Friday, June 12, 2020   
Street paving, parking lot improvements scheduled to begin June 15
Street paving and parking lot improvements are scheduled to begin on Monday [June 15] at 6 a.m. on Mississippi State's Starkville campus. Areas affected by street paving improvements include all of Lakeview Drive, Barr Avenue, Tracy Drive, Presidents Circle and Herbert Street. Areas affected by parking lot improvements include all of Zacharias Village, Dorman Hall, and Cresswell and Hathorn residence halls. Those navigating campus should use caution near these areas that may experience traffic disruption. Improvement work is expected to be complete by mid-August. Please direct any questions to MSU Facilities Management at 662-325-2005.
MSU Libraries collecting submissions for new COVID-19 digital archive
Mississippi State University Libraries recently began collecting submissions for a new COVID-19 digital archive to document the pandemic's impact on MSU students, faculty, staff and community members. Students of MSU assistant professor Dhanashree Thorat, who teaches Introduction to Digital Humanities, created an original collection that the university will feature in the digital archive, a release from MSU says. Karina Zelaya, an assistant professor in MSU's Department of Classical and Modern Languages and Literatures, is leading outreach efforts to promote the project among the Latinx and international communities. MSU Libraries is currently not collecting physical material for the archive, but is instead asking community members to digitally submit original photographs, videos, audio files, scanned handwritten or printed materials, screenshots of personal social media posts and images of public signage, the release says. Community members can also record their stories about the pandemic using video or audio or submit written accounts in a Word document or PDF format.
COVID-19 adds steps to hurricane preparedness
In the second week of June, Tropical Storm Cristobal reminded Mississippians that the Atlantic hurricane season has arrived. Further complicating preparation for this hurricane season, which officially began June 1 and concludes at the end of November, is the threat of COVID-19. Confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Mississippi have not shown any consistent decrease, which will be an important issue if residents need to evacuate. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has forecasted an above-average hurricane season in terms of storm activity. Sheran Watkins, county coordinator with the Mississippi State University Extension Service in Harrison County, said the COVID-19 environment will change how she prepares for potential hurricanes. She sheltered with her parents in their home near Prentiss when Hurricane Katrina wreaked havoc on the Gulf Coast in 2005, but she said she will reconsider that strategy this year if she has to evacuate.
A new $1.1 billion casino is being proposed in Biloxi
A $1.1 billion casino resort is proposed at the former Broadwater Beach Resort site in Biloxi. The Biloxi City Council will be asked to approve a Mississippi tourism rebate incentive for the project Tuesday. The developers intend to redevelop the 266-acre property with a casino, golf course, hotel, spa and other amenities, according to the city resolution. It can participate in the Mississippi Tourism Project Incentive Program with a hotel, an indoor or outdoor entertainment center , marina, golf course and the private investment of at least the $10 million required for the tourism incentive the resolution says. A portion of the sales tax generated by the project on what now is empty land would be diverted as an incentive to help cover some of the costs of construction. The developer, Broadwater Development LLP, expects the resort to create 2,557 full-time and part-time jobs. The resort would be the most expensive ever built in South Mississippi. The estimated cost of the Beau Rivage Resort & Casino was $750 million to $800 million when Steve Wynn opened it in Biloxi in 1999.
COVID-19 testing took 'herculean effort'
According to the Mississippi State Department of Health, seven percent of Mississippi residents have now been tested for coronavirus, including 100 percent of all residents and staff of the 211 nursing homes in Mississippi. MSDH says nursing homes are considered high-risk locations because their residents are older or in poor health and even one case of COVID-19 in these facilities among residents or employees is considered an outbreak. The effort came at the urging of President Trump last month as he encouraged states to test all nursing homes as part of the country's reopening strategy. MSDH says 13,911 residents and 17,324 staff members were tested for COVID-19 during a 14-day period in the last two weeks of May. The Mississippi Public Health Lab and the University of Mississippi Medical Center tested a total of 26,549 individuals. Of those, 676 were positive for COVID-19. "We have been tracking outbreaks in nursing homes since we first saw COVID case in Mississippi on March 11," said Mississippi State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs. "That has been a very vulnerable population that has shown to be more susceptible to severe illness and death from COVID."
State Senate passes resolution removing electoral requirement in Constitution
The Mississippi Senate on Thursday unanimously passed a resolution that aims to remove a requirement that candidates for statewide office must win a majority of state House districts. State Sen. Kathy Chism, R-New Albany, presented House Concurrent Resolution 47 to the Senate, which, if it becomes law, would remove the electoral vote hurdle candidates currently have to clear. The Mississippi Constitution currently states that all statewide candidates must win a majority of the popular vote and a majority of the state's 122 House districts. If no candidate receives both a majority of the votes and a majority of the House districts, the election is then thrown to the state House of Representatives to choose the winner. The electoral requirement is largely viewed as a Jim Crow-era policy that was designed to keep black Mississippians from getting elected to statewide office. The resolution presented by Chism would amend the state's Constitution to remove this House districts requirement.
