Wednesday, June 24, 2020   
FAA selects MSU's Raspet Flight Research Lab to lead UAS safety efforts
Mississippi State University once again is leading a major federal unmanned aircraft systems research, testing and development initiative. MSU's Raspet Flight Research Laboratory was recently designated as the Federal Aviation Administration's UAS Safety Research Facility, placing the research center as the helm of studying and developing safety and certification standards as UAS become increasingly integrated in the U.S. airspace. "Mississippi State University is a national research leader in many fields, and our foundational work with unmanned aircraft has positioned us, as this selection demonstrates, to help write the flight safety plan for this potentially transformational aspect of the aviation industry," said MSU President Mark E. Keenum. "This designation further solidifies MSU and the state of Mississippi as a leader in unmanned aircraft systems, which will bring more academic, research and economic opportunities to our state."
Group works to get historically Black cemetery 'on the map'
Shane Miller and Molly Zuckerman perked up when an organizer of Starkville's racial justice protest mentioned a local cemetery during the rally at the Mississippi State University Amphitheatre on June 6. "There is a whole slave cemetery in Starkville that does not have a point on Apple Maps or on Google Maps," MSU student Jala Douglas told the audience of thousands. "You can't find this anywhere unless you're walking past it. We're going to change that." Miller and Zuckerman are anthropology professors at MSU, and both said they saw an opportunity in Douglas' comment. Miller has since been in contact with Starkville Stand Up, the activist group for racial justice that formed in late May and organized the protest. While Starkville Stand Up and its associates will work to get Brush Arbor recognized on mapping apps and with a historical marker, MSU anthropology students and faculty will be doing their own work to study and highlight African-American cemeteries. Zuckerman said she hopes MSU and the Starkville community work as a team "to learn more about the history of this place and to revive it and preserve it."
MSU seniors receive prestigious architecture travel awards
A Mississippi State senior architecture student will experience the trip of a lifetime and learn more about her field of study with help from a $20,000 Aydelott Travel Award. Due to the COVID-19 public health crisis, the Aydelott Foundation has granted a deferral for this year's Travel Award winners, who include MSU's Nada Abdel-Aziz of Greenwood. She is the fifth MSU recipient since the regional endowed award was established in 2016. "We are so pleased that Nada will be able to fulfill her planned field research, and that we will be able to have a robust collection of stellar students around the world deepening their understanding of architecture and its service to our human experience," said College of Architecture, Art and Design Dean Angi Elsea Bourgeois. Additionally, MSU senior John D. Spraberry of Clarksville, Tennessee, is receiving a $5,000 Trussell Travel Award to support his research on how urban riverfronts might be used for flood mitigation. The MSU Trussell Travel Award is funded by MSU alumnus Ted T. Porter, principal of Ted Porter Architecture in New York City.
Analytics Insight Names 'World's 50 Most Renowned Women in Robotics'
Analytics Insight, a brand of Stravium Intelligence has named the "World's 50 Most Renowned Women in Robotics" in its June 2020 special edition. The issue recognizes the top 50 dynamic women in the robotics industry who are leading their way to unprecedented excellence. These innovative leaders are excelling beyond the prevailing gender-diversity challenges and revolutionizing how the mechanism of robots is being leveraged to bring about transformation. The list includes C-level executives, entrepreneurs, inventors, pioneers, professors, and influencers in robotics who are spearheading the innovation across different sectors and contributing to the proliferation of industry as a whole. The influencers enlisted reflect the best women leaders who hold extensive experience and influence in robotics and their innovations are redesigning the future of businesses worldwide as well, including Cindy Bethel, Professor and Billie J. Ball Endowed Professorship in Engineering at Mississippi State University.
Supplementing with annual legumes
Legumes offer many advantages when added to perennial or annual grass pastures. Mississippi State University Extension Forage Specialist Rocky Lemus shared his experiences with adding legumes into a mix of summer annual forage crops during a recent webinar. Of the species he mentioned, none cause bloat in cattle, and most are drought resistant, which is important when planting and grazing during the summer months, especially in the South. "Yield and nutritive value of these forages are highly dependent on management," explained Lemus. Because a legume seems to perform well on paper, that does not mean the forage will thrive on your land or in your grazing program. Make full evaluations of your needs, expectations, perceived benefits, and current conditions before making a decision about supplementing annual grass pastures with legumes.
Unemployment drops in May, still more than pre-pandemic levels
Unemployment rates were down significantly in May in Columbus, Starkville and West Point as part of a statewide decrease, according to preliminary statistics released Tuesday by the Mississippi Department of Employment Security. But local officials stressed that numbers aren't back to pre-pandemic terms just yet. Starkville Mayor Lynn Spruill can list the city's businesses that have become "casualties" of the COVID-19 pandemic. Flexsteel, which employs 16, is fully shutting down at the end of the month. JCPenney declared bankruptcy and plans to close this summer. Gordman's, which also is closing, "basically never really got open," Spruill said. Plenty of restaurants may not be able to reopen or survive. "We're still feeling the effects," Spruill said. "It's just a matter of how long it will go on and what will come in to take their place." The closures were part of the reason Starkville reached a 14.5 percent unemployment rate in April -- Oktibbeha County as a whole had a 13.9 percent mark. As of May, it's back down to 9.6 percent in the city and 9.3 percent in the county. With the state all but reopened, Spruill hopes to facilitate the return of business while encouraging mask-wearing and social distancing in the process.
