Friday, July 10, 2020   
Mississippi State doctoral student honored for agronomy research
A Mississippi State graduate student is being recognized this year as a Future Leader in Science, an honor bestowed by the agronomy tri-societies -- the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America and Soil Science Society of America. Charles "Hunt" Walne, an MSU agronomy doctoral student in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, earlier this year was one of 18 graduate students chosen as a recipient of the Future Leader in Science award and invited to the tri-societies' annual Congressional Visits Day at the U.S. Capitol to advocate the importance of federal funding for agricultural research to Mississippi legislators. In keeping with the United Nations General Assembly having named 2020 the "International Year of Plant Health," the Collierville, Tennessee native also was invited to the Capitol event to present research conducted by K. Raja Reddy -- Walne's major professor -- about crop performance in projected future climates. This work was made possible using the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station's unique Soil-Plant-Atmosphere-Research Facility, known as the SPAR unit.
MSU Dual Degree Program with U. of Arkansas for Medical Sciences
Mississippi State University recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences to establish a new program that will allow students to earn both an MSU bachelor's degree in medical technology and a UAMS bachelor's degree in medical laboratory sciences. The dual degree program, which equips graduates for careers as medical technologists, begins in the fall of 2020. For certification and licensure, medical technologists must master subjects including hematology, immunology, urinalysis, microbiology, chemistry, parasitology, toxicology, blood banking and transfusion and lab safety and operation, a release from MSU says. MSU medical technology students will spend their last year of undergraduate studies completing an internship off campus at UAMS and then complete one extra semester at an Arkansas hospital to complete requirements for the additional bachelor's degree.
Current, former SPD chiefs advocate for police reform in nationwide panel
Starkville Police Chief Mark Ballard said he wants police officers to be as respected as health care workers and college professors, but they have to earn it. "I absolutely believe that most law enforcement consists of good men and women, but it is absolutely a profession that is struggling and warrants reform," Ballard said at a virtual town hall meeting hosted Thursday night by Phi Beta Sigma, a national fraternity of law enforcement executives, and the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Officers. "I'm an advocate for leadership development, for raising the standards, for accountability and for a very real talk of retention and recruiting." Ballard's predecessor, Frank Nichols, was also one of the 11 panelists in the discussion about police reform and ways to build bridges between the police and the communities they are meant to serve. The panelists, most of whom were Black, ranged in location from Los Angeles to Memphis to suburban Dallas. Starkville Police Department is one of the few in the country to be nationally accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies. Ballard said accreditation "could be very much a silver bullet to address a lot of the issues in law enforcement," partly because CALEA requires departments to have strategies to recruit minority officers.
A conversation with Darrin Webb on Mississippi's economy
How bad has the coronavirus impacted the economy? How long will it take the state to recover? Will changing the state flag attract more business to the state? The Northside Sun asked all this and more to Darrin Webb, the state economist. Webb received his bachelor's and master's degrees from Mississippi State University and his doctorate from Clemson University. First things first, Mississippi will soon have a new flag. Will removing the Confederate battle emblem have a positive impact on our economy? "I've been asked that question in the past and my response has always been, 'I have no way of measuring the economic impact of the state flag.' I don't know how you would begin to do that. My thinking has been we've got challenges in the state that are superseding the issue of the state flag. We have a relatively small low-skill workforce that's not very concentrated. We're fairly rural. However, given the current political and cultural climate, had we not changed the flag, the (negative) impact could have been far greater than it has been in the past."
Google selects Mississippi site for 1st US operations center
Google's first U.S. operations center is coming to northwest Mississippi. The company announced Thursday it will lease a new 60,000-square-foot facility in Southaven, Mississippi, near Memphis, Tennessee. Google expects the site, which will provide customer and operations support to customers worldwide, to be operational by summer 2021. "This Google Operations Center represents a critical investment for the company and we look forward to being an active member of the local community for years to come," said Troy Dickerson, vice president of Google Operations Center. "The new site will give us the opportunity to hire amazing local talent and we are confident that the Southaven community will be a great home for our Operations Center." Employees will provide customer service to Google users by handling product troubleshooting, among other tasks. The company has kicked off recruiting efforts and intends to hire 100 employees by the end of the year.
