Monday, June 15, 2020   
Digital archive seeks to capture impact of COVID-19 on Mississippi State
When the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic hit the U.S. in mid-March, Katie Starliper started keeping a diary of what was obviously going in the history books. It started as a record of what she learned about the spread of the virus every day, including screenshots of maps from Johns Hopkins University's county-by-county tracking system, "and then it kind of devolved into my angry ranting about everything that was happening and how it was being handled," said Starliper, a rising second-year master's student in English at Mississippi State University. "I just really wanted to have something so that someday looking back, I could look at that and say, 'This is how I was experiencing it when it was happening,'" she added. Starliper's COVID-19 diary isn't just for herself anymore. She submitted it to a digital archive that MSU Libraries is compiling to document the impact of the pandemic on the MSU community, from faculty and staff to students and the city of Starkville. Material ranges from photos of signage around town and campus to students' social media posts and videos. The archive was born from several conversations among MSU faculty and staff about how to properly "capture this time," university archivist Jessica Perkins Smith said.
Mississippi State faculty member working on COVID-19 project
A Mississippi State faculty member is part of an international team working to understand and predict coronavirus genetic mutations, which can aid in the development of potential treatments and vaccines for COVID-19. Jean-Francois Gout, an assistant professor of computational biology in MSU's Department of Biological Sciences, is a co-principal investigator on the National Science Foundation-funded research. Marc Vermulst, an assistant professor of gerontology at the University of Southern California is the principal investigator for the project, with Monique Nijhuis of Utrecht University in the Netherlands also serving as co-principal investigator. Using SARS-CoV-2 samples from Europe, Africa and the U.S., the research team will first study how often genetic mutations occur in the new coronavirus genome, and then examine the effects of different mutations.
For MSU Equine Unit employees, foaling season offers solace during difficult times
As society copes with much disruption and hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the normalcy of springtime is comforting for employees at Mississippi State's Equine Unit during the busiest time on the farm -- foaling season. Home to 80 horses, the MSU Equine Unit is a research facility of the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station and is located at MSU's H. H. Leveck Animal Research Center, commonly known as South Farm, and used for teaching in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and College of Veterinary Medicine. Like all of the university's farmlands, it requires hands-on dedication as -- even in the midst of a pandemic -- horses must be fed, stalls must be cleaned and mares continue foaling. Ashley Glenn, facilities supervisor, manages the daily operations and said while life has been disrupted due to the current health crisis, she finds the ongoing farm work refreshing. "We have done some things to ease the workload while students are away by turning horses that normally stay in the barn to pastures, but we are in full swing with breeding and foaling, so our days are long," Glenn said.
Mississippi Delta farmers face another difficult year with flooding, COVID-19
The coronavirus pandemic has brought businesses around the country to a screeching halt and, for farmers in the Mississippi Delta, the virus added insult to injury. In March, as the pandemic was just beginning to emerge as a global health crisis, farmer Billy Whitten already had a major problem on his hands. All 1,440 acres of his farmland was inundated with floodwater; and it was threatening to upend a season of crops for the second straight year. "We're just one big rain away from total disaster," said Whitten, owner of Whitten and Whitten Farms. "Until we get the pumps, this is going to continue to happen." Will Maples, row crop extension economist at Mississippi State University, said the pandemic has made an already difficult situation excruciating for farmers in the Mississippi Delta. He said there will be some federal money allocated to help keep farming operations alive, but thinks the current situation is unsustainable. "At these commodity prices, I mean it's going to be hard to sustain long term because producers really over these last few years have probably cut as much cost out of their operations as they could," Maples said.
Aldermen interview two parks director candidates
Starkville aldermen interviewed two candidates for the vacant Parks and Recreation executive director position at their Friday work session. The final two of the 21 applicants are Craig Dolan, the director of recreation in Tarpon Springs, Florida, and Thomas Peters, the interim director of wellness and intramurals at Claflin University in Orangeburg, South Carolina. They made their cases to Mayor Lynn Spruill and five of the seven aldermen via video conference, the second time the city has conducted interviews entirely remotely. The first time was in January 2019, when the board interviewed candidates for community development director. The board will also vote Tuesday on the concept of the "Streatery," a temporary outdoor dining space proposed and designed by the Carl Small Town Center in MSU's College of Architecture, Art and Design. The seating area would cost about $4,000 and take up nine parking spaces on Main Street between Restaurant Tyler and Moe's Original BBQ, Carl Small Town Center Director Leah Kemp said. The aldermen will decide at a future meeting if they want to implement the Streatery.
Singing his way to a scholarship
We have seen many moments of athletes getting full-ride scholarships to play for this school or that school coming out of high school. Not often, however, do we have moments of a student "singing" his way to having part of his college tuition costs covered due to his vocal abilities. Such was the case late last week when a "signing" ceremony was held for Horn Lake High School bass-baritone Jaden Cleveland, whose music talents will be tutored as he becomes part of the Mississippi State University choral program for the next four years. For Holly Beck, Horn Lake High School choir director, Cleveland became the sixth student over the past two years to attract a choral scholarship for their college education. Last year, Beck's program had five students sign scholarship offers and some of them will be joined by Cleveland at Starkville. “Music is my life,” Jaden explained. “If it wasn't for music I don't know where I would be right now. I've been in the choir since seventh grade and it taught me a lot about myself.”
