Monday, June 8, 2020   
'Moving forward': How Starkville, Mississippi State joined for a peaceful protest
They laid on their stomachs in silence. Thousands of people, in the heat of the Mississippi sun, were face down in the green grass of the Mississippi State Amphitheater on Saturday. Morgan Gray's chilling call for help was the only sound reverberating through the grounds. Those were George Floyd's last words before authorities say he was killed by a Minneapolis police officer who had his knee on Floyd's neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds on May 25. Eight minutes and 46 seconds. That's how long protesters laid face down on Saturday during a peaceful protest organized by a racial equality group called Starkville Stand Up, of which Gray is a member. Mississippi State University President Mark Keenum connected with the protesters at the front of the line shortly after they made it onto campus. He gave them thumbs up and patted them on the back as he began to march with them. Shortly thereafter, he took to the stage. "Racism is an evil. It is a sin," he said. "As a Christian, until the return of my lord and savior Jesus Christ to this earth, unfortunately we will always have evil and sin in this world. But our mission as a community, as a university, is to do all that we can to make sure that the good in our community, the good on this campus greatly overshadows the evil in this community and that it will choke it out."
Thousands turn out for racial justice march, rally in Starkville
Organizers predicted at least a few hundred people would show up for Saturday's racial justice march and rally in Starkville. The actual turnout topped 2,000. Protestors, diverse in age and race, gathered at Unity Park at 10 a.m., most of them carrying signs and wearing protective face masks to prevent the spread of the COVID-19. Starkville's march and rally on Saturday was peaceful. Tents and socially distanced chairs awaited the crowd on the lawn of the MSU Amphitheatre, where a long lineup of speakers ranging from students to religious leaders took the stage for an hour and a half. MSU student Jala Douglas, who rallied about 180 fellow students to participate in the event, recounted some of her personal experiences as a black woman. Mayor Lynn Spruill said she had "never, ever been as proud of Starkville and Mississippi State" as she was at that moment, and she promised to be an ally to Starkville's black community. MSU President Mark Keenum also offered a message of solidarity. "Your lives matter," Keenum said. "You and us and all of us have the right to live our lives with dignity and respect."
Peaceful demonstration in Starkville promotes unity, decries police violence and racism
For a little more than eight minutes on Saturday, more than a thousand people laid face down in the warm grass of the Mississippi State University Amphitheater as the last words of George Floyd, who was killed by a Minneapolis police officer, were read aloud. Read by MSU student Morgan Gray, the words echoed over the crowd as some could be heard sobbing, including Gray, who fought through tears and emotions as she vocalized the man's pleas made with his dying breath for his mother and saying repeatedly "I can't breathe." The moment was a powerful one during a day filled with expression and demonstration as more than 1,000 people marched from Unity Park in downtown Starkville, up Main Street and on to the amphitheater for a program denouncing violence against African-Americans by law enforcement. Starkville Stand Up organizer Jala Douglas is not originally from Starkville, but found a home among many in the community who rallied around her and others to make Saturday's peaceful demonstration possible. "I just want to say thank you to everyone who showed up and showed out today," she told the Starkville Daily News following Saturday's events. "We couldn't have done this without the help of everybody, without the help of the city, the community, the fire department, [Starkville Police Chief Mark Ballard], everything came together perfectly. I love Starkville."
MSU athletes, administration and many others participate in Starkville's peaceful justice march
There was a powerful scene in Starkville on Saturday as hundreds of people of all races gathered and marched from the Unity Park downtown to the Mississippi State University amphitheater. Included in those that gathered were Mississippi State president Mark Keenum, MSU athletic director John Cohen and many Bulldog athletes and coaches. Here are some moments from the day captured on social media.
Starkville Stand Up rally marches through downtown, Mississippi State campus
In Starkville, protesters marched from Unity Park to the Mississippi State University amphitheater. "Black Live Matter. Black Lives Matter." Protesters also chanting the names of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor -- two recent victims of alleged police brutality. "I just hope that everybody here, you see a lot of diversity here, I just hope that everybody here takes away that, we can come together at the end of the day. Unity is the big word for that. We can all show our support together. It doesn't have to be one side versus the other side," said protester Brianna Holley. Holley is a student at Mississippi State University. She took to the streets with her sign Saturday, but she said there are other ways to make a statement. "You don't necessarily have to be out here marching. You can show your support in other ways. You can sign petitions. You can donate. Use your voice of social media, one of the biggest platforms. So, you don't necessarily have to be out here marching, but you can also just show that you support in many other ways," said Holley.
Starkville locals join protests against police brutality
People in Starkville took to the streets to make their voices heard following the death of George Floyd. A large group marched from Unity Plaza to Mississippi State University in a peace rally. Volunteers made T-shirts with black power fists with the hashtag "Starkville Stand Up" to show unity. Others made signs for protesters to carry during the march. Community leaders said the turn out was good. But the real work is just beginning.
Mississippi State athletes join community protest in Starkville
Mississippi State University's athletes joined hundreds of community members rallying in Starkville on Saturday. The peaceful march is in response to the death of George Floyd and wanting to promote unity, racial equality and peace. MSU President Mark Keenum, Starkville Mayor Lynn Spruill and Unity March organizer Rev. Joseph Stone of Second Baptist Church spoke at the Unity March.
Mississippi State's Dennis Truax elected to lead national civil engineering organization
The head of Mississippi State University's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering has been elected to serve as the president of the nation's leading civil engineering organization. Dennis Truax will be inaugurated as president-elect of the American Society of Civil Engineers at the organization's annual meeting this fall. He will serve as president-elect of ASCE in 2021 before becoming president in 2022. "I am honored to be chosen as the Society's next president, and I look forward to leading and advocating for the next generation of civil engineers," said Truax. "Having been involved in ASCE for over five decades -- starting as a student -- it is time for ASCE to re-evaluate the needs of the new generation of engineers. I am eager to partner with other leaders within ASCE to ensure we are serving members of all generations and broadening the definition of success within our profession, as we work to protect the health, safety and welfare of the public."
Mississippi State and Northeast Mississippi Community College team up to offer bachelor degree in applied sciences
Mississippi State University and Northeast Mississippi Community College signed an agreement this week allowing students to earn a bachelor degree through technical education programs. Students enrolled in programs like welding, electrical and mechanical technologies will now be able to earn a bachelor's degree in applied sciences. Mississippi State's new agreement applies to any community college student graduating with an associates degree from a career and technical program.
In response to COVID-19, MSU Psychology Clinic now offers telehealth services
Mississippi State's Psychology Clinic is providing "Telehealth at the Psychology Clinic," a new service within the university's Department of Psychology helping community members access mental health assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic. Emily Stafford, assistant clinical professor and director of MSU's Psychology Clinic, said the services utilize an online format and include individual, couples, group, family, and behavioral sleep therapy services. "Telehealth offers everyone the chance to access resources and healthcare when the world turns upside down," said Stafford, who also manages the telehealth program operations. "Generally speaking, we know when people are in crisis they may feel numb, overwhelmed, anxious, depressed or any combination of strong emotions," Stafford said. "Worldwide, people have experienced a disruption to daily life. Knowing this, it is reasonable to expect a number of people to struggle and feel like life is out of control," she explained.