Senate Democrats file resolution to change state flag after earlier action by House members
A group of Democratic senators filed a resolution on Thursday to change Mississippi's state flag, the last in the nation containing the Confederate battle emblem. The move means conversations about changing the flag are openly occurring in both chambers of the Capitol for the first time since 2001. Earlier this week, a bipartisan group of House members had privately discussed the issue and begun whipping votes. The Senate rules suspension, filed on Thursday on 12 Senate Democrats, is required because the legislative deadline has passed to consider a bill to change the flag. It would require a two-thirds vote in both chambers to pass the suspension resolution. "We are going to see where the votes are," said Sen. Derrick Simmons of Greenville, the Senate Democratic leader. Simmons said multiple Republicans have indicated to him they support changing the flag. Still, most concede it would be a long shot at best to change the flag at this point in the session.
'It is time': Interfaith clergy call for the immediate removal of Mississippi's flag
A group of interfaith leaders stood on the steps of the Catholic cathedral in downtown Jackson Thursday morning, calling for the immediate removal of the Mississippi state flag. In a resounding a voice, they said any discussion of what design should replace the current flag must not impede the current goal: Taking down a flag associated with white supremacy. "Anything is better than what we've got now," said Bishop Ronnie Crudup of New Horizon Church International. People have been protesting for racial justice in Mississippi and across the nation this month at levels not seen since the civil rights movement more than 50 years ago. There is renewed hope that the Legislature might act to change the state flag, which contains what is commonly known as the confederate battle flag. "It is time," said Bishop Brian Seage of the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi. "It is time for a new flag that truly represents all of us... We call for our legislative leaders to act now."
Business community joins flag fight
The Jackson Convention and Visitors Bureau, known as Visit Jackson, believes the capital city has lost untold millions of dollars over the years from sporting events and conventions which refused to gather here because of Mississippi's controversial flag. "It does create a perception. It allows folks outside of Mississippi to have a negative image. I think those of us in Mississippi understand that," said Scott Waller, president and CEO of the Mississippi Economic Council, which represents more than 1,000 businesses across the state. Waller recently polled his members asking if they believe the state flag has an an economic impact. He said 65% said yes that without question, it impacts the state's ability to attract economic development and continue to spur growth. "It's something that just creates a barrier that doesn't need to be there, and by removing this flag, by repealing this flag, we will see economic opportunities in the state -- without question," Waller said.
Sons of Confederate Veterans: 'let the people decide' on flag issue
Controversy surrounding Mississippi's flag is gaining steam. A push by lawmakers to change the flag is getting some resistance. For the Sons of Confederate Veterans they say the flag issue is simple. "Our thing is let the people vote on it," said George Bond, Commander of the Mississippi division SCV. A group of lawmakers with speaker Philip Gunn's blessing are trying to gain support to vote on removing the state flag with the Confederate emblem on it. "There's not going to be any flag that every Mississippian is going to be 100 percent behind , whether it's the Stennis Flag , the bicentennial flag, the current state flag or even the flag that was proposed in the 2001 referendum -- people are always going to have different opinions about symbols," said Bond. For the group they say the flag represents Mississippi's history that includes everyone who contributed to it. Others say it's racist and puts a black eye on Mississippi.
'We have the momentum': Calls grow to change Coast Confederate monument, state flag
Community sentiment is growing for removal of a Confederate monument planted on the northwest side of the Harrison County courthouse in Gulfport. Confederates monuments have been coming down across the South in recent years. The death of George Floyd under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer has quickened the pace of removals as more and more Americans call for an end to violence and discrimination against Black people. In neighboring Alabama, both Mobile and Birmingham have removed Confederate monuments in the wake of Floyd's death. Like Alabama, the state of Mississippi in recent years established impediments to removing these vestiges of the Confederacy. The Mississippi Legislature and former Gov. Haley Barbour approved a law in 2004 that prohibits altering or removing Confederate monuments. The state and its political subdivisions can move monuments to the "War Between the States," the law says, only if a governing body determines another location is "more suitable." At least two attorney general's opinions, in 2017, have indicated the law allows a city or county monument to be relocated only to other public property within its jurisdiction.
Mayor Robyn Tannehill: Confederate statue 'needs to be removed to a more appropriate place'
The topic of removing the confederate statue from in front of the Lafayette County Courthouse has been at the forefront of discussion, due to the events of recent weeks. Oxford Mayor Robyn Tannehill has now joined the discussion. Despite the statue being on county property and not under the jurisdiction of Tannehill or the Oxford Board of Aldermen, the Mayor issued a statement on Friday morning joining those who wish for the statue to be relocated. Tannehill also addressed her opinion on the Mississippi state flag in her comments. "During my years of serving as an Alderman and now as Mayor of the City of Oxford, I have received numerous inquiries about relocating the Confederate statue from the lawn of the Lafayette County Courthouse," Tannehill's statement read. "As the Mayor of Oxford, I have no authority over county property -- nor does the Oxford Board of Aldermen. It has long been my view that the statue needs to be moved to a more appropriate place." The University of Mississippi is in the process of relocating the Confederate statue from the Lyceum Circle to the Confederate cemetery located behind C.M. "Tad" Smith Coliseum on campus.