Google announces first U.S. Google Operations Center coming to Southaven
Google announced on Thursday that it will be opening its first U.S. Google Operations Center in Southaven, Mississippi. The Operations Center will provide customer and operations support to Google's customers and users. The Southaven location will be the first US-based center, but the third of its kind. One is in the Indian state of Telangana and the other is in Manila, the capital of the Philippines. "When we were thinking through where we could and would want to put our first U.S. based operations center a few things came to mind. The most important being access to great local talent, a welcoming community, and availability of land, to be quite frank. We need to build the thing... Mississippi, and Southaven specifically, fit the bill," a Google spokesperson said. "Google is a titan in the global economy and we are honored to have their first-class operation in our city," said Southaven Mayor Darren Musselwhite.
Tyson Turns to Robot Butchers, Spurred by Coronavirus Outbreaks
Deboning livestock and slicing up chickens has long been hands-on labor. Low-paid workers using knives and saws work on carcasses moving steadily down production lines. It is labor-intensive and dangerous work. Those factory floors have been especially conducive to spreading coronavirus. Meatpackers in response spent hundreds of millions of dollars on safety equipment such as personal protective gear, thermal scanners and workplace partitions, and they boosted workers' pay to encourage them to stay on the job. They also are searching for a longer-term solution. That quest is playing out in a former truck-maintenance shop near the Springdale, Ark., headquarters of meatpacking giant Tyson Foods Inc. There, company engineers and scientists are pushing into robotics, a development the industry has been slow to embrace and has struggled to adopt. The team, including designers who once worked in the auto industry, are developing an automated deboning system destined to handle some of the roughly 39 million chickens slaughtered, plucked and sliced up each week in Tyson plants.
'Take this as an alarm': Gov. Tate Reeves orders mask mandate for 13 Mississippi counties
Gov. Tate Reeves announced a new executive order Thursday afternoon that will require residents of 13 counties to wear masks while at public gatherings or in a "shopping environment." The order will also ban social gatherings of more than 10 people indoors, 20 people outdoors, and place other restrictions on businesses -- but will not force them to close. "Mississippi is in a fight for our lives," Reeves said. "... we are in the middle of a spike." The order, which is still being finalized, will go into effect next week and applies to the following counties: Hinds, DeSoto, Harrison, Rankin, Jackson, Washington, Sunflower, Grenada, Madison, Claiborne, Jefferson, Wayne and Quitman. Reeves said the criteria for those counties being chosen include having seen 200 new cases within the last 14 days or having had an average of 500 cases per 100,000 residents over that same time period.
As cases surge, governor mandates masks in 13 counties
As Mississippi's number of COVID-19 cases continues to hit all-time highs, Gov. Tate Reeves is imposing a mandate to wear masks in 13 counties – including some of the state's most populous. During a Thursday news conference, Reeves said the criteria for counties chosen include having seen 200 new cases within the last 14 days or having had an average of 500 cases per 100,000 residents over that time. "We've got to take additional measures or our health care system is going to be overwhelmed," Reeves said. The mask order goes into effect Monday, but during Thursday's news conference Reeves pleaded with residents of all counties to wear masks when in public places and to also social distance. The counties in the order touch most areas of the state. The counties are Hinds, DeSoto, Harrison, Rankin, Jackson, Washington, Sunflower, Grenada, Madison, Claiborne, Jefferson, Wayne and Quitman. In addition, the mandates limit social gatherings to 10 people indoors and 20 outdoors.
Mississippi's five largest hospitals are out of ICU beds
Mississippi's five largest hospitals had no intensive care unit beds available for patients by midweek because of a surge in coronavirus cases, officials reported Thursday. Four more hospitals had 5% or less of those beds available. "I was woken up by a phone call yesterday morning at 4 a.m. because we had so many patients at our hospital, we didn't know where to put them," Dr. Alan Jones, assistant vice chancellor for clinical affairs of the University of Mississippi Medical Center, said Thursday. Mississippi has one of the fastest-growing rates of new coronavirus cases in the United States. One county, Grenada, saw a 22% increase in reported cases from last week to this week. Simpson County saw an 18% increase. Compounding Mississippi's rising cases is the fact that it is one of the states with the fewest health care resources in the country, and hospitals are already stretched thin, a panel of medical officials said at a news conference Thursday.