Monday Profile: Starkville Academy junior earns scholarship to high school flight program
A teenager's 16th birthday is typically an important milestone. That held true for Starkville native Tyler Highfield. Only his big moment didn't take place in the Department of Motor Vehicles. After about 20 hours of instruction with Circle S Aviation in Starkville, Highfield successfully navigated his first solo flight on his 16th birthday on Oct. 3, 2019. Because a person can't fly solo until they're 16, Highfield was so amped up about getting to the airfield that he didn't mind putting his driver's license on the back burner. "I've always wanted to be a pilot," Tyler said. "I've always just really liked planes. I don't know where the original idea came from. I've just known I've always loved it." Tyler received a bit of good news last week, being selected as one of 80 high school students nationwide to receive a $10,000 scholarship from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) 2020 High School Flight Scholarship Program. The money will be put toward training en route to earning Tyler's private pilot certificate when he turns 17, meaning he could have other people in the plane alongside him.
Local hotels begin to bounce back, but things aren't normal yet
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Mark Castleberry saw his staff come together in a way he'd never seen before. Castleberry, who owns Courtyard by Marriott and Hampton Inn properties in both Columbus and Starkville as well as the Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott in Columbus and the Comfort Suites in Starkville, saw his head chef assist his maintenance person. His sales director started folding towels to help the housekeepers. The changes helped Castleberry's hotels stay afloat during the very worst of the crisis, where occupancy dipped to just a few people per night -- below 10 percent of full capacity. Now, things have rebounded, although they're not back to normal yet. Occupancy at Castleberry's hotels is up to 45 to 50 percent. "Our team really came together to do what it took," Castleberry said, "and I think we're gonna make it." Castleberry acknowledged his hotels have lost money from canceled sports and community events -- including home baseball games at Dudy Noble Field, the NCAA women's basketball tournament at Humphrey Coliseum and the Spring Pilgrimage in Columbus.
Mississippi sees increase in alcohol sales during pandemic
Alcohol sales in Mississippi are seeing a big jump during the coronavirus pandemic, the state Department of Revenue says. "Since March 16, we have shipped 932,120 cases, which represents an increase of 140,785 cases over last year," the department's division of Alcoholic Beverage Control said in a social media post last week. Numbers reported by the agency include sales to some casinos and restaurants, said Department of Revenue spokesman Jacob Manley. Most of the increase is sales at liquor stores, Manley told the Sun Herald. "The sales slacked off a little bit since restaurants and casinos reopened," but are still strong, said Danielle Yelle, who handles information technology and sales at Shawn's Petit Bois Liquor Store in Biloxi. Officials wrote in the social media post that the state agency is shipping at capacity every night.
Mississippi Department of Archives and History to reopen museums and library in July
On Tuesday, July 7, the Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH) will reopen the Eudora Welty House & Garden, Museum of Mississippi History, Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, and William F. Winter Archives and History Building in Jackson, and the Grand Village of the Natchez Indians in Natchez. "We are excited to reopen our museums and welcome the public at this historic moment. As our nation deals with COVID-19, economic hardship, and the legacy of racial injustice, MDAH has an ever more important role to play," said Reuben Anderson, president of the MDAH Board of Trustees. "Our archives and museums document and teach about epidemics, recessions, and other crises in our past that we have overcome together. They also teach about the history of racial injustice in America from the days of slavery through the Civil Rights Movement." The popular Wednesday noon lecture series History Is Lunch continues online -- viewers will find the programs on the MDAH Facebook page.
Mississippi sees jump in suicide hotline calls during virus
Calls from Mississippi to the national Suicide Prevention Lifeline have increased by 20% since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, a leader at the state Department of Mental Health said Friday. "There are severe mental health challenges going on as a result of this virus," Gov. Tate Reeves said at a press briefing with Wendy Bailey, chief of staff at the Department of Mental Health. "There is fear, there is pain and there is anxiety in this country and in our state and those cannot be overstated." Bailey and Reeves took time to share mental health resources, including the 24/7 mobile crisis unit in each of the state's 82 counties that responds to mental health emergencies. The Department of Mental Health launched a website in March, which includes a directory of resources by county and videos of Mississippians talking about living with mental illness. "We cannot pretend that everyone is doing 'just OK,'" Reeves said. "We need to face the depression, anxiety and fear that are plaguing us."
Revenue commissioner: '2021 is a great mystery'
After a late-May visit from State Economist Dr. Darrin Webb, state lawmakers have been presented with the massive challenge of closing out the budget for this fiscal year and configuring a new budget for the upcoming fiscal year. "[Lawmakers] are getting real close to having a budget for next year," Mississippi Department of Revenue commissioner Herb Frierson said. "I think they can write a realistic budget." While Frierson does have confidence in the legislature's ability to produce a realistic budget for a year bound to be affected by a second, or even third, wave of the novel coronavirus, the first-term commissioner believes if income taxes were collected back in April like originally planned, the state would have a much better idea of how to approach the budget for fiscal year 2021. "Had we collected it on the normal date, we would be over $100 million ahead of estimate right now, but since we didn't, we are about $51 million behind the sine die estimate," he explained. "We would have been ahead of the revised estimate had we collected the income tax, so this year, we're not seeing the effects of the pandemic recession as strongly as we thought we were going to."
Analysis: Mississippi could erase multistep election system
Mississippi voters might get a chance to purge a Jim Crow-era provision from the state constitution and simplify the process of electing the governor and other statewide officials. Legislators are close to agreeing on House Concurrent Resolution 47. It would put a proposal on the ballot this November, letting people decide whether to erase an Electoral College-type provision from the state's 1890 constitution. The proposal says that a candidate who wins a majority of the popular vote would win a statewide election. If nobody receives a majority in a race with three or more candidates, the top two would go to a runoff. The Mississippi Constitution currently requires a statewide candidate to win a majority of the popular vote and a majority of electoral vote. One electoral vote is awarded to the candidate receiving the most support in each of the 122 state House districts. If no candidate wins both the popular vote and the electoral vote, the race is decided by the state House. But, representatives are not obligated to vote as their districts did -- and that means arm-twisting could decide the outcome of an election.
