Wednesday, June 17, 2020   
Mississippi State faculty member heads statewide communication association
Philip S. Poe, associate professor and coordinator for print and digital journalism in Mississippi State University's Department of Communication, is the new president of the Mississippi Communication Association, an organization with members representing every institution of higher learning in the state. His role includes coordinating communication between the executive board and the membership, serving as a spokesperson and presiding at the organization's 2021 spring convention, currently slated for early next year at Mississippi College in Jackson. An MSU faculty member since 2011, Poe's research focuses on media antecedents of health behavior as well as disability, culture and media representation.
Consider annuals to avoid summer shortages
During the dog days of summer, cool-season grasses slack off in productivity, but this period is prime performance time for summer annuals. Supplementing your permanent pastures with summer annuals will help curb forage shortfalls. Rocky Lemus, extension forage specialist at Mississippi State University, recently shared information to help Southeast farmers avert this problem during a forage management webinar. Be it beef cattle, dairy cattle, or other grazing animals, it is important that you understand the animals' needs and the expected performance from the summer annual you intend to use. You also need to justify supplementing summer annuals into your forage management plan. Lemus noted that farmers should not rely solely on summer annuals as a forage source but to use them as a management tool. This caution results from a greater risk of stand failure, limited growth during droughts, and thoughtful consideration of your current forage stands.
MDA: Three counties to participate in Aspire Mississippi 2020
Representatives from three counties are participating in this year's Aspire Mississippi program, which is designed to assist local leaders who will implement innovative programs and projects to spur economic growth and enhance the quality of life in their communities. Representatives from Claiborne, Holmes and Sunflower counties, each led by their respective local economic development organizations, are participating in this year's program. "The teams participating in this year's Aspire Mississippi program join a number of local leaders from around the state who have previously completed the program in order to make significant positive changes within their communities," said MDA Interim Director John Rounsaville. "MDA is proud to partner with Claiborne, Holmes and Sunflower counties as they take the lead on building stronger, more vibrant communities that will benefit their residents for many years to come." Participants in the 2019 program graduated in December. They represented Covington, Lawrence, Leake, Panola, Sharkey and Walthall counties.
Three Rivers awarded $400,000 to assist in region's economic recovery efforts
The U.S. Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration announced on Tuesday that it was awarding $400,000 in federal COVID-19 relief funds to Three Rivers Planning and Development District in Pontotoc. Randy Kelley, the executive director of Three Rivers, told the Daily Journal in a telephone interview that the economic development district was grateful for the funds, and they plan to use the dollars to hire a new recovery coordinator, who will help develop a new regional development plan and partner with different businesses and economic development leaders across the region. The announcement drew praise from several of the state's federal and state elected officials. Gov. Tate Reeves in a statement said that he was grateful to the state's federal partners and their support during this time. Both of Mississippi's Republican U.S. Senators, Roger Wicker and Cindy Hyde-Smith, said that the dollars will be used as a way to supplement the state's economic recovery and will likely make the economy stronger than it was before the pandemic.
Developer reveals plans for $1.2 billion casino resort in Biloxi
The crown jewel of the south Mississippi could soon be shiny and new again. Dakia Entertainment Hospitality and Broadwater Development, LLP on Tuesday signed a formal letter of intent to redevelop the historic, former Broadwater Beach hotel, marina, and golf course. The $1.2 billion, 266-acre entertainment complex is projected to open by the summer of 2023. Developers will also receive some tax breaks as they attempt to revive and enhance the property. The Biloxi city council voted unanimously in favor of the tax rebates and many vocally supported the project. "The Broadwater Beach, as it was known in the '50s, was 'the attraction' that brought attention and many people to our Coast. In my opinion, it would certainly be an "understatement" to say that this project will be transformational for Biloxi, our Coast and the State of Mississippi," said Biloxi Mayor Andrew "FoFo" Gilich. "In my discussions with Dakia and understanding their vision, this project will be 'a world-class destination unlike anything else.'" The development is expected to produce about 1,000 construction jobs and employ about 2,500 upon full operation.
Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell warns that long downturn would mean severe damage
Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell warned Tuesday that the U.S. economy faces a deep downturn with "significant uncertainty" about the timing and strength of a recovery. He cautioned that the longer the recession lasts, the worse the damage that would be inflicted on the job market and businesses. In testimony to Congress, Powell stressed that the Fed is committed to using all its financial tools to cushion the damage from the coronavirus. But he said that until the public is confident the disease has been contained, "a full recovery is unlikely." He warned that a prolonged downturn could inflict severe harm -- especially to low-income workers who have been hit hardest. Powell delivered the first of two days of semi-annual congressional testimony to the Senate Banking Committee before he will address the House Financial Services Committee on Wednesday. Several senators highlighted the disproportionate impact of the viral outbreak and the downturn on African-Americans and Latinos. Powell expressed his agreement.
Legislators likely can avoid once feared double digit budget cuts
Legislative leaders on Monday said Mississippi's state budget for the coming year should be able to limp along with cuts to agencies of less than 5 percent despite the pandemic-fueled recession. Earlier projections had been more dire, with double-digit cuts to state agencies in the offing. Budget experts told lawmakers Monday that the pandemic recession so far hasn't been as bad as once feared, and retail sales, income and corporate taxes have not tanked as sharply as first projected. "The bottom line is the national economy appears to be recovering ... and the state economy is also improving," said State Economist Darrin Webb. For the current budget year that ends in two weeks, lawmakers said the governor could dip into the state's "rainy day fund" to cover about a $47 million shortfall in the roughly $6 billion budget. House Speaker Philip Gunn said he was "encouraged" that shortfalls appear to be less than earlier projections. He said lawmakers have been discussing cuts averaging 4.8 percent but, "We believe we can get by with cuts of not quite that much."