'We went from shelter-in-place to wide open:' Health officials say system is overwhelmed
The five largest medical centers in Mississippi have no ICU bed space for new patients -- coronavirus or otherwise – and are being forced to turn patients away, even as COVID-19 continue to surge. In some cases, patients are being sent to facilities out of state and as far away as New Orleans. In many hospitals, patients admitted to the ER are being forced to spend the night before they receive treatment. "(Wednesday), five of our biggest hospitals in the state had zero ICU beds. Zero," State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said. "Our biggest medical institutions who take care of our sickest patients have no room." The transition from shelter-in-place to where we currently stand, with the highest number of hospitalizations since the first reported case of the coronavirus virus on March 11, has left the state "wide open," said Dr. Louann Woodward, UMMC vice chancellor for health affairs. "As we have eased up and as we have opened up, we have seen a much more rapid spread of the virus across our state. In fact, we are having -- right now -- our largest surge of patients..." "We went from shelter in place to really wide open. We have got to find that right place, that middle ground," she said.
Central Mississippi Hospitals At Capacity, School Openings Planned Amid Growing Crisis
"Yesterday, five of our biggest hospitals in the state had zero ICU beds. Zero. An additional four had 5% or less. An additional 3 had less than 10%. Our biggest medical institutions who take care of our sickest patients have no room," State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs warned Thursday. Dobbs spoke at the University of Mississippi Medical Center among a panel of Mississippi's leading health-care experts, including Dr. LouAnn Woodward, vice chancellor of UMMC. "Mississippi went from shelter-in-place to wide open," Woodward said, regardless of whether the decision was "official or unofficial." The experts present at the conference made it clear that situations just like the one unfolding at the state's only Level 1 trauma center are being replicated across Mississippi. "We are speaking for the health-care workforce in the state of Mississippi. We are begging, and we are asking for the people of Mississippi to get on board with us," Woodward said. The accomplishments of Mississippi's initial shelter-in-place order have been wiped out, Dobbs lamented. "We sacrificed a lot in those three weeks, and we've given it all back and then some."
State health officer calls out 'reckless abandon' of Mississippians during pandemic
State health officials gave a plea to Mississippians on Thursday to take the COVID-19 pandemic seriously as cases continue to rise and major hospitals reach full capacity. "This issue is not about limiting anybody's right to make their own personal decisions," said Dr. LouAnn Woodward, the vice chancellor of the University of Mississippi Medical Center, at a press conference at UMMC. "Things are not normal, and we can't behave as if they are, because we're fooling ourselves and the numbers are showing that what we're doing now is not working." Mississippi reached its highest seven-day average for new daily cases on July 4 at 734, a 135 percent increase from exactly a month ago. On Wednesday, the state recorded its highest number of confirmed hospitalizations in a day with 686, a 67 percent increase from a month ago. UMMC has already turned away transfers of COVID-19 patients from other hospitals, as well as patients with heart conditions, strokes, and trauma, said Dr. Alan Jones, the hospital's assistance vice chancellor for clinical affairs.
Mississippi seeing big virus outbreak in Legislature
Packed elevators and crowded committee rooms. Legislators sitting shoulder-to-shoulder on the House and Senate floor. People standing close to each other and talking, sometimes leaning in to whisper, without a mask in sight. Those were common scenes at the Mississippi Capitol in June -- a month that saw a historic vote to remove the Confederate emblem from the state flag -- and now at least 26 lawmakers have been diagnosed with the coronavirus in the biggest known outbreak in any state legislature in the nation. That works out to about 1 in 7 Mississippi legislators. In addition to the legislators, at least 10 people who work in the Capitol have been diagnosed with the virus, the state health officer said Wednesday. And the numbers could well be higher: The figures are based only on Health Department testing done in Jackson, including drive-thru testing Monday at the Capitol. Some members were tested after returning to their hometowns beginning July 1.
Mississippi governor vetoes criminal justice bills
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves has vetoed two criminal justice bills, one of which would have given thousands of offenders the chance at parole from the crowded prison system. "I know that I'll get attacked and protested for this," Republican Reeves wrote in a statement about the veto on his social media accounts late Wednesday. "In a time when efforts to 'defund police' and 'dismantle the criminal justice system' are part of the discussion, they'll probably try to paint any effort at law and order as the radical position." The Mississippi Correctional Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2020, or Senate Bill 2123, would have let people convicted of nonviolent offenses become eligible for parole after serving 25% of their sentence. People convicted of violent offenses would have been 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. Reeves said he felt like the legislation was "well-intentioned" but went "too far."
