Thursday, July 2, 2020   
Mississippi State issues revised academic calendar for fall
Mississippi State is announcing a revised fall academic calendar, keeping the health and safety of the university family top-of-mind while delivering the highest quality academic experience possible for students. Considering the potential effect of a late fall peak of the coronavirus, the restructured calendar has students beginning classes on August 17 with commencement set for November 25 in Starkville and December 1 at MSU-Meridian. "As we all know, this is an unprecedented time for Mississippi State, and we are taking a proactive approach to designing our path forward. With the directive to resume operations from the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning, this university has been at the forefront in working to set policies and procedures to best meet the needs of students this fall," said MSU President Mark E. Keenum.
Mississippi State's Raja Reddy elected president of Mississippi Academy of Sciences
A Mississippi State faculty member has been elected to lead the Mississippi Academy of Sciences by members-at-large. K. Raja Reddy, research professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences in MSU's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and scientist in the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station, begins his term as MAS president July 1. As president, Reddy plans to further the state's conversation on agriculture science and facilitate new student opportunities. He will direct a special agriculture science issue for the peer-reviewed Journal of Mississippi Academy of Sciences. He also is helping develop a junior academy platform, so K-12 students can become a part of the organization. "I am honored to be chosen to lead the state's prestigious science organization and to help direct policy over the year," said Reddy. "My goals are to encourage all science and engineering students and scientists to be more involved in annual meetings and science education programs across Mississippi."
Sara Evans to perform two concerts Aug. 22 at MSU Riley Center
Country superstar Sara Evans will perform two concerts for her upcoming scheduled August appearance at downtown Meridian's MSU Riley Center. To comply with the 50 percent seating capacity mandate to protect against the spread of COVID-19, two shows will be presented by Evans. "She (Evans) has graciously agreed to do two shows on Aug. 22 so that all of her fans get a chance to come out and see her," Daniel Barnard, executive director of the Riley Center, said. "This will be our first big performing arts event after our planned reopening on Aug. 1. We're really eager to get back to doing what we love, which is entertaining the people of Mississippi and West Alabama. We have been working hard to ensure the safest possible environment for our patrons." The concerts will begin at 6 and 8:30 p.m. Safety measures will be in place to protect against the spread of COVID-19. Concert-goers also will be required to wear masks at all times inside the Riley Center.
Richard Blackbourn steps down after 15-year tenure as MSU College of Education dean, returns to the classroom in January
Mississippi State's Richard Blackbourn, who has led the university's College of Education for 15 years, is stepping back to the faculty and returning to the classroom effective Jan.1, 2021. The announcement was made today [July 1] by MSU Provost and Executive Vice President David R. Shaw who commended the longtime dean for his leadership of the college and for his work in preparing highly qualified professionals in the education field. "Dr. Blackbourn has recruited outstanding faculty and top students that have distinguished the MSU College of Education as the premier training ground for Mississippi's teachers as well as administrators, counselors and supervisors not just in academic settings, but in industry and agencies too. Creating and maintaining nationally accredited programs, preparing future educators with hands-on clinical training, and enhancing student research and scholarship opportunities have been crowning achievements during his tenure," Shaw said.
Mississippi State's Cindy Bethel named among worldwide leaders in robotics
A Mississippi State computer science and engineering professor has been recognized as one of the world's top leaders in the field of robotics. Cindy Bethel, a professor in Mississippi State's James Worth Bagley College of Engineering, has been named as one of the "World's 50 Most Renowned Women in Robotics" by Analytics Insight magazine. The recognition comes in the magazine's June 2020 edition. "I am surprised and deeply honored to be selected," Bethel said. "I am excited to be named along with all of these talented and amazing women in robotics and to be recognized in such a wonderful way." According to the magazine, Analytics Insight selected "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."
Upcoming Starkville housing development aimed at 'workforce'
Thirty-six houses are coming to the corner of Reed Road and Westside Drive in Starkville, with the goal of housing the city's low-to-middle-income residents, Oxford-based developer Stewart Rutledge said. Clark Grove is a $17 million development of rent-to-own homes, meaning part of the monthly rent of about $750 will go toward a down payment so the residents can buy the houses after 15 years, Rutledge said. At the same time, a credit counselor from the Mississippi Home Corporation works with the residents toward securing a loan to buy the homes for a reduced price. "You have to have income in order to pay the rent, but the rent is affordable enough that we're able to serve all types (of people)," Rutledge said. Each house will be about 1,600 square feet with three bedrooms, two bathrooms and a two-car garage. The development narrative document said each house "will have its own unique front elevations to allow the neighborhood to appear as containing multiple, distinctive homes instead of a cookie-cutter apartment complex."