Rep. Gary Chism to retire from Legislature June 30
Columbus Republican Rep. Gary Chism, the dean of the Golden Triangle legislative delegation, has resigned, citing family medical issues. Chism, first elected in 1999 and now in his 21st session in the House of Representatives, will officially retire on June 30, he said Tuesday. He said he notified House Speaker Phillip Gunn and Gov. Tate Reeves of his decision on Monday. "My wife has had some health issues and I really felt like I should be with her," said Chism, who left the session on June 3 and does not plan to attend any more sessions before his retirement. He said his proudest moment in the House came early in his career with the passage of the 2004 Tort Reform Act, which created a $1 million cap on non-economic damages in civil lawsuits and a $500,000 cap on medical malpractice cases. "At the time, Mississippi was called the Jackpot Justice state," he said. "We might as well have had a billboard on the highway when you crossed the state line. As someone in the insurance business, I saw what it was doing, so I was proud to be involved in fixing that situation." Chism is the House Insurance Committee chairman and a member of six other committees, including Ways and Means. Gov. Reeves will call a special election to fill Chism's unfinished term.
Panel backs ex-Louisiana warden to lead Mississippi prisons
The Mississippi Senate Corrections Committee on Tuesday unanimously endorsed a former prison warden who faced ethics questions in Louisiana to be the new leader of Mississippi's troubled prison system. The full Senate is expected to vote in the next few days on confirming Burl Cain as corrections commissioner. Cain, 77, has been working as commissioner since May 20, when Republican Gov. Tate Reeves announced he was nominating him to the $132,000-a-year job after a nationwide search. It's not unusual for a nominee to work while awaiting confirmation. Corrections committee members said during the confirmation hearing Tuesday that a background report by a Mississippi legislative watchdog group cleared any concerns they had about Cain's ethics issues in Louisiana. But, members of the committee would not release the report to The Associated Press, citing confidentiality. "We're going to fix Parchman," Cain said Tuesday. Mississippi has one of the highest incarceration rates in the nation.
Lawmakers question Burl Cain for MDOC commissioner post
A legislative committee on Tuesday agreed with Gov. Tate Reeves' decision to hire a controversial former Louisiana prison warden as the next leader of Mississippi's troubled prison system. Burl Cain, 77, departed Louisiana's largest prison four years ago after investigative articles raised ethical questions about his private financial dealings. He spent 21 years overseeing the Louisiana State Penitentiary, or Angola, garnering a reputation as a reformer who pushed unorthodox methods of rehabilitation. He pledged to bring those same strategies -- centered around inmate labor and religion -- to Mississippi. On Tuesday the Senate Corrections Committee voted unanimously to confirm Cain as the new leader of the Mississippi Department of Corrections. A final decision on Cain now goes to the full Senate, which could discuss and vote on his appointment later this week, said Corrections Chairman Juan Barnett, D-Heidelberg. The Department of Corrections has struggled with scandal and violence for years, including violent unrest in late December and January that led to several inmate deaths. "Failure here is not an option for me," Cain told the committee during his hearing. "I didn't care what you paid me, this is (about the) the challenge."
Senate advances Burl Cain, controversial pick for Mississippi prisons chief
After only brief questioning about legal and ethical allegations he faced in Louisiana, a Senate panel on Tuesday unanimously approved Burl Cain's appointment to run Mississippi's troubled prisons system. Cain's appointment by Gov. Tate Reeves now moves to the full Senate, which is expected to confirm him as Mississippi corrections commissioner. "I was investigated -- three investigations and it was all totally unfounded," Cain, former warden of Angola prison in Louisiana, told members of the Mississippi Senate Corrections Committee. "That's why I stand before you today. I've been totally investigated and I've come out clean. I was exonerated." Cain, who gained national attention for his leadership as warden at the Louisiana Penitentiary at Angola, told lawmakers on Tuesday that he plans to change the Mississippi Department of Corrections into the "department of rehabilitation" of inmates. He also said he plans to bring the faith-based rehabilitation programs that gained him national attention at Angola to Mississippi's prisons, including the notorious State Penitentiary at Parchman. Cain said he has four main tenets for fixing Mississippi's prison system: "Good food ... Good medicine ... Good playing ... and good praying."
Senate committee recommends former Louisiana warden lead Mississippi's prisons
The state Senate Corrections Committee on Tuesday unanimously voted to recommend Burl Cain, the former warden of Louisiana's Angola State Prison, be the leader of Mississippi's prison system. Cain, 77, gained notoriety in Louisiana for reducing inmate violence and for expanding religious programs at the facility. He told legislators that he intends to focus on rehabilitation efforts in the state's prison system. State Sen. Daniel Sparks, R-Belmont, is the vice chair of the corrections committee. An attorney, Sparks told Cain at the hearing that given the state's recent track record of having state agencies misspend million of dollars, Mississippi cannot afford to have another state agency have the appearance of unethical behavior regarding contracts. Cain is currently the CEO of Global Prison Seminaries Foundation, a nonprofit organization that attempts to create "transformational opportunities in cooperation with state departments of corrections and higher-education institutions that support the moral rehabilitation of every inmate," according to the organization's website. Cain told the lawmakers that he will not serve as the CEO of the organization, but would continue to serve as a consultant.