State marine agency in limbo over power struggle, legislative COVID-19 outbreak
A major state agency -- charged in part with marine law enforcement -- remains in limbo over a power struggle over spending Gulf restoration money, and because of a coronavirus outbreak at the Capitol. Lawmakers set the rest of a $6 billion budget and left town July 1 still at an impasse over the Department of Marine Resources roughly $23 million state budget. They had plans to return within a week and haggle out DMR's budget, but a COVID-19 outbreak at the Capitol has infected at least 26 legislators and 10 staffers, and the Capitol and Legislature are now shut down for at least two weeks. Without a budget, DMR Director Joe Spraggins on Wednesday said the agency that regulates fisheries and provides marine law enforcement is operating at a bare minimum, meeting federal mandates and emergency patrols and rescues. He said most of the agency's 175 employees are furloughed until the Legislature can return and come to agreement and pass DMR's annual budget. The impasse is over control and oversight of projects for nearly $52 million in Gulf oil and gas revenue Mississippi is receiving this year.
Week after Mississippi flag retired, Sen. Chris McDaniel spearheads push for future referendum
A week after the Mississippi state flag was officially retired, Senator Chris McDaniel (R-Ellisville) is calling for a referendum. McDaniel, perhaps one of the loudest voices against the resolution to retire the state flag, is saying that Mississippians deserved the right to vote on whether to keep the flag, not politicians. He is now directing his followers to Let Mississippi Vote!, a website whose front page declares, "With the historic flag vote in Jackson, our legislators stole our voice from us." According to McDaniel, their current mission is to amass enough volunteers who have an interest in making the referendum a possibility. The current goal is 5,000 volunteers. McDaniel said that 1,000 people volunteered in the website's first 24 hours. As for when the referendum would occur, he said this November would be too soon.
Top military officer labels Confederacy as treasonous as Pentagon takes 'hard look' at rebel ties
The military's top officer on Thursday described Confederate leaders as traitors and said he is taking a "hard look" at renaming 10 Army installations that honor them, despite President Trump's opposition to any changes. "The Confederacy, the American Civil War was fought, and it was an act of rebellion," the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark A. Milley, told members of the House Armed Services Committee. "It was an act of treason at the time against the Union, against the Stars and Stripes, against the U.S. Constitution, and those officers turned their back on their oath." The Army is now about 20 percent black, he said. "For those young soldiers that go onto a base -- a Fort Hood, a Fort Bragg or a fort wherever named after a Confederate general -- they can be reminded that that general fought for the institution of slavery that may have enslaved one of their ancestors," he said. Last month, Trump rejected calls to rename installations after Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper signaled a willingness to do so, saying his administration "will not even consider" that plan.
Wicker, Hyde-Smith, Palazzo, Kelly, Guest Strongly Oppose Effort to Rename Stennis Space Center
U.S. Senators Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., and Representatives Steven Palazzo, R-Miss., Trent Kelly, R-Miss., and Michael Guest, R-Miss., on Thursday issued the following statement regarding a new effort to rename the NASA John C. Stennis Space Center in Hancock County: "We strongly oppose any effort to rename the John C. Stennis Space Center. In serving the people of Mississippi and the United States for more than 40 years in Congress, Senator Stennis was known above all as a principled and fair-minded leader with a keen interest in promoting our national security. He was also a strong advocate for American leadership in space exploration. As President Reagan noted in his 1988 executive order to rename the facility, the Stennis Space Center would not exist without his strong support for our nation's fledgling space program and his personal advocacy for the project to the residents of Hancock County. Removing Senator Stennis's name from the facility he was instrumental in creating would do nothing to advance the cause of justice in our nation."
Republicans discussing coronavirus aid package contours
The Trump administration would support another round of tax rebate checks and help for restaurants, hotels and airlines as part of the next coronavirus aid package, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Thursday. Outlining potential elements of a new aid package, which Congress plans to negotiate later this month, Mnuchin said he is also working on a "technical fix" to any extension of expanded unemployment benefits so that workers don't earn more in benefits than they would on the job. Those benefits, which were enacted in March and will expire at the end of this month, currently provide an extra $600 a week to jobless workers, on top of their regular state-issued benefits. Mnuchin, who has served as the administration's point man on aid talks, told CNBC's "Squawk Box" that he had conferred Wednesday with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows about a new package. McConnell has said he hopes to unveil a Republican proposal by the time the Senate reconvenes on July 20. McConnell said Monday that a new round a tax rebate checks should be limited to lower-income people.
