Wednesday, July 8, 2020   
Aldermen hope Streatery will boost business activity in downtown Starkville
An outdoor seating and dining space will temporarily occupy nine parking spaces on Main Street between Restaurant Tyler and Moe's Original BBQ, thanks to a 5-2 board of aldermen vote Tuesday. The Streatery was proposed and designed by the Carl Small Town Center in Mississippi State University's College of Architecture, Art and Design, and the board unanimously approved the concept at its June 16 meeting. It will hopefully bring activity and "a sense of place" to a downtown that has been subdued by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, Mayor Lynn Spruill said. Spruill said she sought the approval of the SMSA board, comprised mostly of downtown business owners, before she brought the concept of the Streatery before the aldermen. Ward 3 Alderman David Little is a member of the SMSA board and said the downtown area is "hemorrhaging businesses" due to the pandemic. The Streatery will help "keep these restaurants going downtown after 5 p.m. when business offices close and get a little bit of nightlife down there," Little said.
SRS Negotiates Sale of 60,835-Square-Foot Retail Property in Starkville, Mississippi
SRS Real Estate Partners has negotiated the sale of a 60,835-square-foot retail property in Starkville. Vowell's Marketplace, a regional grocery store, fully occupies the building with two years remaining on its corporate-guaranteed lease. The property was built in 1992 and is located at 118 Mississippi Highway 112, less than one mile from downtown Starkville and less than two miles west of Mississippi State University. Britt Raymond, Kyle Fant, Matthew Mousavi, Patrick Luther and Martin Smith of SRS represented the seller, a New York-based private investor. The buyer was a private investor from Starkville.
Starkville to again require face masks
People will once again be required to don face masks inside Starkville businesses following a vote of the Starkville Board of Aldermen Tuesday night. The board voted 6-1 to require masks in public businesses and other situations where social distancing is not possible or convenient. The order is effective immediately, and does not supersede rules set at the state level. Ward 1 Alderman Ben Carver voted against the measure. Family medicine physician Dr. Emily Landrum spoke in favor of requiring masks. "I know for many of you this has become a political issue, but I assure you it is not," Landrum said. "We are almost six months into a pandemic of a novel, or new virus. There are many things about COVID-19 that we still don't know and it will take time to learn, but there are many things that we have learned. We know that measures of masking, social distancing and hand washing are highly important to preventing unnecessary and burdensome spread of COVID-19."
Masks required in Starkville, Columbus, West Point
Employees and customers of businesses and city-owned buildings in Columbus, Starkville and West Point must wear protective face coverings in order to curb the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, all three cities decided Tuesday. Rising numbers of confirmed cases of the virus led local leaders throughout the Golden Triangle to consider mask requirements, with Oktibbeha County enacting its own this week as well. Mississippi State University requires masks on campus as of June 29. Starkville requires businesses as of today to monitor customers both at the entrance and inside in order to ensure that all customers over the age of 6 wear masks and that everyone adheres to social distancing, according to the resolution aldermen approved Tuesday. Stores must also provide signs at the door and markers on the floor reminding people to stay six feet apart. Violators face a fine of up to $1,000. The board heard four opinions in support of the mask requirement and two against it during the meeting. Cameron Huxford, a pulmonologist and the Intensive Care Unit medical director at OCH Regional Medical Center, expressed his opposition to the requirement and provided the board with a petition signed by 17 other doctors who share his view. The 18 doctors do not want to discourage the use of masks, but they oppose a government mandate because they do not believe there is sufficient data to show that masks effectively prevent the spread of COVID-19, Huxford wrote to the board.