Prohibition could officially end in Mississippi if a bill in the Legislature becomes law
Prohibition in Mississippi could be officially ended if a bill passed by the Legislature is signed into law by Gov. Tate Reeves. House Bill 1087, which was sponsored by state Rep. Trey Lamar, R-Senatobia, would renounce prohibition of the possession of alcoholic beverages as the policy of the state. It would make it legal to possess beer and light wine throughout the state, even in dry counties. Mississippi was the last state to end prohibition in 1966 after allowing the sale of beer in 1933, but the Legislature did so by allowing counties and municipalities to hold elections on whether to allow the sale of alcoholic beverages. Thirty one out of the state's 82 counties are dry, which means they restrict sales of alcoholic beverages. Simpson County was the most recent county to go "wet" after a 2019 election. Alcohol freedom advocates have had some successes this session, but plenty of failures.
Testing offered at Mississippi Capitol amid COVID-19 concern
Free coronavirus testing was being conducted Tuesday at the Mississippi Capitol, a day after lawmakers were told that an employee in the building had tested positive for COVID-19. The Legislature remained in session. Some lawmakers, lobbyists and others in the Capitol have been wearing masks, but some have not. The Health Department said Tuesday that Mississippi has had at least 20,152 cases and 915 deaths from the coronavirus as of Monday evening. That was an increase of 353 cases and 20 deaths from the numbers reported a day earlier. The state has a population of about 3 million. The department said at least 15,323 people in Mississippi are presumed to have recovered from COVID-19, based on when they tested positive. The Health Department said Tuesday at least 2,237 cases of the virus have been confirmed in long-term care facilities such as nursing homes, with at least 466 virus-related deaths in those facilities.
Mississippi Choctaw Indians face greater coronavirus risks, officials say
There are just over 10,000 members of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. The Indian reservation spreads across 10 counties and is comprised of 8 communities -- mostly in the east central part of the state. Three counties Newton, Neshoba and Leake are part of the Choctaw reservation. And they have been under heightened restrictions because of rapid increases in coronavirus cases relative to their populations. State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs says Native Americans in Mississippi are almost 8 times more likely to become infected with the virus than any other ethnicity and are dying at a disproportionately higher rate. "If we look at the mortality rate, the mortality rate among Native Americans is 174 per 100,000 compared to a mortality rate of 39 per 100,000 in African Americans and 21 per 100,000 in Caucasians," said Dobbs. "So, much much higher." Dobbs says Native Americans in Mississippi have a coronavirus case rate of more than 1500 per 100,000 people. That's compared to a rate of 834 in black Mississippians and 282 in whites. But why? Dr. Kerry Scott is the Interim Chief Medical Officer at the Choctaw Health Center in Philadelphia. He says much like African Americans, Indians share similar underlying health conditions that make them more susceptible. "Within the Native American population there's lots of diabetes, hypertension and those chronic conditions," said Scott. Scott says they are pinpointing most cases to two settings: community transmission and nursing homes.
Rep. Charles Busby: distance learning technology is not priority
After attaining power over the governor to spend the CARES Act funding received from the federal government, the Mississippi Legislature still has $900 million to disburse and one state representative does not believe distance learning is as big of a priority as some of his peers do. Representative Charles Busby, who serves District 111, made an appearance on The Gallo Show this morning to talk about how he believes the remaining funds should be approached. "We have to be conservative as we go forward," Busby said. "We don't know what this thing looks like three months from now, so the right thing, I think, is to hold some of that money back in case no other monies come, and we have additional needs in the future." Unlike Speaker Philip Gunn and Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann, Busby does not believe providing technology for distance learning should be an utmost priority. "I don't want to set the standard that the state is going to provide a computer for every child going forward," he explained. "I also don't want to spend a ton of money on yesterday's technology in an attempt to get distance learning across the state of Mississippi."
Mississippi official: Black people 'dependent' since slavery
After rejecting a proposal to move a Confederate monument, a white elected official in Mississippi said this week that African Americans "became dependent" during slavery and as a result, have had a harder time "assimilating" into American life than other mistreated groups. Critics said his remarks were outrageous and called on him to resign.In northeastern Mississippi's Lowndes County, supervisors voted along racial lines Monday against moving a Confederate monument that has stood outside the county courthouse in Columbus since 1912. At one point during the meeting, a white supervisor, Harry Sanders, said moving the monument would solve nothing and would be an attempt to erase history. After the meeting, Sanders, a Republican, was quoted by the Commercial Dispatch as saying that other groups of people who had also been mistreated in the past -- he cited Irish, Italian, Polish and Japanese immigrants -- were able to successfully "assimilate" afterward. "The only ones that are having the problems: Guess who? The African Americans," Sanders said.
'It's what I think' Mississippi official makes racist comments after confederate statue vote
Calls are increasing for a white Mississippi elected official to either step down as supervisor board president or resign entirely amid racist remarks he made to a local newspaper after voting against relocating a confederate monument in front of the county courthouse. The official is not only rejecting those calls but doubling down on his stance. "I'm not going to stand and run from it, hell, it's what I think," Lowndes County Supervisor Harry Sanders said Tuesday. Monday, after a 3-2 vote to relocate a confederate statue to the local cemetery failed, Sanders told The Commercial Dispatch that Black people were dependent on society because they were "taken care of" during slavery. Tuesday morning, when asked if he understood how the comments could be perceived as racist, Sanders said, "I certainly do but, look, you can't change history. Am I not supposed to talk about what happened 150 years ago? Am I not supposed to talk about what happened in World War II with the Japanese? Am I not supposed to talk about any of that? It comes off (as racist) because of the way they put it in the newspaper, that's not the way I said, it but that's OK."
