Twitter, with a recording of the student using the slur being viewed over 30,000 times Wednesday. The student, who will be a freshman in the fall, will also be a cheerleader for Vol Cheer, according to the cheer team's Instagram. A Twitter thread showing the student using a racial slur twice began drawing attention on Wednesday. The tweets asked people to reach out to the university and express their concerns. The university responded on its Twitter account, saying it had been made aware of the video and image where the slur was used. "We are aware of reports that some current, prospective or former students have made racist posts online. We condemn hate and are working hard to create an inclusive campus culture. When we receive reports, we gather facts and take appropriate action directly with those involved," the tweet said.
Union airs concerns over U. of Arkansas, Fayetteville reopening plan
A union representing about 45 faculty and staff members at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville said in a statement the campus reopening plan released Monday "does little to clarify a confusing and potentially dangerous situation for the Fall 2020 semester" given the coronavirus pandemic. "We urge the administration to be more specific in its proposals to safeguard the U of A community. Until then, UA faculty and staff have proven they can deliver a high-quality remote education, just as it has since campus closed in March," reads the statement from UA-Fayetteville Education Association/Local 965. The union stated that the plan "does not go far enough to protect the health of students" and leaves staff members "vulnerable." UA spokesman Mark Rushing on Wednesday disputed some assertions and characterizations made by the union. Dr. Huda Sharaf, medical director of the Pat Walker Health Center and co-chairman of the university's Communicable Diseases Outbreak Committee, said in a statement that "we are basing our decisions on the guidance provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Arkansas Department of Health." The union referred to guidelines from the American College Health Association.
Lawsuit: U. of Kentucky should've refunded some tuition, fees after COVID-19 closed campus
The University of Kentucky should have reduced and refunded mandatory fees and tuition when it switched to online-only classes because of the COVID-19 pandemic, a student's lawsuit argues. The lawsuit filed Monday in Fayette Circuit Court on behalf of Peter Regard -- a computer science major -- seeks partial refunds for tuition and mandatory fees. Those fees typically help pay for additional class supplies and access to the university's labs, gyms and other on-campus learning and recreational facilities. Most of those facilities were closed to students after the university switched to online classes, the lawsuit said. Regard's attorney seeks class-action status for the lawsuit to include every student enrolled during the past spring semester. UK spokesperson Jay Blanton said the university has yet to receive the lawsuit and couldn't specifically comment on it. Since instruction continued in online and remote formats when the classrooms were closed, there were no refunds of tuition and mandatory fees, he said.
Embattled Foreign Student Tech Job Program Gets Republican Boost
The Trump administration needs to preserve a program that allows international students work in the U.S. for up to three years after graduating, a group of House Republicans said this week. The program, known as Optional Practical Training, is opposed by many conservatives who have pushed for the White House to suspend it in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The White House reportedly plans to limit practical training as part of a wider package of restrictions on non-immigrant visa programs. Preserving the program would "send the right messages abroad about the U.S. as an attractive destination for international students," Steve Stivers (Ohio) and 20 other House Republicans wrote in a June 2 letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf. Optional Practical Training is an indispensable tool to bring international students to U.S. campuses, Peter McPherson, president of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, said in a statement.
Democrats Urge $1 Billion for Students' Internet Access
Fifteen House and Senate Democrats are urging congressional leaders to include $1 billion in the next coronavirus stimulus package to help low-income college and university students be able to pay for access to the internet. "As colleges and universities across the country have transitioned to distance learning to limit the spread of coronavirus, many students who relied on campus resources are struggling to continue their education from home," the Democrats wrote in a letter spearheaded by Senator Amy Klobuchar, of Minnesota, and Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, of California. "One of the biggest barriers for students of color, students in rural areas and other disadvantaged students is lack of access to reliable and affordable internet connectivity, equipment required for connectivity, and devices. These are all required to participate in distance learning," the letter said. It noted that even before the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, only 66 percent of black households, 61 percent of Hispanic households and 63 percent of rural households had access to broadband.
Black Scientists Face a Big Disadvantage in Winning NIH Grants, Study Finds
Black researchers applying for funding from the National Institutes of Health consistently receive lower scores than do white applicants in the first phase of the grant-application process, according to a report released on Wednesday by scholars at the University of Washington. Those scores are a key reason black researchers receive far fewer grants from the NIH than do white applicants, say Elena A. Erosheva, a statistics professor, and Carole J. Lee, an associate professor of philosophy, who with four other colleagues prepared the report under an NIH contract to study racial disparities. "The overall award rate for the data we were looking at for black applicants is 55 percent of that for white applicants," Erosheva said. The NIH introduced numerical scores for the five criteria in 2009 to bring more transparency to the process, Lee said. There's still room, though, for bias in how those scores are awarded.