Mississippi health officials sound alarm over 'skyrocketing' COVID-19 cases
As COVID-19 cases continue to mount at an increased rate in Mississippi, State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs says that with strain now evident on local healthcare systems, his "greatest fear is starting to be realized." In stark words, Dobbs held a press briefing on Tuesday and warned that the novel coronavirus is now transmitting at an increasingly alarming rate in the state amid a very weak commitment to containment measures in many communities. "It's not getting better, it's getting worse, and it's getting worse every day," Dobbs said. On Tuesday, the Health Department reported 957 new COVID-19 cases, as well as 44 deaths. These deaths included cases in the Northeast Mississippi counties of Chickasaw, Lee, Monroe, Oktibbeha and Union. The latest available data also indicates that 648 confirmed COVID-19 patients are hospitalized right now in Mississippi, the highest such number since the onset of the pandemic. The numbers of ICU patients with COVID-19 and patients on a ventilator are also near record highs.
At least 8 Mississippi lawmakers test positive for COVID-19
At least eight Mississippi lawmakers have tested positive for the coronavirus after working several weeks in a Capitol where many people stood or sat close together and did not wear masks. Among those who have publicly acknowledged having COVID-19 are Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann, who presides over the 52-member Senate, and House Speaker Philip Gunn, who presides over that 122-member chamber. The state health officer, Dr. Thomas Dobbs, said Tuesday that there are also at least 11 other suspected cases of the virus among legislators and Capitol employees. In addition, Dobbs said the virus is spreading in social gatherings across the state. Dobbs said, for example, he was told about teenagers having a party on a Pearl River sandbar in Jackson during the July 4 weekend and about people going without masks in restaurants and other public settings.
Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann tests positive for COVID-19
Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann has tested positive for coronavirus, according to his spokesperson. "Lieutenant Governor Delbert Hosemann has informed members of the Senate he tested positive for COVID-19 and will follow State Health Department guidelines by self-quarantining and working at home," said Leah Rupp Smith, his deputy chief of staff. There is a growing number of lawmakers who have tested positive for coronavirus, though the exact number is unclear. The Capitol was turned into a drive-through testing site Monday for staffers, lawmakers and journalists who had been working at the Legislature in recent days. The past few weeks were especially busy for the Legislature as members worked to pass budget bills and a bill that removed the state flag. Many visitors came to the Capitol to watch the historic proceedings and advocate for and against the flag. Health workers at the entrances screened people entering the building, but not everyone wore masks.
Mississippi Capitol 'was a ticking time bomb,' says Coast legislator with COVID-19
Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann and a number of Coast legislators have tested positive for COVID-19, with more positive tests expected to follow -- and more positive test results. State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said during a news conference Tuesday afternoon that eight legislators have tested positive for the new coronavirus, with 11 suspected cases. Dobbs said he believes most of the suspected cases will be confirmed. He said 270 legislators and staff members around the Capitol were tested Monday, with results expected by Tuesday evening. State Rep. Greg Haney, R-Gulfport, told the Sun Herald on Tuesday that he also has tested positive for COVID-19 but has no symptoms. Haney said the Mississippi State Health Department has advised legislators to self-quarantine for two weeks. "That many people in the Capitol -- all the legislators, all the lobbyists -- we knew it was a ticking time bomb, but we thought we were past it," Haney said.
In DeSoto County, COVID-19 cases and deaths continue to skyrocket
The Mississippi Department of Health reported 44 new coronavirus deaths and 957 new cases on Tuesday, bringing the state to a total of 32,214 cases and 1,158 deaths. 104 of those cases and two deaths come from DeSoto County. DeSoto County has the second-highest number of cases in the state, with 1,724. DeSoto only trails behind Hinds County's 2,591. In Mississippi, COVID-19 cases have increased by 40.2% over the last two weeks. State Health Officer, Dr. Thomas Dobbs, named DeSoto County as one of the state's COVID hot spots during Facebook Live news conference on Tuesday. "We are going to be in a sea of outbreaks, honestly," Dobbs said. Dobbs cited "foolish behavior" as the main cause of Mississippi's skyrocketing caseload, with many ignoring the public health guidelines that would slow the virus' spread. These guidelines include social distancing, wearing face masks in public and avoiding large gatherings.
