Tuesday, June 30, 2020   
How small towns are responding to the global pandemic
Leah Kemp, the director of the Fred Carl Jr. Small Town Center at Mississippi State University, writes for The Conversation: Before the global pandemic hit, small towns across America were dealing with struggling economies, aging roads and bridges, and declining populations. The coronavirus added new challenges, like additional demand for limited hospital beds for an aging population, many of whom have chronic health conditions. Fortunately, as I've seen in my work at the Small Town Center at Mississippi State University, small towns have the advantage of being more nimble and responsive to crisis than cities, largely because they have fewer regulations and more opportunities to be creative about problem-solving. The pandemic has increased local leaders' attention to their residents' health -- not just in terms of doctors and hospitals but also identifying new ways to help people get fitter, spend more time outdoors, eat healthier and boost local economies. Here are some ways people in small communities are adapting existing plans and creating new ways to keep their towns active and vibrant.
Mississippi State University Ranks Fourth in US Academia for Supercomputing Power
Mississippi State University is again among the nation's elite in supercomputing power. MSU's Orion supercomputer is the fourth most powerful academic data center in the U.S., according to rankings released this week by Top500.org. Orion is ranked at No. 68 on Top500's list of the world's most powerful computing systems. Managed by MSU's High Performance Computing Collaboratory, Orion was installed on campus last summer with the support of $22 million in grants from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. In addition to NOAA, MSU's high performance computing capabilities have led to critical partnerships and research opportunities with the United States Department of Agriculture, NASA, the National Science Foundation, Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy, among other state and federal agencies. Orion supports research operations for several MSU centers and institutes, such as the Center for Computational Sciences, Center for Cyber Innovation, Geosystems Research Institute, Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems, Institute for Genomics, Biocomputing and Biotechnology, the Northern Gulf Institute and the FAA Alliance for System Safety of UAS through Research Excellence (ASSURE).
Focused on Mississippi: Templeton Music Museum
One of Mississippi's slogans is "The Birthplace of American Music." Needless to say, we have a lot of museums in the state that document music. We not only have museums that tell you about the state's musical roots, but there is one museum that is unlike any of the rest of them. On one end of the spectrum, we have the Mississippi Grammy Museum in Cleveland. This is a state of the art facility documenting the accomplishments of the people in the recording industry. By the way, Mississippi has more Grammy winners than any other state. But the music had be recorded first, before anybody could win a Grammy. The icon of the Grammy's is a likeness of a Gramophone, which is one of the earliest record players. They have plenty of real ones across the state in the Templeton Music Museum in the library on the campus of Mississippi State University.
MSU graduates, brother and sister go viral after creating blooper montage of swing dance move
Brother and sister Josh and Lexi Porter have been swing dancing since college. Both are graduates of Mississippi State University and are now in their first year of medical school and nursing school. The Porter siblings developed a knack for swing dancing while in college in each other's fraternity and sorority. Lexi found a TikTok video of another swing dancing duo who tried a back roll lift, and she and Josh wanted to try the move. Josh said after looking at the video multiple times, walking through how the move would work, and six to seven actual tries, Lexi finally stuck the landing. Her video went viral on TikTok with over 113,000 views and 22,500 likes.
MSU requires all employees to wear face masks
Mississippi State University will require all employees to start wearing face masks when in any campus building, beginning Tuesday. The university says they're doing this due to the increase in COVID-19 cases throughout Oktibbeha County and the Golden Triangle. MSU will update coronavirus related information on its website and social media. Those who need a mask is asked to contact their building manager. Employees can remove their face mask if they're in their individual office or workspace where they can maintain that six feet distance from all other people.
Starkville Board of Aldermen to vote on mask ordinance
"While there are a lot of reasons to wear a mask, one of the reasons is not to shut down your economy again," Starkville Mayor Lynn Spruill said. Mayor Spruill said she's receiving a lot of texts, e-mails, tweets, and posts on both sides of the argument, but right now she's seeing more people in favor of a mask ordinance. She believes that the people of Starkville are seeing businesses in Florida and Texas forced to shut down and they want to avoid a similar situation here in Mississippi. A major part of the Starkville economy is Mississippi State. Students are expected back in August and trying to eliminate spikes is a major priority. "The university is going to require to wear masks in classes," Spruill said. "So I think it will fit in across the community in ways that puts us together and on the same page to be as safe as possible." Part of being as safe as possible is making people feel that way and according to Mayor Spruill, yes that means giving up a little bit of your personal freedom, but doing so, so that others feel safe to interact with the community.
Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton: ANTIFA not coming, COVID-19 not a hoax
In the Mississippi city where Elvis Presley was born, the mayor announced last week that masks would be required in public buildings and businesses starting Monday because of the COVID-19 pandemic -- and he used the opportunity to debunk an array of rumors. "Please listen to our health care professionals regarding covid-19. My job as mayor is do to my best to keep our community safe, not make easy or politically popular decisions," Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton wrote on Facebook. He added: "ANTIFA is not coming to Tupelo, Elvis statues are not being removed, you are not the target of some type of global conspiracy, it is impossible to erase history and no one has attempted to do so, covid is not a hoax, you shouldn't believe and share posts that are obviously false or used as political propaganda, and there is nothing 'liberal' about any of the actions that have been taken by our administration regarding these matters." Shelton, a Democrat who publicly supports presidential nominee Joe Biden, told The Associated Press in a brief phone interview Monday that he was addressing "specific allegations I have received either by phone, email or social media."
Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba: wear a face mask or pay up
Jackson residents could soon face a fine for not wearing face masks in public. Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba made the announcement at a press conference on Monday afternoon. He went on to say that the city will also shut down businesses that do not require patrons to wear face coverings when they're in those establishments. News comes as the number of COVID-19 cases arise across the state, and as the economy opens up. "In recent days we have seen a surge in confirmed cases not only statewide, but countywide," he said. "We are still doing a relatively good job in terms of infection rates, (when compared with) cities of comparable size." Lumumba did not say what the fine for individuals would be. He said the failure for businesses to comply could result in the temporary revocation of occupancy licenses. The city attorney was still crafting a new executive order outlining provisions at press time.
Aldermen keep mask requirement in place as COVID-19 cases increase
With the recent spike in COVID-19 cases in Oxford and Lafayette County, the city-wide mask requirement is staying in place for the foreseeable future. The decision was made by the Oxford Board of Aldermen to keep the mask requirement in place until further notice during a specially called meeting on Monday. The meeting was originally for budget hearings with city department heads, but the Board opted to discuss the latest COVID-19 numbers and the mask requirement as well. The requirement will be revisited by the Board throughout the month of July during their two regular meetings and budget meetings scheduled. The discussion soon shifted from COVID-19 case numbers to possible solutions to help curb the recent spike in Lafayette County and Oxford. One of those options was potentially closing the bars down after 10 p.m. Oxford police chief Jeff McCutchen spoke, and said the department was seeing the maximum-allowed capacity inside bars since they were allowed to resume normal business hours earlier in June. He said he was not in favor of placing restrictions on Monday, but he did ask for his officers to be allowed to "ramp up enforcement" first, before a decision is made.
Voters could remove Jim Crow law that hurts African American-backed candidates
Voters will have the opportunity in November to remove a Jim Crow-era provision from the state Constitution that makes Mississippi the only state in the nation where a candidate for statewide office can win a majority of the popular vote and not be elected. The Mississippi Constitution, adopted in 1890, requires the winning candidate for governor and for other statewide offices to obtain both a majority of the popular vote and win the most votes in a majority of the 122 House districts. If no candidate obtains both of those requirements, the Mississippi House of Representatives gets to choose the winner of the top two vote-getters. But a resolution passed this month by both chambers of the Mississippi Legislature would remove that requirement. This week's legislative action means that Mississippi voters will decide in November whether to remove that provision from the Constitution.
Winds of change: Mississippi rebel-themed flag fading away
The Mississippi flag is fading from public display in many places, even before the governor signs a bill that will retire the last state banner in the U.S. that includes the Confederate battle emblem. Republican Gov. Tate Reeves is expected to sign the flag bill this week, and the banner will be removed from state law. It still flew Monday on two poles atop the Capitol, signaling that the House and Senate were working. President Donald Trump has criticized the removal of monuments, including those for the Confederacy. Monday in Washington, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany was asked about Mississippi taking steps to remove the Confederate emblem from the state flag. "That's a decision for Mississippi to make, and it's commendable that they took this action in a lawful matter and took the appropriate steps rather than trying to tear down statues and monuments," McEnany said.