COVID-19 turns Mississippi's 4-H congress virtual
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mississippi 4-H will be holding a virtual state congress this year rather than the usual gathering at Mississippi State University. The congress usually features a wide choice of contests, such as egg production, clothing construction, tractor driving, computers and robotics, over three days. This year, it will run from July 6-31. Instead of competing, participants can work at their own pace on one to four educational modules, getting a certificate when they finish. The four programs are career readiness; agriculture and STEM; leadership and citizenship; and healthy living and family consumer sciences. The congress is open to senior 4-H'ers who were 14 to 18 years old as of Jan. 1.
Mississippi 30-Day Fund to help small business launches
Lifelong Mississippians Marie and Brian Sanderson kicked off efforts today to provide immediate financial assistance to Mississippi-based, small businesses as they face the dire economic consequences of the COVID-19 crisis. These forgivable loans can be critical to help small businesses avoid closing their doors in these uncertain times. The non-profit Mississippi 30 Day Fund is designed to be quick, easy, and free of red tape, as small business owners work to keep employees on board and operations running in the near term. Marie, who grew up in Jackson, and Brian, who is a native of Pascagoula, live in Ocean Springs with their three children. They were inspired by the profound success of 30 Day Funds started by colleagues in other states and knew such a project would be incredibly beneficial in Mississippi. Seeded by the Sandersons and business and philanthropic leaders across the state, the Fund will provide up to $3,000 to each approved, small business. Other, concerned Mississippians continue to make additional contributions, greatly expanding the Fund's reach and impact at this critical time. The Mississippi 30 Day Fund is partnering with Mississippi State University's School of Business and the University of Mississippi School of Law, whose MBA candidates and law students will make an initial review of applications for eligibility.
New state grant program could offset costs for local business owners
The Back to Business Mississippi Grant Program, which Gov. Tate Reeves officially established May 20, aims to help businesses in the state with 50 or fewer full-time employees recover from the financial impact of COVID-19. Mississippi Development Authority is administering the program. Eligible business owners will be able to apply through an online portal, but the application window is not yet open. Robbie Coblentz, who owns Broadcast Media Group in Starkville, closed his business to walk-in traffic for roughly six weeks during Reeves' statewide stay at home order. The customers who usually come in to have old VHS tapes, film or 8-millimeter video transferred onto DVDs or converted into digital files were consequently absent, costing Coblentz a large portion of his income. "We had no way to walk in," he said. "That part of our business dropped to zero." It's why he applied for the Back to Business grant, though he said he isn't sure how much his business will be able to receive. Coblentz said he got a $2,000 direct payment from the Department of Revenue on Wednesday, since Broadcast Media Group was one of the businesses mandated to close by statewide order, but that doesn't preclude him from receiving up to $25,000 via the grant to help cover costs for his four full-time and three part-time employees.
Mississippi museums prep to reopen during COVID-19 pandemic
State-run museums in Mississippi will start reopening soon after being closed for several weeks because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum in Jackson will reopen Monday. The children's barnyard has goats and lambs that were born during the shutdown, state Agriculture Commissioner Andy Gipson said Friday. The Mississippi Civil Rights Museum and the Museum of Mississippi History, which are side-by-side in downtown Jackson, are set to reopen July 7. The state Department of Archives and History made that announcement Thursday, also saying July 7 is the reopening date for the the Eudora Welty House & Garden and the William F. Winter Archives and History Building, which are both in Jackson, and of the Grand Village of the Natchez Indians in Natchez.
Mississippi Lottery Corporation Reopens Claims Center
On June 5, the Mississippi Lottery Corporation announced the reopening of its Claims Center starting Monday, June 8, 2020. The Claims Center is located at 1080 River Oaks Drive, Building B-100, Flowood, MS, 39232. Due to ongoing health concerns surrounding the COVID19 pandemic, the MLC has established additional safety precautions to ensure the health and well-being of the public and its employees. "We are looking forward to seeing our winners in person again," said MLC President Tom Shaheen. "Some players have taken advantage of our mail-in claims program, which has always been available for player convenience, while others have been waiting for us to reopen. Winners should anticipate the process taking longer than under normal conditions." Only one claimant at a time will be allowed in the Claims Center to honor proper social distancing during the claims process. Anyone entering the Claims Center should wear a mask/facial covering.
Coronavirus Outbreak Pushes Rural Mississippi Hospital to Brink
The coronavirus pandemic is challenging Mississippi's rural health-care system as outbreaks worsen in far-flung areas at the same time state officials allow all businesses to reopen. Deep in the state's southeastern Pine Belt, the latest pressure point is Wayne County, population 20,000, which is served by a single hospital that is more than an hour by ambulance from a larger one in Hattiesburg and two hours from the university medical center in Jackson. A spike in community transmission that county officials link to social gatherings, starting around Mother's Day, has pushed the 58-bed Wayne General Hospital to its limit and triggered a visit from the state's top health official in late May. The intensive-care unit frequently reaches maximum capacity and has had to shuffle ventilators from other departments when its five ventilators are all in use. About half of residents tested recently had positive results, officials said. Mississippi, which has recorded about 800 deaths from Covid-19 as of Friday, also hit a high this week in the seven-day average of new cases, at more than 300 a day. The state's high levels of poverty, along with obesity and other health problems, have long challenged local hospitals. In addition, the coronavirus has had a disproportionate impact on the black population, with African-Americans suffering more than half of the state's deaths.
Annual July 4th festival at Jacinto Courthouse canceled
If you want to win statewide office in Mississippi, it's generally thought that you have to attend the Neshoba County Fair and the Jacinto Fourth of July Festival. But neither event will happen this year. The 2020 Fourth of July Festival at the Jacinto Courthouse has been cancelled because of the spread of the novel coronavirus, according to Rienzi Mayor Walter Williams. "With this virus going on, we thought it would be the best decision to cancel," Williams said. Williams said the board that governs the event ultimately decided to cancel the event for the safety of the attendees. The event usually attracts hundreds of people, and is seen as a signal for campaign season to heat up during an election year. Last year, every major candidate for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general spoke to large crowds. Williams said he and the board will use the gap in time from the cancellation to revamp the facility and plan more monthly events to try and attract more people to the historic town when it's safe to do so.