Northeast Mississippi unemployment rate drops back to 10.8 percent
The coronavirus pandemic struck an even bigger blow to employers in Northeast Mississippi in April, as revised figures from the Mississippi Department of Employment Security reveal the unemployment rate hit a record 22.3%. However, with businesses reopening and workers returning, the jobless rate in May fell back to 10.8%, still a historically high figure, but within range of rates during the 2008-2009 recession. The unemployment rate for the 16-county region was slightly higher than the state's 10.5% rate. April's double-digit unemployment rate was the first time in nearly eight years the region had climbed back into that territory. Sectors seeing the largest growth in employment were leisure and hospitality; and trade, transportation and utilities. In April, all 16 counties in the region posted double-digit unemployment rates; in May, the rate dropped in every county, and only five still sat in double-digits.
OCH nurses working overtime to handle COVID-19, return of other patients
Michelle Welander thought $20 per hour would be enough of an incentive. The chief nursing officer at OCH Regional Medical Center offered "crisis pay" to try to fill shifts, and some nurses accepted it. But others turned it down, she told the hospital board of trustees at its monthly meeting Tuesday. "We're already scheduling them 84 hours in a two-week period, so this is above and beyond that, and they just want some time with their families (because) they're tired right now," Welander said. OCH has eight to 12 positive cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus in the building at any given time, CEO Jim Jackson said. As of Tuesday it had 10 cases, five of which were in the intensive care unit. The ICU had 12 beds at one point and has nine at the moment, but the hospital's budget is only equipped for four patients and six beds, Welander said. "You can only push the system so long, and we're just at that breaking point right now and trying to get back down to what we are as an organization, which is a six-bed ICU," she told The Dispatch. OCH has received about $13 million in federal COVID-19 relief and has used about $4.5 million of those funds, Jackson said. He hopes to make the remaining money last through December but said it "could run out quickly" without any additional funding.
Mississippi sees highest-ever daily increase of COVID cases
As Mississippi saw its highest single-day increase in coronavirus cases Tuesday, the state health officer said he is not "remotely surprised" and expressed concern for the future. The announcement came as the Mississippi Senate is working to limit lawsuits by customers who say they were exposed to COVID-19 at businesses or medical offices. "We've been seeing this trend evolving over weeks," Dr. Thomas Dobbs said in an interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday evening. " As people have tried to embrace normal, but unsafe normal, it is permitting the virus to spread. We're really going to end up paying the price for it." The Mississippi Department of Health reported 611 new cases and 11 deaths Tuesday. Dobbs said the uptick is driven by community transmission of the virus from younger, asymptomatic people to their older relatives. Meanwhile, a group of mostly Republican legislators are working to pass Senate Bill 3049 and before the end of the legislative session in July. The bill would shield businesses, health care providers, religious organizations and other entities from lawsuits related to COVID-19 if they show a "good faith" effort to follow public health guidelines.
Mississippi lawmakers seek to restrict COVID-19 lawsuits, damages
Mississippi lawmakers, like those in other states, are moving to protect businesses, individuals, governments, schools, health providers, nonprofits and churches from lawsuits over COVID-19. "This is a pandemic, and we've been dealing with the unknown," Senate Judiciary A Chairwoman Sally Doty, R-Brookhaven, said Tuesday. "We are trying to get our economy back to business." Doty authored Senate Bill 3049, the "Back to Business Liability Assurance Act." It would prohibit lawsuits over COVID-19 claims, except where "actual malice or willful, intentional misconduct" could be proved. It would increase the burden of proof in such lawsuits from a preponderance of evidence to "clear and convincing evidence." It would also cap noneconomic damages in such lawsuits to $250,000. Under existing law, those damages would be capped at $1 million for businesses and $500,000 for health providers. Sen. Angela Turner Ford, D-West Point, questioned the protection the measure would provide for companies that shifted production to personal protective equipment and sanitation products during the pandemic that might prove unsafe or ineffective.
Dr. Anthony Fauci: Next few weeks critical to tamping down virus spikes
The next few weeks are critical to tamping down a disturbing coronavirus surge, Dr. Anthony Fauci told Congress on Tuesday -- issuing a plea for people to avoid crowds and wear masks just hours before mask-shunning President Donald Trump was set to address a crowd of his young supporters in one hot spot. Fauci and other top health officials also said they have not been asked to slow down virus testing, in contrast to Trump's claim last weekend that he had ordered fewer tests be performed because they were uncovering too many infections. Trump said earlier Tuesday that he wasn't kidding when he made that remark. Troubling surges worsened Tuesday in several states, with Arizona, California, Mississippi, Nevada and Texas setting single-day records for new coronavirus cases, and some governors saying they'll consider reinstating restrictions or delaying plans to ease up in order to help slow the spread of the virus. Another worrisome trend: an increase in infections among young adults.
Top CEO warns of national boycott if lawmakers put state flag on ballot
The CEO of one of the state's largest companies told Mississippi Today on Tuesday that he fears sustained national boycotts of Mississippi businesses if lawmakers let voters decide the fate of the state flag, which contains the Confederate battle emblem. Joe Frank Sanderson, the 73-year-old CEO and board chairman of Laurel-based Sanderson Farms, said lawmakers' deliberations of sending the state flag issue to the ballot is "the wrong step," and that "there are going to be dire consequences if we take this turn." "There are going to be all kinds of demonstrations. There are going to be boycotts, just like the SEC and NCAA," Sanderson told Mississippi Today. "Conventions are not going to come here, people are not going to come to the casinos, people will boycott Mississippi products, jobs are going to be affected. Those are the economic realities." He says that the state's leaders, not voters, should change the flag promptly.