Former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove reflects on seeing flag change vote 19 years after referendum vote
Former Governor Ronnie Musgrove points to timing as to what he believes as the tipping point for getting the state flag changed. He believes George Floyd's murder and the movement for change following along with public pressure is what got it done. "Sure I paid a personal and political price for it when we dealt with it two decades ago," said Musgrove. "However, the state has been paying the price for 126 years to have a flag that didn't really represent all of us. I am really glad that it passed." But the way it's transpiring this time is different. "This is kind of a reversal of what happened 19 years ago," added Musgrove. "Then, the Governor wanted to change the flag and the legislative leadership was opposed." And that's what led to the formation of the commission and eventual 2001 referendum vote. "My son said you were just 19 years ahead of your time," Musgrove explained. "I said, I wish I hadn't been. I wish I had been on track with the times and that we could've changed it. But nonetheless, it's a step forward for us and I believe it will be a step forward for everybody."
Confederate battle flag comes down: Myrlie Evers weeps. 'Medgar's wings must be clapping.'
Myrlie Evers began to weep when she heard the Mississippi Legislature voted to remove the Confederate battle emblem from the state flag. "I can't believe it. I am so emotional," the widow of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers said. "Medgar's wings must be clapping." On Sunday, the Mississippi House and Senate voted to replace the current state flag, a day after they voted to suspend the rules in order to bring up the new legislation. If Gov. Tate Reeves signs the bill as expected, Mississippi would cease being the remaining state in the nation with the Confederate battle flag as a part of its state flag. Myrlie Evers was born in 1933 in Vicksburg, the last major Confederate stronghold along the Mississippi River before Confederate soldiers surrendered to Union forces on July 4, 1863. Growing up there, the Mississippi flag symbolized "slavery and second-class citizenship for those whose color was not white," she said. She is nearing 90 years of age, she said, "and I have carried the burden of my skin to what it represented to Caucasians and remember what my forefathers fought for -- education and land ownership."
Confederate group camps out at Beauvoir after false 'threat' of antifa or BLM attack
The Mississippi Sons of Confederate Veterans have been camping out at Beauvoir, expecting an attack by Black Lives Matter activists or loosely organized anti-fascists known as antifa. But police aren't aware of any threats against the historic property, and Biloxi appears to be another in a long line of U.S. cities where online misinformation has led to unfounded fears of violence. That kind of information flow is common on social media, said Colleen Sinclair, an associate professor of psychology at Mississippi State University who studies misinformation online. Sinclair said when people see information from people they trust, they aren't likely to question its accuracy, and tend to re-share it themselves. "It's kind of like a really screwed-up game of telephone," Sinclair said.
Jones County election commissioner's social media comment about Black voters causes uproar
A social media comment with racial undertones made by a Mississippi election commissioner sparked outrage across the state on the same weekend state legislators voted to retire the flag and its Confederate emblem. "I'm concerned about voter registration in Mississippi," the commissioner wrote. "The blacks are having lots (of) events for voter registration. People in Mississippi have to get involved, too." Gail Welch's comment caused an uproar Sunday, as screen shots of the comment spread quickly on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Welch said she has received calls and messages from all over the country about the post. On Facebook, dozens of people shared their thoughts on the Welch's words. One Mississippi lawmaker said he doesn't know if Welch meant what she said, but her words give an impression of racism. "It's those kind of things that people say until somebody brings it to their attention and then it's not what they said or it's not what they meant," said Sen. Juan Barnett, whose district includes part of Jones County.
Confederate flag losing prominence 155 years after Civil War
Long a symbol of pride to some and hatred to others, the Confederate battle flag is losing its place of official prominence 155 years after rebellious Southern states lost a war to perpetuate slavery. Mississippi's Republican-controlled Legislature voted Sunday to remove the Civil War emblem from the state flag, a move that was both years in the making and notable for its swiftness amid a national debate over racial inequality following the police killing of George Floyd in Minnesota. Mississippi's was the last state flag to include the design. NASCAR, born in the South and still popular in the region, banned the rebel banner from races earlier this month, and some Southern localities have removed memorials and statues dedicated to the Confederate cause. Make no mistake: The Confederate flag isn't anywhere close to being gone from the South. Just drive along highways where Sons of Confederate Veterans members have erected gigantic battle flags or stop by Dixie General Store, where Bob Castello makes a living selling hundreds of rebel-themed shirts, hats, car accessories and more in an east Alabama county named for a Confederate officer, Gen. Patrick Cleburne. "Business is very good right now," Castello said Monday.