Local leaders slam Lowndes County Board of Supervisors President Harry Sanders for racist remarks
Local officials and community leaders are condemning Lowndes County Board of Supervisors President Harry Sanders for comments he made about African Americans being "dependent" since slavery ended and not assimilating to American society like other ethnicities. Some county and city officials are calling for his resignation. Sanders gave his comments to The Dispatch after a 3-2 board vote along racial lines Monday against the relocation of a Confederate monument that sits at the courthouse lawn. His remarks, deemed "hurtful" and "insensitive" by many local leaders, drew sharp criticism. Multiple public officials and community advocates argued that Sanders' racist comments, especially made amid national unrest over racial injustice, further divide the community, hinder its healing process and perpetuate stereotypes people hold of Mississippi. Sanders told The Dispatch this morning he has no intention to resign, and he will not comment on his remarks or the public condemnation of them. "Y'all are blowing this way out of proportion," he said. "All this is (doing) is getting people all riled up, and I don't have any desire to do that."
Group seeks removal of Confederate monument at Lauderdale County Courthouse
A representative of a movement to remove the Confederate monument at the Lauderdale County Courthouse addressed the Meridian City Council Tuesday night. N'Spire Walker, who led a peace rally outside city hall before the meeting, asked the council to remove the monument or pass an ordinance preventing hate symbols to be displayed on public property. "It hurts the black residents of Meridian," Walker told the council. "It does not represent Mississippi taxpayers." Many of the people who attended the rally came to the council meeting. Walker presented a plan of action that also included a request for $500 to $1,000 to help with community growth and development. Council Vice President Weston Lindemann of Ward 5 said it was unclear who had authority to take any action related to the monument. Lindemann suggested it might be possible for the council to pass a resolution endorsing the idea of moving it, if nothing else. Lauderdale County's Confederate monument is on public property owned and maintained by the county, according to County Administrator Chris Lafferty. The Board of Supervisors is the public body responsible for maintaining it, but the board has not discussed any changes to it, Lafferty said.
Seersucker rules the Senate. This year, not so much
Every year in June, on a warm and sticky Thursday, senators arrive at work looking like they've come straight from the Kentucky Derby. Gone are the standard dark suits of the winter months. Instead, they wear seersucker. Walking the halls of the Capitol, they project a sense of gentility and ease. Why yes, they seem to say, this fabric is 100 percent cotton. Why yes, it is extremely cool. Why yes, these tiny stripes, blue and white and vanishingly thin, kind of make your head spin. Now let's all squeeze together for a bipartisan photo op. The name of this tradition is National Seersucker Day, and it practically screams "United States Senate." This year, it's not happening. "Normally it's a seersucker celebration, but this was more of a seersucker acknowledgement," Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy told Heard on the Hill. He decided to keep it simple, "given the mood of things." Instead of gathering together a bunch of his colleagues to pose in head-to-toe seersucker, he quietly handed out a consolation prize at a Republican lunch -- seersucker face masks, a sign of the times.
Researchers Look To Cattle For Treatment For COVID-19
It turns out, cows may play an important role in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. SAB Biotherapeutics is in the business of making what are known as polyclonal antibodies. These are a collection of different antibodies that a body makes to ward off a specific invading organism. The company has made polyclonal antibodies to treat influenza and MERS. Now it's making them with the aim of treating or even preventing COVID-19. To make them, SAB uses cows. These aren't just any cows. They are cows that have been given genes from the human immune system that make antibodies. These special cows are injected with what essentially amounts to a coronavirus vaccine that will then cause them to try to fight off what the body sees as an infection -- and they will "produce a specifically targeted high-neutralizing antibody that can be used in patients," says SAB CEO Eddie Sullivan. Whether the antibodies will work against the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 still has to be shown. To do that, SAB has partnered with William Klimstra at the University of Pittsburgh. Klimstra says the first step is to show that the COVID-19 antibodies are not causing more health problems than they solve.
UMMC assistant vice chancellor describes Covid-19 effort
Speaking to a Zoom meeting of the Rotary Club of North Jackson, Dr. Alan Jones, UMMC's Assistant Vice Chancellor for Clinical Affairs, described UMMC's battle against COVID-19. Responding to a question about comparing COVID-19 to the flu, Jones said, "In 21 years of practicing medicine in a hospital environment, I have never seen units, hospitals, ICUs and patients with a particular disease where a substantial number of them were losing their lives." Jones said UMMC has prepared a sustainable plan to treat COVID-19 patients for 30 months. "By then, the virus may have burned itself out." In the meantime, Jones reported no decline in case morbidity. However, Jones was more upbeat about new treatment options. He mentioned dexamethasone, a common steroid known as Decadron, as one potential treatment. "We will see some treatment emerge soon that will have an impact on morbidity." "We are setting up a process to co-exist with this virus while keeping our staff fresh and focused," Jones said, adding that careful planning prevented any cases of health care worker cross contamination or patient-to-patient contamination.
Millsaps College releases latest state survey
Mississippi voters would like lawmakers and state leaders to safeguard public education dollars in the face of a massive state budget shortfall that may amount to as much as $800 million this fiscal year. Voters also recommend considering raising income taxes on the wealthiest Mississippians and repealing corporate tax cuts enacted in recent legislative sessions to help raise additional state revenue. Over a third of respondents (34%) to the Summer 2020 Millsaps College-Chism Strategies State of the State Survey say protecting K-12 tax dollars should take precedent over other financial areas such hospitals and healthcare, corrections, infrastructure, higher education, corrections, agriculture, economic development and public safety. About a quarter of all voters say they prefer raising income taxes on the wealthiest Mississippians to help account for the shortage of revenue due in part to the coronavirus pandemic.