Supervisors weigh in on possibility of stricter coronavirus measures
Members of the Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors could soon consider stricter face-covering rules in the county, with cases the highest they've been in Mississippi since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Several members of the board said they anticipated such measures to be discussed at the board's first July meeting Monday, with some saying they would support such a measure. While the county has not mandated masks outside of its own buildings since the beginning of the pandemic, the Starkville Board of Aldermen is scheduled to vote on a face mask ordinance for the city of Starkville at its meeting next Tuesday. Board President and District 1 Supervisor John Montgomery said he was beginning to see the need for further measures. "That's something that we're looking at right now," Montgomery said. "I imagine Monday, that's something that's going to come up. There's been a rise in cases with more things opening up. I know it's necessary for the economy, but I don't see any problem with us looking at masks in the courtrooms or the county buildings."
Mississippi pausing reopening process after COVID surge
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said Wednesday the state is pausing its efforts to reopen the economy after a recent surge in new reported coronavirus cases. "Things are getting worse, not better," Reeves said at a news briefing. Mississippi reported a peak of 1,092 reported cases of the virus in a single day last week. The state Health Department has consistently reported 450 to 700 new cases each day since. On Wednesday, Mississippi was reporting 653 new cases. Reeves and state health officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs were adamant that efforts to reopen the state's economy are not the cause of Mississippi's spike. "It's not that our current rules are too loose," Reeves said. "Our challenge is that our people aren't following even the simplest of rules. Additional orders are useless if people will not follow what we have in place now."
Dr. Anthony Fauci : Mixed Messaging On Masks Set U.S. Public Health Response Back
While conceding missteps in the federal response to the coronavirus, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Wednesday it is not too late to avoid the dire picture he outlined in congressional testimony of 100,000 coronavirus cases a day. The nation's leading infectious disease experts said the conflicting advice offered by federal leaders around face masks in the early days of the pandemic helped sow distrust and continues to hamper the government's ability to slow the outbreak. "We have to admit it, that that mixed message in the beginning, even though it was well meant to allow masks to be available for health workers, that was detrimental in getting the message across," Fauci said in an interview with Mary Louise Kelly of NPR's All Things Considered. "No doubt about it." Despite the overwhelming consensus among public-health experts that face masks can help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, face coverings have become a partisan issue, something critics of the federal response have blamed on what they say has been a confusing back-and-forth on the issue from the Trump administration.
All Eyes on Bars as Virus Surges and Americans Go Drinking
As people eager for a night out flood back into public after months of confinement, public health experts say that college-town bars, nightclubs and corner taverns are becoming dangerous new hot spots for the coronavirus, seeding infections in thousands of mostly young adults and adding to surging cases nationwide. Louisiana health officials tied at least 100 coronavirus cases to bars in the Tigerland nightlife district in Baton Rouge. Public health experts say that the long nights, lack of inhibitions and shoulder-to-shoulder confines inside so many bars -- a source of community and relaxation in normal times -- now make them ideal breeding grounds for the coronavirus. Now it is closing time -- again. Many of the people being infected at bars and clubs are in their 20s, a group that is more likely to have milder cases of Covid-19. Health experts warn that young people with mild symptoms or none at all still pose a serious threat to older family members or other vulnerable people.
'It's an artifact': Mississippi officially retires its state flag to a museum
Mississippi's former state flag with the divisive Confederate battle emblem in its canton was officially retired to a museum on Wednesday after flying over the state for 126 years. Flags were raised a final time over the state Capitol domes on Wednesday afternoon. They were then lowered as a crowd of about 100 people outside the Capitol applauded. The retirement ceremony on Wednesday came after lawmakers passed a bill on Sunday that removed the flag, which was the last in the nation containing the Confederate emblem. The flags were delivered by Mississippi National Guard and Highway Patrol color guards to House Speaker Philip Gunn, Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann and Archives and History Director Katie Blount. They then delivered the flags to former Supreme Court Justice Reuben Anderson, president of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History board, at the Museum of Mississippi History and Mississippi Civil Rights Museum. Museum officials plan to create an exhibit about the flag for the history museum.
Mississippi bans abortion based on race, sex, genetic issues
Mississippi Republican Gov. Tate Reeves signed a law Wednesday that bans abortion based on the race, sex or genetic anomalies of a fetus, adding new limits in a state that already has some of the strictest abortion laws in the U.S. Supporters say the new law would prevent abortion for Down syndrome or other conditions. "Women should not be pressured to have an abortion because their child is different: of a different ability, of a different race, of a different sex," Jameson Taylor, vice president for policy with the Mississippi Center for Public Policy, said in a statement Wednesday. Opponents said it would unconstitutionally interfere with private medical decisions in a state with one abortion clinic. Reeves signed the new law two days after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Louisiana law that required doctors who do abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. Mississippi's nearly identical admitting privileges law has long been blocked by a federal judge.