Will the Black Lives Matter movement finally put an end to Confederate flags and statues?
The national protest movement that has erupted in the wake of George Floyd's death has rekindled a fire under the cultural tinderbox known as the American Confederacy. In the past week, public officials, military leaders and sports executives have made moves to take down Confederate statues and ban the Confederate flag, iconography that remains inextricably linked to the Southern cause that launched the Civil War: the preservation of a way of life anchored to slavery. While such efforts have flared in recent years, historians say the Black Lives Matter protest movement once again sweeping the nation after Floyd's death has catapulted the issue to a place of unprecedented visibility that is likely to have lasting effects. "We're in another world now, the mask is off in terms of these things being symbols of slavery," says Stephanie McCurry, professor of American history at Columbia University in New York City and author of "Confederate Reckoning: Power and Politics in the Civil War South." "I don't think there's any going back from this moment." The reckoning has been swift when compared to a patchwork of past efforts.
After Years of Debate, Confederate Symbols Disappear Quickly
The debate about what to do with Confederate monuments and symbols has simmered for decades. Now, in several days, officials have decided to remove and protesters have toppled or defaced dozens of statues across the U.S., and entertainment and sports companies have entered the discussion. "It feels to me, with Confederate symbols, a bit like the gay marriage debate, where it seemed impossible, impossible, impossible, and then all of a sudden there was a huge shift in public opinion on it," said Don Taylor, a professor of public policy at Duke University and director of its Social Science Research Institute. He said museums are an appropriate place for the statues. The newfound speed reflects how protests that were sparked by the killing of George Floyd. Removing monuments has, in the past, been stalled by a debate about whether they are an antiquated celebration of slavery that should be removed or history lessons that should stay where they are. "The great majority of them can and probably should be moved to reclaim public space for our generation and for future generations," said Joseph Crespino, professor of American history at Emory University, who added that it was a complicated question. The push has gone beyond Confederate iconography.
Senate panel advances Mississippi appeals court nominee Cory Wilson
The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday advanced a federal appeals court nominee from Mississippi, despite Democratic objections over derisive comments he made about former President Barack Obama and his signature health care legislation. The GOP-led panel endorsed Mississippi Appeals Court Judge Cory Wilson on a 12-10, party-line vote. The nomination now goes to the full Senate. Wilson, a former Republican state legislator who has been on the state appeals court for 16 months, was nominated by President Donald Trump for a seat on the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The court, which hears cases from Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, is considered one of the most conservative appeals courts in the nation. Before becoming a judge last year, Wilson frequently criticized Obama and other Democrats and called passage of the Affordable Care Act "perverse" and "illegitimate.″ Wilson also wrote that he hopes the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down the law, which Obama signed in 2010.
Members eye expunging all traces of Confederacy in military
President Donald Trump just ripped Sen. Elizabeth Warren for proposing that military bases named after Confederates be renamed. "Seriously failed presidential candidate, Senator Elizabeth 'Pocahontas' Warren, just introduced an Amendment on the renaming of many of our legendary Military Bases from which we trained to WIN two World Wars," Trump tweeted Thursday afternoon. What Trump may not know is that, under the Massachusetts Democrat's proposal and another one in the House, not only would the bases be renamed but also any Dixie flags and stickers would come down -- as would all other traces in the U.S. military of what some Southerners and historical revisionists still call the "lost cause" of the Confederacy. Likewise, a draft House bill by Reps. Anthony G. Brown, D-Md., and Don Bacon, R-Neb., goes beyond renaming installations. It would require within one year that the Pentagon do away with names on installations "and other property of the Department of Defense" if the designations honor the Confederacy or otherwise do not comport with the armed services' core values.
Pressure Grows On Joe Biden To Pick A Black Woman As His Running Mate
In late April, more than 200 black women who are leaders and activists within the Democratic party signed an open letter to the presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden calling on him to select a black woman as his running mate. "It is a fact that the road to the White House is powered by Black women and Black women are the key to a Democratic victory in 2020," they wrote. In early May, about a dozen of the women who had signed that letter made their case directly to Biden and some of his senior staff in a conference call. Their pitch was about timing and history, but it was also about strategy. They believed a black woman would help Biden win the White House. No commitments to the specific demands were made, according to two people on the call. But the lines of communication, they say, remain open and they've had a few calls with the Biden campaign to discuss the issue. The demands to pick a black woman are growing louder, and not just from black voters. Polling from a Politico/Morning Consult survey this week found 46% of Democrats say it's important for Biden to choose a candidate of color as his running mate. That's up from 36% in early April.