Northeast Mississippi Community College announces early start, ending to fall semester
Northeast Mississippi Community College's Board of Trustees set the start date for the upcoming Fall 2020 semester for Aug. 3 at its monthly meeting on Tuesday. Classes will conclude before Thanksgiving break, "in an attempt to protect its employees, students and community members from a potential second-round of the coronavirus while still holding a full semester of on-campus instruction." Students will attend the last week of regular classes Nov. 9-12 with final exams for the fall semester happening Nov. 16-19. Once students leave campus after their final exams, they will not return to Booneville for classes until Jan. 11, 2021. "We are constantly making sure our employees, students and visitors are not in harm's way," Northeast President Dr. Ricky G. Ford said. "With the expected spike of the COVID-19 in late November/early December, we want our students and faculty to reach completion of the fall 2020 semester without any interruptions." Students will have the option of taking classes fully online, in a hybrid model or traditional face-to-face setting.
Auburn University President Jay Gogue announces groups to address building names, further actions to address 'racial inequities'
Jay Gogue, Auburn's president, announced on Tuesday that he is forming two different groups to look at the names on University buildings and other ways that Auburn can address "racial inequities that exist." Gogue made the announcement during a virtual meeting of the University Senate. "Clearly, it is time for us at Auburn to get in front of some racial inequities that exist," Gogue said. "I'm not saying that we haven't done a number of things good historically, but we can do more, and we can do better." Gogue said the University is hoping to officially announce the groups later this week but laid out rough sketches for what each will be assigned to do. "One is All Trustees group," Gogue said. "They will look, because of their policies and state law, at the building names on this campus." The other group that Gogue announced will focus on additional actions that the University can take to address the racial inequities on campus.
Auburn taps HPM for $94.5 million culinary education center, hotel
Birmingham's HPM has been selected as construction manager for a $94.5 million culinary science center -- including a teaching boutique hotel and restaurant -- that is slated to open next year at Auburn University. Work to prepare the site began in April on the Tony and Libba Rane Culinary Science Center, a 142,000-square-foot complex at the corner of East Thach Avenue and South College Street in downtown Auburn. The center is named for the parents of Auburn alumnus and board of trustees member Jimmy Rane, founder and CEO of Great Southern Wood Preserving, who gave $12 million toward the project. HPM will provide project management support for Auburn's Facilities Management Administration. Construction is expected to be completed next year. The center will be the first revenue generating academic building on Auburn's campus. The center will provide practical learning environments for hospitality and culinary sciences students, with classrooms, demonstration kitchens and food production labs, a brewing science center, and new teaching restaurant on the property. The center will also have six upper-level residences for long-term leasing. There will also be a rooftop swimming pool and bar, full-service spa and other amenities.
Provost Bill Hardgrave announces Auburn's on-campus classes will be over by Thanksgiving
Provost Bill Hardgrave shared in an Auburn University Senate meeting on Tuesday afternoon over Zoom that the fall 2020 semester on-campus will end by Thanksgiving. The semester will begin on Aug. 17 as originally planned and end face-to-face on Nov. 24, the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, according to Hardgrave. The revised academic calendar will be achieved by eliminating fall break and the first two days of Thanksgiving break, Hardgrave said. This means that the total number of instructional days will be reduced from 72 days to 71, "well within the guidelines of instructional days we need to offer," he said. "[This plan] is what we believe we can do in August," Hardgrave said. "That all could change, and we will continue to monitor and respond based upon external forces. The plan tries to be as flexible as possible for students; we certainly want good student retention but also good student academic progress toward graduation."
U. of Kentucky's final plan for fall restart changes schedule, adds testing
University of Kentucky students will begin and end the fall semester earlier than normal while attending classes and eating with smaller groups, according to the final reopening plan released Tuesday. COVID-19 testing will be available for all students within about a week of when they return to campus in the fall, said Eric Monday, the executive vice president for finance and administration. Testing will also be encouraged for faculty and staff, especially those with underlying conditions or those over 65. The first day of classes is Aug. 17 -- a week earlier than previously planned. Students and employees will get daily symptom assessments via an app. Masks will be required unless someone is alone, eating, exercising or whenever the masks may interfere with "required curricular activities." According to spokesman Jay Blanton, the university spent more than $4 million on personal protective equipment, testing, cleaning supplies and the screening app. The university has ordered about 80,000 reusable masks and 200,000 disposable masks, Monday said.
Black students at U. of Arkansas, Fayetteville air obstacles
Black students at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville took to social media beginning Monday with hundreds of posts describing racist and inappropriate remarks made by faculty members and other students, plus experiences of being improperly singled out on campus. The posts, made on Twitter with the hashtag #BlackatUark, covered all aspects of campus life as students past and present spoke up. Some posts described offensive behavior by other students. Other posts described classroom incidents. Among themes to emerge was a lack of black staff members and black professors at UA. In 2018, the most recent year with federal data available, UA had 40 black or African American instructional staff with faculty status, about 3% of the 1,227 faculty member total. Black students made up about 4% of the university's 23,025 undergraduate students in fall 2019, according to UA data. A group of students identified as the Black Student Caucus on Monday released a list of 15 "demands."
Texas A&M provides updates on fall classes and scheduling
Texas A&M University Provost Carol A. Fierke released more details about A&M's fall class schedule in an email to students on Monday. A&M will not hold classes on Saturdays after initially considering it. Instead, classes will be scheduled later into each day Monday through Friday. In a draft schedule, A&M will begin classes at 8 a.m. and the latest classes will end at 8:35 p.m. A&M will have a 45-minute break around the noon hour for classrooms to be cleaned. A&M will extend time between classes to 30 minutes to allow students and faculty time to vacate classrooms before the next class arrives. Approximately half of A&M's courses will be offered face-to-face, but every face-to-face class will have a remote option.