Here's how lawmakers could change the Mississippi state flag today
As organizers of Saturday's historic Black Lives Matter protest in downtown Jackson decried state-sanctioned racial inequities, a massive Mississippi state flag -- the last in the nation containing the Confederate battle emblem -- flapped in the breeze a few yards behind them in front of the home of Gov. Tate Reeves. The crowd of at least 3,000 protesters later marched past the Mississippi State Capitol, where state flags flew outside the office windows of Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann and Speaker of the House Philip Gunn, and loudly chanted: "Change the flag!" Reeves, Hosemann and Gunn, in the most pivotal racial moment in America since the 1960s, find themselves leading the state with the highest percentage of black residents in the nation. As tens of thousands of black Mississippians and their multi-racial allies marched the streets of dozens of cities in recent days, the state flag has been and will remain a focal point of demonstrations. Reeves, Hosemann and Gunn likely carry the influence to change the state flag. They'd need support from at least a simple majority of the Legislature, but all three can whip majority votes with ease. With that support, the process could be completed start-to-finish in one day with careful planning.
Analysis: Protesters talked, 1st-year lawmaker listened
Democratic state Rep. Zakiya Summers of Jackson has been in the Mississippi House only since January. She stepped into a leadership role Friday when protesters were demanding to enter the state Capitol and were being blocked by police officers who stood in front of a locked door. The protesters wanted any elected official -- the governor, the attorney general, any available legislator -- to listen to their grievances about police brutality against African Americans. Summers was the only lawmaker to be found inside the Capitol on an afternoon that the House and Senate were not meeting. At the request of Capitol police, she stepped outside to speak to the crowd of about 200. Summers made an immediate connection, letting protesters know she was listening to their concerns. "I want the same thing y'all want -- no free killing," Summers said. One of the protesters held a megaphone to amplify the freshman lawmaker's voice. Summers said that as a black woman, she worries about the possibility of police brutality against her three sons, her husband or her father. "Yes, ma'am," one of the protesters responded. "Come on with it," said another.
'No free kill': Protesters confront AG Lynn Fitch after she drops charge of white officer who killed black man in 2015
A crowd of about 150 protesters repeatedly chanted three words -- "No free kill!" -- on Friday afternoon outside Attorney General Lynn Fitch's office after her decision last week to drop the manslaughter charge of a white police officer who killed a black man in 2015. "We're not asking permission," organizer Danyelle Harris of the Poor People's Campaign said of the rally. "We demand answers. This is not a pep rally. We mean business." Former Columbus Police Department officer Canyon Boykin was indicted in 2016 by previous Attorney General Jim Hood after shooting and killing Ricky Ball, a 26-year-old black man, during a traffic stop in 2015. During the incident, Boykin and the accompanying officers did not turn their body cameras on. Few details have been released publicly about what happened that night. The administration of Hood, a Democrat, was actively prosecuting Boykin when Fitch, a Republican, was elected in November 2019. Fitch was the first Republican elected to the position since the 1800s. In a two-sentence statement, Fitch explained that the evidence in the case indicated "necessary self-defense."
'If Mississippi is ready for change, then everybody is': Historic crowd of thousands packs streets of Jackson to protest racial inequities
Thousands of Mississippians gathered Saturday afternoon in downtown Jackson for a peaceful protest against police brutality, inequities in the criminal justice system and state-sponsored Confederate symbolism. A multi-racial crowd of at least 3,000 people -- which some believe is Jackson's largest demonstration since the civil rights movement -- packed the streets for the protest in the hot June sun. Chants of "I can't breathe!" and "Black lives matter!" and "No justice, no peace!" echoed down Capitol Street outside the Governor's Mansion as organizers rallied the crowd. A group of 15 activists -- college students and young professionals -- organized the Black Lives Matter Mississippi protest in the wake of the killings of George Floyd in Minnesota, Breonna Taylor in Kentucky and Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia. In planning the event, organizers took inspiration from key figures of the civil rights movement. The event began at the Governor's Mansion at 3 p.m. with speeches from organizers and guest speakers. The crowd later marched through the downtown streets toward the Mississippi State Capitol and then returned to the mansion.
Emmett Till's lynching ignited a civil rights movement. Historians say George Floyd's death could do the same
As thousands of protests against the deaths of black men, women and children have broken out across the country in recent weeks, many black demonstrators and faith leaders have invoked the name of Emmett Till to suggest the nation could be in the midst of a defining moment that could inspire societal shifts. They say the degree of outrage, national mobilization and international attention spurred by the horrific, visceral recordings of the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd could have a similar catalyzing effect as Till's lynching, which shocked the world's conscience and gave birth to a generation of civil rights activists. "These two tragedies showed the tipping point of society," said Benjamin Saulsberry, museum director at the Emmett Till Interpretive Center in Sumner, Mississippi, and a native of West Tallahatchie County, of Till's and Floyd's deaths. "The Emmett Till murder was not the first murder. There were so many others. But it was the tipping point." The Rev. Jesse Jackson would later call Till's murder the "big bang" of the Civil Rights Movement. Mississippi civil rights leader, Amzie Moore, called Till the catalyst for the movement. Rosa Parks said Till was on her mind the day she wouldn't give up her seat on that Montgomery bus. His death spurred protests in big cities, as well as around the world, and drove a generation of black Americans to launch sit-ins to end Jim Crow segregation. It sparked a nine-year battle for the Civil Rights Act.
Two longshots rise in Joe Biden VP search
Wide-scale protests that have exposed deep racial tensions across the nation in the last two weeks are reshaping the contours of Joe Biden's search for a vice presidential pick, sharpening the focus on an African American woman as his running mate and elevating the prospects of several candidates once viewed as longshots. The campaign sees the outpouring of anger and emotion in the wake of George Floyd's death as a watershed moment that has made the issue of a black running mate a top consideration, two sources familiar with the internal discussions say. In the last week alone, two prospects who were initially not considered among the top tier contenders have suddenly burst into contention: Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and Florida Rep. Val Demings. Both have been tapped by the Biden campaign to act as leading surrogates amid the unrest and have seen their national media exposure intensify. Bottoms is being vetted as a Biden running mate, two sources with knowledge of the discussions confirm to POLITICO. Demings, a former Orlando police chief, has previously confirmed she's being vetted.
Marines order Confederate flags removed in ban that includes bumper stickers and clothing
The U.S. Marine Corps on Friday ordered all public displays of the Confederate flag removed, a ban that extends to bumper stickers, clothing, mugs, posters and more. The order directs Marine Corps commanders to find and remove displays of the flag in "work places, common-access areas, and public areas" on base. "The Confederate battle flag has all too often been co-opted by violent extremist and racist groups whose divisive beliefs have no place in our Corps," a notice posted by the U.S. Marines on Twitter says. Exceptions to the order include state flags that include the Confederate flag and Confederate soldiers' gravesites. Individual barracks, living quarters and private vehicles will not be inspected, the order says. In April, top Marine Gen. David Berger banned the display of the Confederate flag and other such symbols. The Marines' Friday announcement formalizes that ban. It's a position that no other military branch has yet taken.