Mississippi faces reckoning on Confederate emblem in flag
The young activists who launched a protest movement after George Floyd's death are bringing fresh energy to a long-simmering debate about the Confederate battle emblem that white supremacists embedded within the Mississippi state flag more than 125 years ago. Anti-racism protests have toppled Confederate statues and monuments across the United States in recent days, and even NASCAR banned the display of the rebel flag. But Mississippi has been a holdout for years in displaying the emblem in the upper-left corner of its banner. Republican Gov. Tate Reeves rejects the idea of a legislative vote on erasing the symbol. If the flag is to be redesigned, "it should be the people who make that decision, not some backroom deal by a bunch of politicians in Jackson," Reeves said this week. The mere mention of removing the Confederate emblem from the Mississippi flag stirs anger in its defenders, who tell people to leave the state if they don't like it.
Hattiesburg mayor reopens dialogue for 'more appropriate location' for Confederate monument
Forrest County Board of Supervisors on Monday will discuss the possible relocation of the Confederate monument in downtown Hattiesburg, said David Hogan, Forrest County Board of Supervisors president. Hattiesburg Mayor Toby Barker on Wednesday addressed the concern citizens have raised about the Confederate monument downtown. In a Facebook live video, Barker suggested opening a dialogue with Forrest County and its residents to address relocating the Confederate monument. Barker said in the video that over the past few weeks, people have been reminded of uncomfortable truths about the world. "We cannot run from it, or ignore it or pretend it's not as bad as it appears or simply say 'not in my city,'" he said. The Confederate monument is owned by Forrest County, and the city has no legal authority to move it, according to Barker.
Democrats see path to ridding Capitol of Confederate statues
House Democrats are seizing on momentum from nationwide demonstrations over racial injustice to revive an effort years in the making: the removal of Confederate statues on Capitol Hill. There are 11 such sculptures in the Capitol building, placed there at the behest of southern states. Democrats have pushed for years -- unsuccessfully -- to have them removed, most recently after the 2017 white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va. But now, amid the national outcry over police violence against African Americans -- and with the Democrats controlling one chamber of Congress -- they're putting pressure on Republicans to rid the Capitol of figures who fought to preserve slavery. The effort sets up a clash with Republicans, who are largely united behind the tradition that states should decide which statues they want displayed in the Capitol complex. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) both indicated this week that they have no intention of bucking the states on that issue. Reps. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), both senior Congressional Black Caucus members, introduced legislation that would give Congress the power to remove all of the Confederate statues in the collection within 120 days. The statues could either be reclaimed by the states or given to the Smithsonian.
Trent Lott and John Breaux sign on at Crossroads Strategies
Former Sens. Trent Lott and John Breaux are joining the Washington lobbying firm Crossroads Strategies, a week after Lott was abruptly fired by Squire Patton Boggs. Lott, a Mississippi Republican, and Breaux, a Louisiana Democrat, spent a decade as two of the top lobbyists at Squire Patton Boggs, representing clients such as Nissan, SpaceX and the National Association of Broadcasters. Squire Patton Boggs ousted Lott last week without explanation. But Lott told POLITICO last week that the firm had found out that he and Breaux was planning to leave: "We were negotiating with another firm, they found out about it and they tried to take preventative action" to keep them from taking clients with them. Breaux and Lott will be partners as Crossroads. They start Monday and plan to bring some of their lobbying clients with them, according to the firm. Crossroads also has a personal connection to Lott: John Green, the firm's chief executive, is a former Lott aide and sits on the board of the University of Mississippi's Trent Lott Leadership Institute.
Supreme Court extends employment protections to LGBT individuals
The Supreme Court on Monday extended broad workplace protections to gay, lesbian and transgender employees, in a decision that found a 55-year-old anti-discrimination law covers them even if Congress did not intend that when it passed the law. The 6-3 decision, written by conservative Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, pointed out that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 adopted broad language that prohibits private companies from discriminating against employees on the basis of "sex," seen at the time as a historic step for women's rights. But sex "plays a necessary and undisguisable role" when employers fire someone for being homosexual or transgender, Gorsuch wrote, even if that wasn't why lawmakers included "sex" in the law at the time. "We do not hesitate to recognize today a necessary consequence of that legislative choice: An employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender defies the law," Gorsuch wrote. oining Gorsuch in the majority were conservative Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., and the four justices that comprise the liberal wing of the court: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor.
Jefferson Davis lost the Civil War and now his statue has lost its spot in Kentucky's Capitol
A panel that oversees statues in the Kentucky Capitol voted 11-1 Friday to remove the controversial statue of Confederacy President Jefferson Davis from the Rotunda, in line with Gov. Andy Beshear's request. The panel's decision to remove the statue also called for it to be moved to the Jefferson Davis Historic Site in Todd County, where Davis was born. After being in the Capitol since 1936 at the behest of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, the 15-foot-tall, Tennessee marble statue is to vacate Kentucky's seat of power, a wrong place for a divisive symbol of slavery, Beshear and others have said. Momentum to relocate it accelerated as recent protests have been held across the country and in Kentucky against racial injustice. Several civil rights leaders and politicians in the state, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Attorney General Daniel Cameron, said the Davis statue should be moved. Within minutes after the commission vote, Beshear said in a statement it was "a historic day in the commonwealth."
The W will offer new program in sports management
Beginning Fall 2020, Mississippi University for Women will offer a new business concentration in sports management. The W is always looking for room to grow. That's why the College of Business and Professional Studies at The W knew it would benefit from a discussion about adding new programs for the 2020-21 school year. Once the ideas crystallized in the form of a business administration major with a concentration in sports management, the Department of Business knew The W had found an ideal fit. "Students concentrating in sports management will develop an understanding of the business side of the sports, fitness and recreation industries," said Dr. Dee A. Larson, professor and chair of The W's Department of Business. "They will develop vital sports management skills by taking traditional business courses and applying them to the sports industry." The sports management program will allow students to pursue three tracks: a bachelor's degree in business administration (BBA), a bachelor's degree of applied science (BAS) and a minor for students pursuing other majors. The program will be taught on campus and some of the courses may be available online.