'A veto is throwing the baby out with the bathwater:' Sen. Brice Wiggins responds to Reeves' post regarding education bill
Governor Tate Reeves took to social media on Tuesday to shed light on an education bill, which could mean potential pay cuts for over Mississippi 20,000 teachers. Now, Senator Brice Wiggins is pushing back and expressing his views that January is the ideal time to take a closer look at the issue, rather than at the start of the 2020 school year. Moreover, "a veto is throwing the baby out with the bathwater," Wiggins said in a Facebook post. "Gov. Reeves is right: we as a state have made great strides in education and we must continue on that path," Wiggins said. "Education policy works when there's data and science behind it, like our ELC program. January is the time to look at that." Reeves explained that he does not approve of this bill because he thinks the School Recognition program is a fundamental reason why Mississippi schools are improving. He also doesn't believe teachers should have their pay docked, especially if they were acknowledged for their work ethic. Wiggins addressed the significance of the School Recognition program and mentioned he voted for it when the program was introduced. However, this is a different time now that COVID-19 cases are continuing to rise, and as Wiggins put it "everyone took a hit."
Who received PPP loans in Mississippi?
Doctor's offices, restaurants and car dealers were the top businesses in Mississippi to receive loans from the $2 trillion coronavirus relief package signed into law this spring. The U.S. Treasury Department released the names of 650,000 businesses that received loans of $150,000 or more on Monday as part of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) designed to help small businesses, including nearly 4,000 in Mississippi. The program is part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act President Donald Trump signed. The released data also include information about smaller loan recipients, but excluded their names. In total, Mississippi businesses received between $2.5 billion and $4.4 billion in loans, spread across 45,000 recipients -- loans of $150,000 or larger are only disclosed in ranges. There is not an exact figure because many of these loans are disclosed in ranges. According to the data set, these loans will allow the businesses to retain a total of 412,492 jobs.
Andrew Jackson statue loses status in city named for him
A Mississippi city named after former U.S. President Andrew Jackson will remove a downtown statue of him and put it in a less prominent spot. The City Council in Jackson, Mississippi, voted 5-1 Tuesday to relocate the bronze figure that has stood outside City Hall for decades. It's the latest of many changes in the United States as people reconsider monuments to historical figures with connections to slavery and racism. No immediate plans were made for a time or place to move the Andrew Jackson statue, which is a bit larger than life and shows him standing in a military uniform. The statue was made in 1968 and dedicated in 1972. City Councilwoman Virgi Lindsay said it could go to a museum.
Columbus donates cemetery parcel to county for monument move
In a unanimous vote, Columbus City Council yielded a piece of land at Friendship Cemetery Tuesday night to Lowndes County for the relocation of the Confederate monument outside the county courthouse. The Tuesday vote came one day after county supervisors voted unanimously to move the statue, which has remained in its place for more than 100 years, to the cemetery contingent upon city agreement. The consensus among supervisors marked a victory for protesters who gathered outside the courthouse for weeks to call for the monument's removal and an end to systemic racism against the Black community. The monument, erected in 1912 to honor soldiers who fought for the South during the Civil War, deemed the war a "noble cause." State law forbids the removal of war monuments from public property, but allows a governing body to move them to a more "suitable" location within its jurisdiction, which means the county needs to own part of the city-owned cemetery to move the monument there.
Moving monuments like 'taking apart and reassembling a jigsaw puzzle'
On Monday, the Lowndes County Board of Supervisors voted to relocate the Confederate monument, which has resided on the southwest corner of the courthouse property since it was erected there in 1912. The plan is to move the 32-foot marble and mortar structure to a site at Friendship Cemetery, although some obstacles to the plan remain. For all the controversy surrounding the removal -- there were some clashes between protesters and counter-protesters in the weeks leading up to the vote, though no one was injured -- the supervisors' vote may turn out to be the easy part, said Key Blair of Columbus Marble Works. Later this month, Columbus Marble Works will relocate the Confederate Monument on the Ole Miss campus, which he said will give him some idea of what the company might face if it is contracted to move the Lowndes County monument. "The one at Ole Miss is pretty simple: It's more of a shaft with a statue on top," Blair said. "It's not as large as the one in Columbus, either. But there are things we'll learn doing that that will help us if we wind up relocating the one in Columbus." Blair said relocating monuments is like taking apart and then reassembling a jig-saw puzzle. "You start at the top and work your way down, piece by piece," he said.