Mississippi bill would give thousands a chance at parole
The Mississippi Legislature has passed a bill that could grant thousands of incarcerated inmates a chance at parole. The Mississippi Correctional Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2020, or SB 2123, was approved by the House and Senate on Tuesday after a couple of lawmakers raised concerns about the effect releasing prisoners could have on law enforcement. If signed by Gov. Tate Reeves, the bill will allow people convicted of nonviolent offenses to be eligible for parole after serving 25% of their sentence or after 10 years, whichever comes first. People convicted of violent offenses would be eligible for parole after completing 50% of their sentence, or after 20 years, whichever comes first, for those sentenced between July 1, 1995, and June 30, 2014. Speaking on the Senate floor Tuesday, Sen. Brice Wiggins of Pascagoula said Mississippi is the second most incarcerated state in the nation, and it’s costly to house those inmates.
U.S. economy added 4.8 million jobs in June, but fierce new headwinds have emerged
The economy added 4.8 million jobs last month, based on a survey taken mid-month, sending the unemployment rate down to 11.1 percent -- a sign of how many businesses were scrambling to emerge from the depths of the recession. The stock market rose sharply on the news, with the Dow Jones industrial average up around 400 points, or 1.5 percent. But new data also released Thursday by the Labor Department showed that 1.4 million people filed unemployment claims for the first time last week as many businesses reversed themselves and closed again during the surge in coronavirus cases. This trend has not fallen off in recent weeks. This marked the 15th straight week of unemployment claims that exceeded 1 million, a sign that the economic recovery has not taken hold for many Americans. Federal and state officials have stumbled during reopening plans, and now some of the states that reopened the fastest are seeing a large spike in coronavirus cases that are causing them to backtrack swiftly, leading to new job losses.
Hyde-Smith, Wicker welcome appointment of John G. Campbell to lead USDA Rural Development in Mississippi
U.S. Senators Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) today welcomed the appointment of Greenville native John G. Campbell as the new State Director for USDA Rural Development in Mississippi. The Mississippi Senators recommended Campbell, who is a senior policy aide in Hyde-Smith's Washington office, for the position. Campbell assumes State Director responsibilities on July 6, replacing John Rounsaville. As state director, Campbell will administer USDA Rural Development programs and set priorities particular to the rural needs of Mississippi. Rural development programs cover a broad range of issues, including economic development, business and cooperative services, utilities, and housing. Campbell earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Mississippi State University in 2001 and a Master of Business Administration degree from Delta State University in 2004.
Republicans fear backlash over Trump's threatened veto on Confederate names
Senate Republicans fear President Trump is putting them into a political no-win situation by threatening to veto a popular defense policy bill over bipartisan language to rename military bases named after Confederate generals. GOP lawmakers are trying to wave the president off his veto threat and may end up delaying the bill to avoid a political disaster before Election Day. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Wednesday urged Trump not to veto the $740.5 billion bill over a provision sponsored by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) mandating the secretary of Defense rename military installations named after Confederate generals. Democrats say that Trump would look completely out of step with changing sentiments on race if he vetoed the defense bill, especially after Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) signed legislation this week to take down the Mississippi state flag, which has the Confederate battle flag embedded within it. "I just think it would be a mistake. I think he's out of sync with the opinion all across the country," said Sen. Jack Reed (R.I.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee. He noted that "the state of Mississippi is moving to change its flag" and NASCAR has banned the Confederate battle flag at races.
MUW To Offer On-Campus Tours
Mississippi University for Women will begin offering on-campus tours for prospective students starting Wednesday, July 8. For students interested in enrolling for the fall 2020 semester, the Office of Admissions at The W will offer tours daily from 9-11 a.m. and 2 p.m. "One of the essentials when making your college selection is visiting campus. The summer is the perfect time to experience The W and view our beautiful historic campus," said Dwight Doughty, coordinator for International Student Services and admissions. Campus tours will include a guided tour of campus, a session with an admissions counselor, and upon request a virtual meeting with a college navigator or faculty member. All staff members and campus visitors are required to wear a mask. The Office of Admissions will provide masks and hand sanitizer for all visitors. In addition, all surfaces will be cleaned frequently. All visitors are asked to practice physical distancing.
ASU president picks former Mississippi university head Jim Borsig as Henderson's interim chancellor
Dr. Jim Borsig is slated to become the interim chancellor of Henderson State University. Dr. Charles Welch, president of the Arkansas State University System, said Borsig will be an interim only. Welch earlier announced that the ASU system would postpone its search for a permanent chancellor. "This abbreviated process is only for an interim hire. When we resume the search for a permanent chancellor, we will return to the more broad-based and comprehensive process I outlined last fall," Welch said. The ASU system took control of Henderson State University last year after the Arkadelphia school suffered numerous fiscal and personnel problems. "Dr. Borsig was introduced to me by 'The Registry,' which is recognized as the leading organization in higher education for assisting with placement of interim administrators. I interviewed candidates associated with the Registry, as well as additional candidates not associated with the Registry, and Dr. Borsig clearly rose to the top," Welch said. From 2012 to 2018, Dr. Borsig was the president of Mississippi University for Women.