Millennials Staring At The 2nd Recession Of Their Adult Lives
Millennials might be getting a queasy sense of deja vu right now. Another economic crisis -- like a punch in the gut. The pandemic has already sent unemployment into double-digit territory and a coronavirus recession would be the second one in many millennials' adult lives, after the Great Recession. For the very oldest millennials, it would be the third, counting the post-Sept. 11 recession. Millennials are between 24 and 39 years old, meaning they include people with a wide range of experiences. The youngest have barely started their careers, while the oldest include people who are well-established in their jobs. The effects of yet another deep recession would be lasting and painful for millennials like Silvernail, says William Gale, a senior fellow in economic studies at the Brookings Institution. "These type of things have what are called 'scarring effects.' They have long-term effects on wages," he said. "They tend to move people down to a different wage path." Another thing that makes millennials unique: They are more diverse than prior generations -- and in America, a host of factors have prevented many people of color from amassing wealth, as Gale and his coauthors note. The coronavirus crisis could easily exacerbate that.
Virus exposes sharp economic divide: College vs. non-college
For an American workforce under continuing threat from the coronavirus, the best protection might just be a college degree. Friday's jobs report for May delivered a major pleasant surprise, with lower unemployment and 2.5 million added jobs, instead of the darkening picture that had been widely expected. Yet the damage inflicted on the job market since February has highlighted a widening line of inequality based on education. In a nation in which a majority of workers lack a degree, college graduates are far more likely to be inoculated from the pain. In May, the overall unemployment rate was 13.3%, down from 14.7% in April. For workers with only a high school diploma, the jobless rate was 15.3%. For college graduates, it was just 7.4%. Fewer than half of high school graduates are now working. Two-thirds of college graduates are. The roughly 20 million jobs lost in the aftermath of the coronavirus are amplifying the economic inequalities between college graduates and other workers that have been evident for years, said Anthony Carnevale, director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, who has long studied the topic.
UM Greek life takes a stand for Confederate monument relocation
Almost 15 months after the Associated Student Body Senate unanimously voted to relocate the Confederate monument at the University of Mississippi, Delta Psi chapter president Drew Leopard called for all fraternity and sorority leaders on campus to take a stance in support of relocation. On June 4, Leopard posted a statement on social media calling for the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning Board of Trustees to vote on the monument's relocation in their upcoming meeting on June 18. The statement called for all executive boards and all chapter presidents of the College Panhellenic, National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) and Interfraternity Council to sign the statement and affirm their support for relocating the monument to the Confederate cemetery on campus. "What happened to George Floyd and what's happening right now with the protests shows that racism is still very prevalent in our country, and having a statue that stands for that in the middle of our campus is just not right," Leopard said. "I am calling on my peers to be the leaders that they are in the Greek community."
U. of Mississippi responds to 'offensive and disturbing' social media posts
The University of Mississippi sent out a letter in response to racially and politically charged social media posts made by incoming freshmen in recent weeks. With protests all across the country and several in Oxford over the past 13 days, Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Noel Wilkin and Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Community Engagement Katrina Caldwell provided a joint statement on Friday. "Our community continues to grapple with the pain and fear that comes from public displays of hate and violence, which is a vivid reminder of the unfortunate, private and often unrelenting hate and violence many African-Americans fear and experience," the statement read."In this moment, we have a responsibility to take seriously our commitment to look inward and evaluate the processes, aspects and responses of our institution to ensure that they convey the importance of the need for every person to feel welcome and included on our campus." The University received reports of racist behavior in videos and social media posts from prospective students in recent weeks.
East Central Community College makes plans to reopen campus to students for Fall 2020
East Central Community College in Decatur is making plans to reopen its campus to students and resume in-person, on-campus classes beginning with the fall 2020 semester. "East Central Community College has been monitoring local, state, and national developments surrounding COVID-19 and recommended health and safety guidelines since early March, with our No. 1 goal to keep members of our campus community safe," said ECCC President Dr. Billy Stewart. "Although our campus is currently closed to the public and our students are engaged in online and alternate format courses this summer, college officials are making plans to reopen our campus and resume in-person classes beginning with the fall 2020 term." Stewart, who retires on June 30, said he is working with incoming ECCC president Dr. Brent Gregory and the college's Reopening of Campus Task Force in shaping the college's COVID-19 reopening plan. Gregory will assume his duties on July 1. He said the Reopening of Campus Task Force will have separate committees to address various aspects of reopening, such as instruction, student services, and health and safety protocols.
Jones College cancels drive-thru graduation due to COVID-19, will host a virtual ceremony
Jones College in Ellisville has scrapped plans for a drive-thru graduation, opting for a virtual ceremony to celebrate the Class of 2020. The community college stated in a press release that since Jones County was deemed a "hot spot" for COVID-19 with more than 729 cases and 34 deaths as of June 6, the ceremony was canceled "due to the increasing threat of COVID-19 in Jones County." Thomas Dobbs, state health officer for the Mississippi State Department of Health, told Jones College administration that hosting the graduation on campus was not a good idea. "With the high rate of community spread in Jones County, an event like a graduation presents a real public health threat," Dobbs said. The ceremony was set for June 12 but has been rescheduled to June 19 online on Jones College's website. The college will update information regarding the ceremony. Students who have already registered for the drive-thru graduation will receive their cap, gown and yearbook in the mail.
Summer enrollment record broken at William Carey
William Carey University's 2020 summer term has broken the school's record for the highest summer enrollment. A total number of 2,595 students were enrolled into the school when summer classes began on June 1, a 400-student increase from last year's summer term and almost 100 more than the previous record that was set in 2011 when 2,501 students enrolled for summer classes. WCU's School of Education and School of Nursing saw the largest enrollment gains. "I am so pleased with the loyalty of our students. In this uncertain time, it is refreshing to know that students continue to advance their careers," said WCU President Dr. Tommy King. "It is not surprising that the largest increases are in programs that lead directly to employment." The number of education students increase by 35 percent as 1,180 students enrolled this summer compared to the 876 students from last year's term, and the nursing enrollment increased by 18 percent from 495 to 586. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all summer classes will be taught online. WCU plans to open its campus in the fall term but the final decision will depend on pandemic conditions at that time.
Alabama SGA calls on school to rename buildings with 'racist namesakes'
The University of Alabama's Student Government Association called for the school to rename buildings on campus with "racist namesakes." The SGA released the following statement Sunday afternoon: "Since the beginning of this administration, President Demarcus Joiner and Chief of Staff Kathryn Hayes have been engaged in much-needed conversations with officials to begin the work of changing the names of campus buildings with racist namesakes. "The University of Alabama Student Government Association joins our fellow students in their call to rename these buildings and urge a review of the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act, a state law banning local governments from renaming historical buildings." Demarcus Joiner, who is African American, ran unopposed for SGA president during the spring semester, winning in March. A monument honoring Confederate soldiers, erected by the Alabama Division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy in May 1914, remains at the Center of the Quad between Gorgas Library and Denny Chimes on the University of Alabama campus.