House bid to remove Confederate statues at Capitol sets up fight with Senate
As demands for racial justice dominate the national consciousness, the House is moving along a draft Legislative Branch spending bill that would mandate statues of Confederates and others "with unambiguous records of racial intolerance" be removed from the Capitol. But the top Legislative Branch appropriator on the Senate panel, Chairwoman Cindy Hyde-Smith, is not calling for the removal of Confederate statues, setting up a potential fight on the provision when it reaches the chamber. Hyde-Smith's home state of Mississippi is the only one represented in the Capitol by statues of two Confederates: Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederate States of America, and James Zachariah George, a Confederate colonel. Hyde-Smith, a Republican, has said it's not up to Congress to decide whether Confederate statues should represent certain states in the Capitol. Her spokesman, Chris Gallegos, offered an emailed statement that she issued last month."There are clear rules and procedures set for the designation, receipt, and placement of statues in the United States Capitol," Hyde-Smith said. "Any state, including Mississippi, can avail itself to that process if it wants to exchange statues. How to best depict the history of our nation is always up for debate, but it is not the role of Congress to dictate to states which statues should be placed in the Capitol."
Arrival of new conflict chief at USAID ratchets up internal tensions
The arrival of a new political appointee is spawning confusion and concern at the U.S. Agency for International Development, where earlier staff changes have already led to serious internal tensions. Pete Marocco, who to date has held positions or details at the departments of Defense, State and Commerce under President Donald Trump, has now joined the aid agency, a USAID spokesperson confirmed. His transfer from the Pentagon to the aid agency, which manages roughly $20 billion in foreign aid each year, is being greeted with all the excitement of a root canal. The very uncertainty of Marocco's role is unsettling many inside the agency, particularly as he has infuriated career government employees throughout his time in the administration. USAID staffers have already been frustrated by the arrival of several other new political appointees whose past comments have sparked concerns about discrimination and other fears, as previously reported by POLITICO.
Supreme Court OKs Religious and Moral Exemptions for Birth-Control Coverage
The Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld Trump administration rules that expanded moral and religious exemptions to a federal requirement that employer-provided health-insurance plans cover birth control with no out-of-pocket costs. The court, in an opinion by Justice Clarence Thomas, said the administration "had the authority to provide exemptions from the regulatory contraceptive requirements for employers with religious and conscientious objections." The judgment came on a 7-2 vote, with Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan in the majority, though not all agreed on the reasoning. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor dissented. At issue in Wednesday's ruling was a mandate stemming from the Affordable Care Act that requires most employers to include contraception coverage in their health plans. While churches are exempt from the requirement, there have been years of legal battles over whether other employers, including those with religious affiliations, must comply.
MUW beginning on-campus tours starting Wednesday
On-campus tours are now an option for future students at the Mississippi University for Women in light of COVID-19. But there are a few rules they must follow before arriving. "So when we decided to re-launch this campus tour program, the first thing in mind was our safety of our students and staff," said Dwight Doughty, coordinator of admissions at MUW. Doughty said students and their parents should feel safer, with the restrictions in place. Starting Wednesday, future students will have the chance to visit the campus first-hand to see what MUW has to offer. "We placed a mask ordinance there to prevent any spread or prevent as much spread as possible," said Doughty. "As well as we placed social distancing in place." Buildings will be sanitized throughout the day.