COVID-19 spikes, but most governors signal they're staying the course
The coronavirus is spiking across more than a dozen states, but many governors are signaling they have no interest in bringing back restrictive stay-at-home orders almost regardless of what happens. Even governors with detailed metrics for reopening have shown little appetite to plan for the inevitable virus surges. Public health experts say there are less drastic measures to take than reimposing lockdowns, but as the virus rages, they warn time may be running short. Fewer than a quarter of intensive care unit beds in Alabama and Georgia are available. California, Mississippi and Arkansas are all also reporting record levels of hospitalizations. Officials have also generally been hesitant to pause reopening measures after the crippling economic effects of lockdowns that kept businesses closed and people at home. "Our data in Arkansas tells us that the growth rate in cases is not the result of lifting restrictions," Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) told reporters this week, adding that the state has been testing more people, so there should be an increase in cases. Restaurants, gyms, and salons, are all taking precautions, he said. Americans are on the move and they can't be tied down and they can't be restrained, unless they make a voluntary decision that this is right for me and my health or my family," Hutchinson said.
Army selects coronavirus vaccine candidate and sets human trials for summer
Army scientists have a vaccine candidate that they believe has the potential to fight COVID-19 -- and that may be able to protect individuals from future coronaviruses, "from season to season, for decades to come." The scientists at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research chose SpFN, for Spike Ferritin Nanoparticle, after testing dozens of variants of vaccine candidates in more than 1,000 mice. "It was a real sense of relief" to discover a strong vaccine candidate, Dr. Kayvon Modjarrad, director of Walter Reed's Emerging Infectious Diseases Branch, said in an exclusive interview with McClatchy. "Our team has not taken a day off in three, four months, since this all started. After we got that result I said, 'you know, we can at least take one day off.'" SpFN differs from other vaccines under development, in that it uses a soccer ball-shaped protein that allows scientists to harness the spikes of multiple coronavirus strains on 24 different faces of the protein. That attracted a stronger immune system response in tests with mice than other approaches, where there was only one spike of the coronavirus inserted on a vaccine candidate. This vaccine also has the potential to fight off future variants of the coronavirus because different versions of the virus can be put on the spikes, he said.
Delta State student made up racist social media post, officials say
A former Delta State University student created a racist social media post about herself, school officials said Thursday. According to the school , the issue began when the former student "fraudulently submitted" a photo and text on DSU's Facebook page and website for the school's Spring 2020 Commencement Spotlight. She then created an iteration of the photo and text she had submitted, which attacked herself, African Americans, and Delta State, and posted it on her social media page. The former student told campus police she posted it on her own Facebook page, but until Thursday had denied that she had been the creator of the post. Delta State, along with state and federal authorities, were all involved in an investigation into the post. The former student was not identified by name. "We are relieved to have resolved this awful situation," Delta State President William N. LaForge said.
JSU alum earns Dynamic Leadership 1 honor from Toastmasters International
Jackson State University alumnus Derrick Hicks has earned the status of Dynamic Leadership 1 from Toastmasters International. Toastmasters is the U.S. headquartered nonprofit educational organization that operates clubs worldwide for the purpose of promoting communication, public speaking and leadership. Recently, Hicks completed his master's degree in public policy and administration from JSU.
Alcorn State University mourns passing of student
Alcorn State University mourns the passing of Terric Carr, a sophomore music major from Holly Springs, Mississippi. According to the university, during his time at Alcorn, Carr was a member of the University's Show Choir. President Felecia M. Nave expressed her grief upon being notified of Carr's death. "Alcorn is deeply saddened by the passing of one of our own," said Nave. "To see a student that was so young and full of potential pass away is truly devastating to me and the Alcorn community. We send our heartfelt condolences to Terric's family and friends, and we pray for their collective strength as they mourn the loss of their loved one." Individual and group counseling services are available to students, faculty, and staff through the University's Office of Counseling Services.
Tougaloo College Establishes Institute for Social Justice
In the wake of systemic racism, the blatant killing of African Americans, and the clarion call for equality, Tougaloo College is establishing the Reuben V. Anderson Institute for Social Justice. According to Tougaloo College President Dr. Carmen J. Walters, "Tougaloo, known as the Cradle of the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi, has a long history of fighting for freedom, equality and justice. It remains our responsibility to contribute to the education of students to train them to become the ethical leaders, change agents and social justice advocates of tomorrow making meaningful change throughout the world." The Institute, named after the first African American to hold a seat on the Mississippi Supreme Court, Justice Reuben V. Anderson, a Tougaloo alumnus and well-respected attorney and leader in Jackson, MS who provided funding to create the Institute, will carry on Justice Anderson's extensive work, legacy and lifelong commitment to eradicating racism, injustice and inequality.
Administrators get proportionally higher raises than Mississippi teachers
Classroom teachers in Mississippi were given smaller dollar-amount pay raises, on average, than superintendents, deputy superintendents, and assistant principals from FY 2013 to 2016 according to a report released Thursday by State Auditor Shad White. "We have some great school districts doing an excellent job putting money into teachers and the classroom, but the overall data clearly show a concerning trend," said Auditor White. "We as parents, taxpayers, and teachers need to demand that money be spent closest to the students." The report also showed the ratio of deputy superintendents to students increased compared to the same ratio for teachers since 2013. "Mississippi is not doing considerably worse than our peer states that we surveyed for this report, and that is a good thing," added White. "But we've got to be better stewards of public education funds than our surrounding states if we're going to catch up." This latest report is one in a series that started in April 2019 from the Auditor's office on public education spending.