Marty Hatton named first dean of W School of Education
Marty Hatton has been named dean of the School of Education at Mississippi University for Women. Hatton has been part of many firsts in more than 27 years at MUW. Whether it has been as a student, instructor or administrator, Hatton has played a role in the evolution of The W. On July 1, Hatton will add another accomplishment to his list when he takes over as the first dean of the School of Education, pending approval by the state Board of Trustees, Institutions of Higher Learning. Earlier this year, The W created the School of Education to strengthen the next generation of educators and provide lifelong learning opportunities. It will feature the Department of Education, Office of Outreach & Innovation, Child & Parent Development Center, Mississippi Governor's School, Summer Discovery and the Complete-to-Compete (C2C) initiative. With the exception of the Department of Education, the College of Arts and Sciences will be made up of its existing academic departments. All departments and divisions will remain in their current physical location. The school's administrative offices are in the Education and Human Sciences building.
W student wins award for project on Lowndes County female criminals
History mesmerizes Lauren Harmon. Harmon glimpsed only a fraction of the never-ending avenues of exploration in her four years as a history major at Mississippi University for Women. During that time, the Brandon native traced patterns and connected events that had major impacts on humanity. In the past year, Harmon's history capstone allowed her to learn and to research about those patterns and connections. Recently, the paper for her Capstone, "The Forgotten Gender of Crime: Female Criminals in Lowndes County, Mississippi, 1900-1920," received the Best Paper Award for the Mississippi Phi Alpha Theta Conference. The final product, which Harmon wrote under the direction of Kristi DiClemente, an assistant professor at The W, came in at more than 6,000 words, which was the longest paper she wrote as a college student. "I was terrified," said Harmon, who received her bachelor's degree in May. "I thought I could never finish it. The research process was very interesting and fun; however, putting ideas together and actually writing the paper -- that's another story."
Thousands of UM students urge IHL to vote on Confederate monument relocation this week
Nearly five months have passed since the state Institutions of Higher Learning (IHL) Board of Trustees tabled their vote on relocating the University of Mississippi's Confederate monument. Now, the six largest student organizations on campus -- along with over 4,500 university community members who have signed the #UMoveTheStatue petition -- are calling for IHL to finally approve the university's request to move the statue from the Circle to the Confederate cemetery in their meeting this Thursday, June 18. The six student organizations plan to send their statement, the petition and comments from the university community to IHL on Wednesday evening in hopes that the Board of Trustees will "listen to the students" and vote the following morning to relocate the statue.
IHL college board to approve relocating Confederate monument from heart of Ole Miss campus
The board of trustees of the Institutions of Higher Learning, during its Thursday meeting, is expected to consider and approve a plan to relocate the Confederate monument at the University of Mississippi. Several sources close to IHL board members told Mississippi Today on Monday that the 12-member board, amid statewide and national protests about racial inequities in government and Confederate iconography, will vote to approve the university's plan to move the monument at its Thursday morning board meeting. The meeting will be held virtually, and a meeting agenda will be released on Wednesday. Several representative bodies comprised of University of Mississippi undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, staff and administrators voted in 2019 to move the monument from the heart of campus to an on-campus cemetery. Additionally, top university fundraisers, including Athletics Director Keith Carter, signed off on the monument's relocation. The IHL board approval is the final step necessary for the relocation.
Jackson State awarded $8,000 to support adult literacy
The Dollar General Literacy Foundation awarded Jackson State University's Continuing Education Learning Center (CELC) an $8,000 grant to support adult literacy. Marquita Shelby, lead instructor at the CELC, said, "A primary goal of the Continuing Education Learning Center, Adult Basic Education (ABE) program is to increase the literacy level of learners and the attainment of the general equivalency diploma, which are critical to improving their economic viability. As lead instructor in the ABE program I am especially appreciative to the Dollar General Literacy Foundation for their valued support of the important work of the JSU CELC." The adult education classes at the Continuing Education Learning Center provide adults the opportunity to earn high school credentials. CELC measures career and college-readiness skills.
U. of Alabama System details plans for reopening campuses
In mid-April, the University of Alabama System announced a COVID-19 response task force consisting of roughly three dozen members of varying expertise, charged with creating the "gold standard" of planning guidelines. On June 9, the multi-disciplinary team released a 21-page Comprehensive Health and Safety Plan, a framework for re-introducing on-campus instruction for The University of Alabama, University of Alabama at Birmingham and University of Alabama in Huntsville. It's working document, a base to which alterations and amendments could be added as further or more comprehensive information about the pandemic becomes available. "Obviously the situation is constantly changing, daily, weekly," said Katie Osburne, director of risk and compliance, and system counsel, appointed to lead the task force with Dr. Selwyn Vickers, dean of the UAB School of Medicine. Groundwork needed to be put in place, she said. Each campus will follow with more focused versions, specific to needs and abilities. UA's planning to release its return to operations plan Monday.
Students learned remotely at Auburn in the spring -- will they in the fall?
Auburn University is showing signs of returning to normal in the fall, meaning students can leave behind the online lectures and attend classes again. Emily Huckabee just finished her junior year at Auburn after transferring from Coastal Alabama Community College her sophomore year. "I've always wanted to go to Auburn, since I was little," Huckabee said. "It's really the only place I ever looked it ... It feels so much like home and everyone's so nice." Unfortunately, the friendly atmosphere on the Plains now includes social distancing and face masks. Huckabee said that things were going very well for her before the pandemic. She said she was happy and doing well with her major and classes. "Then everything got kind of turned on its head, and now I'm home," she said. Despite all of the difficulties associated with the pandemic, Huckabee found that online classes gave her time to pursue other interests as well.