NIH grapples with rush to claim billions in pandemic research funds
For the second time in just over 10 years, the National Institutes of Health is scrambling to hand out billions of dollars in emergency research funding and scientists are rushing to get a piece of the action -- even as some confusion and concerns abound. But as in 2009, when NIH faced the tricky task of quickly distributing some $10 billion in research funds to help the United States recover from the Great Recession, the agency appears to be finding its footing as it moves to award the additional $3.6 billion Congress has provided so far to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, some researchers remain uncertain about which projects can qualify for funding as NIH institutes seek to clarify the rules. And the rush has renewed questions about whether NIH can maintain scientific rigor and quality while speeding money out the door; the agency has promised to greatly accelerate some proposal reviews, for example, to just one-third of the usual time. Both scientists and funders are feeling a sense of urgency.
Student Behavior Is the Key to Reopening Colleges
When Mitch Daniels, president of Purdue University, Indiana's 45,000-student public research powerhouse, outlined plans to reopen campus this fall, he admitted something that very few school leaders have said so plainly: This will only work if students change their behavior. "Perhaps most important will be the cultural change on which we have to insist because, in another lesson of the coronavirus spring, nothing makes a more positive difference than personal behavior and responsibility," Daniels wrote in an op-ed in the Washington Post. Upon arrival, he said, students will be asked to sign the "Protect Purdue Pledge," which will ask them to commit to "at least a semester of inconvenience," including forgoing concerts, convocations, fraternity parties and more. But ask almost any faculty member, including those whose field of study focuses entirely on college culture and student behavior, and most will say that it's naive to assume that students will adhere to campus restrictions at the level required to prevent new COVID-19 infections.
Professor resigns after criticizing protesters and another faces calls for his termination
A professor of criminal justice at Weber State University in Utah says he was forced to resign over his tweets regarding recent national protests against police brutality. In one post, the professor, Scott Senjo, said that he would have driven a car into a crowd of protesters. In other tweets, he seemed to praise attacks on journalists, including those covering the ongoing story. Weber administrators condemned Senjo's tweets but deny that they pressured him to quit. Separately, the University of California, Los Angeles, is facing demands that it terminate a professor of accounting who seemed to mock students for requesting special accommodations in light of the protests. There may be no perfect way for faculty members and institutions to respond to what's happening across the U.S. right now. Some university presidents, for example, have been accused of equivocating on the issue of police violence by simultaneously condemning the killing of unarmed black men and women and the tactics of some protesters, or for not taking a strong enough stance.
'This Is an Existential Time for Higher Ed': an Interview With Gordon Gee
E. Gordon Gee, probably more than anyone else, is America's university president. Hardly needing an introduction to a higher-ed crowd, Gee has had leadership appointments at more prominent universities than anyone else: the University of Colorado at Boulder, Ohio State University (twice), Brown University, Vanderbilt University, and West Virginia University (also twice), where he started in 1981 and where he will most likely end his presidential career. Gee has been no stranger to controversy. Over the years, he has generated press for the size of his salary and off-the-cuff (and occasionally retracted) remarks. But he has also been outspoken about the need to change the funding models and culture of higher education, in the face of declining revenues and public questions about its relevance. And part of that process, he says, is about being more honest with the institutional community. At a moment of profound change for higher education, Gee talked to The Chronicle about what should change, and how college leaders might accomplish it.

Dak Prescott pledges $1 million 'to address systematic racism'
Former Mississippi State and current Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott is pledging $1 million to fight social injustice in the wake of George Floyd's death. Prescott announced on Instagram that the funds will help to "improve police training and address systematic racism through education and advocacy." Floyd died in police custody last week after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for over eight minutes. The officer, Derek Chauvin, has been charged with third-degree murder. In the days since Floyd's death, protests -- both peaceful and violent -- have broken out across the country. In his post, Prescott went on to state that he does not believe that looting and violence are the answer. "We will clean our streets and our communities. Not only the looting and violence, but most importantly, the racism, racial-profiling and hate," he wrote. In Mississippi, peaceful protests have occurred in several cities.