Auburn University announces fall move-in process
Auburn University move-in will look slightly different this year due to COVID-19. The university released its "safe and simple" Fall 2020 move-in plan earlier this week, which includes several changes to the move-in process, most notably the lack of move-in volunteers. The university has had volunteers in the past help residents move into their new dormitory, but this year there will be no volunteers to maximize the health and safety of the residents, Auburn said. "Additionally, we will be unable to provide move-in equipment to assist with move-in," reads the university move-in information website. "You are welcome to bring your own items, such as wagons or dollies, to campus with you." Residents are highly encouraged by Auburn to pack light. "Packing light is key to a quick and easy move-in," the website reads. "Remember that you and your family will be responsible for unloading and carrying items to your room."
New ICE rule will 'devastate' U. of South Carolina, global students, and hurt economy, experts say
Issy Rushton had always dreamed of becoming an American college student. Ever since she was 15 and traveled to the states from her native country of Australia for a study abroad trip, she was hooked. She began classes at the University of South Carolina in 2017 and prospered, becoming the first international student body president in the school's history. Now a rising senior, she's just a week away from taking the LSAT to set her up for law school. Now, through no fault of her own, that dream -- and the dreams of other international students who have come to America to study -- has come into question. Monday, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced that all international students who are not taking in-person classes must either transfer schools or return to their home countries. The rule will be "devastating" to not only students, but the institutions that house them, said Agnes Mueller, the director of USC's Global Studies program. International students pay out-of-state tuition, which is $21,240 more per year than in-state students. They also spend their money in town while in school, buying groceries, paying rent, paying taxes and eating out -- a boon to the local economy.
'It's insane that this is not even up to me': International students at Texas universities can't return without in-person classes
When University of Texas at Austin senior Stephanie Flores-Reyes checked her fall course schedule earlier this week, she was shocked to see all five of her classes were slated to only be online. But as an international student from Mexico who spends the school year here on an F-1 student visa, it could suddenly be problematic for Flores-Reyes to be enrolled only in classes that meet online because of the coronavirus pandemic. On Monday, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced that nonimmigrant F-1 and M-1 visa holders in the United States under the Student Exchange Visitor Program will not be allowed to enter or stay in the country if they are attending American schools that will offer only online classes this fall. Instead, they must either transfer to a school with in-person instruction or "potentially face immigration consequences," according to a release. The new guidance drew heavy criticism from education groups. The move also has some higher education experts worried about what will happen if more classes get pushed online, even if a school is designated to be hybrid.
Kathryn Chval out as U. of Missouri College of Education dean
The University of Missouri's College of Education dean, Kathryn Chval, will no longer serve in the position, effective immediately. Erica Lembke, chair of the college's Department of Special Education, will serve as interim dean, Provost Latha Ramchand said in a Tuesday email to faculty, staff and students at the college. Chval will return to teaching and research. Ramchand did not provide any explanation in the email for the change in leadership. MU spokesperson Christian Basi confirmed the leadership change Tuesday. No further information about the move was being made public, he said. Chval has served as dean for the college since March 2016. She has worked at MU since 2003. Her interim replacement, Lembke, has also been at MU since 2003 and has served as chair of the Department of Special Education since 2015. In 2018, Chval was one of four candidates vying for the position of provost, during which she emphasized her focus on diversity and inclusivity at MU. Ramchand was chosen over Chval for the position.
Pandemic has exacerbated a hard insurance market for higher ed
Over the Fourth of July weekend, Jean Demchak's work didn't stop. The popular July 1 renewal date for college insurance policies had just passed, and she met with several institutions to review their policies for the next year. As the meetings wrapped up, she asked if her clients had any quotes to summarize the year and the renewal process. "Let's not do this again next year," one said. "It's been a shitty year," said another. Demchak is managing director and global education and public entity leader at Marsh Inc., an insurance brokerage and risk management firm. The insurance market for higher education has hardened over the past several years, and the coronavirus pandemic has added a new strain on underwriters and policy holders alike. "Our work has absolutely increased tenfold because of the work around COVID," Demchak said. Premiums for higher education clients rose between 20 and 40 percent this year, said Bret Murray, who leads higher education strategy at Risks Strategies Company, a national insurance brokerage and risk management firm.