Colleges Say They Can Reopen Safely. But Will Students Follow the Rules?
This fall, if a Vanderbilt University student walks around campus without a mask, a "public-health ambassador" might stop the student, remind them that the institution requires face coverings, and hand over a packet stocked with a mask, gloves, and hand sanitizer. Vanderbilt's ambassador program, which debuted last month, is part of the university's plan for ensuring -- or, at least, encouraging -- compliance with public-health guidelines designed to ease the spread of Covid-19. The first group of ambassadors are campus public-safety employees who have received special training. University officials say they soon hope to train "other members of our community." To return to learning in person this fall as the pandemic rages on, many colleges will require or recommend face coverings, physical-distancing, limited gathering sizes, and travel restrictions. But how will they get their students to follow the rules? Colleges already struggle to get students to abide by health and safety policies, particularly those governing alcohol and drug use. The Covid-19 restrictions at many institutions -- which will upend most typical aspects of student life -- will be even more stringent and challenging to enforce.
Pandemic has worsened equity gaps in higher education and work
Even before the pandemic, higher education faced growing scrutiny about its role in contributing to severe societal equity gaps that afflict black and Latino Americans, as well as Native Americans and other historically underserved groups. But that pressure is certain to increase amid what Richard V. Reeves, a writer and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, calls an extraordinary "collision of crises" that has further exposed multiple inequities and inequalities. Those widening chasms include the pandemic's impact on the labor market. Black and Latino workers are more likely to have lost their jobs, while white and wealthier Americans are much more likely to be able to work from home and to not be deemed essential, front-line workers, who are more likely to be exposed to the virus, said Reeves during a webcast hosted by Jobs for the Future last week. Likewise, the severe wealth gap means people of color are much less able to cope with the loss of a job or wages. And inequity in society has contributed to higher COVID-19 mortality rates among black and Latino Americans, said Reeves, due to poverty's relative impact on their health and the enhanced risks of coming down with COVID-19 on the job or on public transportation.
A Decade-Long Stall for Black Enrollment in M.B.A. Programs
One of the most important pipelines of African-American professional talent into corporate America has been virtually stagnant for a decade. Black students comprise less than 10% of business school enrollment on average nationally, and admissions experts say universities haven't done enough to attract more black students to their M.B.A. programs. At the same time, they say many black students face barriers including the cost of the degree, a shortage of corporate mentors and a lack of diverse leadership at colleges. Since 2009, the percentage of GMAT exams taken by black U.S. citizens has stalled at about 8% and fell slightly in 2019 from 2010, according to a March study from the nonprofit Graduate Management Admission Council, which administers the standardized test required for most graduate business and management programs. The lack of black students in M.B.A. programs is a factor contributing to low representation in U.S. corporate leadership, admissions consultants and B-school graduates say. About 4.1% of U.S. chief executives and 7.8% of people in management occupations identified as black in 2019, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Netflix CEO, wife gift $120M for HBCU scholarships
In what is being described as the largest individual gift ever given toward scholarships at historically black colleges and universities, Spelman and Morehouse colleges and the United Negro College Fund will share $120 million from philanthropist Patty Quillin and her husband Reed Hastings, the CEO of Netflix. The $40 million being given to each of the private Atlanta colleges rivals and likely exceeds any past donations to them. The timing, when protesters are filling the streets after multiple highly-publicized killings of black men and women, was no accident. The couple noted they are giving as Americans try "to start addressing the inequities faced by black people" and add that they hope to inspire donations from others to help more black students attend an historically black college. UNCF, Spelman and Morehouse "have proven they can improve mobility and create new generations of leaders -- helping increase justice, equality and opportunity in America," Quillin and Hastings said in a statement provided by Netflix. "Yet they are disadvantaged when it comes to philanthropy," their statement says, adding that the median endowment across all of America's HBCUs is $15.7 million compared to $36.8 million for non-HBCUs, with no HBCU endowment in the top 100.
Religious colleges see conflict between Supreme Court ruling on LGBTQ rights and their religious liberty
Advocates for religious colleges say Monday's Supreme Court decision ruling that employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity is illegal under federal law raises unanswered questions and concerns for them. The 6-to-3 ruling holds that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, by extension protects gay and transgender individuals from being fired for reasons related to their sexual orientation or gender identity. Some in higher education praised the ruling. Peter McPherson, the president of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, issued a statement applauding "this landmark advancement of human rights." Lily Eskelsen GarcĂ­a, the president of the National Education Association, a labor organization that includes K-12 teachers as well as college faculty among its membership, similarly praised the decision as a significant step toward LGBTQ equality. "The message is plain and simple: Our LGBTQ educators and students matter. Full stop," she said. But some religious colleges viewed the ruling with concern.
Cancelled Neshoba County Fair is a microcosm of COVID-19 realities in state, nation
Syndicated columnist Sid Salter writes: Longtime readers of this column know of my deep and abiding affection for the Neshoba County Fair and the old-time political speaking under shade of the old oaks and the tin roof of the Founder's Square Pavilion. At the 2019 Fair, during a courthouse-to-statehouse election cycle, there were just over seven hours of political speaking at Neshoba. This year, there will be none in the traditional sense due to the cancellation of the 130-year-old event by action of the Neshoba County Fair Association's board of directors. ... The closure dovetailed with the May 28 decision to cancel the 2020 Choctaw Indian Fair by the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, with Tribal Chief Cyrus Ben citing COVID-19 concerns as the reason. Neshoba County has long been the economic beneficiary of the dual fairs. But the cancellation decisions had a strong basis in COVID-19 data. Neshoba County has one of the state's top COVID-19 outbreak totals and was for a time the target of special social distancing and screening guidelines from Gov. Tate Reeves.