President Jay Gogue seeks task force on 'meaningful change' for Auburn black community
Auburn University President Jay Gogue delivered a message through campus-wide email on Friday afternoon promising to create a task force during his term to "seek meaningful action to confront the pain, fear, systemic racism and injustice faced by the black community." The letter comes as Americans nationwide protest in support of the Black Lives Matter movement after George Floyd, an unarmed black male, was killed by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. Auburn saw a protest take place on Sunday afternoon at Toomer's Corner, where participants marched to the City's Public Safety building with chants of "No justice; no peace" and "I can't breathe." There, they observed nine minutes of silence to symbolize the nine minutes Chauvin knelt on Floyd. "The events of the past 10 days have been painful for me and, I'm certain, for every member of the Auburn Family," Gogue said in the letter. "While we all have a lot of questions, it is clear that something has to change, both in society and on our campus."
Auburn University students follow up on Toomer's Corner rally
Auburn University students have taken their desire for change to social media. The Auburn Students and Community for Change, a group created in response to last week's Toomer's Corner rally, posted an open letter to the university this week on its new Facebook page. The letter is written in response to a statement that Auburn University President Jay Gogue released May 31. "While we acknowledge the painful reality that prejudice and bigotry exist, we stand resolute that they have no place in the Auburn Family," Gogue said. "As an institution that values and embraces each individual, we oppose hate and exclusion and acts that promote them. "It was on my heart to reaffirm Auburn's values. I'm confident that we, together, will work toward change and healing." But the students group said that the university president's statement was not enough. The response also included a list of demands that the group said are necessary from Auburn University, including a monthly status report, a mandatory courts on equity, inclusion and diversity and a faculty-student mentorship program for students from diverse backgrounds.
Petition calls for Auburn University to rename Wallace Hall
Auburn students and community members are calling for the renaming of Wallace Hall through a petition launched on Wednesday. The facility, which is home to the University's industrial and graphic design programs, was built in 1984 for the Department of Vocational and Adult Education and named after George Wallace, Alabama's 45th governor. Ashley Henton, senior in apparel design, launched the petition with her friend Aahil Makhani, senior in supply chain management, amid nationwide protests in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Henton said she and Makhani were compelled to take action after seeing many comments on social media say the building's name is not representative of the Department of Industrial and Graphic Design. "I kept seeing more and more posts say, 'Why is there still a Wallace Hall?'" Henton said. "I agree completely; why is there still a Wallace Hall? [On Wednesday,] I asked Aahil if there was a petition I could sign ... and me and him couldn't find one. I honestly had no idea that I was the first to start one; I'm really surprised that it didn't happen sooner."
Citing George Floyd's death, U. of Kentucky president says he will remove mural depicting slavery
University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto announced Friday that the school will remove a longstanding mural on campus that students have criticized as racist for its depictions of black and Native American people. UK students have raised concerns repeatedly about the mural's controversial and painful depictions of people of color -- including images of a Native American clutching a tomahawk and black people working in a field -- and called for its removal. Capilouto previously said it was difficult for him "to think of destroying that piece of art," which UK graduate Ann Rice O'Hanlon painted in 1934 for the Public Works of Art Project that was part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal. Capilouto's decision to finally remove the mural comes amid nationwide protests against police brutality and widespread condemnation of the recent police killings of black Americans like Breonna Taylor in Louisville and George Floyd in Minneapolis. In a campuswide announcement Friday about the mural's removal, Capilouto expressed horror over Floyd's killing.
DKE fraternity hazing probe at LSU stymied by code of silence that's 'alive and well,' DA says
The allegations against members of LSU's now-closed Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity were horrendous. Pledges forced to lie down on broken glass while being urinated on, doused in gasoline, struck with pipes, kicked with steel-toed boots, burned with cigarettes, and more. That was in February 2019, when nine DKE members were arrested and accused of hazing and other related offenses. Sixteen months later, no indictments have been returned by a grand jury nor have charges been levied by prosecutors. A candid East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III said it comes down to a lack of two things: cooperation from witnesses, and proof. "We have little to no cooperation with any potential witnesses," he said. "At this point, given the lack of cooperation and the amount of time that's passed, it has impacted our ability to proceed." Moore characterized the investigation as ongoing but one that has "been pretty much at a standstill since March," when the coronavirus outbreak struck Louisiana.
U. of Florida faculty fight for paid parental and medical leave
April Hines, a University of Florida journalism and mass communications librarian, took time off from work in 2019 to take care of her newborn son. As a full-time employee at UF since 2005, Hines said she had accumulated a large amount of sick and vacation hours. Her sick and vacation days were used to essentially "cash-in" her time for parental leave. Hines said she was lucky to have the comfort of built-up hours to take care of her newborn last year and in 2014, as well. But, she said many of her fellow faculty and staff who take parental leave throughout their time at UF often end up in debt to the university. Currently, faculty get six weeks of parental leave, but it is borrowed, not paid, according to Helene Huet, the co-chief negotiator of the United Faculty of Florida, a union responsible for bargaining on behalf of UF faculty and staff. While union members get up to 12 weeks, all faculty and staff are expected to pay the university back within six years using the vacation and sick days they accumulate over time. "When you're on parental leave, it's not an illness, it's definitely not a vacation," Hines said. "Yet we've been forced to use that time that we've actually earned for simply deciding to add a child to the family."
Summer enrollment numbers up 16% for Texas A&M University
Texas A&M University's summer enrollment is up 16% compared to last year, with 28,094 people enrolled on the fourth day of class this month and 24,228 at this time in 2019. This summer's classes are being held online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to A&M Associate Vice President of Marketing & Communications Kelly Brown, the greatest increase was in the undergraduate category -- which makes up 70% of the overall student body during the summer -- with a 24% rise from 15,901 to 19,738. Chad Wootton, associate vice president of external affairs for A&M's provost office, said at a Brazos County Health District press briefing this week that this summer's enrollment at A&M is higher than any previous summer. "We think this is young people taking advantage of the flexibility, and in some cases making up for the uncertainty of the spring semester," Wootton said Monday.
Texas A&M classes canceled Monday in recognition of George Floyd memorial service
Texas A&M University will not have classes Monday in recognition of the public viewing for George Floyd in Houston. According to an announcement by Carol Fierke, provost and executive vice president, special eight-week classes for new students that were scheduled to begin Monday will now start Tuesday. As all classes are online in the summer, faculty may record and make available lectures that would've been presented during a regularly scheduled class. Any exam or other activity scheduled for today will be postponed and rescheduled, the message states. Texas A&M Athletics said its facilities, including weight rooms and practice fields, will also be closed Monday. According to a memo by Jeff Risinger, vice president of the division of human resources and organizational effectiveness, the Texas A&M University System has authorized a full-day release for all nonessential personal Monday to allow participation in Floyd's memorial service, which will be available via livestream.