Baptists and Walmart criticize rebel-themed Mississippi flag
The Confederate-themed Mississippi flag drew opposition Tuesday from two big forces in the culturally conservative state: Southern Baptists and Walmart. Walmart said it will stop displaying the Mississippi flag while the state debates whether to change the design. The Mississippi Baptist Convention said lawmakers have a moral obligation to remove the Confederate battle emblem from the state flag because many people are "hurt and shamed" by it. The announcements increase pressure for change in a state that is slow to embrace it. "While some may see the current flag as a celebration of heritage, a significant portion of our state sees it as a relic of racism and a symbol of hatred," the Baptist group said in a statement. "The racial overtones of this flag's appearance make this discussion a moral issue."
'A moral issue': Mississippi Baptist Convention denounces state flag, calls for a change
Few things in the Deep South are as important to conversations at water coolers on Monday than what the clergy said on Sunday. For residents with a deep faith, it's more powerful than NASCAR, the NCAA and the SEC put together. And as protests in recent weeks over racial equality have swept the nation and state, prominent church organizations have also been voicing their opinions on a matter exclusive to Mississippi: The state flag. The conservative-leaning and influential Mississippi Baptist Convention, part of the Southern Baptist Convention, announced its position Tuesday: Make a change. While some may see the current flag as a celebration of heritage, a significant portion of the state sees it as a relic of racism and a symbol of hatred," said Shawn Parker, executive director and treasurer of the MBC. Parker noted African Americans in Mississippi make up 38% of the population and said "what offends them should offend us." "The racial overtones of the flag's appearance make this discussion a moral issue... It is therefore apparent that the need to change the flag is a matter of discipleship for every follower of Jesus Christ," he said.
'It's a moral issue:' Mississippi Baptist Convention calls for new state flag
The powerful Mississippi Baptist Convention on Tuesday called for state leaders to change the Mississippi flag, with its Confederate battle emblem in one corner. "It has become apparent that the discussion about changing the flag of Mississippi is not merely a political issue," Baptist leaders said in a statement. "... The racial overtones of the flag's appearance make this discussion a moral issue. Since the principal teachings of Scripture are opposed to racism, a stand against such is a matter of biblical morality." The convention includes about 2,100 churches in Mississippi, and Baptists are the largest denomination in the state, with over 500,000 members. Leaders said their stance on the flag doesn't represent every member church, but they believe it represents a majority and asked for "Mississippi Baptists to make this a matter of prayer and to seek the Lord's guidance in standing for love instead of oppression, unity instead of division, and the gospel of Christ instead of the power of this world."
Black lawmakers urge action on Mississippi flag as session nears end
About 40 mostly Black lawmakers stood on the front steps of the Mississippi Capitol on Tuesday afternoon. In front of them and over their shoulders, four state flags emblazoned with Confederate battle emblems flapped in a hot breeze. Get rid of it, the leaders said repeatedly of the flag, which has been in use since 1894. They urged their fellow legislators to vote on the issue this week. "We need to adopt a flag that is unifying and inclusive," said Sen. Angela Turner-Ford, D-West Point, chair of the Legislative Black Caucus. "The emotional distress that the current flag perpetuates on people of color extends throughout the United States, casting us and having people to claim we are backwater and retrograde. We need a new brand, we need a new symbol." Tuesday's news conference featured some of the state's most prominent African American political leaders -- Turner-Ford, and the Democratic leaders of the House and Senate, Rep. Robert Johnson and Sen. Derrick Simmons. Johnson said there did not need to be a replacement design approved yet -- but the current version must be taken down.
Business, educational and religious groups throw support behind new state flag
The state flag of Mississippi that incorporates an image of the Confederate battle flag has long been controversial. After the worldwide protests over the death of an unarmed black man, George Floyd, at the hands of police, the Legislature is once again considering putting the flag issue before voters. But a chorus of voices from the business, industry, educational and religious groups is calling for the flag to be changed. The Mississippi Bankers Association (MBA) supported changing the flag in 2001 and still does today. "We believe that the state flag should be a symbol that represents the whole state, and the current flag is offensive to many Mississippi citizens," said a statement from MBA. "It not only serves as a painful reminder of our state's past but it also perpetuates negative stereotypes about our state. We believe it is time to make a deliberate choice as a state to move forward." The Mississippi Manufacturers Association (MMA), which represents thousands of companies across the state, has taken the position that it is abundantly clear that the current state flag does not represent all Mississippians. "Mississippi manufacturers rely on the skills and talents of people regardless of race, sex, religion, or ethnicity," MMA said in a statement. "No hardworking Mississippian should feel marginalized by or ashamed of a symbol that is supposed to represent all of us. It is past time we change the state glad and move forward under a banner that will unify everyone in our state."