Protests continue: UM students, faculty and alumni march against relocation plans
Dozens of university community members marched from the Grill at 1810 to the Confederate cemetery in opposition of the university's "proposed plans for the renovation of the Confederate cemetery" on Monday afternoon. Organized by student leaders from the #UMoveTheStatue campaign and members of the new Alumni Action Network, protesters included undergraduate students like Associated Student Body president Joshua Mannery and ASB vice president Abby Johnston, alumni like Leah Davis and Arielle Hudson and faculty members like associate professor of sociology James Thomas. All of whom were present to portray one message to Chancellor Glenn Boyce and other university administration: "We need to abandon the plans to move the statue," one organizer Brianna Simms said. In 90 degree heat, the crowd marched less than half a mile down Manning Way chanting mantras of "Relocation, not glorification" and "Abandon the plan." Several student athletes stood outside of the Manning Center to raise their fists in solidarity, and one Black construction crew member did the same from behind the walls of the cemetery.
Dr. Donzell Lee retires from Alcorn State University after 45 years of service
One of Alcorn State University's longest-tenured employees says goodbye to the University after four decades of service. Dr. Donzell Lee, former interim president during the 2018-2019 academic year, is retiring from Alcorn after 45 years. During his tenure, Lee served in numerous positions that include instructor of music and chairman of the Department of Fine Arts, director of the Honors Curriculum Program, dean of the School of Graduate Studies, and interim associate vice president for the Office of Academic Affairs. He was also appointed provost in 2015. Lee holds degrees from Xavier University, Stanford University, and Louisiana State University. Initially, Lee said that he planned to only work at Alcorn for one year. That changed once he got acclimated to the University's surroundings, which caused him to fall in love with the atmosphere around campus.
Dr. Billy Stewart reflects on time at East Central Community College
After eight years of leading East Central Community College, Dr. Billy Stewart has retired as president. "When I first came here, one of the first things we kind of adopted was a slogan, a motto, 'The East Central Way, Excellence with Class'," said Stewart. Stewart has been an educator for the last 30 years, serving the last eight in Decatur. During his tenure, the school has seen a number of improvements including numerous facility upgrades, new paving and lighting and a new women's dormitory named after him. There has also been a major athletic face lift which includes new tennis courts, new turf at Bailey Stadium and brand new football facilities. "I am so proud of the student athletes who come here to East Central. as I tell them and tell their parents, I believe God has a great plan for their life and if it involves East Central, they need to come," Stewart said. "But if it doesn't, they don't need to come because I believe God brings people here to become who and what we want to be."
Officials: Students in Alabama threw COVID contest parties
Several college students in an Alabama city organized "COVID-19" parties as a contest to see who would get the virus first, officials said. Tuscaloosa City Councilor Sonya McKinstry said students hosted the parties to intentionally infect each other with the new coronavirus, news outlets reported. McKinstry said party organizers purposely invited guests who tested positive for COVID-19. She said the students put money in a pot and whoever got COVID first would get the cash. Tuscaloosa Fire Chief Randy Smith confirmed the incidents to the City Council Tuesday. The department thought the parties were rumors but Smith said after some research, the department found out the parties were real. Tuscaloosa is home to The University of Alabama and several other colleges. Tuscaloosa City Council members unanimously approved a mask requirement during a meeting Tuesday.
Petition wants 'Fulbright' off U. of Arkansas, Fayetteville's campus
Students and alumni are adding their names to a petition seeking the removal of a statue of J. William Fulbright from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville campus. The petition also asks that the former U.S. senator's name be removed from UA's arts and sciences college, which was renamed in 1981 in honor of Fulbright. Black student leaders have criticized Fulbright's record on civil rights, doing so as part of a wave of recent social media posts about racial biases and inequity experienced on campus. Fulbright is perhaps best known today for introducing legislation in 1945 that created the international educational exchange program named after him. UA spokesman Mark Rushing said the university is aware of the petition, which as of Wednesday evening had more than 5,700 signatures. A group of UA students known as the Black Student Caucus has promoted the petition, and most signatures have come within the past 10 days or so, though the petition began about a year ago. The group did not respond Wednesday to an email seeking comment.
Furloughs for UGA employees? None planned in 2020-21 budget
University of Georgia employees won't face mandatory furloughs under the state's 2020-21 public higher education budget approved by the Board of Regents on Wednesday. The board approved University System of Georgia Chancellor Steve Wrigley's furlough proposal in May as the university system and other state agencies prepared to absorb budget cuts of 14 percent, based on projected state tax revenue shortfalls in the 2020-21 fiscal year, which began Wednesday. State fiscal planners later revised the predicted revenue shortfall, and Gov. Brian Kemp on Tuesday signed a state budget of $25.9 billion -- a 10 percent reduction from last year. "I know this pandemic created a particularly difficult set of financial issues for crafting a state budget," UGA President Jere Morehead said in a statement, "and I am thankful that our lawmakers protected our hardworking and dedicated faculty and staff from furloughs." Morehead's message to the campus community did not say whether the university would go through with layoffs proposed earlier this year.