Homeland Security Turns to Defending Statues Amid Questions Over Priorities
When he first took office, President Trump repurposed the Department of Homeland Security to focus on illegal immigration and border security. As his re-election campaign turned to a "law and order" theme, the department's border agents, immigration officers and drones were sent to surveil cities crowded with anti-racism protesters. Then, in the past few weeks, with the commander in chief striking up a divisive defense of statues and monuments, the department redeployed some of its officers again, this time to guard granite and steel sculptures and property in Seattle; Portland, Ore.; and Washington, D.C. And on each move, the president has found the warm embrace of Chad F. Wolf, his acting homeland security secretary. That has led former Department of Homeland Security officials from both parties to fear that a department created from the ashes of Sept. 11, 2001, to guard against terrorism has been transformed into an engine of Mr. Trump's political whims. Mr. Wolf's task force to protect "historic monuments, memorials, statues and federal facilities" has already started an inquiry at the House Homeland Security Committee. "I would like to understand why Federal Protective Service (F.P.S.) personnel are not adequate to carry out the task of protecting federal property," Representative Bennie Thompson, Democrat of Mississippi and the committee's chairman, wrote in a letter to Mr. Wolf.
Several Breaux and Lott clients move to Crossroads
Crossroads Strategies registered to lobby this week for three of the clients that former Sens. John Breaux (D-La.) and Trent Lott (R-Miss.) represented while they worked at Squire Patton Boggs. Breaux and Lott worked at Squire Patton Boggs for a decade before the firm fired Lott last month. Lott said he was ousted after the firm found out he was in discussions to leave; Squire Patton Boggs has declined to comment on why he was fired. Lott and Breaux signed on as senior partners at Crossroads -- where John Green, a former Lott staffer and fellow Mississippian, is chief executive -- a week later. Lott and Breaux have brought three of their old clients with them to Crossroads: the American Shrimp Processors Association; the LHC Group, a Louisiana health care provider; and Sanderson Farms, a Mississippi chicken producer. They expect to bring over 10 to 15 of the clients for which they lobbied at Squire Patton Boggs by the end of the summer, according to someone familiar with the matter.
Year of surprise Supreme Court rulings shows influence of powerful chief justice John Roberts
When the Supreme Court opened its 2019 term nine months ago with a debate about the meaning of insanity, few could have predicted how crazy things would get. The chief justice presiding over a president's Senate impeachment trial. A viral pandemic forcing the first postponement of oral arguments in a century. The oldest justice questioning lawyers from her hospital bed. The quietest justice speaking up daily. Opinions being released into July for the first time since 1996. By the end of the term Thursday, the customarily conservative court had issued a series of decisions on gay and transgender rights, the DACA program, abortion rights and President Trump's lack of immunity from criminal investigation that produced the loudest cheers from liberals. The lesson from the court seemed to be that while the president, the Democratic House and the Republican Senate are predictable, a court of nine is harder to pin down. That unpredictability is largely the work of Chief Justice John Roberts, who at 65 with 15 years leading the court has become a hugely influential figure in American life.
CDC director: Keeping schools closed poses greater health threat to children than reopening
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Robert Redfield said Thursday that the health risks of keeping schools closed are greater than those of opening them, amid a push by President Trump to have students in classrooms this fall. "I'm of the point of view as a public health leader in this nation, that having the schools actually closed is a greater public health threat to the children than having the schools reopen," Redfield told The Hill's Steve Clemons. The comments in favor of reopening schools from Redfield come as Trump presses for schools to reopen. On Wednesday, the president criticized the CDC in a tweet for "their very tough & expensive guidelines for opening schools," raising fears about the politicization of the country's leading public health agency. "I think really people underestimate the public health consequences of having the schools closed on the kids," Redfield said at an event hosted by The Hill and sponsored by the Biosimilars Forum. "I'm confident we can open these schools safely, work in partnership with the local jurisdictions."
President Scott Alsobrooks: East Mississippi Community College will 'open for business' in fall
East Mississippi Community College plans to hold in-person courses this fall, according to president Scott Alsobrooks. "We're opening for business," Alsobrooks said at Thursday's Clay County Board of Supervisors meeting. "But it will be different." EMCC will require both faculty and students to wear masks, and will make "plenty of hand sanitizer" available, Alsobrooks said. "We're going to separate our desks and try and keep (students) separated as much as possible with the social distancing part," Alsobrooks said. "Our classrooms may look a little different." Online classes will also be offered, Alsobrooks said. "Some of the enrollment is lagging a little bit from where it was last year," Alsobrooks said. "I just think it's the fear factor. If we can share the word that we're open and we're going to do it safely, we have to get back to school."