Legislative bill would allow air bows during archery season for deer
Under a bill in the Mississippi Legislature, hunters could be allowed to use air bows during archery season for deer. The biggest question is who will be allowed. House Bill 1309, authored by Rep. Joey Hood, states: "A person exempt from having a hunting license by reason of total service-connected disability, as adjudged by the Veterans Administration, or who has been adjudged to be totally disabled by the Social Security Administration, or who is paraplegic or a multiple amputee, may hunt with an air bow during any open season on deer, turkey, or small game. For the purposes of this section, 'air bow' means a device that uses compressed air to propel arrows." Air bows fire with more speed and accuracy than crossbows or vertical bows. They can send arrows at speeds around 450 feet per second and shoot 2-inch groups at 50 yards. They are effective and easier to use than actual bows and could open the door to hunting for people with disabilities. "The air bow bill is a good bill," said Bill Kinkade, House Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks Committee chairman. "I presented it to help the disabled get into the woods. It has always been my goal and always will be to help those (with disabilities) get in the woods. Those with the desire should be provided the opportunity."
Injuries could be more plentiful as workouts ramp up amid COVID-19
Not unlike other small businesses, Mississippi sports medicine clinics have changed due to the pandemic. With the shutdown of sports at all levels, there's been a marked decrease in the rate of injuries. Dr. Gabriel Rulewicz, a physician with Tupelo-based Orthopaedic Institute of North Mississippi, said COVID-19 has altered normal clinic operations in several ways. He estimates that in the first four weeks of the pandemic, there was a drop of 80-90 percent in clinic and surgical volume. "The one positive is the downtime has allowed athletes currently recovering from an injury more time to rehab and less pressure to return to play", he added. There is also a mental aspect of coronavirus for athletes that will need to be addressed, according to Rulewicz. "There are guidelines for management of coronavirus-positive athletes, treatment of the team, and a return to training protocols," he said. "This will likely be a fluid situation with changes made as we move forward." Though he doesn't know exactly what to expect post- COVID-19, Rulewicz said the sports medicine and athletics community continue to work together on plans in dealing with the ongoing crisis. Testing of athletes, social distancing to some extent and updated recommendations for cleaning will be the rule rather than the exception on and off the field.
Ole Miss looking at all options to have fans in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium
Nobody knows how the college football season will look, or if it will even happen, but Ole Miss is beginning to make plans with the intention of having as many fans as possible in attendance. On June 8, Ole Miss provided an update on football ticket sales and how their selection process of tickets will go if capacity limitations are placed on Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. With COVID-19 still an active threat and professional sports starting to resume without fans at first, the NCAA and other individual conferences have not made any decision on what will be permitted come September. "Obviously that message that we sent out, our goal and our intention is to be at full capacity if we can," said associate athletic director and chief revenue officer Wesley Owen. "Knowing that things could change at any point, and we knew it was going to be fluid, there is a possibility of reduced capacity. We wanted to make sure that we laid out that plan in advance rather than trying to come back and try to figure out how we would do it." Owen and his staff began working on different situations and scenarios to have them ready if capacity limitations call for 75 percent, 50 percent or even 25 percent occupancy this season. Social distancing protocols are part of each scenario as well.
Southern Heritage Classic canceled in Memphis due to COVID-19
The Southern Heritage Classic announced the cancellation Wednesday of its annual football game between Jackson State and Tennessee State due to COVID-19. The 31st installment of the series between Tennessee State and Jackson State, played each year at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in Memphis, was scheduled for Sept. 12. All of the events set for that week have also been canceled, according to a press release. The decision to cancel the Southern Heritage Classic was made after reviewing the Shelby County Health Department's Health Directive No. 6. The directive details emergency management relief efforts put in place to address COVID-19, specifically those regarding recreational or athletic activities, according to a press release. According to event officials, the Southern Heritage Classic draws an average of more than 75,000 between the game, tailgating on Tiger Lane, the parade in Orange Mound and the Classic Gala. The game itself has announced crowds of more than 42,000 for every game since 2001. The announced attendance for last year's game was 48,347.
Tennessee athletes returning to campus must sign 'shared responsibility' form because of pandemic
Tennessee welcomed its first wave of athletes back to campus in the first two weeks of June. As those football and men's and women's basketball athletes returned, they had to sign an "Acknowledgment of Risk and Shared Responsibility" form provided by the University of Tennessee Medicine Department because of the coronavirus pandemic. The form, obtained by Knox News on Tuesday, notes the university is taking precautions to reduce the risk of athletes contracting the coronavirus. The athlete's responsibility includes adhering to the recommendations of the UT Sports Medicine staff and team physicians, social distancing, frequently washing hands, disinfecting athletic equipment after use and wearing a face mask. For players reporting to campus under the age of 18, the form requires the signature of a parent or guardian. The form UT required its athletes to sign falls in line with other risk acknowledgement forms that are standard, such as inherent risk and sport safety forms, a Tennessee spokesperson said.