Georgia professors press for flexibility to teach off campus
Professors at some public colleges and universities in Georgia are pressuring administrators to provide greater latitude to faculty who want to teach off-campus this fall semester to protect themselves, their families and others from COVID-19. The schools are offering waivers to work remotely if the instructor has a health risk that would prevent that person from teaching on campus. Schools are asking faculty to fill out forms that include medical documentation explaining why they cannot be in the classroom. The most persistent complaints to such forms are coming from Georgia Tech faculty. Some said they were previously granted accommodations not to teach on campus, but learned just last week a form was required by July 6 and the accommodations would have to be reapproved through a formal human resources process for employees in "higher risk" categories. The waiver process is one of several complaints against University System of Georgia schools and administrators about fall semester reopening plans. Critics also want the University System to require face coverings or masks in classrooms.
Jim Bernhard one of four new appointees to LSU's board of supervisors by John Bel Edwards
Gov. John Bel Edwards appointed Wednesday four new members to the LSU Board of Supervisors -- replacing members selected by former Gov. Bobby Jindal and taking full control of the 16-member body that oversees the colleges, agricultural programs and the Baton Rouge flagship university. Jim M. Bernhard Jr., a Baton Rouge businessman who founded Bernhard Capital Partners, was picked to replace Jindal-appointee Bobby Yarborough, chief executive officer of Manda Fine Meats, to represent the 6th U.S. Congressional District. The board makes the final decisions on everything LSU including how much to pay everyone from janitors and faculty to the head football coach. They decide how LSU's vast property holdings are used and sign off on leadership choices. Last month, the board made the controversial decision to remove the name of former chancellor Troy Middleton from the LSU Baton Rouge campus's main library. Though a war hero, Middleton also was involved in efforts during the 1950s and 1960s to keep African Americans from enrolling at LSU.
UF delays Fall schedule update, reopening plans due to COVID-19 surge
University of Florida students will experience delays in finalizing their Fall schedules again. Amid surges in COVID-19 cases in Alachua County and statewide, UF postponed releasing its reopening plans and updates to the Fall schedule of courses from July 2 to July 10, according to a statement released on its website and social media. "We are postponing their release to July 10 so that we can better understand the possible trajectory of the pandemic and provide you with more definitive guidance," the announcement said. The university originally planned to release updates to the Fall Schedule of Classes on July 2, according to the message from UF Provost Joe Glover, UF Chief Operating Officer Charlie Lane and UF Vice President for Student Affairs D'Andra Mull. This update would finalize what courses will be conducted online, in person or a combination of the two in Fall. The university is creating a website that will provide updates and guidance to students, faculty, staff, parents and the university community about Fall, UF spokesperson Steve Orlando wrote in an email to The Alligator.
U. of Tennessee professor accused of hiding his Chinese job wants case tossed
Under a directive to catch Chinese spies, federal authorities monitored Anming Hu for more than a year, found no evidence of espionage and manufactured a case against the University of Tennessee researcher anyway, his attorney says. "The (U.S. Department of Justice) wanted a feather in its cap with an economic espionage case, so they ignored the facts and the law, destroyed the career of a professor with three PhDs in nanotechnology and now expects the court to follow their narrative," attorney Philip Lomonaco wrote in a brief asking a judge to dismiss the charges against Hu. A mechanical engineering professor at UT Knoxville, Hu was arrested in February and suspended from his job after an FBI investigation. A grand jury returned an indictment accusing Hu of holding a dual professorship with a Chinese university and concealing that position from UT as he worked on research projects funded by grant money from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. His attorney says he's no spy, and that he never meant to deceive anyone. In Lomonaco's telling, Hu is nothing more than an innocent researcher who tried his best to follow a rule so vague that neither UT, the FBI nor NASA seemed to fully understand it. The charges should be dismissed for that reason, Lomonaco wrote, and because Hu listened to a UT official who said the restriction didn't apply to faculty.
U. of Missouri outlines testing, isolation and contact tracing steps in fall plan
Monitoring, testing, isolation and contact tracing procedures will all be in place at MU this fall in the hope of slowing the virus' spread on campus and maintaining in-person operations and classes, under a plan announced Monday. In a letter to the campus community Monday, Interim MU Chancellor Mun Choi said monitoring symptoms is one of the "strongest defenses" to slow COVID-19's spread, along with social distancing. MU's plan requests everyone on campus consult a symptom checklist daily. If any of the symptoms apply, people should stay home and contact either the MU Student Health Center or their health care provider. Students should not attend classes or visit any public areas and should practice good hygiene. MU will partner with local city and county contact tracing teams to track the spread of the virus, according to MU's plan. The combined teams will operate in accordance with HIPAA, FERPA and other laws and use the Research Electronic Data Capture, or REDCap, system. MU's team will report to the MU Student Health Center.