State unveils options for K-12 schools to reopen in the fall
This week the Mississippi Department of Education released guidelines for how K-12 schools should reopen in the fall. In a document titled "Considerations for reopening Mississippi Schools," the department outlines a three month timeline with information for school districts to consider as they plan for the upcoming school year. These guidelines were created with a group of 10 superintendents across the state, and list three options for how schools should reopen: traditional, hybrid, or virtual. The guidelines will be updated every three months depending on the coronavirus and its effects. The Institutions of Higher Learning already made the decision that the state's public colleges and universities will "resume traditional operations" in the fall. At a Mississippi State Board of Education meeting Thursday, members suspended several policies to help school districts meet requirements and choose one of these three avenues.
Auburn University briefs staff, faculty on tighter finances
Auburn University revenues are off by $27 million for the year, but a senior administrator has promised the university would "avoid" layoffs. Executive Vice President Ron Burgess sent a memo to faculty and staff Wednesday about the impact of COVID-19 on the university's finances. He said the March shut down of campus forced the AU to refund housing and dining plans and hurt revenues from the bookstore, Gogue Performing Arts Center, Auburn Hotel and Conference Center and other sources. "Philanthropic giving may also decrease due to the nation's economic outlook," Burgess added, referring to a possible long-term hit to university fundraising. Burgess assured employees that AU would have students back on campus this fall, with "more serious health and safety steps" and that the university has no plans to drastic alter how it operates.
Auburn University gives guidelines on campus events after June 29
Auburn University released a set of guidelines on Thursday afternoon for summer campus events as it looks to reopen for on-campus instruction on June 29. Most events will only be allowed fewer than 50 people in attendance, though a few larger events may take place "provided the events ensure appropriate physical distancing," the University said. Organizers of events that meet the 50-person attendance limit are asked to notify the University through regular means such as AUInvolve and the Campus Events Planning System. They must include information on how attendees will remain physically distanced in the event space. Any event with the potential for more than 50 people must be approved by the vice president of the college or department associated with the event, according to Corey Edwards, director of Student Involvement. From there, the request for a larger event will be forwarded to Ron Burgess, executive vice president, for approval before the event can be submitted through regular means. The University also asks that event coordinators prepare a list of every attendee and their information should the need for contact tracing arise.
Louisiana colleges would retain authority to boost student fees under proposed house bill
Colleges and universities would retain their authority to boost student fees for another year under a bill that won approval Thursday in the House Education Committee. The proposal, House Bill 26, next faces action in the full House, which overwhelmingly approved a longer extension in the regular session. That plan died in the Senate, in part because senators were concerned about possible fee hikes in the midst of a pandemic that has crippled finances for lots of families. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jerome "Zee" Zeringue, R-Houma and sponsor of the bill, successfully offered an amendment in committee to extend the fee authority through the end of the 2021 academic year, not 2023 as originally planned. The bill was backed by Commissioner of Higher Education Kim Hunter Reed, LSU Interim President Tom Galligan, University of Louisiana System President Jim Henderson, the Council for a Better Louisiana and the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry.
Student in racist video posted to Twitter no longer enrolled at U. of Tennessee
A University of Tennessee student who posted a video to Twitter featuring racist and threatening comments is no longer enrolled at the university. The video was posted to an anonymous Twitter account, created on June 5. It showed someone identified as a UT engineering student. The original tweet was removed, but has since been reposted. UT posted on Twitter Thursday that the student had been placed on "immediate interim suspension" when the university first received complaints about the post and that the student is now no longer enrolled. After the post, a spokesman for the university declined to say whether the student withdrew or was expelled. Earlier this week, UT shared a statement on its social media accounts saying, "We condemn hate, racism, and violence and will support our black students and make campus safe for them," the statement said. On Thursday's Twitter post, the university encouraged students to submit bias reports, saying, "We will use the university's bias process to review every case that comes in."
U. of Florida official gets 4-year prison term in embezzlement case
A former University of Florida housing official pleaded no contest Thursday to multiple counts involving embezzlement and was sentenced to 50 months in prison. Azfar Mian, 44, pleaded to two counts of grand theft of more than $100,000, one count of scheming to defraud and one count of official misconduct, State Attorney Bill Cervone said. "His score sheet was 46 or 47 months (in prison), and he got 50 months," Cervone said. "He was ordered to pay restitution of $477,000 ... He forfeits his state retirement of almost $250,000." Mian has been cooperating with authorities, and UF and must continue to do so as part of the sentence. Mian was senior director of UF housing and education when he was arrested Sept. 18, 2017, on a grand larceny charge. He used his university-issued credit card to buy $25,000 in household items, more than $11,500 in maintenance items, such as lawn mowers, and more than $44,000 in miscellaneous items or services including internet, electricity and seven cell phones, a Gainesville police report shows.