The Past Isn't Dead: UM's Winding Road to a Fight Over a Statue and a Cemetery
Swaths of chain-link fence with privacy covers now surround the rebel-soldier monument at the Lyceum in the center of the University of Mississippi campus, as well as the front of the Confederate cemetery behind the Tad Smith Coliseum. Small groups of security personnel and campus police are together providing perimeter security since the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning voted on June 18 to move the rebel-soldier statue to the cemetery where at least 350 Confederate soldiers are buried in unmarked graves. Amid uncertainty over funding, the cemetery already shows signs of construction underway on the cemetery to ready it for what will clearly be its main attraction -- a 30-foot-tall Confederate soldier that many students, faculty and alumni have fought for approximately five years to relocate, with removal efforts beginning in earnest in early 2019. IHL boardbooks for June 18, 2020, show that it approved two companies to undertake the relocation plans---structural engineer W. Mark Watson and McCarty King Construction Company. Both companies are based in Tupelo and declined comment. Despite signs that the relocation plans are moving ahead, a little-known strategy to create what many critics disparage as a "shrine" to the Confederacy in the cemetery, centered with the 114-year-old statue, is still roiling the north Mississippi state university 22 days after the close-held renovation plans and renderings went public just as IHL approved the relocation.
Quad halls at Auburn to undergo renovations in five phases
The Auburn University Board of Trustees approved a proposed renovation of the Quad residence halls at its July 9 meeting and authorized the commencement of the architect selection process. While they have been periodically renovated, Auburn's Quad residence halls are some of the longest standing buildings on campus, with four of the ten being built in 1938 and the remaining six completed in 1952. In order to allow for the continued use of the majority of the Quad residence halls during construction, the renovation would take place in five phases, with each phase consisting of two buildings renovated per year. Projections made of the cost of the project put each phase at around $12,350,000, bringing the total cost of all five phases of renovation to $61,750,000. This money is to be financed by Campus Housing.
Panel to advise trustees on U. of Arkansas, Fayetteville's Fulbright statue
A committee being formed by the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville will consider the removal of a campus statue honoring former U.S. Sen. J. William Fulbright and the removal of his name from the arts and sciences college. The group will issue a recommendation, but ultimately it's up to the University of Arkansas System board of trustees to decide on any possible changes, Todd Shields, dean of the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, said Thursday during an online discussion of Fulbright's legacy. "They have the final decision about naming and public art on the campus," Shields said. An online petition seeking the removal of the Fulbright statue and the renaming of the college has more than 5,900 signatures. Fulbright served for 30 years as a senator and is perhaps best known for introducing legislation in 1945 that created the international educational exchange program named after him. The recent petition effort has been promoted by Black student leaders critical of Fulbright's record on civil rights.
U. of Kentucky president reassures students targeted in Trump directive
A Trump administration directive that will essentially bar international college students from the United States should their institutions not have in-person classes this fall has created an "air of uncertainty" among University of Kentucky international students, the school's president wrote in an email on Thursday. UK plans on having largely in-person classes, and will be unaffected by the directive, President Eli Capilouto wrote. But the university will join with a number of other university presidents in voicing their concerns to the "appropriate federal officials" who are responsible for putting the policy in place. "Our plan continues to be to return in August to a robust, residential campus experience," Capilouto wrote. "From our initial review of schedules, plans for a majority of classes are focused on in-person instruction. Of course, many students will learn in a mix of ways -- in-person classes, online or hybrid approaches." UK spokesperson Jay Blanton said the university enrolled 1,545 international students last fall. He added that it's possible that number could be lower this fall, but the university is still enrolling students.
Survey: Texas A&M students divided on fate of Sul Ross statue
Texas A&M's Student Senate has released results from a six-question survey sent to gauge opinions from current students regarding the Lawrence Sullivan Ross statue on A&M's campus and its future presence at the university. Results, which were released Wednesday, showed 54% of students who responded are likely or very likely to support no change to the statue, and 60% are unlikely or very unlikely to support removal of the statue from A&M's campus. Survey results also showed more than 50% of responses from students who identify as Black, Asian, Hispanic/Latino or as international students said they were unlikely or very unlikely to support the potential option of no change to the Sully statue. Further, 82% of students identifying as Black said they were unlikely or very unlikely to support the option of no change. The survey showed strong engagement from A&M students with a 39% response rate (22,824 total responses).