Ingalls lands $936M contract to build another destroyer for Navy
Could a strike at a rival shipyard have helped Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula? Consider this: Some 4,300 union workers at Bath Iron Works in Maine have been on strike since June 22. Bath -- owned by General Dynamics -- and Ingalls are the only two companies that build the U.S Navy's Arleigh Burke-class destroyers. On Monday, it was announced Ingalls had won a $936 million contract to build another destroyer. It already has contracts for four, and this fifth one is scheduled to be delivered in 2027. The new contract also includes options for engineering change proposals, design budgeting requirements and post-delivery availabilities, which if exercised, would increase the cumulative contract value to $947.6 million. Mississippi Senators Roger Wicker and Cyndi Hyde-Smith, as well as Congressman Steven Palazzo, through their committee assignments, worked to support authorization and appropriations measures to maintain and grow the shipbuilding industry in Mississippi.
Supreme Court's abortion ruling raises stakes for election
Supporters of abortion rights are elated, foes of abortion dismayed and angry, but they agree on one consequence of the Supreme Court's first major abortion ruling since President Donald Trump took office: The upcoming election is crucial to their cause. Both sides also say Monday's ruling is not the last word on state-level abortion restrictions. One abortion rights leader evoked the image of playing whack-a-mole as new cases surface. The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, struck down a Louisiana law seeking to require doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. For both sides in the abortion debate, it was viewed as a momentous test of the court's stance following Trump's appointments of two conservative justices, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. Now, anti-abortion leaders say there's an urgent need to reelect Trump so he can appoint more justices like Gorsuch and Kavanaugh. Abortion rights activists, with equal fervor, say it's crucial to defeat Trump and end Republican control of the Senate, where the GOP majority has confirmed scores of conservative judges during Trump's term.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell Says Americans Must Have 'No Stigma' In Wearing Face Masks
A growing number of leading Republicans are publicly embracing expert-recommended face masks as a means to slowing the spread of the deadly coronavirus, in the wake of more than 125,000 Americans killed by the virus. In recent months, the topic of wearing masks has become politically divisive, despite official health guidance that they are one of the best defenses to restricting the spread of the deadly respiratory disease, COVID-19, from one person to another. Speaking on the Senate floor on Monday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell endorsed wearing face masks as part of a "new middle ground" between a return to normal life and strict coronavirus restrictions. Experts have said they are effective in slowing the spread of the virus but mandates have been criticized by some Republicans as economically damaging and an affront to American ideals of freedom. "We need new routines, new rhythms and new strategies for this new middle ground in between. It's the task of each family, each small business, each employer and all levels of government to apply common sense and make this happen," McConnell said.
Supreme Court makes religious school education eligible for public aid
The Supreme Court delivered a major victory Tuesday to parents seeking state aid for their children's religious school education. The court's conservative majority ruled that states offering scholarships to students in private schools cannot exclude religious schools from such programs. The decision was written by Chief Justice John Roberts, who has joined the liberal justices in three other major rulings this month. It was a decision long sought by proponents of school choice and vehemently opposed by teachers' unions, who fear it could drain needed tax dollars from struggling public schools. "The prohibition before us today burdens not only religious schools but also the families whose children attend or hope to attend them," Roberts said. "Drawing on 'enduring American tradition,' we have long recognized the rights of parents to direct 'the religious upbringing' of their children. Many parents exercise that right by sending their children to religious schools, a choice protected by the Constitution."
A White Gatekeeper of Southern Food Faces Calls to Resign
For years, people have been calling for John T. Edge to step down as head of the influential Southern Foodways Alliance. They say he is a kingmaker. They say he is a white man -- however charming -- who has too much power over who tells the story of food in a region where so much of the cuisine was created by enslaved people. For years, Mr. Edge has been listening, and remained in his position at the top. But listening might not be enough anymore. The ground under cultural institutions like the Southern Foodways Alliance has shifted fast. The battle is on over how to push for change -- especially in progressive Southern academic circles -- and whether the framework of reconciliation remains relevant. Over two decades, the Southern Foodways Alliance has become a unique and powerful stage for cooks, writers and academics who gathered each fall for its sold-out symposium in Oxford, Miss., where 350 people examined foodways and social issues over fried catfish and tumblers of bourbon. It became a media organization, too, publishing scholarly food stories from the South and developing a respected collection of more than 1,000 oral histories and documentaries housed under the umbrella of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi.