#ShutDownAcademia: UF faculty and staff take time off to reflect on racism in America
University of Florida President Kent Fuchs announced a pause in day-to-day work Tuesday to encourage faculty and staff to reflect on racism in America following the death of George Floyd. Fuchs asked for June 10 to be a day for employees to consider their actions and how they can better educate themselves on racism, according to the statement. The day is part of a nationwide movement called #ShutDownSTEM and #ShutDownAcademia, where scientists, researchers and academics halt "business as usual" to act against racism and advocate for the needs of black scholars and STEM professionals, according to the campaign's website. In the statement, Fuchs also encouraged faculty and staff to participate in #Academics4BlackLives, a professional initiative from June 19 through 25 started by Academics for Black Survival and Wellness. Della Mosley, an assistant professor in the UF psychology department, launched the initiative with her doctoral advisee, Pearis Bellamy. The two worked closely to organize a week centered on providing resources for black people and anti-racist education for people who do not identify as black, Mosley wrote in an email to The Alligator.
No decision on fate of U. of Missouri's Thomas Jefferson statue
The statue of Thomas Jefferson on the University of Missouri campus will remain in place, for now. UM System President and interim Columbia Chancellor Mun Choi met via internet link on Thursday with Roman Leapheart, the organizer of an online petition to remove the statue, but came to no decision, according to a university spokesman. "The conversation was very constructive," spokesman Christian Basi said Thursday. "We'll have more information tomorrow or in the next few days." Basi said he did not know if the morning meeting between Choi and Leapheart included any other participants. Leapheart, an MU sophomore, couldn't immediately be reached for comment Thursday about the meeting. The statue, a bronze work depicting Jefferson as a young man writing the Declaration of Independence, was placed on the quadrangle in 2001 after it was purchased from artist George Lundeen by the MU Jefferson Club. The club paid $45,000 for the sculpture. The University of Missouri was the first public university in the territory that was part of the 1803 Louisiana Purchase, negotiated while Jefferson was president.
Clemson wants to drop Tillman, other names on campus, and it wants SC lawmakers' help
Clemson University's Board of Trustees plans to send a letter to the South Carolina General Assembly asking lawmakers to amend a 20-year-old law so the school can rename campus buildings and schools named after slave owners and a white segregationist and supremacist, according to a source with knowledge of the board's meeting on Friday. The board is meeting Friday, where it took the name of John C. Calhoun, a former U.S. vice president who was a slave owner in South Carolina, off of the honors college and renamed it Clemson University Honors College. Calls to remove Calhoun's name from the college, which have included students and NFL stars, including Houston quarterback Deshaun Watson, come amid national Black Lives Matter protests after the death of George Floyd. A source with knowledge of the board's meeting on Friday said Tillman Hall, named after "Pitchfork" Ben Tillman, is another building the board wants to change, fueled by protests from students and leaders who have called for the removal of Tillman's name for years. In order to change the names, however, Clemson must get approval from the General Assembly.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos rule formally limits emergency student aid grants
After a series of fits and starts that colleges say has confused the distribution of emergency aid grants to help students dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, the Education Department finally issued an interim formal rule saying undocumented students and millions of others who are not eligible for regular student aid cannot receive the help. In part, the department said it took the position out of fear that if colleges were able to hand out the grants to any student they wished, they could create fake classes and programs and use the grants to attract students to pad their enrollment and revenue. Critics such as the American Council on Education, though, said they suspect Education Secretary Betsy DeVos wanted to limit who can get the grants as a way to exclude undocumented and international students. And indeed, in a statement, the department said the rule will "help to ensure taxpayer-funded coronavirus relief money is distributed properly and does not go to foreign nationals, non-citizens and students who may be enrolled in ineligible education programs." At the center of the debate is what to make of the fact that Congress did not define the term "student" in the CARES Act.
NIH strengthens policies to alert agency to sexual harassment by grantees
he National Institutes of Health is tightening grant rules that until now have sometimes left the agency in the dark about sexual harassment cases involving researchers it supports. Starting tomorrow with new awards, NIH will require institutions it funds to report to the agency when an investigator is removed from a grant because of harassment findings or allegations. NIH also wants to know when an investigator is moving their grant to another institution because of sexual harassment findings or concerns, Director Francis Collins and other officials announced in an editorial in Science today. Along with other new policies, the changes will "further foster a culture whereby sexual harassment and other inappropriate behaviors are not tolerated in the research and training environment," the NIH officials write. Together, the new reporting requirements will "close two important gaps" in the agency's policies, says NIH Associate Director for Science Policy Carrie Wolinetz, and should prevent cases in which institutions "pass the harasser" without the agency's knowledge.