Lacking votes to change state flag, Gunn and Hosemann ask religious leaders for help
After lawmakers failed on Monday to whip enough votes to change the state flag, the Legislature's two presiding officers -- Speaker Philip Gunn in the House and Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann in the Senate -- opted to take a different approach Tuesday morning: organize a meeting on the issue with many of the state's religious leaders. Leaders of organizations representing Baptists, Roman Catholics, United Methodists and Pentecostals attended a meeting Tuesday morning at Mississippi College with Gunn and Hosemann to discuss changing the state flag, which features the Confederate battle emblem. Soon after the meeting, the influential Mississippi Baptist Convention came out in support of changing the flag, as did Ligon Duncan III, chancellor of the Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson. Many mainline religious organizations, such as the United Methodists, Episcopalians and Roman Catholics, already had endorsed changing the flag. The Pentecostals, though they were represented at the Tuesday morning meeting, still have not publicly endorsed changing the flag. Rep. Scott Bounds, R-Philadelphia, said traditionally the Baptists "have had influence on legislation. It is hard to say if they will on this."
U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker authors bills to speed rural broadband construction
Mississippi's U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker has filed legislation intended to speed the construction of broadband internet infrastructure in rural America. The Federal Communications Commission intends to award federal money for the construction of rural broadband during an auction currently scheduled for October. Wicker's bill would offer incentives for winning bidders to complete their projects quicker. Phase one of the auction will distribute most of a $20 billion fund. Bidders will have six years to complete the awarded projects. But the bill now backed by Mississippi's senior U.S. senator would set aside an additional $6 billion to be used as incentives for winning bidders that are able to complete their projects in only three years. Wicker chairs the Senate Commerce Committee. A different bill in the U.S. House of Representatives also seeks to accelerate the RDOF process, but its provisions differ from the Wicker legislation in the Senate. Mississippi's entire U.S. House delegation has signed on as co-sponsors of the House bill.
Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith announces $10.3M USDA food donation
Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith this week announced a $10.3 million donation of surplus foodstuffs by the United States Department of Agriculture. A contract of more than $10 million was awarded to Hattiesburg-based Merchants Foodservice to package food for the use of food banks, community and faith-based organizations and other nonprofit groups serving those in need. "I'm pleased Merchants Foodservice has been selected to participate in this beneficial program," Hyde-Smith said. The contract will help Mississippi workers and agricultural producers that have been affected by the pandemic. The contract with Merchants Foodservice will allow the company to purchase fresh produce, dairy and meat products for family sized boxes. Hyde-Smith met with members of Macedonia Baptist Church Friday to aid in the distribution of nearly 500 of these boxes. During this time, Hyde-Smith led packing efforts as vehicles came through for pickup.
'Carbon Farming' Could Make US Agriculture Truly Green
On a farm in north-central Indiana, Brent Bible raises 5,000 acres of corn and soybeans that go into producing ethanol fuel, food additives and seeds. In Napa Valley, California, Kristin Belair picks the best grapes from 50 acres of vineyards to create high-end cabernet sauvignon and sauvignon blanc wines. Both are part of a growing number of "carbon farmers" who are reducing planet-warming greenhouse gases by taking better care of the soil that sustains their farms. That means making changes like plowing fields less often, covering soil with composted mulch and year-round cover crops, and turning drainage ditches into rows of trees. Now Congress is considering legislation that would make these green practices eligible for a growing international carbon trading marketplace that would also reward farmers with cash. This morning, Bible is scheduled to testify at a Capitol Hill hearing before the Senate Agriculture Committee that is considering the carbon farming legislation. Introduced by Senator Mike Braun (R-Indiana) and Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan), the bill sets up the US Department of Agriculture to certify independent consultants for farms that want to participate in carbon trading, and inspectors to verify that the farmers make the changes they promise.
American historians at UM oppose cemetery renovation, adding headstones
More than a dozen American historians working at the University of Mississippi published a statement on Monday strongly opposing the university's plans to renovate and add headstones to the University Cemetery on campus as part of the recently approved relocation of the Confederate monument. "Ideally, we believe this monument should be removed from campus entirely, given its explicitly white supremacist origins," the statement reads. "But if it remains on campus, it should not be glorified and the university should make it clear that it rejects the racist and hateful ideology this monument represents." Cemetery renovations and headstones weren't part of the relocation proposal circulated in Dec. 2019, and the new plan was never shared with the university as a whole. The historians argue that investing resources in creating and preserving Confederate symbols sends the wrong message about the university's priorities as many Confederate monuments and related symbols come down across the South.
Delta State's Vernell Bennett-Fairs named to 2020 Millennium Leadership Initiative
Dr. Vernell Bennett-Fairs, vice president for student affairs at Delta State University, is one of 31 senior-level higher education professionals who will participate in the 2020 Millennium Leadership Initiative (MLI), a premier leadership development program of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU). MLI provides individuals traditionally underrepresented in the highest ranks of postsecondary education with the opportunity to develop skills, gain a philosophical overview, and build the network and knowledge needed to advance to the presidency. "I'm honored to have been chosen as a member of the 2020 MLI cohort," said Dr. Bennett-Fairs. "It will be a privilege to represent Delta State University at this prestigious executive training institute. I'm grateful for Delta State President William N. LaForge's support as I seek this level of professional development."
MGCCC's new 10-year plan could include changing name of the Jefferson Davis campus
Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College (MGCCC) is preparing to announce its new strategic plan for the school's next ten years. The plan is called "Accelerate" and is an evaluation of how the institution is doing and where it needs to go from here. Community members, staff and students were among those included in this forum. "We've been working on that plan for a little over a year," said Executive VP of Institutional Advancement, Dr. Suzi Brown. "We started off going around to the districts with a lot of listening sessions. We worked with the local chambers and local community members. They would give us feedback on what where we're doing well as an institution and areas where we can improve. We also did this with our business and industry partners, our employees, out students, and our alumni. Like all strategic plans, we tried to get a really great overview of where we are as an institution and where we need to go," she said. On the table for discussion was the renaming of the Harrison County Campus, currently named after Jefferson Davis.