JSU student body president, Jackson attorney speaks out about witnessing history on flag change
While many people watched the flag vote from home, a lucky few described what it was like to watch from the gallery. Seating was limited due to COVID-19 concerns, and a lot of people were turned away from witnessing history in public. Jackson State student body president Jordan Jefferson said the energy in the room felt like a football game. "I got chills," Jefferson said. "I am a part of history. I can tell my kids and grandkids I witnessed this moment." Jefferson was a part of a group of student body presidents and former student athletes who sent a letter to lawmakers asking for the flag to be changed. Jefferson and Attorney Crystal Welch were watching from the gallery Sunday when lawmakers voted to change the flag. Both said not only was it great to be a part of the process and watch history unfold, but it was a moment they will never forget.
Funds to provide tests for 265,000 Alabama college students
As many as 265,000 students entering Alabama colleges this fall will be tested for the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19 under a program announced Monday to help prevent the disease from spreading on two- and four-year campuses. Under the program, which is being funded with $30 million in federal pandemic relief funding, individual schools will decide whether to require that students be tested. The University of Alabama at Birmingham, which is helping run the effort, said it will require tests for students coming to campus. UAB President Ray Watts told a virtual news conference that tests will at least be available to students returning to publicly funded campuses, and officials said they hoped it could include private schools as well. Dr. Selwyn Vickers, dean of UAB's medical school and chair of a University of Alabama System task force planning how to reopen campuses, said students who test positive will be asked to quarantine for two weeks before reporting to campus.
Auburn's campus reopens with new social distancing strategies in place
On Monday, Auburn's campus reopened for face-to-face classes for the first time since March 16. Gray skies heralded the day's start of the second summer "mini-mester" but quickly gave way to the blazing heat of a late June day. Though professors and faculty were informed they could resume to face-to-face instruction this week, it was not something that many instructors chose to do. Many classrooms and entire buildings remained empty, and public spaces -- both indoors and outdoors -- remained sparsely populated throughout the day. The University Bookstore, which reopened on June 15, was one area that saw somewhat more activity than others. Staff have recently renovated the store to include Plexiglas shields at checkout counters, and directional physical distancing markers are placed around the floor. Some of the checkout counters even have two baskets of pens -- one for the fresh ones and one for the used ones. Facilities and offices around campus opened in limited capacity with some changes, most notably the University's new face covering requirement that began for all buildings on June 22.
Donde Plowman on her first year as UT-Knoxville chancellor, leading through COVID-19 and the fall semester
When Donde Plowman started as chancellor at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, last year, her focus was on listening to the campus community and filling vacant positions on staff. Now, in the middle of a pandemic and national social justice movement, those priorities have shifted. "The things that I would have said in January, that these were the big things, they pale in comparison with what we're trying to deal with, with COVID ... and also the issues of social justice and race that our whole country is looking at right now," Plowman told Knox News. Plowman started at UT Knoxville on July 1, 2019. She was previously executive vice chancellor and chief academic officer at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, but worked at UT-Knoxville as the management department head in the Haslam College of Business from 2008 to 2010. When it became clear that COVID-19 would become a long-term problem, Plowman said she met with her cabinet and other university leaders and asked them to brainstorm what they would need to do to stay successful and stand out from other universities. One of the ideas was to call every student and incoming student. In total, UT faculty and staff made over 41,000 calls to contact students, Plowman said.
U. of Florida, faculty union agree on paid parental/medical leave
The University of Florida and the school's faculty union have agreed on a paid family and medical leave program that officials from both sides are cheering. Bargaining members from the United Faculty of Florida at UF and the university agreed Thursday on an eight-week family and medical leave program paid for by the university. "To me, this is a great win and I'm very happy UF saw the light," said assistant UF librarian and co-chair of the union's bargaining team, Helene Huet. "I've had friends and colleagues having to use all their sick and vacation days. I've seen folks struggle, so to me, this was something that was very important." In the past, faculty on parental leave either used accumulated sick or vacation time, or "borrowed" time off which they would later need to reimburse. Employees who fell ill were required to use sick leave or take unpaid time off. Bill Connellan, assistant provost and UF's chief bargainer for graduate assistants and faculty, said the previous system was not a good one. "The paid parental leave, in my estimation, is very significant both for the university and faculty and staff," he said.