Protesters decry proposed U. of Missouri job outsourcing
They were the first back on the University of Missouri's campus once it started reopening after a nearly two-month shutdown caused by COVID-19. Now, they're concerned they could be the first to leave. More than 100 laborers and their supporters protested the potential outsourcing and privatization of MU landscaping and custodial jobs due to COVID-19-related budget cuts at a protest on campus Saturday afternoon. "The university is saying they want to outsource most of our jobs," said Carlos Escobar, a Laborers' Local 955 organizer. "They want to start with the landscaping department and ... the custodial department. That's around 300 people that will be out of work." MU spokesman Christian Basi said around 280 MU employees could be impacted by the privatization and outsourcing efforts, which will be decided upon at the end of the month. "We are under a significant budget strain right now," Basi said. "The system has had approximately more than $50 million cut from its budget for this year alone."
Searching for a meaningful response from college leaders to the killing of George Floyd
Dozens of college presidents published statements last week after a white Minneapolis police officer held his knee on George Floyd's neck for more than eight minutes, killing the black man on May 25 and sparking national protests. Most of the statements spoke out against racism and police brutality. Many referenced institutional commitments to diversity and the desire for all students, faculty and staff to feel safe and welcomed on campus. But few explicitly mentioned black people, referenced the Black Lives Matter movement or included any concrete action items to address inequities on campus or in wider society. Finding the right words after America's long and tortured history with race and racial violence led to this moment is not an easy feat. The pressure is high for college presidents to provide leadership in this moment. And clearly some presidents' statements were found wanting. Fear of saying the wrong thing, however, is not an excuse for silence, say experts. And even well-worded statements can fall flat if they are not followed up by actions.
College Fund Raising Is Expected to Drop Sharply in Next Few Years
College fund raisers are bracing for donations to take at least as steep a nosedive over the next several years as they did after the Great Recession, according to a survey of 110 development leaders released on Monday. More than four in 10 fund raisers said they expected giving to drop by at least 10 percent in the 2020 fiscal year, which closes on June 30. A slightly higher share said they expected that level of decline to continue in 2021, with a big proportion of the drop coming from an expected loss of multimillion-dollar contributions. And one in five said they expected dips of 20 percent or more. By comparison, colleges faced their steepest drop in giving on record in 2009, during the financial crisis, when donations fell 11.9 percent, according to the Council for Aid to Education. The findings released on Monday come from a study conducted by the consultancy EAB, and they point to an added financial challenge as colleges reel from their quick switch to online learning in March and continued uncertainty about whether they can or should reopen in the fall.
Survey forecasts 'dramatic decline' in fundraising from pandemic
College fundraising revenue will likely drop over the next two years as donors close their wallets to wait out the pandemic and resulting economic downturn, according to a new survey released today. The survey by EAB, a higher education technology and consulting firm, queried 110 university fundraising professionals about current revenue projections. It found that more than 40 percent of colleges are projecting a 10 percent or larger decline in fundraising revenue for fiscal year 2020, which concludes for most institutions at the end of this month. More than one in five institutions expect fundraising revenue to fall by at least 20 percent, the survey showed. In fiscal 2021, the declines are projected to be even steeper. Nearly 45 percent of institutions project double-digit declines in fundraising revenue, and a growing number of colleges project a decline of 30 percent or more compared to 2019 totals. Fundraising officers are having trouble reaching new donors, said Jeff Martin, EAB senior director. "Consistently I'm hearing that front-line fundraisers are having trouble getting new prospects to take meetings. They're having trouble opening up the conversation about giving with people who they don't have established relationships with," he said.
As pandemic pounds U.S. universities, federal support helps their labs stay afloat
This spring, as the coronavirus pandemic shuttered U.S. higher education, many college presidents began to warn of the dire financial impact of a frozen U.S. economy on their institutions. Their mix of revenue sources largely determined how much they might be hurt. Universities that operate their own hospitals issued the shrillest warnings -- with some forecasting losses of a half-billion dollars and more from the temporary suspension of elective surgeries and the added cost of treating COVID-19 patients. Public institutions that receive a significant amount of state funding said they were bracing for double-digit cuts from legislatures facing huge losses in tax revenue. Those with large endowments cited the stock market's steep plunge in March as a major setback, although equities have since staged a strong recovery. In every case, those alarm bells were accompanied by a slew of cost-cutting measures designed to soften the financial blow from the pandemic. Amidst the sea of red ink, however, one stream of revenue has remained healthy: the money universities receive from others -- especially the federal government -- to carry out research. That fact looms large in any effort to forecast the impact of COVID-19 on U.S. academic research.
Fast pace of scientific publishing on COVID comes with problems
The pace of scientific publishing has accelerated dramatically in response to the COVID pandemic. Journals have sped up time from submission to publication, and scientists have uploaded thousands of papers to open-access preprint servers without first going through the normal peer-review process. As the volume and speed of scientific publishing has increased, it's perhaps inevitable that mistakes will slip through -- mistakes that can have serious stakes and consequential outcomes in the context of a highly politicized pandemic. "Good science is hard to do, and in an outbreak there's this tendency to say some science is better than none," said Alex John London, the Clara L. West Professor of Ethics and Philosophy at Carnegie Mellon University, who coauthored a May 1 article in Science, "Against pandemic research exceptionalism," that argued for a need for scientists to collaborate to effect more rigorous study design. "That is not always true. Some science can be worse than no science. Some data, some evidence can be worse than no evidence or no data if it's misleading in important ways."
Coronavirus lesson: we're more fragile than invulnerable
Syndicated columnist Bill Crawford of Meridian writes: Fragile...the word itself seems frail, matching its etymology from the Latin fragilis, with frag meaning "to break" and ilis meaning "subject to." Thanks to the COVID-19 coronavirus, we see many things today more fragile, more susceptible to breaking, than ever before. Many were made that way by our false sense of invulnerability. Take our health care system. Americans enjoy the most ubiquitous, capable, and costly health care system in the world. The coronavirus exposed its fragility when faced with a pandemic we were sure we were prepared for and could handle. More than 100,000 deaths in three months, over one-third in long term care facilities, and lack of ready access to essential equipment and supplies attest, tragically, to our unpreparedness, vulnerability, and unsuspected fragility. Take our economy. We enjoy the largest, most diversified and distributed economy in all the world. Again, the coronavirus exposed its fragility when faced with shelter-at-home restrictions that disrupt consumption, hamper production, snap supply chains, and decimate distribution systems. Over 40 million unemployed Americans attest to our vulnerability and unsuspected fragility.
Our new flag will be a sight to behold
The Mississippi Business Journal's Ross Reily writes: In general relativity, an event horizon is a boundary in spacetime beyond which events cannot affect an outside observer. In layman's terms, it is defined as "the point of no return", the point at which the gravitational pull becomes so great as to make escape impossible. In Mississippi we passed an event horizon in 2001. That's when Mississippi held a referendum on whether to change the state flag, with its racist, Confederate emblem purposefully placed in the top left-hand corner. While Mississippi voted overwhelmingly to keep the flag, we, as a state, had already gone past the point of no return. The mere fact there was even a vote was the event horizon. We are going to change the flag. We are going to strip away the racist, confederate symbol and move on to become a healthier, more well-adjusted state. The Mississippi Business Journal has been consistent in our views on the issue. ... Even today -- TODAY -- there are still those out there who stick their heads in the sand and talk about topics like heritage and politics. Yet, they don't consider the anti-business message, let-alone the anti-Christian message, they send.