Rhodes College returns to state of 'limbo' amid worrisome COVID-19 trend in Memphis
Shortly after Memorial Day, when Memphis was a week into the second phase of its back-to-business plan, Rhodes College announced it planned to bring students back to campus in late August. That plan was based on three conditions, which included a $2 million health and safety plan and campus buy-in. The third factor was about the virus's prominence in Memphis. "We can check those first two boxes," Rhodes College President Marjorie Hass said by phone Wednesday. "But the third core condition ... it's really out of Rhodes' control." And current COVID-19 conditions in Memphis and Shelby County are impeding the college's steps forward. "We could not support students being on campus today," Hass said. To plan responsibly for an uncertain situation, the college is ready for a few different scenarios, Hass said. She remains hopeful that there's still time to see a drop in cases, but had hoped "that we would see better compliance in our community." Already, though, the college has delayed the return of its first wave of employees.
Working While Parenting Is a Reality of Covid-19. One University Tried to Forbid It.
During a chaotic spring semester, when the Covid-19 pandemic forced parents and kids to work and study from home, it wasn't uncommon for a child to pop up on a parent's Zoom screen needing help with homework, or someone to mediate a sibling fight. But next month, Florida State University staff members were told, they could lose their right to work from home if they're simultaneously caring for children. Outrage exploded on social media following the announcement last week, and remained unabated when the university amended it on Monday. The policy caught the attention of college employees nationally, who took to social media to object, with a smattering of dark humor. How would the institution enforce the rule? By swooping in if an employee rats on a colleague whose toddler saunters in to a Zoom session? Florida State has clarified that the policy applies only to staff members whose jobs normally require them to be on campus full time, and that it restores a policy that was in place before the pandemic struck. It doesn't affect faculty members, who aren't required to make special arrangement to work from home.
A Ph.D. Student Simulated a Day in the Life of a Covid 19-Era Campus. It Went Viral, but It Wasn't Pretty.
Fast-forward two months, to the start of a semester unlike any higher education has seen before. Imagine you're a student, juggling excitement about your classes with the fear of attending them in person under the specter of Covid-19. That's the premise of an online simulation created by Cait S. Kirby, a doctoral candidate in biology at Vanderbilt University. Users are asked to make a series of decisions that align with what a single day of in-person classes might look like for students this fall. The first choice -- whether or not to sleep in -- quickly illustrates the effects of a socially distanced campus. Choose to sleep in, and you miss your allotted five minutes in the bathroom. Opt to wake up, and you realize as you're leaving your dorm that you've forgotten your mask. The simulations, which Kirby made with the open-source storytelling tool Twine, force users to make a string of tough decisions that illustrate what day-to-day life in academe might look like this fall.
Mississippi's Confederate flag is gone -- but a legacy of white supremacist policy remains
Anne Marshall, an associate professor in the Department of History at Mississippi State University, writes for NBC News Digital: When Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves signed a bill to retire the state flag Tuesday night, it was a truly historic and unlikely moment. The flag, which features a Confederate emblem, has long served as a reminder of the state's central role in secession and the Civil War. But more than that, in a state with the highest percentage of Black Americans in the U.S., the flag had come to symbolize white Mississippians' refusal to cede any real political, social or economic power. ... After pausing to celebrate, Mississippians should ponder whether the willingness to change a symbol translates into the harder work of dismantling 150 years of white supremacist policy. Pessimists may be justified in thinking it will not. ... Will white Mississippians who took generations to understand and revoke the connection between the state's identity and racial oppression take the next and much harder steps to root out current practices that perpetuate racial inequality in the Magnolia State? Only time will tell, but what has happened in the last month shows that the improbable is not the impossible.

Athletes push for and achieve social justice goals
With a single tweet, Kylin Hill, a nationally ranked running back for Mississippi State University's football team, seemingly provided the final push for state lawmakers to change the state flag, which is the last in the nation to retain the Confederate battle emblem. "Either change the flag or I won't be representing this state anymore," Hill, a Mississippi native, tweeted on June 22. "I'm tired." Hill's teammates largely backed him, as did college coaches, athletes and administrators from throughout the state. Days earlier, intercollegiate athletics organizations had amplified the call for a flag change by announcing that they would not hold championship events in Mississippi, putting more pressure on lawmakers to act. Then Walmart announced it would stop displaying the flag in its stores, and the influential Mississippi Baptist Convention denounced the flag as "a relic of racism and symbol of hatred." Just a week after Hill spoke out, Governor Tate Reeves signed legislation hurriedly approved by the lawmakers last weekend to remove the flag that had flown over Mississippi for 126 years and caused decades of division among state residents. Hill isn't alone in using his position and visibility as a Black athlete to push for change.
Chris Lemonis: Mississippi State fans appreciate the risk JT Ginn took to play in Starkville
On the day Chris Lemonis arrived at Mississippi State, he found a private plane --- for him. The school's athletic department wanted Lemonis, the new head baseball coach, to fly directly to J.T. Ginn's house. "Oh wow, so we're starting right away," Lemonis thought to himself. This was 2018, and Ginn had just been drafted 30th overall by the Los Angeles Dodgers. The first-round pick now faced a decision: Honor his Mississippi State commitment or turn pro? The plane should tell you how important Ginn, an in-state recruit, was to the university and its beloved SEC baseball program. "It's that big of a player in our state," Lemonis recently said over the phone. "He's a legend already around here." "I think J.T. will be remembered as one of the best ones that ever came here," Lemonis said. "And he sacrificed a lot to come here. I think that's appreciated by our fans."