'We matter': LSU and Southern University students find common ground in Friday unity rally
Students from LSU and Southern University joined together for a "rally for unity" Friday, seeking to reconcile tensions between the predominantly white university and the historically black one. After roughly two weeks of local demonstrations against racism and police brutality, the demonstration on Friday at LSU's Free Speech Alley had a different tone. George Floyd, a black man whose death at the hands of Minneapolis police spurred nationwide protests, and Breonna Taylor, a black woman fatally shot by police in Louisville, were mentioned only briefly. There were almost no chants and few signs. Unlike a previous protest, administrators did not speak, though some were present. LSU officials estimated 300 students gathered in a circle to simply sit, stand and listen to organizers and testimonials. Student organizers invited black members of both universities to make peace over their similarities rather than their differences, in a town they say has a stark racial divide. They discussed the shared pain of racial discrimination and the work necessary to address inequality.
Texas A&M study: Not wearing a mask dramatically increases COVID-19 risk
A study by a team of researchers led by a Texas A&M University professor has found that not wearing a face mask dramatically increases a person's chances of being infected by the COVID-19 virus. Renyi Zhang, a Texas A&M professor of atmospheric sciences -- along with colleagues from three other universities -- looked at trends and mitigation procedures in China, Italy and in New York City. The team of researchers found that using a face mask reduced the number of infections by more than 78,000 in Italy from April 6-May 9 and by over 66,000 in New York City from April 17-May 9. Zhang said the results ought to send a clear message to people worldwide -- wearing a face mask is essential in combating COVID-19. "Our results clearly show that airborne transmission via respiratory aerosols represents the dominant route for the spread of COVID-19," Zhang said in a statement. Zhang worked alongside researchers from the University of Texas, the University of California-San Diego and the California Institute of Technology. Their work appears in the current issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Opposing sides debate Sul Ross monument's place at Texas A&M
Two groups came head-to-head on Texas A&M's campus Saturday afternoon to address the fate of the university's Lawrence Sullivan Ross statue. Ross was a Confederate general who later served as governor of Texas before becoming A&M's president, where he served from 1891 until his death in 1898. He is credited with saving the struggling university in its early years, boosting enrollment and securing additional funding to improve infrastructure. The statue was dedicated in 1918 in front of the Academic Building. A&M students have traditionally placed pennies on the base of the statue for good luck before taking exams. Last week, petitions began circulating arguing for and against the removal of the statue, the oldest on A&M's campus. Keith Hazlewood, Class of '74, a resident of Lake Conroe and former Texas A&M Corps of Cadets recruiter, led the charge for those in favor of keeping the statue in its current place. He listed what he considered Ross' many contributions to the school and its students of all races. He argued that calling a Confederate soldier like Ross a traitor was no better than calling President George Washington a traitor.
On-campus living for Texas A&M mostly on course for the fall
Move-in appointments, daily disinfection schedules and different duties for Move In Assistance Day volunteers are new for Texas A&M University's department of residence life, but many other aspects of on-campus living seem on course to remain the same in the fall. The extended penalty-free housing cancellation period ended Monday, but Carol Binzer, director of administrative and support services in the department of residence life, said there were fewer canceled contracts than usual, putting the school on track to house its typical 11,000 students across the 50 dorms and apartments at A&M. There is still time for people to cancel with a penalty. Binzer said it has been challenging to plan for every possible scenario of what might happen this school year, but said officials are doing their best to come up with plans. Some rooms have been taken off line -- such as certain study lounges that are usually used for temporary placements -- to make room for students to spread out if there are any cases of COVID-19, Binzer said.
U. of Missouri won't remove Thomas Jefferson statue
University of Missouri officials won't remove the Thomas Jefferson statue from its Columbia campus, System President and interim Chancellor Mun Choi announced Friday in a news release. MU sophomore Roman Leapheart started an online petition seeking removal of the statue installed in 2001. Choi's decision came after a Thursday online meeting with Leapheart and others that Leapheart described as frustrating. In an interview Friday, Leapheart said he was motivated not only by Jefferson's ownership of people as slaves, but his rape of one of those people, Sally Hemings. In Friday's release, Choi said he had consulted with members of the Board of Curators, which is scheduled to meet next Thursday in Columbia. ″"We learn from history," Choi said. "We contextualize historical figures with complex legacies. We don't remove history."
Missouri's College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources cuts program, space and salaries as budget crunch continues
The University of Missouri's College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources announced it was phasing out a collaborative research program, reducing space and accepting voluntary pay cuts this week, according to a Friday update of an MU website that tracks budgetary actions. MU also laid off seven and furloughed 515 more employees as of Wednesday, bringing the number of layoffs to 124 and furloughs to 2,644. Faculty, staff and administrators at CAFNR will take voluntary cuts of up to 10% for three months, according to the website. Those cuts, combined with other budget actions, will result in over $3 million total. CAFNR's Food for the 21st Century program, which was established by the state in 1983, will be phased out, according to the website. It served as a collaboration between the University of Missouri System's four campuses, focusing on the state's "agricultural strength" and advancing "research and biotechnology," according to the college's website. The number of employees who will be affected by the program's phasing out was not immediately available.