What Parents Can Learn From Child Care Centers That Stayed Open During Lockdowns
Throughout the pandemic, many child care centers have stayed open for the children of front-line workers -- everyone from doctors to grocery store clerks. YMCA of the USA and New York City's Department of Education have been caring for, collectively, tens of thousands of children since March, and both tell NPR they have no reports of coronavirus clusters or outbreaks. As school districts sweat over reopening plans, and with just over half of parents telling pollsters they're comfortable with in-person school this fall, public health and policy experts say education leaders should be discussing and drawing on these real-world child care experiences. In a separate, unscientific survey of child care centers, Brown University economist Emily Oster found that, as of Tuesday afternoon, among 916 centers serving more than 20,000 children, just over 1% of staff and 0.16% of children were confirmed infected with the coronavirus. Dr. Joshua Sharfstein at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health says we can learn from the YMCA and New York City examples, but we shouldn't overgeneralize.
Auburn's resident assistants training to be shorter and online this year
New and returning resident assistants at Auburn University for fall 2020 are now going to be trained remotely and in a much shorter time frame than in previous years because of COVID-19. The new training is scheduled for July 25-30 and will be performed remotely, unlike in past years, where the training has been two weeks long and in person. "Last year we had two full weeks of training prior to anyone moving in," said Isaiah Pompo, junior in biomedical science and a returning RA. "We went through various training [sessions] -- Safe Zone training, social experiment [training] and basic administrative stuff such as when you're going to work and who will be on duty when." Now, due to social distancing protocols, training will be reduced to five virtual days. "They haven't given us a guideline as to what the days are going to look like yet," Pompo said. "Obviously, it would be better in person -- you want to be there with your peers and with your team -- but I feel that we're still going to be able to do a great job." Although not everything is certain, Pompo explained that he has confidence in the adaptivity of the new and returning RAs to the situation, despite the drastic changes in the training format.
What could LSU's fall semester look like? Face masks, sparse classrooms, random coronavirus testing
Things could look very different when LSU's fall semester begins, with mandatory face masks in lectures, random coronavirus testing and limited capacity in classrooms and buildings. Students are still on summer break; fall semester classes are slated to begin Aug. 24. In a presentation Friday to the school's Board of Supervisors, interim president Tom Galligan outlined what a return to campus amid a pandemic could look like. Though he prefaced with a disclaimer that plans are subject to change based on the evolving situation, students could attend classes formatted as in-person, remote online or a hybrid of both. All classes and lectures will be livestreamed or recorded, but for those students attending in-person classes face masks and social distancing will be required. The school is intending to randomly test 10% to 16% of students and faculty who are encouraged to participate, though it won't be mandatory, and the school will implement its own contact tracing platform.
U. of Arkansas, Fayetteville puts its study overseas on hiatus; school-organized fall trips canceled
The University of Arkansas, Fayetteville has canceled all fall study abroad trips coordinated with the university. The decision took effect on Thursday, according to UA's website. Some other colleges in the state, including Arkansas State University and the University of Central Arkansas, have also canceled or postponed their fall study abroad programs as the global covid-19 pandemic continues. UA's decision means that its Rome Center will not host students. The center is preparing to provide remote delivery of some courses and other programming for UA students, university spokeswoman Amy Unruh said. For years, the UA Rome Center has been the university's largest study abroad program. It also hosts students who arrive from other U.S. universities. Unruh said in a typical fall, about 150 UA students would participate in university-coordinated study abroad programs to various locations.
UGA to end in-person classes at Thanksgiving break
The University of Georgia will end in-person fall semester instruction with its Thanksgiving break, following the lead of many other U.S. colleges, the university announced Tuesday. Fall semester classes will begin on the same date as originally scheduled, Aug. 20. The final exams slated for Dec. 11-17 also remain as originally scheduled, but "it is essential that faculty plan for final exams being online," according to UGA's "Initial Guidelines for Fall Semester Instruction" sent to faculty and staff Tuesday. Although in-person classes won't be held between Thanksgiving and finals, the university anticipates many students will return to Athens or remain during the break, so the campus will stay open until the end of the semester with regular services such as housing, dining and campus transit. Everyone on campus will get a digital thermometer and two washable cloth face coverings, but won't be required to wear those face coverings, in line with University System of Georgia policy.
Florida's public universities lay out plans for fall
Smaller-sized classes, more classes online, student and faculty screenings and ever-present hand sanitizer will be on tap for the state's public universities this fall. And most of the state's 12 public universities will eliminate in-person classes after Thanksgiving break. Florida State University will end in-person classes altogether after the holiday, while the University of Florida will make them optional. Florida's public universities revealed their fall reopening plans during a more than six-hour Florida Board of Governors meeting Tuesday. Much of the meeting focused on how the schools would screen and provide tests for thousands of students and employees expected to converge on campuses in August. According to UF's reopening plan, mandatory testing will be reserved for faculty, symptomatic students and students in clinical settings and research settings (those who've had contact with patients). Testing may also become mandatory for all athletes. In the fall, UF will also reduce the number of people in its dorms.