Mississippi High School Activities Association director Don Hinton announces retirement
Don Hinton will be retiring after serving as executive director of the Mississippi High School Activities Association for the past nine years. The retirement will be effective Dec. 31. Hinton announced his retirement Tuesday night on the MHSAA website. He informed the MHSAA executive committee of his decision earlier that day. Hinton, 64, joined the MHSAA staff on Jan. 1, 2011, and was promoted to executive director six months later when Ennis Proctor retired. The end of Hinton's term is being marked by the COVID-19 pandemic, which cut short the spring sports seasons and now threatens fall sports. The executive committee met Tuesday to discuss options for ensuring fall sports are played. The main option is to delay the start of the fall season if necessary. The executive committee is scheduled to meet again July 14, when it hopes to reach a consensus on a plan for fall sports.
SEC's Greg Sankey: Federal NIL law needed for fair competition
Southeastern Conference Commissioner Greg Sankey told a U.S. Senate committee Wednesday there needs to be a uniform federal law to regulate the compensation of college athletes instead of a series of state versions with differing requirements. Sankey was part of a panel discussing the potential impact of allowing athletes to profit from the use of their name, image or likeness (NIL), one of the more controversial issues in college athletics. Three states have already signed athlete-compensation bills into law and others are considering their own versions. The hearing was held exactly one year before Florida's law is scheduled to be the first to take effect. "It would be difficult and confusing," Sankey said when asked about managing various state laws among the league's 14 member schools. "Knowing the competition within my 11 states, I can foresee quickly the other 10 one-upping each other. And I think that's a problem for fair and equitable competition."
NCAA Officials Express Growing Pessimism About College Football on Capitol Hill
What started out as a U.S. Senate committee hearing on student-athlete compensation materialized into an inquiry on college football's latest quandary: the coronavirus pandemic. In addition to questions on name, image and likeness, lawmakers quizzed college athletic leaders about viral outbreaks impacting campuses across the country. They chastised those schools that are requiring athletes to sign waivers, insisted that the NCAA create a universal COVID-19 standard and as mentioned, lamented the lack of transparency among roughly half of the 130 FBS programs in declining to disclose their case numbers. The hearing unfolded amid a pandemic that has reemerged in outbreaks across the country, putting college football's plans for an on-time kickoff in doubt. At least five states have suspended reopening plans, and four college programs have temporarily shut down workouts because of outbreaks. There is growing concern among officials. Athletic directors fear the potential for large numbers of athletes in quarantine, and officials are rekindling discussions about a spring football season.
Preseason Workouts Provide Frightening Preview for Colleges
In recent weeks, universities across the country have conducted an unplanned experiment on whether students can return to campus this fall, using football players and other athletes reporting for voluntary workouts as guinea pigs. It hasn't gone very well. The University of Texas at Austin had 13 student-athletes test positive for Covid-19. At Louisiana State University, 30 players -- about a quarter of the football team -- went into quarantine after some of them hit local bars. And the University of South Carolina reported 79 new cases among students in a recent eight-day stretch, but won't say whether athletes have been infected. The troubling results show how challenging it will be to bring tens of thousands of young adults together for the resumption of classes in a few weeks. Many players who tested positive for the virus showed no symptoms. And in numerous cases, students ignored pleas from administrators to avoid crowds, contributing to a rise in positive tests. "Students are going to be returning to parties, there are going to be all sorts of things," said Dr. Carlos Del Rio, an infectious disease expert at Emory University School of Medicine. "As long as those things happen you can do whatever you want to test people, but people are going to get infected."
Georgia governor says college football season, 'a tall task,' if coronavirus cases continue to rise
Gov. Brian Kemp said Wednesday playing college football this year will be, "a tall task," if new cases of the coronavirus continue to rise in Georgia and across the country. Kemp recently signed two executive orders extending the state's Public Health State of Emergency through August 11, 2020 after a surge in new cases in recent weeks. "If you're ready for some football in the fall, as I've told my daughters, they keep asking me, 'Dad, do you think we're going to have college football? Surely we've got to have the season," Kemp said as he kicked off a six-stop, two-day "Wear a Mask" tour Wednesday at Atlanta's Peachtree DeKalb Airport. "I said, 'Well, if people, especially our young people, don't start wearing a mask when they're going out in public and our numbers keep rising, that's going to be a tall task.'" The state reported a record seven-day total of 11,176 new confirmed cases last week.