U. of Missouri education department chair resigns following dean's removal
A department chair within the University of Missouri's College of Education resigned the position Wednesday effective immediately, citing recent events in both the department and college. David Bergin's resignation as chair of the Department of Educational, School and Counseling Psychology comes the day after Kathryn Chval was removed as dean of the college Tuesday. He notified the interim dean of the college and department chairs of the decision Wednesday and informed faculty via email Thursday. "Given recent events in the college and in my department, I have decided to resign as chair of the Department of Educational, School, and Counseling Psychology effective immediately," Bergin said in the email. "I notified Interim Dean Erica Lembke and the department chairs of my decision on Wednesday July 8. If you have urgent issues that would normally go to the chair, Dr. Lembke asks that you contact the program coordinators." Bergin has served as chair of the department since 2018 and has worked as faculty at MU since 2001. He remains a professor in the Department of Educational, School and Counseling Psychology.
Many young Americans won't take coronavirus vaccine
When Dr. Anthony Fauci was asked at a Senate hearing in May what it would take for students to feel comfortable going back to campuses during the coronavirus pandemic, he said ultimately what would need to happen is for there to be a vaccine. He later walked back the remark in part to say colleges could reopen even before there is a vaccine. But for many college presidents, like Alabama State University's Quinton T. Ross, the hope for a vaccine has been a much-anticipated milestone in the distance that could lead to a return to normalcy, when students would no longer have to wear masks and he wouldn't have to worry that social distancing isn't being practiced at campus keggers. But putting into question how much impact the vaccine will have on campuses if many students are still susceptible to the disease are two recent polls that say about a third of college-aged Americans are at least leaning against getting the vaccine when one is available. That will force colleges to make choices like whether to require students and workers to get vaccinated.
COVID-19's forceful impact shakes college business officers' confidence
Throughout the decade that Inside Higher Ed has been asking chief business officers how confident they are in their institution's financial stability over five and 10 years, they've historically been quite a bit more confident in the near term than over the longer term. That makes sense, in many ways, given that most business leaders have a clearer line of sight into the next few years than over a decade, when who knows what might happen. This year is different (is that an understatement or what?). Respondents to this year's Inside Higher Ed Survey of College and University Business Officers were actually slightly likelier to express confidence in their institution's stability over 10 years (53 percent) than over five (52 percent). That's less because they're suddenly wildly optimistic about their prospects over a decade, though there was a slight uptick from 50 percent in 2019, than because the near term looks a lot murkier. Confidence in the five-year outlook dropped a full 10 percentage points from 62 percent in 2019, with particularly steep drops among business officers at community colleges and private nonprofit doctoral and master's universities.
Next Candidate for the Fall Chopping Block? Student Housing Refunds
Universities across the country have written addendums into their residence-life contracts specifying that refunds will not be issued if a Covid-19 outbreak forces their campuses to close early this fall. With the fall semester still weeks away, cases of Covid-19 are already appearing on campuses and in college towns as athletes return for voluntary workouts and fraternities throw parties. That raises red flags for some close observers of higher education. "The optics of it don't make sense," said James F. Galbally Jr., a consultant who advises colleges on their finances. "Institutions should be willing to give students a refund if they have to close down." "It would be bad for business because of the uncertainty of the spread of the virus," Galbally said, noting the recent rise in confirmed cases. "Parents may be reluctant to send their child to campus."
Colleges Are Making Masks Mandatory. But They're Not an Option for Everyone.
Many campuses that plan to return to in-campus instruction this fall will do so with mandatory mask-wearing policies. Those spotted without a mask might be stopped by a campus "public-health ambassador" and asked to don one, or cited for a conduct-code violation. Students might be asked to sign pledges confirming to abide by safety protocol or called out by a professor for going maskless in the classroom. The expectation on many campuses is clear: Wear a mask, or get in trouble. It's a sweeping policy that's consistent with guidance from top public-health officials: Masks have been shown to help slow the spread of Covid-19. But for some people, masking up presents extra challenges. Accounting for those populations makes the question of community safety more complicated.
Explainer: What 1.1 million foreign students contribute to the U.S. economy
The Trump administration said on Monday that foreign university students will have to leave the country if their classes are all taught online -- clouding the future of tens of thousands of enrollees and potentially straining budgets at schools struggling to reopen during the coronavirus pandemic. About 1.1 million foreign students attended U.S. higher education institutions in the 2018-19 school year, according to a report here issued by the State Department and the Institute of International Education (IIE), and they made up 5.5% of the entire U.S. higher education enrollment. Foreign students' financial contributions are keenly felt in some schools and communities, where they pay higher tuition bills than some local students, and support real estate markets and local jobs. Foreign students contributed $44.7 billion to the U.S. economy during 2018, the IIE report says, citing the U.S. Department of Commerce. They supported here around 460,000 jobs in the United States in the 2018-19 academic year, estimates NAFSA, an international education advocacy group. The majority of these jobs are in higher education itself, but accommodation, retail, transportation, and health insurance also benefit.