Gov. Tate Reeves holds off legislators' push for year-round session -- for now
Bobby Harrison writes for Mississippi Today: Gov. Tate Reeves and his staff had to feel good last week when the Senate leadership was unable to get the two-thirds super majority needed to pass a House resolution that would allow the Mississippi Legislature to remain in session for the rest of the year. The resolution could be viewed as a direct affront to Reeves since it would strip away one of the governor's most coveted powers -- the sole authority to call legislators back in a special session once they adjourn the regular session for the year. But if the Legislature never adjourns the regular session, then the chambers' two presiding officers -- Speaker Philip Gunn in the House and Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann in the Senate -- could call lawmakers back into session. Gunn and Hosemann already have blocked Reeves' effort to have sole spending authority of $1.25 billion in federal funds designed to help the state pay for the costs of fighting COVID-19.

Mississippi State football begins voluntary workouts
Mississippi State University took a large step towards starting football season on Monday. MSU hosted its first voluntary conditioning workouts Monday morning. The student athletes were split into groups, one at 8 a.m. and another at 9:15 a.m., to work out in the Palmeiro Center on campus. Freshmen players and newcomers were scheduled to workout at a later time. At one of the entrances of the Palmeiro Center sat a table with hand sanitizer on it, and players inside were following social distancing rules while stretching. A few players walking in had on facemasks. "First day of voluntary workouts! Let's go! #HailState," Senior Associate Athletic Director for MSU football Dave Emerick tweeted out Monday morning. It was the first day student athletes have been able to work out on campus since March 12 -- when COVID-19 shut down college sports nationwide. Mississippi State is scheduled to begin its season with new head coach Mike Leach on Sept. 5 against New Mexico at home.
Koby strong: How a Mississippi State football player uplifted the spirits of a young Bulldog fan
It started as just another day playing the video game NBA 2K. Nathan Pickering took jumpers and slammed down dunks with the click of a few buttons when he received a Twitter message from an unknown account. Pickering put down his controller and pulled out his phone. The message was from Caleb Garner. His girlfriend, Anna Claire Walker, had a request for Pickering, a defensive lineman at Mississippi State. Her younger brother, Koby, was on his eighth day in a row at Le Bonheur Children's Hospital in Memphis, and he desperately needed to be uplifted. Koby, a 15-year-old Mississippi State fan, has battled a rare inherited metabolic disorder called mucolipidosis since birth. The disease inhibits a person's bones and joints from developing properly. Koby grew at a noticeably slower pace than his twin brother, Kyle, so his mother took him to the doctor to get diagnosed shortly before he turned 1. DeAnna Womack, Koby's mother, was told her son wouldn't make it to his third birthday without a bone marrow transplant. Within three months, the risky operation was completed. Koby received the bone marrow from Anna Claire. Fifteen years later, he received the surprise of a lifetime from Pickering.
Hoosier state of mind: How Mississippi State women's basketball assistant coaches Keith Freeman and Scepter Brownlee were molded by their Indiana roots
In Indiana, basketball is more than just a game. Thirteen of the 14 largest high school gyms in America are housed in the Hoosier State. At the college level, Indiana and Purdue have combined for five national championships and 10 Final Fours, while Butler and Indiana State also have Final Four appearances to their names. Legendary coaches Bob Knight and Gene Keady have helped immortalize the state's storied basketball tradition. Hollywood, too, aided in its aura courtesy of the 1986 film "Hoosiers," starring Gene Hackman. But beyond its identity as a basketball-crazed haven, Indiana is the place Mississippi State women's basketball assistant coaches Scepter Brownlee and Keith Freeman call home. "It's personal," Brownlee told The Dispatch. "In Indiana, basketball is a way of life."
Ole Miss athletes, coaches and staff hold private Unity March
The Ole Miss athletics department came together on Saturday morning to spread a message of unity. In response to weeks-long protests across the country, and here in Oxford, over the death of George Floyd while in the custody of the Minneapolis police last month and racial injustices, the Ole Miss student-athletes, coaches and staff members held a Unity March on campus. The march, which was private due to COVID-19 and social distancing guidelines, started at the Ole Miss Track & Field complex, where athletics director Keith Carter, women's basketball coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin and Oxford Mayor Robyn Tannehill spoke to the athletes in attendance. With signs that read "Silence Is Not OK" and "Black Lives Matter," athletes marched from the track & field complex to the football practice field wearing shirts that said "Unity" across the chest. Football player Ryder Anderson led the march while using a megaphone and leading chants of "Black Lives Matter."
Three Auburn football players test positive for COVID-19
Three Auburn football players have tested positive for COVID-19 before summer workouts, a team spokesman confirmed to the Opelika-Auburn News on Sunday afternoon. Those players are self-isolating from the rest of the team. All of them are asymptomatic. They are not in danger, but they are being isolated to prevent spreading the virus to teammates and beyond. Auburn's number is not unusual. Alabama football had five players come up positive for the virus upon team-wide testing last week, according to multiple reports. Auburn's players were all tested Friday, and kept separated from each other until test results came back over the weekend. The Tigers arrived back at Auburn on Thursday evening for in-isolation workouts set to start Monday. Auburn athletics director Allen Greene and head football coach Gus Malzahn said last week that the program has put together a rigorous isolation and tracing system in place for players who came back for the workouts, which are voluntary. Auburn had a plan already in place on how to isolate any potential positive cases.
LSU postpones first voluntary workouts as Tropical Storm Cristobal forces campus closure
LSU football has delayed the beginning of voluntary workouts until Tuesday morning. With Tropical Storm Cristobal moving through the state, LSU closed its campus Monday, shutting offices and requiring employees to work from home. The school will only allow personnel on campus who complete "weather-related tasks." LSU planned to begin workouts Monday, the first day Southeastern Conference schools can hold voluntary workouts, but it postponed its start date because of the campus closure. Voluntary workouts mark a critical step toward the beginning of football season. Players may train with strength and conditioning coaches. They cannot partake in required football activities. LSU brought its football players back onto campus June 1. They had spent almost three months at home after schools shut down throughout the country. They trained with remote guidance from strength and conditioning coach Tommy Moffitt, who provided manuals with various training regimens. Moffitt expects 85% of the team to return in-shape.
Florida AD Scott Stricklin hopes fans will be in stands for football opener
UF athletics director Scott Stricklin remains optimistic the football season will kick off Sept. 5 against Eastern Washington. Yet, he is in no rush to decide how many fans will be allowed in the Swamp. "We're going to accommodate as many people as possible," Stricklin told the Orlando Sentinel Thursday. "The longer we wait, the better chance we can have more people." Speaking at a Florida Board of Trustees meeting Thursday, Stricklin said he would like to hold off until early to mid-August before announcing a decision on crowd sizes. Stricklin said predicting the future is a fool's errand during the age of coronavirus. Even so, it has not prevented his fellow athletics directors from weighing in with force. "I get really frustrated when I see my colleagues across the country making predictions and giving insights that are nothing more than guesses," Stricklin said during the meeting. "We don't want to be guessing. We want to make sure we have really good information."