Public research universities and some regional state colleges had decent admissions years
To consider the state of public higher education in this year of the coronavirus pandemic, look at the University of Florida: Over all, Florida has 6,633 people who have paid a deposit to enroll as freshmen in the fall. That's down 1 percent from where Florida was last year at this time, but is still above its target (6,550). But Florida's entire deficit in freshmen has a single source: international students. Last year at this time, Florida had 322. This year the total is 155. When all is said and done, Florida expects the same number of students in the fall -- 50,000, counting undergraduates, graduate and professional school students -- as it had last fall. And it's been checking in all the way along the path. For public research universities, the admissions picture is cautiously stable. Plenty of things could still happen between now and when students actually show up. Summer melt -- those students who make a deposit and don't come -- could be far worse than in the past. But right now, the numbers are largely OK.
Colleges and universities prepare for fall classes in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic
This fall, college will start with a test. Can America's universities reopen during the greatest pandemic in a hundred years? Some universities are remaining online, others are still unsure, but a growing number are preparing for perhaps the largest coordinated return institutions have made since the virus hit. In many ways, colleges and universities are the perfect places for an American reawakening. Scientists can track and trace, behavioral experts can make the pitch and philosophers can explain the balance between collective good and the individual. But, we go to college to be social, with no distance. College students are going to have to step up by staying apart. If they do, they may lead the way not just for the next semester, but for the entire country and its future.
In Some States This Fall, Masks at Public Colleges Will Be 'Encouraged' but Not Required
Georgia plans to reopen its 26 public colleges and universities this fall without requiring face masks -- despite clear evidence that they play a critical role in reducing the spread of Covid-19. The optional policy worries some faculty. "Not wearing a mask is dangerous," complains Matthew Boedy, an associate professor of English at the University of North Georgia.Instead of a strict requirement, masks will be "strongly encouraged," according to a reopening plan that the University of Georgia created for its employees. As states get ready for a fall semester filled with uncertainty, Georgia appears to be among the most eager to put the pandemic behind itself, even as the coronavirus threat there rises. Mask-wearing has emerged as a political wedge across the country, in part because of President Trump's refusal to cover his own face in public settings and his habitual downplaying of the dangers posed by the virus. Georgia, led by Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, may be the most visible state to make face coverings optional at colleges, but rules don't always follow party lines. Colleges in both red and blue states have generally embraced masks as a necessary public safety tool, and here's why: The challenge of reopening colleges is enormous.
Fifty-four scientists have lost their jobs as a result of NIH probe into foreign ties
Some 54 scientists have resigned or been fired as a result of an ongoing investigation by the National Institutes of Health into the failure of NIH grantees to disclose financial ties to foreign governments. In 93% of those cases, the hidden funding came from a Chinese institution. The new numbers come from Michael Lauer, NIH's head of extramural research. Lauer had previously provided some information on the scope of NIH's investigation, which had targeted 189 scientists at 87 institutions. But his presentation today to a senior advisory panel offered by far the most detailed breakout of an effort NIH launched in August 2018 that has roiled the U.S. biomedical community, and resulted in criminal charges against some prominent researchers, including Charles Lieber, chair of Harvard University's department of chemistry and chemical biology. "It's not what we had hoped, and it's not a fun task," NIH Director Francis Collins said in characterizing the ongoing investigation. He called the data "sobering."
Will changing times change Mississippi this time?
Syndicated columnist Bill Crawford of Meridian writes: In 1963, a time of civil unrest and protest, Bob Dylan penned the lyrics to his immortal The Times They Are a-Changin'. "This was definitely a song with a purpose" Dylan recalled to screenwriter Cameron Crowe. "I wanted to write a big song, with short concise verses that piled up on each other in a hypnotic way. The civil rights movement and the folk music movement were pretty close for a while and allied together at that time." The times appear to be a-changin' again as the junction of the Black Lives Matter movement and the Me Too movement erupts amidst the lifestyle changes caused by the COVID-19 coronavirus. In Dylan's time the eruption came from the junction of the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War peace movement amidst hippie/folk music lifestyle changes.
A tale of two Southern states and their Confederate battle cross flags
Bobby Harrison writes for Mississippi Today: About the time in 2001 the Mississippi Legislature was scheduling a referendum to let voters decide on whether to replace the state flag, the Georgia General Assembly was passing a bill to change its flag. The two banners both prominently featured the Confederate battle emblem in their designs. The Mississippi flag still does. The Georgia flag does not. They have been renewed in recent days in the Mississippi Legislature after nationwide protests over the issue of police brutality against African Americans -- intensified by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis at the hands of law enforcement recorded in graphic detail via cellphone videos. It might be of interest to recall what happened in 2001 in the two Southern states.
Mississippi could be the technology capital of the country -- We just don't believe it yet
Eric Hill, the director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and Outreach at Mississippi State University and co-founder of Coflyt, writes in The Dispatch: We often talk about Mississippi's problems. If you've lived here a while, you start to naturally assume we're last on the "good lists," and first on the "bad lists." Rarely do we talk about what Mississippi's true potential actually looks like. But as a 31-year-old who has now spent the first decade of my career fighting the "brain drain" status quo and helping 20-somethings build companies, I believe that Mississippi -- now -- has one of the best opportunities in the country to become a leader in creating technology companies. ... As I've met entrepreneurs across our state, I'm always struck at their resourcefulness and ability to stretch a dollar. I'm struck by their ingenuity and stunningly powerful ideas. And yes, our cost of living and median wages position us to be highly competitive in this commodity business. By my napkin math, an investment dollar in a Mississippi company buys approximately 3x the survival time to launch a business here versus San Francisco. So what stands in our way? I believe a combination of areas...

Four Mississippi State football players test positive for Covid-19
The inevitable has happened this week at Mississippi State. Four football players have tested positive for COVID-19, a spokesman with the university confirmed to the Clarion Ledger. The names of the players who tested positive have not been released. Those players have to self quarantine for 14 days and cannot resume team activities until that duration has passed, even though all four players were deemed to be asymptomatic. They are ordered to stay away from team activities for two weeks to prevent the spread of the virus to teammates. Nearly 100 football players have been tested, according to the university spokesman. As more of the roster arrives on campus, more players will be tested.