Higher ed leaders warn House committee of financial strain
Higher education leaders told House lawmakers Tuesday that they are facing financial strains as states begin mulling cuts to their budgets amid the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. Timothy White, chancellor of the California State University (CSU) system, told lawmakers on the House Education and Labor Committee on Tuesday that CSU is preparing for "a grim new fiscal reality" as it readies for the fall. "Our campuses face soaring costs in mounting revenue losses associated with the pandemic, putting our student's well being and academic success at risk," he said. White asked Congress for "additional support and investment during this historic public health crisis." In March, Congress passed the CARES Act, a $2.2 trillion stimulus package that allocated $14 billion to higher education. But despite additional funding, states have depleted their budgets in an attempt to mitigate the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, including buying supplies such as personal protective equipment. States have also taken a hit because of economic fallout caused by shuttering businesses to stop the spread of the disease.
Trump Visa Rules Seen as Way to Pressure Colleges on Reopening
A directive by the Trump administration that would strip international college students of their U.S. visas if their coursework was entirely online prompted widespread confusion on Tuesday as students scrambled to clarify their statuses and universities reassessed their fall reopening policies amid the coronavirus pandemic. The White House measure, announced on Monday, was seen as an effort to pressure universities into reopening their gates and abandoning the cautious approaches that many have announced they would adopt to reduce Covid-19 transmission. The effect may be to dramatically reduce the number of international students enrolling in the fall. Together with delays in processing visas as a result of the pandemic, immigrant advocates say the new rules, which must still be finalized this month, might discourage many overseas students from attending American universities, where they often pay full tuition. The United States has long attracted a bevy of international students, and in recent years they have become a key source of funding for both private and state colleges and universities, as many have struggled with reduced U.S. enrollment and state funding.
Trump administration pushes for colleges and schools to reopen
As the Trump administration leaned on governors to reopen their states' schools and a U.S. House subcommittee debated whether to give colleges the additional billions they say they need, the head of the University of Southern California's Race and Equity Center urged lawmakers to take steps to make sure resuming campus learning does not worsen disparate impacts the coronavirus pandemic has had on communities of color. With Congress beginning to consider another coronavirus relief package, Shaun R. Harper called on the House higher education subcommittee to earmark money for colleges to protect front-line campus workers such as custodians and food service workers who are disproportionately Black and Latino. People of color have been unequally infected by the deadly virus, said Harper, a USC provost professor and president of the American Educational Research Association. Not taking action "places people of color and their family members they live with at greater risk," he told lawmakers during a hearing on the needs of colleges during the pandemic.
Trump Pledges To 'Pressure' Governors To Reopen Schools Despite Health Concerns
President Trump vowed to exert pressure on states to reopen their school districts this fall even as large parts of the country are experiencing a spike in COVID-19 cases. "We're very much going to put pressure on governors and everybody else to open the schools," Trump said during a roundtable discussion Tuesday afternoon at the White House. "Get open in the fall. We want your schools open," Trump said. The president spoke alongside first lady Melania Trump, administration officials and teachers as part of planned programming from the White House to push for the reopening of schools. Despite Trump's comments, senior administration officials said on a background call with reporters Tuesday morning that the decision to reopen public schools remains a local one. In guidance issued last week, the American Academy of Pediatrics called for bringing children back to the classroom this fall wherever and whenever it can be done safely.
President Trump threatens to cut off funding unless schools reopen amid COVID-19
President Donald Trump put the nation's schools on notice Wednesday that he may cut off their funding if they don't reopen their classrooms this fall. One day after he promised to put "a lot of pressure" on schools to reopen, Trump served up a new threat on Twitter. "In Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and many other countries, SCHOOLS ARE OPEN WITH NO PROBLEMS," he wrote. "The Dems think it would be bad for them politically if U.S. schools open before the November Election, but is important for the children & families. May cut off funding if not open!" Trump issued the warning as the White House Coronavirus Task Force was preparing to meet at the U.S. Department of Education headquarters in Washington. On Tuesday, the president and first lady Melania Trump staged a White House event designed to push local school districts to reopen in the fall. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said "it's not a question of if -- it's just a question of how" schools reopen this fall. She also warned against "excuse-making or fear-mongering."