U. of Missouri releases plans for in-person return to campus
University of Missouri students will be required to wear face coverings in classrooms and buildings when they can't social distance. That's one of the plans released Monday by MU as it prepares for in-person classes. Faculty and staff, the university stated, will have to supply their own face coverings. The university will have a limited supply of face coverings for students in case they forget to bring them to class. The practice will align with local restrictions, if those change. Training will be required for all students before arriving on campus. "We have been working diligently to welcome our students, faculty and staff back to campus this fall while creating a safe environment for teaching, learning and working," Mun Choi, University of Missouri System President and interim MU chancellor, stated in the release. "We are fortunate to have a talented team of more than 135 professionals who have been working for months to determine the details of our reopening plan."
Colleges Brace for Potential Increased Need for Mental Health Services
As colleges prepare for a school year unlike any other -- Will classes be in person or online? How can students stay safe in dorms? -- their counseling centers are bracing for a wave of student mental health issues. Schools are pivoting their outreach efforts to the virtual world by unveiling videos, podcasts and self-help tips and amping up their social presence. Even before the pandemic, mental-health issues were rising among college students: About 24% of college students were diagnosed with or treated for anxiety problems in the prior year and 20% were diagnosed with or treated for depression, according to a spring 2019 survey of nearly 68,000 students by the American College Health Association, a research and advocacy group promoting student health. That is up from 10.5% for anxiety and 10.1% for depression in the spring 2009 survey. "It's hard to focus on your math class or English class when you're thinking 'does this even matter?'" says TJ Annerino, a 21-year-old beginning her senior year at Auburn University in Alabama in the fall.
Faculty concerns about the fall are mounting
Purdue University president Mitch Daniels, an early advocate of reopening campuses for the fall, has become a de facto spokesperson for the movement. The role comes with attendant criticism, including from within his institution. During an interview on CNN, for example, Daniels was asked about a previous comment Alice Pawley, associate professor of engineering education and president of the main Purdue campus's American Association of University Professors chapter, made to Inside Higher Ed: "I don't want to think about face-to-face teaching the hordes of students I usually teach until there is a vaccine." Daniels told CNN that Pawley represented a "very tiny minority" of the Purdue faculty and that she was "frankly, not from the most scientifically credible corner of our very STEM-based campus." Daniels has since walked back the comment, and he plans to meet with Pawley this week. Whatever his intent was, the effect of Daniels's words was to paint Pawley and her concerns as fringe. They are not. In the month since Daniels's CNN interview -- since the end of the blur that was the spring semester -- faculty concerns about the fall at Purdue and beyond have only crystallized and multiplied.
Students react to colleges' reopening plans with mix of optimism, fear
Arriving on campus kick-starts a year of firsts for college freshmen, and Abbey Shea was excited about all of them. Her first introduction to new roommates who may become lifelong friends, first semester away from home, first foray into independence. And then her Port Orange, Florida, high school postponed its graduation ceremony because of the coronavirus. Uncertainty set in, and Shea braced herself for "a new normal," she said -- a college experience far different from the social mecca she'd imagined. "I'm trying to open myself up more," said Shea, 18, who selected Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale as much for its diverse student population as for academic reasons. Now, she worries pandemic-related rules will smother her interpersonal goals. "I know it's not going to be the same."
National Student Clearinghouse data reveal stable enrollment in spring
Widespread disruption to the spring semester did not result in an unusually large number of students changing their enrollment status, according to new research by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. Most students maintained the same enrollment intensity -- meaning whether they studied full-time, three-quarters-time, half-time or less than half-time -- from the beginning of the semester to the end, regardless of their demographic characteristics or the type of institution they attended. Even after many colleges sent students home to continue their studies remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of students withdrawing, or increasing/decreasing their course load, remained consistent with recent years, the data suggest. "Little or no change in enrollment status is a reassuring sign that most college students were able to stay on course during the first two months of the pandemic," Doug Shapiro, the center's executive director, said in a news release.