Summer league gives college players need innings, at-bats
Ron Polk has seen plenty of baseball in his life, so a three-month break wasn't a big deal for the former Mississippi State baseball coach. For college players around the country, though, not finishing their 2020 season and not having summer options like the Cape Cod League or various college camps is a very big deal. The COVID-19 pandemic robbed players of needed at-bats and innings on the mound, so when the Honor the Game Wood Bat League was announced for Meridian, numerous college baseball players expressed interest. The league kicked off Thursday afternoon at Q.V. Sykes Park, and Polk was on hand not only to throw out the first pitch alongside Meridian Mayor Percy Bland, but he also helped coach one of the teams competing, the Lugnuts. "I think there are 13 or 14 (here) that would have been at the camp I coach at every summer," Polk said. "Unfortunately, most of them had to close down. Some of them will still operate, but later in the summer, so this is a great opportunity for these players." The talent competing in the Honor the Game Wood Bat League includes 63 Division I players, 25 of which are SEC players -- five from MSU -- and 18 of which were originally supposed to compete in the 2020 Cape Cod League before it was canceled. In addition, recent high school graduates who will play at the collegiate level are also competing in the league.
Baseball returns with Deep South Collegiate League
If you build the league, they will come. They came to Laurel in droves on Saturday for Opening Day of the Deep South Collegiate League. It's become a summer sanctuary for many local baseball players who were cheated out of a 2020 season. "With the season being cut so short man, it was hard," said USM junior pitcher Tyler Spring, one of eight Golden Eagles participating in the league. "I missed it so much and glad to be back out here." "We can all get together with some guys in the area and basically get all what we need, and that's just some innings and some baseball," said Oak Grove grad Kade Shannon, now a freshman at Jones College. Colton Caver is the architect of the project -- dividing 152 players into eight teams. Many of the players are local, as is one of the coaches. Former Oak Grove and Southern Miss pitcher Kirk McCarty has replaced his glove for a coaching cap.
9 Ole Miss athletes in quarantine after close contact with COVID-19 case, university says
The University of Mississippi athletics department confirmed Sunday that nine athletes were quarantined because of close contact with a person who tested positive for coronavirus. The athletes are quarantined at their residence in Oxford for 14 days and self-monitoring for symptoms in accordance with proper medical guidelines, said Shannon Singletary, an assistant athletic director for Ole Miss. Singletary also said the athletes will not be involved in any voluntary activities until that two-week period is over and have been advised to stay away from others per recommendations. The first wave of approximately 70 Ole Miss student-athletes returned to campus on June 1. Every student-athlete and staffer who returned to campus received a COVID-19 test and an antibody test. Since athletes have returned to campus, the athletic department has tested approximately 287 people, Singletary said Sunday.
'An instrumental part': Did Tommy Tuberville get the Confederate flag removed from Ole Miss?
Two days before the University of Mississippi was set to play its homecoming game against Vanderbilt in 1997, head football coach Tommy Tuberville asked the Ole Miss students and fans to "discontinue waving the Confederate flag at home sporting events." Less than 23 years later, Tuberville -- the GOP frontrunner in Alabama's Senate contest -- was pictured walking off an airplane in Dallas with President Donald Trump who, in recent days, has criticized efforts to rename 10 military bases named after Confederate commanders. Confederate monuments, statues and other symbols have become a flash point following rallies against racial injustice and police brutality sparked after the killing of George Floyd. Tuberville has not released a statement about the removal of Confederate iconography, and his campaign has not responded to requests for comment. But for one longtime professor at the University of Mississippi, who arrived at the campus around the same time as Tuberville was hired as head coach in the mid-90s, the change is surprising. "I'm very surprised Tommy Tuberville has decided to go down this route," said Charles Ross, professor of history and African American Studies at the University of Mississippi.
Ole Miss Esports becomes first university team to drop 'Rebels'
In response to the recent surge in national support for the Black Lives Matter movement, Ole Miss Esports publicly announced their removal of the name "Rebels" from their team and from all team-affiliated hashtags, making them the first university sports program to ever do so. "If you can alter something to make something seem more inclusive to the people around you, why would you not?" esports president Sergio Brack said."If this will make people feel more welcome in our organization and will make people take notice that we're taking a stand against racial inequality -- especially with all of the stuff happening around the world -- then that's what we're going to do." In a tweet earlier this week, the team declared the removal by stating, "In our continued support of #BLM we will be retiring all hashtags referencing to ourselves as Rebels and replacing them with new ones to properly align ourselves with our current mascot."
COVID-19 cases haven't deterred college football's quest to return, but when would they?
For all of the questions that lack answers, the biggest -- for sports in our portion of the world, at least -- keeps inching closer to one. Yes, it does look like college football will happen this fall. That's the good news. The bad? All those other unsolved questions that stand between now and then. They all demand attention, even the wildest hypothetical scenarios. Because the overriding goal is unattainable -- safety in a global pandemic. Who knows what will happen? For a college football coach, a meticulously organized world has been replaced by foreign, uncomfortable uncertainty. So many questions without answers. "I could go on for an hour on that," Georgia coach Kirby Smart said recently. "But I mean, I can't answer those, and I also understand why we can't answer those. ... Change is almost inevitable in the environment we're in." How much change remains uncertain, along with so much else. What is not, however, is the widespread commitment to playing. It is powerfully shared and has gained momentum, so much that stakeholders -- players, coaches, athletics directors, university leadership, conference and NCAA officials, medical experts advising them all -- can be more confident in this college football season being able to exist despite anticipated challenges.