Former Mississippi State QB Dak Prescott to give $1M to police training
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott is pledging $1 million to "improve our police training and address systematic racism through education and advocacy," he wrote Wednesday morning. He discouraged looting and violence while challenging police to hold fellow officers accountable. "How can you claim to uphold the law when those within your own ranks don't abide by it?" Prescott wrote. Prescott has started every game since Dallas selected him in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL draft out of Mississippi State. The Cowboys placed an exclusive franchise tag, now worth $31.4 million for the 2020 season, on him in March. The two sides hope to work out a long-term deal before the July 15 deadline, after which he would play the upcoming regular season on the one-year tag. Prescott hasn’t done any formal interviews since late January, staying mostly quiet during the COVID-19 pandemic. His older brother Jace, who was 31, died on April 23.
Johnny Majors made a mark in Mississippi, too
Mississippi sports columnist Rick Cleveland writes: Johnny Majors, an All-American football player at Tennessee and a championship-winning coach at Pittsburgh and Tennessee, had many Mississippi connections and friends. Among those friends was the late Willie Morris, the beloved Mississippi author who would have been the first to tell you Majors was a "Good Ol' Boy" and a great storyteller in his own right. ... Majors, a College Football Hall of Famer who died Wednesday at age 85, spent four years on the Mississippi State coaching staff in the early 1960s. Indeed, Majors coached the defensive backs on one of the greatest staffs in State history in 1963. ... "A team could win a lot of football games with coaches like that," says John Correro, who played under Majors at State and then helped him coach on the 1963 staff. That '63 team did win. State defeated Tennessee, Auburn and LSU and played to a tie with both Florida and Ole Miss. The lone SEC loss was by a single point to an Alabama team that would beat Ole Miss in the Sugar Bowl. State went on to defeat North Carolina State 16-12 in the Liberty Bowl (then played at Philadelphia). That was Majors' last game at Mississippi State, made all the more memorable because it was played in sub-zero (minus 22 degrees) weather the inimitable Jack Cristil called "colder than a pawnbroker's heart."
Ole Miss athletes and staff member test positive for COVID-19
Since Ole Miss senior associate athletic director for health and sports performance Shannon Singletary and the rest of the Ole Miss planning subcommittee began meeting in late February, they expected a day like Wednesday could happen. Ole Miss announced that an employee and a student had tested positive for COVID-19, which was later confirmed to the EAGLE to be a student-athlete and a staff member in the athletics department. The first wave of football players began returning back to campus on Monday to begin their COVID-19 tests and screenings in preparation for voluntary workouts to begin on June 8. Members of the soccer team were also tested earlier this week. "This is something that we expected," Singletary told the EAGLE. "That's why we worked so hard to have this in place. ... The protocols are in place. We did expect some positives." The athlete who tested positive will now begin their 14-day quarantine period in an isolation unit that was already set up by Ole Miss and fully furnished with food and proper furniture for them to live comfortably. The staff member who tested positive is in isolation in their home in Oxford, and both are following the isolation protocols and directions that Singletary's staff is providing.
Here's what happens next after Ole Miss had positive COVID-19 tests for 2 athletes and a staff member
The Ole Miss athletic department has spent the last three months preparing for this moment. One Ole Miss athlete and an athletic department staff member tested positive for COVID-19 after being tested on campus Monday, the university announced Wednesday. Another athlete also tested positive, but that test happened off campus because of a pre-screening. The athlete won't be allowed to return to campus until he or she is medically cleared. With a pandemic as widespread and far-reaching as COVID-19, positive tests were an inevitability. Ole Miss has devised a plan for this scenario, according to Shannon Singletary, the associate athletic director for health and sports performance. Now Singletary and his staff have to spring into action. Here's what happens next for Ole Miss. Both of the people who tested positive on campus were asymptomatic carriers. Neither needs to be hospitalized. That means they will go through Ole Miss' isolation protocol.
SEC commissioner Greg Sankey on George Floyd protests: 'Change we lead must be real'
Southeastern Conference commissioner Greg Sankey issued his first public statement since George Floyd's death, saying Tuesday the conference wants to "influence real and positive change" toward racial inequality. Coaches, players and administrators across the SEC have denounced racism and police brutality after Floyd, an unarmed black man, died in police custody last week in Minneapolis. An officer pressed his knee into Floyd's neck while Floyd pleaded for air. The SEC has shared a collection of its members' statements on social media, including one from LSU and another from LSU women's basketball coach Nikki Vargas. "Each voice reminded us of the many ways we fall short in our quest for racial equality, respect and justice," Sankey said. The SEC convened its student-athlete leadership councils Tuesday, Sankey said, to engage in the conference's discussions about what actions it will take to help reach a "more just and equitable society."