College towns have unique COVID-19 reporting issues
Oxford Mayor Robyn Tannehill writes: Over the past three weeks, Lafayette County has seen large increases in positive COVID-19 cases. This is not completely surprising. It went without saying that as students returned and businesses reopened that positive cases would increase. We have, however, been surprised at the rate of transmission over the past month and subsequent increase in positive tests. The City of Oxford Board of Aldermen has relied on advice from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Mississippi Department of Health (MsDH) Officials, consultation from local healthcare providers and data to make decisions regarding how to govern during this pandemic. Timely data has become harder to come by. Oxford and other college towns in Mississippi have unique reporting issues. The MsDH assigns a positive COVID-19 case to the county a person lists as his primary residence. This means that a student from Atlanta attending the University of Mississippi that tests positive at a clinic in Oxford is reported as a positive case in Fulton County, Georgia -- not Lafayette County. We knew each day as we looked at our case increases that there were probably a handful more than reported.
Mandate masks to avoid another lock-down and school closures
Syndicated columnist Bill Crawford of Meridian writes: Back in the day you could tell the bad guys by the masks they wore. How ironic that these days it seems to be the other way around. Those not wearing masks are becoming the bad guys. Back then the masked guys were outlaws. Maybe it's time for today's unmasked to be called outlaws too. Time and again Gov. Tate Reeves and state health officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs have urged, cautioned, and pleaded with us to wear masks, social distance, and avoid crowds to help the state cope with the COVID-19 coronavirus. "It is important that when you go out in public that you wear a mask," said Reeves. "Please do it. It protects not only yourself, but it shows that you care enough to protect your fellow Mississippians." But, "people are not complying," Dobbs said as reported by the Associated Press, adding that the real problem is a lack of concern for safety guidelines. ... It's time, if not past time, for Mississippi to join 17 other states and outlaw risky behavior by mandating that masks be worn in indoor public spaces and outdoors where social distancing can't be maintained.
Reflections on flag vote
Columnist Phil Hardwick writes for the Mississippi Business Journal: Kudos to the Mississippi Legislature for its action. For some members, it was an emotional, stressful event, especially those who voted to change the flag, but represent districts that might have wanted to keep things as they are. The leadership exercised by Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann and House Speaker Philip Gunn will also be a case study in leadership. The big question of course is whether this is the beginning of a fundamental change in Mississippi culture, i.e. values, opinions, and beliefs. We shall see. What we should not assume is that things will change overnight. Out-of-state companies are not going to come rushing to the Magnolia State with economic development projects. Perhaps one analogy would be that of an automobile transmission. The vehicle has been shifted from "reverse" to "neutral." It will be shifted into "drive" in the days and months ahead.

Mississippi State pitcher J.T. Ginn signs first pro contract and the moment is captured on video
J.T. Ginn, a former standout at Brandon High and Mississippi State, has signed with the New York Mets. The Mets selected the right-handed pitcher in the second round of the 2020 MLB Draft. Ginn reportedly signed a deal for $2.9 million, according to Anthony DiComo, who covers the New York Mets for MLB.com. The contract was $1.4 million more than the slot value for the 52nd pick in the draft and $500,000 more than he was reportedly offered when he was drafted out of high school in 2018, MLB.com reported. The Mets announced the deal Monday evening on their Twitter account and posted video. Ginn was among 10 people shown on a video chat. He signed the contract and was welcomed to the organization with an applause by those on the call. Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen called Ginn a "premium talent" after drafting him out Mississippi State.
Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame postpones 2020 induction to next year
The Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and its Board of Directors announced they have indefinitely postponed the annual induction weekend for the Hall of Fame Class of 2020 until 2021. The weekend events include the Drawdown of Champions at the Museum, the Meet the Inductees autograph signing, and the formal Induction Banquet and enshrinement. "The Class of 2020 deserves to be able to celebrate this achievement with all of their supporters. These events typically draw anywhere from 300-800 people and we recognize that there is not a way to do that safely at this time due to the current global pandemic," said Bill Blackwell, Executive Director of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame & Museum. The Class of 2020 includes winningest baseball coach in Mississippi history, Jerry Boatner; PGA Golfer, Pete Brown; Alabama and NBA standout, Antonio McDyess; renowned baseball stadium architect, Janet Marie Smith; MSU's longest-tenured athletic director, Larry Templeton.