On campus? Mask on. Board of Governors approves UF reopening plans
Students will get sick, said UF Provost Joe Glover, but UF's plan to reopen aims to give students the best education while minimizing the spread of COVID-19. UF Board of Trustees Chair Mori Hosseini, President Kent Fuchs, Chief Operating Officer Charlie Lane and Glover presented UF's reopening plan to the Florida Board of Governors in a meeting Tuesday. To ensure the number of infections stays as low as possible, UF's plan requires all students and faculty to wear masks and complete a survey that screens for COVID-19 risk factors, he said. The number of students who can occupy dorms will drop by about 4 percent, Lane said. Extra precautions will be taken to clean dorms, bathrooms, and classrooms. The experience at UF will be different, UF President Kent Fuchs said. But regardless of COVID-19, the university plans to keep UF at the same level of "effectiveness and excellence," including providing extracurricular activities, research and clinical operations. While the UF Board of Trustees has prepared as best they can, Hosseini said, the reopening plan will likely change between now and the start of Fall.
Texas' biggest public universities will require masks this fall. Enforcement will be a challenge.
Determined to see students return to college in the fall, some of Texas' biggest universities are requiring face masks as a safeguard against the coronavirus. But enforcing those policies could prove difficult for institutions with tens of thousands of students and sprawling campuses. Texas A&M University, the University of Texas at Austin and Texas State University officials have all announced that masks will be non-negotiable next semester. Each campus will require masks in buildings other than private offices or rooms and will encourage masks outdoors when social distancing is difficult. Public health experts, following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have long advised that wearing face masks is the best way to prevent transmission when social distancing isn't feasible. But mask policies have roused naysayers across Texas, who argue that enforcement in the form of fines or jail time is a violation of their rights. At A&M, officials are largely relying on social pressure and public disapproval of people without masks, said Chief Compliance Officer Kevin McGinniss. But A&M campus police will not be called on to mediate mask disputes, McGinniss said.
Final decision on U. of Missouri's Thomas Jefferson statue not stopping protests
For University of Missouri System President and Interim MU Chancellor Mun Choi, the debate about MU's Thomas Jefferson statue is settled. The decision to keep the bronze statue on campus is final, he said, a position "the (UM System Board of Curators) felt very strongly about." Not surprisingly, others disagree. In the almost two weeks since Choi and the curators refused to remove the statue despite students' requests, hardly a day has gone by without incident. The sculpture seated on a bench on Francis Quadrangle has become a point of contention for student activists' efforts, including frequent social media posts and graffiti near the statue itself. A red spray painted message -- "SAY HER NAME SALLY HEMINGS" -- covered the gray concrete Sunday next to the Jefferson statue, documented by MU undergraduate Kirubel Mesfin on Twitter, who has been a verbal critic of the statue and MU's decision to keep it. "Mizzou campus facilities is power washing away this powerful message as I write this tweet out," Mesfin wrote Sunday. "If you don't know who Sally Hemings is, I suggest doing some homework."
Low-Income Students Are Disproportionately Hurt by the Pandemic
As colleges plan to welcome students back -- whether virtually or in person -- this fall, a new study sheds light on the damaging effect the Covid-19 pandemic has already wrought on students' educations. The study, by researchers at Arizona State University, found that undergraduate students at their university have suffered noticeably -- and unequally -- as a result of the pandemic. Among the findings: Low-income students at the university were 55 percent more likely to delay graduation than their more affluent peers, and 41 percent more likely to change their major. Jacob French, an economics instructor at Arizona State and one of the researchers behind the study, said the findings are consistent with national research: Low-income people are more likely to be impacted by the virus. In addition to delayed graduation rates, researchers also found Covid-19 nearly doubled the divides between lower- and higher-income students' expected GPAs, with the gap increasing from 0.052 to 0.098 on a four-point scale.
Coronavirus pandemic worsened higher ed's biggest challenges, new survey shows
The biggest challenges facing higher education have not changed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, a new survey of public college leaders says. Instead, the challenges have been exacerbated and have taken on a new urgency. College leaders surveyed included presidents, provosts, student affairs professionals and others. They identified government funding, student mental health, diversity and inclusion, and affordability as the biggest challenges facing public higher education, in that order. The survey, conducted by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities in partnership with Blue Moon Consulting Group and the marketing firm SimpsonScarborough, queried 558 APLU members in fall 2019. Follow-up interviews with 28 presidents conducted in late 2019 and early 2020 revisited some of the findings in light of the pandemic and other events. "Everything that the schools are facing in COVID were the exact same set of things that they identified pre-COVID, except they're on steroids," said Simon Barker, managing partner at Blue Moon Consulting Group.
Colleges Spend Millions to Prepare to Reopen Amid Coronavirus
As colleges around the country map out plans to reopen their campuses in the fall, they have embarked on some unique and pricey shopping expeditions: sourcing miles of plexiglass, hundreds of thousands of face masks and, in the case of the University of Central Florida, trying to get in an order for 1,200 hand-sanitizer stations before neighboring theme parks could buy them all up. Costs for protective gear, cleaning supplies and labor for employees to take students' temperatures and conduct hourly wipe-downs of doorknobs are already running into the millions of dollars. The added expenses come as many schools face severe budget crunches due to lower enrollment and tuition revenue, refunded housing fees from the spring and costs tied to shifting online. Even well-resourced schools are trying to fundraise to stock up on supplies. Purdue University in Indiana has budgeted $50 million for safety materials and measures, including buying 5 miles of plexiglass to date to help protect faculty in classrooms. To help buy supplies, Purdue created a dedicated fundraising campaign for protective gear. It had raised more than $214,000 from nearly 800 donors as of early Wednesday, according to the crowdfunding website.