Historical figures reassessed around globe after George Floyd death
The rapidly unfolding movement to pull down Confederate monuments around the U.S. in the wake of George Floyd's death at the hands of police has extended to statues of slave traders, imperialists, conquerors and explorers around the world, including Christopher Columbus, Cecil Rhodes and Belgium's King Leopold II. Protests and, in some cases, acts of vandalism have taken place in such cities as Boston; New York; Paris; Brussels; and Oxford, England, in an intense re-examination of racial injustices over the centuries. Scholars are divided over whether the campaign amounts to erasing history or updating it. At the University of Oxford, protesters have stepped up their longtime push to remove a statue of Rhodes, the Victorian imperialist who served as prime minister of the Cape Colony in southern Africa. He made a fortune from gold and diamonds on the backs of miners who labored in brutal conditions. Oxford's vice chancellor Louise Richardson, in an interview with the BBC, balked at the idea. "We need to confront our past," she said. "My own view on this is that hiding our history is not the route to enlightenment."

Mississippi State pitcher J.T. Ginn picked by New York Mets in MLB Draft
J.T. Ginn knows what this is like. Well, not exactly, but he's been in a similar spot before. Two years ago, Ginn was picked by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the first round of the MLB Draft. This year, Ginn was picked in the second round by the New York Mets with the No. 52 overall selection in the 2020 MLB Draft. Ginn turned down the Dodgers and over $2 million to attend Mississippi State, which he said was a dream of his. Ginn's slot value this year is $1,403,200. He once again has a decision to make. This time, it's whether he wants to stay in school or leave early to pursue another dream -- starting a journey toward pitching in the majors. Ginn made good on his college dream by becoming the 2019 SEC Freshman of the Year. He started 17 games on the mound as a true freshman and recorded an 8-4 record with a 3.13 ERA. He struck out 105 batters and only walked 19. Ginn's success came in spite of a throwing arm ailment that started at the beginning of conference play in 2019. After pitching just one inning against Tennessee in early April, Ginn did not reach seven or more innings pitched the rest of the season. He reached seven innings in three of his first six career starts.
Mets draft Mississippi State pitcher JT Ginn in second round
Mississippi State pitcher JT Ginn was drafted 52nd overall by the New York Mets on Thursday night. He was the 15th pick in the second round of the Major League Baseball amateur draft. The slot value for the 52nd pick is $1,403,200. If he decides to sign, he will join former Bulldogs Jake Magnum and Cole Gordon in the Mets' farm system. This is Ginn's second time being drafted. He was drafted 30th overall coming out of high school in 2018, but turned it down to attend college. He is the third MSU player to get drafted in 2020. On Wednesday, second baseman Justin Foscue was drafted 14th overall to the Texas Rangers while shortstop Jordan Westburg was drafted 30th overall to the Baltimore Orioles. This is first time in program history that Mississippi State had three players drafted in the first two rounds of the draft. Ginn, a sophomore from Brandon, started 18 games for the Bulldogs. He pitched in 17 games in 2019 as a freshman and posted a 8-4 record with a 3.13 era and 105 strikeouts in 86 1/3 innings pitched.
NASCAR is banning the Confederate flag at races, but what about the Mississippi flag?
A day after NASCAR's only current black driver called for change, the stock car racing organization announced Wednesday it was banning the display of the Confederate flag at all races, events and properties. Does the new ban apply to the Mississippi state flag, which contains the Confederate battle emblem? It's unclear. When the Clarion Ledger reached out to NASCAR about the issue, a NASCAR official directed the Clarion Ledger to Wednesday's statement and declined further comment. NASCAR holds races at tracks around the country. Several southern states host NASCAR races. Mississippi does not. However, the Mississippi state flag has been a presence at NASCAR races before. NASCAR driver Tommy Joe Martins, a native Mississippian, said he used to have a decal of the state flag on his car. In recent days, Martins has been vocal on social media about the flag, explaining his own evolution on the subject. In a video posted to Instagram, Martins said many people couldn't see the difference between the Confederate flag and the Mississippi flag.
Tupelo tackles 'new normal' for weekend sporting events
The "new normal" will be on display in Tupelo this weekend. Several big sporting events are taking place between today and Sunday, from a youth baseball tournament to an adult softball tournament to a 3-on-3 soccer tournament. It's the first such weekend this year for Tupelo, which normally starts hosting events in April. "We lost virtually every weekend in April and May, which are two of our busiest months as it relates to youth sports," said Neal McCoy, executive director of the Tupelo Convention & Visitors Bureau. "So it is nice to jump out there in June and the second weekend we have three pretty large sporting events taking place." Hosting big events like these is challenging enough under normal circumstances. But with the coronavirus still thriving in Mississippi, it's taking a lot of extra work to ensure health guidelines are properly followed. The USSSA baseball tournament, for players ages 8 to 14, is expected to bring in 87 teams from Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee. Games will be played at Ballard Park and Rob Leake City Park from today through Sunday.
Southern Miss football team walks in Hattiesburg to show unity
The Southern Miss football team has joined the visual movement of solidarity. Members of the Golden Eagles walked down Hardy Street in Hattiesburg on Thursday wearing black Southern Miss shirts that read "Battle Preppin'." Taylor Curet of WDAM noted the walk ended at Veterans Memorial Park in downtown. Southern Miss joined Ole Miss and Mississippi State as in-state programs who have walked in unity in wake of the protests after the murder of George Floyd. Southern Miss athletic director Jeremy McClain released a statement on the equality on May 30. "I am heartbroken by recent events," McClain's statement read. "We must all strive to be better, do better and to be a part of positive change. We are blessed to work in college athletics, and it affords us a unique opportunity to be a big part of that change. We work in a diverse environment everyday where we can have a positive impact, and I am committed to making sure we never waste that opportunity."