Tennessee football: AD Phillip Fulmer hopes for capacity crowd for opener
Tennessee fans want to know: Will a football season happen this fall, and if so, how many fans will be in the stands? Vols athletics director Phillip Fulmer encounters those questions in one conversation after another. He doesn't have the answers yet, but he thinks the outlook looks promising for a season, and his desire is for the Vols to kick off on Sept. 5 against Charlotte without capacity restrictions at Neyland Stadium. "I hear (those questions) every day, every time I talk to a donor or every time I talk to a sponsor or every time I talk to a fan -- even my family. It's constant, and it's a good question," Fulmer said Friday during an exclusive interview with Knox News. "I absolutely think that everything is headed in a good direction for us to have this season. Again, circumstances could call for a change of some sort of direction. There's still things on the table. We're looking forward to having a season and a full stadium. We'll adjust from there." With a listed capacity of 102,455, Neyland Stadium is one of the largest stadiums in college football. Tennessee had an average announced average of 87,864 for eight home games during the 2019 season. That figure represents tickets distributed. The actual attendance average was 74,870.
Texas A&M's Ross Bjork still optimistic despite possibility crowds will be cut in half this fall
Texas A&M's Ross Bjork remains positive about the upcoming football season a day after news leaked that Gov. Greg Abbott told him and the state's other 11 FBS athletic directors that it's highly unlikely sports venues will be allowed to hold more than 50% capacity at games this fall because of the coronavirus. "As we have learned throughout this unprecedented situation, everything remains fluid and there are a number of scenarios for attending upcoming pro and college sporting events," Bjork said Saturday. "We continue to remain optimistic and will make sure our plans are as safe as possible for everyone involved." A&M's football season opener is Sept. 5 against Abilene Christian at Kyle Field, which seats 102,733. If the reported 50% capacity for venues from Friday's Zoom teleconference between Abbott and the ADs comes to fruition, the Aggies would be limited to 51,366 fans. Last year A&M averaged 101,608 fans for seven home games to rank fourth in the country. Abbott's teleconference with the ADs came during a week in which the state set highs for new cases of the virus.
Buyout battle: In lawsuit, Bret Bielema seeks $7M from Razorback Foundation
Attorneys for former University of Arkansas football coach Bret Bielema filed a lawsuit Friday against the Razorback Foundation, arguing the foundation broke the terms of its buyout agreement with Bielema. The lawsuit -- which demands $7.025 million in compensatory damages, as well as punitive damages, attorney fees, court costs and a jury trial -- was filed in federal court in the Western District of Arkansas. The resolution of the legal action largely could revolve around the portion of Bielema's buyout agreement that called for him to actively seek employment or "mitigation" after his firing. The lawsuit states the foundation is in breach of its promise to pay Bielema's final buyout agreement, in breach of a non-disparagement agreement between the sides, and caused the publication of false information about Bielema. The suit states the foundation erroneously alleged Bielema made no effort to obtain employment comparable to his old job at Arkansas, while the foundation accused Bielema of intentionally being paid less than $150,000 by the New England Patriots in 2018.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signs student-athlete compensation bill
Surrounded by sports standouts, Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday put his signature on a bill intended to allow student-athletes at Florida colleges and universities to cash in on their names and likenesses. The athlete-compensation bill, which establishes rights for students and schools, allows college students to have professional representation through agents licensed by the state or attorneys in good standing with The Florida Bar. "We're not talking about you get a scholarship to Florida State or Miami and the universities are going to pay you to play. That's not what we're talking about," DeSantis said during a press conference at the University of Miami's indoor practice facility in Coral Gables. During Friday's bill-signing ceremony, DeSantis, who was the captain of the Yale University baseball team, explained how the law is designed to work. "You're an amateur. You're going to get on scholarship. You're going to get to play, get an education. That same basic model's the same," he said. The proposal is meant to allow "great athletes" to capitalize on their fame, the governor said. When asked about the Florida law on Friday, the NCAA had no comment.
New name, images, likeness lawsuit against NCAA could put hundreds of millions of dollars at stak
Attorneys acting on behalf of two current college athletes on Monday filed a federal antitrust lawsuit against the NCAA and the Power Five conferences that could substantially increase the tension -- and financial stakes -- connected toathletes' ability to make money off their name, image and likeness. The suit, which seeks to be a class action, not only asks that the NCAA be prevented from having association-wide rules that "restrict the amount of name, image, and likeness compensation available" to athletes but also seeks unspecified damages based on the share of television-rights money and the social media earnings it claims athletes would have received if the NCAA's current limits on NIL compensation had not existed. This has the potential to put, conservatively, hundreds of millions of dollars at stake. As allowed under federal antitrust law, the suit seeks to cover athletes who played in any of the past four years and carry forward through the date of a final judgment. In addition, if a jury decides to award damages to an antitrust plaintiff, the amount is tripled.
UT-Austin football players demand school rename buildings named after racist figures, donate to Black Lives Matter
Several athletes at the University of Texas at Austin are refusing to participate in recruiting incoming players or show up at donor-related events if university and athletics officials fail to respond to a list of demands geared toward supporting black students, according to a statement posted Friday afternoon by dozens of the student athletes on Twitter. Brennan Eagles, the school's sophomore wide receiver, and Brandon Jones, a senior defensive back, were among the students who posted the statement, detailing a list of actions Longhorn athletes want the university's athletics department to take. These include donating 0.5% of the department's annual earnings to the Black Lives Matter movement and black organizations, establishing a permanent black athletic history exhibit in the Athletics Hall of Fame and renaming parts of the football stadium after Julius Whittier, the first black football letterman at UT-Austin. In addition to demands specific to the athletics department, athletes also want UT officials to rename campus buildings named after Texans who were proponents of segregation or held other racist views, remove a statue of prominent segregationist James Hogg and discontinue the school song, "The Eyes of Texas," which has ties to minstrel shows and was created during segregation.

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