Trump throws international science immigration into turmoil
International scientists seeking to work in the United States were thrown into limbo June 22 when the Donald J. Trump administration issued a ban on H-1B and other temporary visas. The ban, which will be in effect through at least Dec. 31, applies to thousands of international scientists who want to work in the US. It does not affect people who are already in the country. The ban did not include student F-1 visas. The administration said it considers the ban a way to protect US jobs at a time when millions of US workers are unemployed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But scientists say that stopping the flow of international researchers to the US could damage industry and academia, both immediately and in the long term. The long-term impact will be on how international researchers view US science, says Denis Wirtz, a chemical engineer and vice president for research at Johns Hopkins University. The university employs hundreds of scientists on H-1B visas. Wirtz considers it a vital way to recruit the very best scientists worldwide. “If we open the door to immigrants and scholars, that only makes the university system stronger,” he says.
Trump Visa Limits Cloud Hiring of Foreign Scholars
Colleges and universities already projecting a coronavirus-driven decline in international student enrollment say a White House order creates new barriers to add high-demand faculty and researchers from abroad. The executive order released Tuesday limits non-immigrant visas including the H-1B program that institutions use to bring in foreign academics each year. "This continued restriction of talent to the United States is not good for American education, American science, or American innovation," said Lizbet Boroughs, associate vice president for federal relations at the Association of American Universities, which represents more than 60 research institutions in the U.S. Higher education groups said other new visa restrictions could hamstring the economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. "We can't afford to cede ground to international competitors at this critical time," Peter McPherson, president of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, said in a statement. Colleges are also concerned about broader signals about the U.S. from the executive order.
Americans seeking to change job fields prefer nondegree training to make the jump
As the pandemic wreaks havoc on the job market, a quarter of American adults say they plan to enroll in an education or training program within the next six months, according to the latest results of a national poll conducted by the Strada Education Network. That share was 37 percent for 18- to 24-year-olds and 23 percent for 25- to 64-year-olds. But the survey also found most of the workers who said they would change fields if they lost their job due to the pandemic (35 percent of all respondents) are more interested in nondegree skills training (62 percent) than pursuing a college degree (38 percent). Strada's Center for Consumer Insights has been conducting the nationally representative poll since March 25. It's designed to track the pandemic's impacts on Americans' lives, work and needs for education and training. The poll has found that Black and Latino Americans have absorbed the most economic pain from the pandemic so far, with disproportionate losses of jobs and pay.
Mississippi's state flag has become an albatross around the necks of our grandchildren
Syndicated columnist Sid Salter writes: It has been my experience over some 40 years of writing about public policy in Mississippi that we as a people are slow to change, even when embracing change would be to our certain benefit and obstinance about doing so is to our undeniable detriment. There is no greater manifestation of that than our stubborn insistence on clinging to the state's 1894 Reconstruction Era state flag ... I support changing the state flag, as I supported that position in the unsuccessful effort to change the state flag in 2001. ... In a time of political extremes on the left and the right, Mississippi's lone wolf, outlier status on the content of our state flag has increasingly become an impediment to our state's future economic growth and development as more and more companies seek to avoid the public relations collateral damage of investing in Mississippi because of the flag's symbolism. In other words, we are hanging an albatross around the necks of our grandchildren so some of us can continue to feel good about our two- or three-times great-grandfathers. I have ancestors in that number. I don't think they would want their progeny to suffer for their 1861 political views.

How a summer on Cape Cod turned Mississippi State's Jordan Westburg into a top-30 MLB Draft pick
Nestled down the third base line of Dudy Noble Field and buried three stories beneath the press box through coiling wires and steel beams sits the Mississippi State batting cages. Tucked away from the public view, the cage offers a serenity for players whose days are filled with classes and nights consumed by the roaring adulation, and, in varying instances, the animosity of 10,000 fans coated in a smoky haze from the grills in the Left Field Lounge. For most, the batting cage is a place to regroup. It's a venue to right a minor hitch or find the timing one's lacked in recent days. For Jordan Westburg, it's the place he left day-after-day throughout the 2019 season with his hands bloodied and a mind still searching for answers. "Being able to go through that long period of failing constantly, man, it humbles you a little bit," Westburg said in his introductory press conference with the Baltimore Orioles on June 11. "It makes you realize that baseball is a game of failure and it's something you're going to have to deal with throughout your career."
Former Mississippi State standout Johnthan Banks brings college, NFL experience to New Hope assistant role
Johnthan Banks wasn't ready. The former Mississippi State star cornerback was working in sales for a distributing company when he crossed paths with Vowells Marketplace store manager Max Stillman, whose son Seth is the defensive coordinator for the New Hope High School football team. Stillman suggested that Banks -- a second-round pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2013 who went on to play five seasons in the NFL -- could go help out Seth's defense as an assistant coach for the Trojans. Feeling unprepared to return to the high school ranks, Banks blew him off. Then Seth Stillman hit Banks up on Twitter, and the former Bulldogs standout, who coached defensive backs at Starkville in 2018 and 2019, got to thinking. Banks met with Seth, head coach Wade Tackett and principal Matt Smith. He liked how everybody got along within the Trojans' program -- how everybody had the same attitude and the same mindset. "I just knew that was the place I needed to be," Banks told The Dispatch. Last week, New Hope hired Banks as its new full-time secondary coach and high school teacher. With certification in a variety of content areas, Banks said he will help out wherever the school needs him.