College Football's New Headache: Deciding Who Can Attend Games
When the coronavirus pandemic shut down American sports in March, college football had the benefit of time. The season doesn't start until about Labor Day, and many schools optimistically forged ahead as if their game days would be business as usual. But today, the season is just two months away. The virus is surging strongly, especially in places, like the South, where college football is king. University administrators are coming to grips with an unhappy reality: the biggest stadiums in the U.S. are going to look pretty lonely on Saturday afternoons. That raises a very uncomfortable question for universities: how to decide which fans will make the cut if stadium capacity is limited. The answer is not straightforward, as colleges have to balance alumni relations, corporate partnerships, student well-being and, of course, their bottom lines. Ole Miss was among the first universities to detail its plans for football games, promising its season ticket holders in a June 9 memo that "our hope is to have a full Vaught-Hemingway Stadium for the entire 2020 season." In reality, the university is less certain it can pull that off, according to chief financial officer Wesley Owen.
Arizona pauses plan for athletes' return to campus amid COVID-19 surge
Arizona paused its plan to bring athletes back to campus Monday, citing a surge in COVID-19 cases in Pima County and the coronavirus pandemic's impact on the local healthcare system. On June 15, the school started bringing athletes back for voluntary workouts in groups of approximately 20, with new groups arriving each week. Arizona said Monday that it has received only one positive COVID-19 result after testing 83 athletes the past few weeks. Arizona is awaiting clarification on whether it can continue workouts with athletes already on campus after Gov. Doug Ducey on Monday ordered all gyms in the state to close for 30 days as a result of the COVID-19 spike. "The health, safety and well-being of all members of our community is our number one priority," Arizona athletics director Dave Heeke said in a prepared statement. "We will continue to work in conjunction with campus partners and our local government agencies to support and evaluate a safe and healthy return to campus."
Carbon Hill mayor resigns after Alabama football video post
A controversial Alabama mayor has resigned after posting disparaging comments about the University of Alabama football team voicing its support for the Black Lives Matter movement. Carbon Hill Mayor Mark Chambers submitted his resignation letter to the city clerk on Saturday, news outlets reported. The council in the city of about 2,000 people outside Birmingham hasn't approved it yet, but an emergency meeting will be held Wednesday. A Facebook post from Chambers Saturday, said he was selling his photos of of the Alabama football team and head coach Nick Saban because of their "sorry" political views. He said "the Tide is done in my opinion." In a video shared by Alabama football, Saban and players read an essay by Crimson Tide offensive lineman Alex Leatherwood, who wrote, "All lives can't matter until Black lives matter."
Calls for change: Black head coaches continue to be overlooked
A theme has emerged in recent weeks as college athletes have begun to speak out against racial inequality both inside and outside their locker rooms. At Oklahoma State, star running back Chuba Hubbard threatened to step away from the team after coach Mike Gundy was photographed wearing a T-shirt with the logo of the controversial OAN television network. At Iowa, long-time football strength coach Chris Doyle left the program after facing widespread accusations of bullying and disparagement by former players, particularly Black men. At Clemson, football coach Dabo Swinney had to defend how he dealt with assistant Danny Pearman uttering a racial slur during a 2017 practice. All of those coaches are white. Even many of the positive stories of college coaches supporting their Black athletes -- like Missouri football coach Eliah Drinkwitz participating in a march protesting racial injustice with his players in downtown Columbia -- have centered around white coaches. All too often absent from the conversation about college sports and race have been Black head coaches.
For not the first time, sports has helped Mississippians see their way to change
Mississippi sports columnist Rick Cleveland writes: Sports have never been only a game in Mississippi. No, sports are woven deeply into our cultural fabric, a major part of who we are and what we are about. Always have been. We take our games seriously. The games our athletes play matter greatly to us. Indeed, the argument has been made, time and again, that the games often matter too much. But today -- especially today -- we can save that argument for another time and place. Because weirdly, in this time when the pandemic has placed our sports world on pause, sports have led the way to dramatic change in Mississippi. Lawmakers Sunday voted to remove the Mississippi state flag more than 126 years after it was adopted. No longer will the state flag feature the Confederate battle emblem. If you have followed the flag controversy, you know this: This change would not have happened -- not now -- had it not been for sports. ... "I know first-hand what it feels like to see the Confederate flag and pretend it doesn't have a racist, violent or oppressive overtone. It screams hate," Nikki McCray-Penson, Mississippi State's new women's basketball coach, said. "There's no place in our society for a symbol of discrimination, hatred and oppression."

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