How Alabama books football games a decade in advance
It takes more than a willingness to play and a matching of open dates to schedule premier college football programs against one another. The University of Alabama has been among the most aggressive in scheduling opponents from Power 5 conferences to home-and-home series: From Aug. 6, 2019, to April 8, 2020, UA scheduled six such series, resulting in at least one Power 5 non-conference game for every season between now and 2035, with two such games in four of those seasons. But the dates are far from the only details that get worked out before those games are finalized. The Tuscaloosa News, through an open records request, acquired the contracts for every home-and-home series UA currently has scheduled: Texas in 2022-23, Wisconsin in 2024-25, Florida State in 2025-26, West Virginia in 2026-27, Notre Dame in 2028-29, Georgia Tech in 2030-31, Arizona and Oklahoma in 2032-33 and Virginia Tech in 2034-35. All of the contracts -- in some cases UA's paperwork, in some cases that of the other school and in the Texas series, both -- specify that player eligibility and rules are to be set by the NCAA and the host school's conference. Each contract also specifies that the host school's conference's officials will referee the games, with one exception: The same clause in Notre Dame's contract simply states, "an athletic conference designated by Notre Dame." The Fighting Irish currently use ACC officials for their games.
Dan Mullen, Gators preparing for an unusual fall
They're back on campus and back in the weight room, going through voluntary workouts. The Florida Gators' have made their first steps toward playing football in the fall. The next big step -- and it's a huge one -- is when the Gators come together as a team, coaches included, for the first time on the practice field this summer. That could be as early as July 24 if the NCAA, as expected, enacts a proposal this week that would give college teams a two-week window for walkthrough practices and extended meetings leading up to the start of preseason camp in August. The Gators made their summer plan/schedule with the idea that will happen, UF coach Dan Mullen said Tuesday on a Zoom call with the media. For UF, the walkthrough practices would lead right into preseason practice, which begins Aug. 7. "It is that period right now that the proposal is out there where we can have expanded meetings and walkthroughs on the field," Mullen said. "That is really the opportunity for the players to prepare themselves mentally, get out there through walkthroughs to start getting some muscle memory to prepare for the season and start doing movements that will be involved in during the season so that our guys can kind of be prepared rolling into training camp. Training camp is supposed to start on time, August 7th, at this point."
Jimbo Fisher, Ross Bjork lay out plans for Texas A&M athletics during COVID-19 pandemic
Texas A&M head football coach Jimbo Fisher said he believes Kyle Field could be up to 75 percent capacity this season, in a video produced by the Texas A&M System. "I'm very encouraged, because our governor's opened up outside sports to 50 percent," Fisher said. "I think, by that time and as much as we know about the virus and the different things that are going on, I expect it's going to be pretty close to normal," he continued. "It may not be completely normal. I think we'll have masks and I think there'll be social distancing, but I think it will be with groups of people and I would expect that maybe 75 percent or more would be in the stands by the end." Fisher, quarterback Kellen Mond, athletic director Ross Bjork, as well as J.P. Bramhall, director of sports medicine, and Ryan Pittsinger, director of counseling and sports psychology, sat down with Chancellor John Sharp and members of the 12th Man Productions team to talk about how COVID-19 has affected the athletic department. Each week, Sharp has produced a video highlighting a different area of the A&M System that is dealing with the spread and fight of COVID-19.
Texas A&M QB Kellen Mond wants controversial statue removed: 'Let's not forget Sully'
Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond tweeted Tuesday night in support of removing a statue of former president Lawrence Sullivan Ross. The statue is known as "Sully" and has been on campus since 1919. "LET'S NOT FORGET SULLY," Mond captioned his statement. Ross, president at Texas A&M from 1891-1898, was a brigadier general in the Confederate Army and has faced claims of mistreatment of Blacks and indigenous people in Texas. Mond's statement reminded its readers of these specific instances and noted that his role in building the university does not excuse that. "That is like saying someone who murders half of a family, but gives the other half of the family millions of dollars and resources to be successful for the rest of their lives, should be forgiven by the family," Mond wrote of people who forgive Ross based on his university role. "Based on your ideology, not only should you forgive the murderer, but you should also glorify the murderer." Many current and former Aggies echoed Mond's sentiment, including linebacker Anthony Hines and former star quarterback Johnny Manziel.
UNLV removes Confederate-themed 'rebel' statue in wake of protests
In the wake of George Floyd's death and nationwide protests against racial injustice, a statue of UNLV's "Rebel" mascot has been removed from campus. Donated to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in 2007, the Hey Reb! statue sat in front of the Richard Tam Alumni Center until Tuesday, when it was removed. UNLV President Marta Meana notified students about the removal and suggested the mascot's future is uncertain. "In recent conversations with the donor, we mutually agreed it was best to remove the statue and return it," Meana said in an email Tuesday. "Over the past few months, I have had discussions with multiple individuals and stakeholder groups from campus and the community on how best the university can move forward given recent events throughout our nation. That includes the future of our mascot." UNLV has used the "Rebel" mascot since 1969, which was originally a wolf wearing a Confederate Army cap and uniform as the school mascot. Designed partially as a jab at the northern University of Nevada, Reno, it changed over to the current human mascot in 1983. Students led a charge in the 1970s to drop the Confederate-themed mascot, and university officials contend the current logo is based on Western trailblazers in the 1800s.
Como's Tommy Joe Martins is proudly part of a new Confederate flag-less day at NASCAR
Mississippi sports columnist Rick Cleveland writes: Race car driver Tommy Joe Martins, who answers to his double first name, is as down-home Mississippi as they come. He grew up in the tiny Panola County town of Como. He went to high school at Magnolia Heights Academy in nearby Senatobia where he played football and basketball and where he says, chuckling, "I wasn't any good at either one of them." ... He says he is proud to be from Mississippi and loves his home state. And that's why when he realized his dream of becoming a NASCAR race driver, he put the state flag on his car. ... He says other drivers later told him their first impression of him was that he was a big racist redneck because he was running the Confederate flag on his car. "They didn't see it as the state flag," Martins said. "All they saw was the Confederate flag." ...

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