Sports has taught us much. Now it unites many of us over the state flag.
Mississippi sports columnist Rick Cleveland writes: All my professional life I have wondered what it would take for all the universities in Mississippi to agree on any matter under the sun. Just once. And now I know: It's the state flag of Mississippi -- specifically, the need to get rid of the current flag. The archaic and now widely reviled 1894 flag has brought Ole Miss Rebels and Mississippi State Bulldogs, the ultimate Hatfields and McCoys, together. The Golden Eagles from Southern Miss, for once, agree with the two older universities. Historically black universities Jackson State, Alcorn State and Mississippi Valley State take the same side. Mississippi College and Delta State, bitter rivals for the most part, agree. So do MUW students and grads. Just do it, they say. Get rid of the flag that embarrasses us and holds us all back. Get rid of the flag that sends so many thousands of our smartest young people out of state to make their way in life. Get rid of the flag that limits our economic opportunities. Get rid of the flag that draws scorn from the rest of the country and the world. Just do it. It is past time.
UGA football 'full speed ahead' with workouts, attendance decisions expected by early August
Georgia fans wanting to know what a Bulldog football season may look like in Sanford Stadium should have a better idea in about six weeks. "By the end of July or early August, we've got to be ready to make decisions," athletic director Greg McGarity said Tuesday. "We'll talk to all of our donors and all of our fans, everyone that's involved in our football world in early August. We want to wait until the very last minute to have the latest information. We don't have to make those decisions now." McGarity directly communicated with football donors via email on Tuesday with uncertainty still on how the coronavirus pandemic may affect game days including possible reduced attendance. "Regarding the 2020 football season, we understand there are so many questions surrounding attendance, tailgating, safety, hygiene, cleanliness, etc," he wrote in his McGarity's Minutes.
Return of college athletes for workouts brings COVID-19 issues that could threaten fall schedule
The cautious optimism that accompanied the return of athletes to campuses across the Football Bowl Subdivision earlier this month has been muted by a recent series of setbacks with the potential to alter when the upcoming season begins and ends, in turn threatening the state of the entire schedule. In particular, two developments -- the rash of COVID-19 breakouts among teams and remarks from national health officials on a possible second wave of the pandemic -- have birthed an increased level of uncertainty at a time when teams were beginning to embrace the sense of normalcy provided by the massive influx of players and coaches returning to college campuses. "I think everybody is seeing the numbers and paying attention to what's going on, obviously. I think everybody's hope was that, you know, things would be declining instead of increasing," said SMU coach Sonny Dykes. "But at the same time, I think everybody feels good about their plan. I know we certainly feel good about ours."
Gallup study shows positive life outcomes for college athletes
College students who participated in athletics tended to fare better than nonathletes in their academic, personal and professional life during college and after graduation, a new Gallup study on alumni outcomes found. In nearly all aspects of well-being, defined by Gallup as purpose, social, community and physical well-being, former athletes who competed in the National Collegiate Athletic Association were more likely to report they are "thriving" when it comes to health, relationships, community engagement and job satisfaction, according to the report released today. But in one category, financial well-being, former athletes and nonathletes who graduated in the last two decades reported similar levels of student loan debt, with about 20 percent of these graduates exceeding $40,000 in debt, the study found. Harlan said the differences between former athlete and nonathlete outcomes are evidence of the "built-in support system" athletics provides throughout a student's college experience.
Tennessee-based Sons of Confederate Veterans takes credit for 'DEFUND NASCAR' banner
The Sons of Confederate Veterans says they were responsible for the "DEFUND NASCAR" Confederate banner that flew over the Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday. The Columbia, Tennessee-based group hired a small airplane to pass over the track before the race, which was postponed Sunday and completed Monday. NASCAR banned Confederate flags from its events last week at the request of driver Bubba Wallace, who is Black. "NASCAR's banning the display of the Confederate battle flag by its fans is nothing less than trampling upon Southerners' First Amendment Right of free expression," Sons of Confederate Veterans Commander in Chief Paul C. Gramling Jr. said. NASCAR did not acknowledge the plane or the banner. Signs prohibiting Confederate flags were posted outside entrances at Talladega Superspeedway before the GEICO 500. It was the second NASCAR race to allow spectators in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
FBI says rope had been in Talladega garage since October; Bubba Wallace not victim of hate crime
The FBI has determined that NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace was not the victim of a hate crime and that a pull rope fashioned like a noose had been on a garage door at Talladega Superspeedway since as early as October, NASCAR said Tuesday. "The FBI report concludes, and photographic evidence confirms, that the garage door pull rope fashioned like a noose had been positioned there since as early as last fall," NASCAR said in its statement. "This was obviously well before the 43 team's arrival and garage assignment." While angered at those saying it was all a hoax and that NASCAR overreacted, Wallace said Tuesday night that NASCAR did nothing wrong in its handling of the situation when his team alerted NASCAR to what it found. Wallace said he has read people saying it was simply a garage pull with a knot in it, but he stressed that NASCAR and the FBI stated it was a noose.

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