Free saliva-based COVID-19 tests begin at U. of Illinois, but school won't say if students are required to take them
On a boiling summer morning, students and faculty at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign trickled into a large, open-air tent and got the first glimpse of what will become a common sight on campus this fall: a COVID-19 testing center. Unlike many of the tests used to detect the coronavirus, which require an uncomfortable swab deep into the nose, the tests at UIUC rely on saliva. All participants need to do is drool into a test tube, hand it to a worker and wait for results within about 24 hours. The process, school officials say, can help the university reach its goal of conducting 10,000 tests per day at more than a dozen campus sites by Aug. 24, when in-person classes resume. "We think this is breakthrough technology," said Tim Killeen, president of the University of Illinois System, who submitted his own saliva sample on Tuesday. "It's low cost. It's rapid. We're going to be able to do this for many, many people coming in." But many professors have voiced opposition to the plan, and key questions about the tests linger: It's not clear if students will be required to undergo testing, and the school has yet to receive federal approval to expand testing beyond the university community, though one of its labs is certified to analyze results.
Michael V. Drake named new UC president, first Black leader in system's 152-year history
Michael V. Drake, a national champion for access and equity who previously headed The Ohio State University and UC Irvine, was selected Tuesday as the new president of the University of California and first Black leader in the system's 152-year history. The UC Board of Regents unanimously approved Drake's selection, seizing a historic opportunity to hire a person of color to head a system whose 285,000 students are now majority nonwhite as the nation grapples with a sweeping racial reckoning. He will succeed President Janet Napolitano, who will step down Aug.1 after seven years. In brief remarks after the vote, Drake thanked his supporters and said he looked forward to working with UC colleagues to meet such major challenges as the global pandemic, climate change and "the yawning wounds of social injustice." He said he changed his plans to retire when he was presented with the chance to return to the university that transformed his life. He would oversee the nation's most complex public research university system -- a $39.8-billion operation of 10 campuses, five medical centers and three national laboratories -- as it confronts a global pandemic, financial uncertainty and demands to further diversify campuses and defund UC police.
Legacy of John C. Stennis challenged in the wake of 'Black Lives Matter' movement
Syndicated columnist Sid Salter writes: The social and cultural ripples from the "Black Lives Matter" movement continue, from the amazing saga of the taking down of the Mississippi state flag to the ongoing debate over moving or removing monuments and changing building names on edifices named for individuals who don't pass muster through the prism of racial justice. One of the most discussed possible successor designs for a new Mississippi state flag is the so-called "Stennis flag" or "Hospitality flag" designed and promoted by the late senator's granddaughter Laurin Stennis. Late in the state flag fight, Stennis voluntarily pulled her name away from her flag design when liberal critics blasted adoption of a new Mississippi flag from the progeny of someone those critics see only as a segregationist and racist. ... In addition to the Mississippi state flag debate, there have been national calls to revisit the Stennis name on structures including the U.S. Navy's Nimitz-class nuclear aircraft carrier the USS John C. Stennis. and the Stennis Space Center in Hancock County, Mississippi.

Mike Leach headlines first 'stop' on Mississippi State's virtual Road Dawgs Tour
The 2020 Road Dawgs Tour is off and running -- virtually, that is. Trading in breweries and restaurants around the South for weekly Zoom calls, Mississippi State football coach Mike Leach was among the three-coach contingent that kicked off this year's online version of the annual event. Joined by softball coach Samantha Ricketts and track and field coach Chris Woods, Leach spent almost an hour answering questions regarding his team's return to play, video conference meetings and more. "I think we're in about as good a space as we can be because everybody is really excited to get out there," Leach said. "When we were allowed to start working out some, to be perfectly honest, I've never seen a group more excited to get out there and work out." Speaking in reference to the team-wide Zoom calls he and the rest of the MSU coaching staff have grown accustomed to during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Leach noted the visual medium gives his players a chance to catch up and poke fun at one another in ways they hadn't previously had during the varying stages of quarantine that have endured across the country.