Mizzou student-athletes, coaches march in honor of George Floyd
For Gerald Nathan and several other Missouri football players, Wednesday started with another Zoom call from coach Eliah Drinkwitz. The coach has been having frequent Zoom calls with his team, Nathan said, and in the wake of the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last week, the calls have led to loads of conversations -- on equality, human rights and racism, among other things. "He's been harping on, as (one of) our core values, 'Integrity is saying something, then actually doing it,'" Nathan said. "He's been standing firm on everything, and that's how we got together." Drinkwitz's Wednesday morning call went a little further as, according to Nathan, he welcomed players who could to join him in their own march of solidarity. That march became a group of Missouri student-athletes -- accompanied by several coaches, UM System President Mun Choi, athletic director Jim Sterk and members of Columbia and MU police departments -- who trekked from MU to the Boone County Courthouse on Wednesday afternoon. It's estimated that more than 100 people participated in Wednesday's athlete march, according to Mizzou Athletics spokesperson RJ Layton.
Former U. of Alabama gymnast alleges 'disturbing' racial incident occurred at team practice
A former University of Alabama gymnast said via social media Tuesday night that she had been involved in a "very disturbing" incident that included a racially inappropriate comment during a practice last season. Tia Kiaku, a walk-on member of the 2020 team, described the incident in which she said an assistant coach -- who she did not identify -- made an inappropriate comment to her and two other African-American gymnasts. "I would be remiss if I did not take the opportunity to address a very disturbing and grave incident that occurred last year while I was on the Gymnastics team at the University of Alabama," she posted. Kiaku said the incident was reported in a complaint to the University Office of Title IX Compliance, which she says "did a full investigation." "They deemed it a 'bad joke' and (the assistant coach involved in the allegation) is still coaching at The University of Alabama. This is a systematic problem as well!," Kiaku said on her social media post. "We are limited by law on what we can speak about regarding equal opportunity matters, however we can elaborate on what steps were taken" UA Athletics Director Greg Byrne said in a statement.
Clemson's Dabo Swinney, Dan Radakovich remain silent after assistant coach's apology for racial slur
In the wake of the revelation that Clemson assistant head coach Danny Pearman used a racial slur during a football practice in 2017, Clemson leadership has remained silent. School spokespersons contacted Wednesday said neither head coach Dabo Swinney nor director of athletics Dan Radakovich would comment on the situation. Clemson president Jim Clements could not be reached for comment. But one former Clemson player defended Pearman's character and insisted he's never heard the special teams coordinator/tight ends coach use a racial slur. "That's not a word he uses," said Stanton Seckinger, a Clemson tight end from Charleston who played for the Tigers from 2012-15. "I know that him using it was him referencing something someone had said. ... Those aren't words that he uses." Seckinger said he's close with Pearman and had spoken with his former coach in the past 24 hours. He declined to discuss details of their conversation, but added all the former teammates he's spoken to are "shocked" by the situation.
Oregon State TE Rocco Carley kicked off football team after racist rant surfaces
Oregon State tight end Rocco Carley has been dismissed for the Beavers' football program after an audio recording surfaced Wednesday with Carley using insensitive language toward minorities. In the recording, which contains NSFW language, Carley used racist language to describe African Americans, homosexuals and people of the Muslim faith. "I became aware of the comments made by Rocco Carley earlier this evening. I immediately shared the audio with (athletic director) Scott Barnes," Oregon State head football coach Jonathan Smith said in a statement released on Twitter. "We both agreed this language and attitude is entirely unacceptable, regardless of circumstances or environment. I spoke with Rocco and dismissed him from the team. I will not tolerate racism or hate speech." Carley said the recording happened three years ago when he was saying stupid things with friends.
Florida State's Marvin Wilson says coach Mike Norvell's comments 'a lie'
Marvin Wilson is not happy with Florida State football coach Mike Norvell, who previously coached at the University of Memphis. He said as much in a tweet early Thursday morning when he called into question the validity of a statement Norvell released to The Athletic. In the statement, Norvell said he talked individually with each member of the team about the racial injustice and inequality that many across the country are currently protesting. "We've had a lot of open communication with our team, our players and our coaches. I went back and forth individually with every player this weekend. And that was something that was important to me because this is a heartbreaking time in our country," Norvell said. Wilson, FSU's defensive tackle, says these conversations never happened. Wilson is undeniably one of the leaders of the team. He wasn't expected to return for his senior season but did so, at least in part, because of his belief in Norvell and what he is building at FSU. For Norvell, who has made the most of a tough situation this offseason and received high marks across the board for his assistant hires, early weight room results and everything else, this is a major first misstep.

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