No college or high school football games if COVID-19 surges continue, South Carolina governor says
There won't be any activity at South Carolina's Williams-Brice Stadium or Clemson's Memorial Stadium if things don't change with the trajectory of COVID-19 cases, Gov. Henry McMaster warned Wednesday. McMaster's current executive order bans such things as spectator sports, concerts and movie theaters. That's been the case since the beginning of the pandemic in March. That ban will remain in place until the state turns the corner with the coronavirus, the governor said sternly. "I will not remove those restrictions. I cannot lift those restrictions, if these numbers continue to rise and the danger persists. I can't do it. I won't do it," McMaster said. "This fall will not be like other falls. We will not be able to have college football. We will not be able to have high school football." "Let me make it very clear. Wear a mask and social distance now so we can enjoy high school and college football in South Carolina this fall," McMaster posted to Twitter minutes after Wednesday's press conference.
'Challenging and agonizing times': Gamecocks AD says still no answers on college football
The only thing certain about the next college football season is that it won't be anything like the last one. "A return to normal will not happen this fall," South Carolina athletics director Ray Tanner said in a public letter last week. "We are trying to determine what the new 'normal' will be." As colleges begin to take more and more steps to thwart the spread of the coronavirus, the answer on how to approach the football season nears its deadline. Preseason camp is scheduled to begin the first week of August, with season-openers the week of Sept. 5. Tanner said decisions on allowed capacity at Williams-Brice Stadium, ticket distribution and safety protocols will be released in early August. SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said he would most likely present the conference's plans for playing football by late July. Considering the SEC covers 11 states, there are different levels of COVID-19 infection in all and there's far too much money at stake to issue a "we're not playing" dictum, Sankey's statement is likely to be a tiptoe into the season. At USC, in the same state where record-highs of COVID-19 cases are being set nearly every day and the athletics department refuses to release the number of athletes affected, it will have to approach the season with even more caution.
Tennessee football plans for another set of COVID-19 tests
Tennessee football players and staff members will be tested again for COVID-19 following the Fourth of July weekend, coach Jeremy Pruitt said Wednesday during an appearance on "The Dan Patrick Show." "(The medical staff will) have a plan when they come back to get everybody within our program tested," Pruitt said. So far, the Vols have not had any positive tests among football players, Pruitt said. Players and staff members were tested after players returned to campus in June for voluntary workouts. Pruitt said then that one graduate assistant tested positive. Since then, the athletic department has confirmed that two men's basketball players tested positive and were in quarantine. "We've been worried about the things that we have control over," Pruitt said during the radio appearance. "Once we get in here and we have tests and we don't have (positives), we kind of control our own surroundings. So, within our program, we've done a very nice job of that this summer. We've got to continue to do that."
Ex-Ohio State president supports universal COVID-19 testing; Big Ten doesn't have it
The Big Ten currently is allowing its member schools to individually dictate how to handle coronavirus testing. But one former university president told a Senate committee Wednesday that could change. As lawmakers in Washington debated name, image and likeness legislation during a hearing entitled "Exploring a Compensation Framework for Intercollegiate Athletes," the conversation at times shifted to college sports' response and plan this fall to address the COVID-19 pandemic. Newly retired Ohio State University president Michael Drake, who also serves as the NCAA's board of governors chairman, told the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation that college sports leaders have considered universal guidelines for all athletic departments. "This is under discussion actively on a daily basis, and we will be talking about this later on in this week," Drake said, responding to a question from Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.). "I certainly support that." The NCAA has not issued guidelines for testing, and major college conferences have let their schools decide what to do since athletes began returning to campus in late May and early June.
Pandemic-related travel bans pose challenges for Mizzou teams
Many of the international travel bans and restrictions put in place around the world to prevent the spread of COVID-19 are now causing trouble for universities in the United States, including Missouri. They've put collegiate sports in a never-before-seen predicament: Athletes from out of the country might not be allowed into the U.S. to join their teams in time for their fall competitive seasons. And with around 43 international student-athletes on varsity teams, Missouri is struggling to find a solution. "There's just not a lot we can do with these travel restrictions, and we don't know when that's going to end," said Stephanie Priesmeyer, Missouri's women's golf head coach. In an email, Ryan Griffin, the director of Missouri's office of international student admissions, said the university is trying to help these students get into the country. "Mizzou, through its membership in groups like the Association of American Universities (AAU) and Association of Public Land-grant Universities (APLU) and by direct contact with Missouri Representatives and Senators, has lobbied to encourage the U.S. State Department to resume student visa issuance and to prioritize students with plans to enroll in the fall term," he said. "As this is outside the university's control, we are also preparing contingency options for international students and student-athletes who are not able to arrive on campus with us to start the fall term due to visa and travel restrictions caused by the global pandemic."

The Office of Public Affairs provides the Daily News Digest as a general information resource for Mississippi State University stakeholders.
Web links are subject to change. Submit news, questions or comments to Jim Laird.
Mississippi State University  •  Mississippi State, MS 39762  •  Main Telephone: (662) 325-2323  •   Contact: The Editor  |  The Webmaster  •   Updated: July 2, 2020Facebook Twitter