MAIS adopts guidelines for school openings and sports play
On Tuesday, July 7, the Executive Board of the Midsouth Association of Independent Schools (MAIS) adopted guidelines for school openings and sports play for the 2020-21 school year. The guidelines were adapted from publications of the CDC and the Mississippi Department of Health. Leaders said the guidelines will provide a minimum standard for member schools to operate fully and safely and to engage in interscholastic athletic competition according to the normal schedule for play. MAIS said members may have different county or parish restrictions and may adopt local policies and procedures in addition to the MAIS minimum standards. Some schools may impose campus restrictions or operate with a blend of campus-based and internet-based instruction. The MAIS suggested first day of school is Monday, August 10, 2020. Friday, July 31, 2020, marks the first play date for fast-pitch softball, volleyball, and girls soccer for the 2020-21 school year. The first football play date is Friday, August 21, 2020.
Next Steps for a Federal Name, Image and Likeness Bill Coming Into Focus
Roger Wicker fumbled with the band that secures his surgical mask. The dang thing wouldn't stay properly fixed on his face, always slipping down to expose his nostrils -- a no-no in these pandemic times. Even U.S. senators aren't exempt from the difficulties of wearing a faceguard. Finally, Wicker (R-Miss.) had enough. He re-tied one of the bands, fastened it behind his ear and, voila, was appropriately shielded. "O.K.," he tells a reporter after a recent Senate hearing, "I'm ready for the interview." If only everything could be so easy. Wicker will soon have much bigger matters to solve, issues needing a deeper solution than a 10-second knot. As the chairman of the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee, he leads a powerful body that holds the most significant influence of any on Capitol Hill for college sports' most troubling issue: athlete compensation, often referred to as name, image and likeness (NIL). Any federal legislation on NIL must pass through the Commerce Committee. That makes Wicker the most important individual around the issue, controlling the figurative legislative levers from behind the curtain.
Vanderbilt eliminating athletics communications department
Vanderbilt sent emails Monday to athletics communications department employees stating the department was being absorbed by the university and that some key positions were eliminated. Andy Boggs, a longtime assistant director for athletics communications who oversaw men's basketball and golf, was laid off as part of the new structure. "I enjoyed my 13 years at Vanderbilt," Boggs said Tuesday. "It was a great place to be and work with great coaches and great student-athletes. I loved working with the media every day. I'm sorry to have to leave under these circumstances, but there's bigger and better things for me, and I'm ready to go get them." Before the end of the day Monday, Boggs' Vanderbilt email was disconnected and his bio on the website was taken down. Boggs said the email stated existing employees in the athletics communications department would be given the opportunity to re-apply in September for jobs in the new structure.
Alabama going mobile-only for football tickets
In what it calls measures to provide a safer environment and help protect against fraudulent tickets, the University of Alabama is transitioning to a mobile-only ticketing and parking pass system beginning with the 2020 football season. The movement applies to season tickets, home single-game tickets, neutral-site game tickets, away game tickets and parking passes. In the new system, purchasers will receive their tickets via email, which will allow them to download the tickets to Apple Wallet or Google Pay Wallet, where the tickets will be scanned for entrance to the stadium. Tickets printed at home will not be accepted. "Information regarding capacity at all Alabama home events will be determined at a later date," the release said. Season ticket holders, with the exception of UA students, faculty and staff, will still have the option to sell their tickets online (Stubhub is UA's official fan-to-fan marketplace) or transfer tickets to someone else.

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 8, 2020Facebook Twitter