Texas A&M student-athletes participate in Unity Walk on campus
In her three years running track at Texas A&M, Jean Jenkins said she has twice heard stories from her father and brother about getting pulled over on the way to watch her compete. Both times, she said, they were held out in the hot sun -- once for more than an hour -- only to be allowed to eventually continue their trips. These stories always sat in the back of the distance runner's mind when she set off to run around College Station. Thursday, as the sun set next to Kyle Field, Jenkins said she found comfort surrounded by hundreds of A&M student-athletes, athletics administrators, coaches and community members as they walked around the campus peacefully chanting "Black lives matter" and "Beat the hell out of hate." This Unity Walk, sponsored by the A&M Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, was a chance for those who compete wearing maroon and white to know they have a say in the community and world in which they live. "For a long time, with things that have gone on in this country with police brutality and things that have happened to African Americans, as student-athletes we sometimes didn't feel like we had a voice," A&M graduate linebacker Keeath Magee said.
College sports cutting across NCAA carries deep impact
In August 2016, after Clayton Murphy became the first American man to win an Olympic medal in the 800-meter run since 1992, he was given a hero's welcome at his school, Akron University. There was a press conference at the football stadium, and plans were made for a commercial shoot and other promotional ideas. Akron's athletic department couldn't wait to use its star cross country and track athlete for marketing purposes. In May, less than four years after Murphy's medal, Akron told a very different story: It eliminated the cross country program that helped make him a rising star in American running, along with men's golf and women's tennis. Since then, a highly motivated Murphy has joined other Akron alums in a fundraising effort that they hope will convince school leaders to salvage the cross-country program. As universities scramble to cover virus-related financial hardships, they're sacrificing a piece of unique fabric in the American quilt: Olympic sports. In Division I alone, 30 athletic teams have been eliminated in eight weeks. Four schools have cut at least three sports and a fifth, Brown, discontinued a whopping eight athletic programs. According to one site tracking the cuts, more than 80 programs have been eliminated across all levels. Thousands of advocates have rushed to the sides of coaches and athletes of discontinued sports, challenging school leaders, signing petitions and raising funds. They fear that the cuts are far from over.
NCAA proposal for extended college football preseason set
The NCAA football oversight committee Thursday finalized a plan for an extended preseason that would include an additional two weeks for teams to hold walk-throughs. The proposed model goes to the Division I Council, which the NCAA said will act on it Wednesday. The proposal is expected to pass. With the pandemic wiping out spring practice for most teams, along with the usual required summer activities for players such as weigh training and film study, a plan was needed to make up for the lost preparation time. A proposed schedule had been circulating among NCAA members during the last week. Oversight committee chairman Shane Lyons, who is athletic director at West Virginia, told AP a few final tweaks were made Thursday. "This is the culmination of a significant amount of collaboration in our effort to find the best solution for Division I football institutions," Lyons said.
College Athletes, Phones in Hand, Force Shift in Protest Movement
They knelt on campuses and outside courthouses and a capitol. They filmed videos and challenged coaches and gripped megaphones to call out racism they knew from their classrooms and stadiums. They led protest chants, registered voters and started to strategize for Nov. 3, Election Day. In some instances, the nation's college athletes even pledged not to play. It was only recently, before the death of a black man, George Floyd, in police custody in Minneapolis, that many university administrators and coaches would have instinctively sought to silence college athletes' public expressions of racial furor, pain or politics. But over a matter of weeks, players and coaches have seized their influence for a display of political action that historians and executives say recalls the 1960s, another era when people took to the streets to protest racial inequality. Social media has provided a megaphone for athletes, who understand its potential power.
College Football Players Have Found Their Voice. Coaches Beware.
College football players are barely allowed by their coaches to publicly discuss the game they play, much less systemic racism in the U.S. But in the past two weeks, they have suddenly found their voice in the wake of George Floyd's killing. The same young men who've been subject to strict social media policies from universities are now calling out racist behavior and holding their coaches and teammates to account. And former players are surfacing allegations from their college playing days. Candid tweets by players have forced an apology from a coach who exaggerated his outreach; gotten one assistant suspended; opened an investigation into the highest-paid strength and conditioning coach in the country; and caused at least one program-wide reckoning. And that's just in the past week. It's a remarkable shift for a sport in which athletes' actions off the field and online have been micromanaged for decades. It comes against a backdrop of large-scale turmoil in college athletics due to the coronavirus, which paused NCAA sports in mid-March and sent athletes away from their campuses and coaches for weeks at a time. And it comes as the long debate about compensating collegiate athletes is coming to a head. The combination of these forces could yield a much different gridiron experience come fall.

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