UGA athletic board approves '21 budget. How football season unfolds could bring changes
The Georgia Athletic Association Board of Directors fulfilled its duty to approve a fiscal 2021 budget on Thursday at its annual end-of-the-academic-year meeting. It could be considered an optimistic budget -- $149.4 million, down from $153.9 million for the latest fiscal year -- because what this coming football season ends up looking like in the weeks ahead could prompt the board's finance committee to make additional changes to reflect that. Athletic director Greg McGarity told the board adjustments to the budget could need to be made based on changes to projected revenues. "That will largely depend on whether or not we will be able to accommodate all of our fans," president Jere Morehead told reporters after the meeting. "I just can't predict that right now. I know Greg has shown me different scenarios based on what could or couldn't happen. The one thing that we have going in our favor is that we've always had reserves for moments like this. We're certainly prepared to do what we have to do to keep our athletic program intact no matter the path we go down." The meeting was scheduled to be a three-day gathering at the The Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee but like so many meetings these days it was held on video via Zoom due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Kentucky football team is resuming workouts Monday; basketball others, return pending
Members of the Kentucky football team are returning to workouts Monday. The Southeastern Conference had halted all in-person athletic activity in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic but recently cleared schools to begin bringing athletes back to campus. UK announced over the weekend the first phase of its reintroduction of athletes to campus would begin Monday with members of the football team who remained in Lexington during the shutdown. Those athletes will be allowed to participate in voluntary workouts with the strength and conditioning staff. All other staff, including coaches, will continue to work remotely. UK has yet to announce plans for the return of athletes in sports other than football, but Keion Brooks Sr., the father of UK basketball sophomore Keion Brooks, recently told The Athletic the UK men's basketball team is tentatively scheduled to return to campus during the week of June 22. Basketball coach John Calipari outlined some general plans for the return of his team in a recent episode of his "Coffee with Cal" web show. "The protocol would be the medical stuff for three days before we do anything, conditioning without us coaches for two weeks," Calipari said.
Texas A&M lays out guidelines for return to sports beginning Tuesday
Texas A&M student-athletes will be able to have voluntary in-person athletic activity on campus starting Tuesday. A&M has been preparing for their return for more than a month. The school's athletic department created a Performance & Wellness Task Force to develop a return to activities plan. The group consulted with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, local public health officials, the Southeastern Conference, the NCAA and A&M University experts in infectious diseases. A&M released a summary of those guidelines Sunday night. A&M student-athletes and coaches for all sports along with staff were tested for COVID-19 starting on May 18. Close to 500 have been tested, athletic director Ross Bjork said in a text. Less than five returning student-athletes tested positive and all were asymptomatic, Bjork told The Dallas Morning News, adding "we knew we would have positive tests. That's why you do the tests, to verify that your plan is working and to verify the health and safety of athletes, which is the most important thing." Bjork said Sunday there are around 275 A&M students in town, based on a survey.
Mizzou athletics employees take pay cuts, furloughs amid budget crisis
Employees making over $60,000 in the University of Missouri athletics department will take a three-month pay cut beginning July 1, according to a Friday update of an MU website that tracks budgetary actions. Also, MU laid off another 34 employees and furloughed 446 more this week, according to the website, for a total of 117 layoffs and 2,129 furloughs. Pay reductions in the athletics department are part of a $16.5 million cut from its operating budget for the 2020-2021 fiscal year, which also includes more layoffs and furloughs. Athletic director Jim Sterk sent an email to employees in May that said the layoffs were coming and would save the department about $5 million. Nick Joos, deputy athletic director of communications, said the department is anticipating a 20% decrease in revenue next year. Joos said the department does not receive institutional funding; rather, it generates revenue from television, ticket sales, donations and money from the Southeastern Conference, the NCAA and others. In the 2019 fiscal year, the department finished with a budget deficit for a third year in a row.
Florida Ballpark's playing surface named Alfred A. McKethan Field
Florida's new baseball stadium will carry over a name from the old park on campus. Florida Ballpark's playing surface will be known as Alfred A. McKethan Field. The University Athletic Association honored the namesake of McKethan Stadium, as the University of Florida Board of Trustees approved the decision. "The McKethan family name has been synonymous with Gators Baseball for decades, and it is only fitting that the name will continue to have a presence at our new ballpark," UF Athletic Director Scott Stricklin said in a school news release. "We are very appreciative of their longtime generosity and support of the program, and we look forward to the next chapter of Gators Baseball." Mr. McKethan's family name became synonymous with Florida Baseball in 1987, when he led the fundraising efforts for $2.4 million worth of construction and refurbishment costs -- which included a 2,500-seat grandstand with 800 chair backs, a new press box, concession stands, and restrooms -- around Perry Field (the Gators' home ballpark since 1949). McKethan, who was chairman of the board of Brooksville's Sun Bank & Trust at the time, presented the University Athletic Association with just over 10,000 shares of Sun Bank stock, which amounted to a $500,000 donation. Matching funds from the state and McKethan's fellow Bull Gator Club members covered the remaining costs.
Coach with U. of Iowa football program placed on leave over 'racial disparities'
A longtime strength and conditioning coach with the University of Iowa football program has been placed on administrative leave, the team confirmed Saturday, after a number of black former players recounted "racial disparities." Head coach Kirk Ferentz said in a recorded message Saturday that the assistant coach, Chris Doyle, had been placed on administrative leave, effective immediately, while an independent review took place. Calling it a "defining moment" for the Iowa football program, Ferentz also announced the creation of an advisory committee that will be led by former Iowa player James Daniels. Daniels, who now plays for the Chicago Bears, started the discussion about the disparities with a tweet Saturday. "There are too many racial disparities in the Iowa football program. Black players have been treated unfairly for far too long," he wrote. A number of former players have responded with their own experiences.
President Trump targets NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after message supporting players
President Trump is taking aim at NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, questioning whether his statement supporting athletes' rights to peacefully protest means that the league would stand by players who choose to kneel during the national anthem. The post served as Trump's latest salvo in what has become a long-running and divisive debate over professional athletes choosing to take a knee during the national anthem to protest police brutality and racial injustice. Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started the demonstration in 2016, leading dozens of professional and amateur athletes to replicate it in the ensuing years. But Goodell last week issued support for NFL players after a group of the league's most prominent African American athletes released a video montage demanding that the league condemn racism and admit it was wrong for attempting to silence them before. Goodell responded to the demands by issuing a recorded video statement in which he admitted that the league deserved blame for how it initially addressed player protests. While Goodell did not mention Kaepernick by name, the commissioner encouraged "all to speak out and peacefully protest."

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