Mississippi State coaches, players not taking sports for granted
Mississippi State players and coaches are trying not to take sports for granted this summer. The MSU athletics department held its first of five 2020 Virtual Road Dawgs Tour episodes on Tuesday afternoon, and football coach Mike Leach, softball coach Samantha Ricketts and track and field coach Chris Woods each joined the roundtable discussion. After discussing how their teams and staffs are handling Zoom meetings, the next segment had the coaches talking about how their athletes are making the most of their remaining opportunities. Woods said he has had one large team meeting, featuring more than 100 student-athletes and staff members, where he explained that they were handed a difficult situation but needed to focus on things in their control. "What we have in our control is what we do during the offseason and how we prepare ourselves for the next opportunity we have to practice and compete in our events," Woods said. "If this pandemic hasn't taught you anything, it should have taught you that at any moment, the opportunity can be stripped away from you."
Analysis: What Tyrell Shavers brings to the Mississippi State receiving corps
Tyrell Shavers just needed a chance. After a slew of injuries and a brief split between baseball and football slowed his ability to shine on the gridiron at Alabama, the former top-100 recruit is slated for a major role at Mississippi State this fall should the season go on as scheduled. "We are excited to add a tremendous talent like Tyrell to our receiving corps," MSU coach Mike Leach said in a news release in June. "Tyrell graduated from the University of Alabama in three years and has two years of eligibility remaining. We look forward to welcoming him to Starkville as we prepare for a big season ahead." Committing to MSU on June 8, Shavers instantly became the Bulldogs' tallest receiving threat, standing 6-foot-6 and weighing 205 pounds. And while his sample size at Alabama was small -- one reception for 20 yards and one carry for 14 yards last season -- there's reason to believe he'll thrive in coach Mike Leach's air raid offense.
SEC's Greg Sankey on Big Ten decision for conference-only schedule; ADs to meet Monday, per report
A day after Greg Sankey said he is "prepared that optimism is not reality" when it comes to the upcoming college football season, Sankey released a statement preaching patience. In his defense a lot had changed between comments. On Thursday, the SEC commissioner said the conference is working on "the best path forward related to fall sports." The comments are a result of the Big Ten Conference's announcement that fall sports teams, including football, will play conference-only schedules. Sports Illustrated is reporting, citing sources, the SEC's 14 athletic directors will meet Monday in person in Birmingham to discuss fall sports scheduling. The meeting, per the report, has been planned for at least two weeks and was not in reaction to the Big Ten's decision on Thursday. Rather, the meeting is to get feedback from member institutions on fall scheduling, but no decisions are not expected. Meanwhile, CFP executive director Bill Hancock added "our committee's fundamental mission has not changed" in light of the idea of a conference-only schedule.
As leagues are expected to scale back college football, 'there's no national synergy'
Tulane athletic director Troy Dannen started the phone call off responding to whether it's been a long day. "They all are right now," Dannen said. "They all are." That's life when you're the top boss of a college athletic department in the middle of a global pandemic. Especially on Thursday, when the Big Ten Conference's announcement that it will only play league football games this fall eliminated a game on Tulane's schedule. Tulane, a member of the American Athletic Conference, was on the books to play Northwestern on Sept. 12 in Evanston, Illinois -- the front end of a home-and-home series that has Northwestern playing in Yulman Stadium in 2025. Now, Dannen has a short window to find a fill-in opponent before the season begins. If it begins. Dannen was among the athletic leaders that were surprised by the timing of such decisions. Dissenters believe it's too early. The Southeastern Conference and the Big 12 Conference are the only remaining Power 5 leagues that have not yet announced their intentions.
Unsure of football future, Auburn University defers to governing bodies
Auburn University is deferring to state orders and guidance from governing bodies when addressing its uncertain sports future, all as the calendar inches closer to the fall semester's start date on Aug. 17 and all as coronavirus cases in Lee County continue to rise. In short, Auburn doesn't know if it's playing football this fall, and it doesn't know when it will know either. "Decisions regarding football have not yet been made by the NCAA, SEC or the individual states," Auburn University's director of public affairs Brian Keeter told the Opelika-Auburn News this week. "A timeline for those decisions isn't yet known," he added. Auburn publicly passed the buck to the state government on Thursday when publishing online its new plan for operation, which is dubbed 'A Healthier U' and which details changes that have come to campus policy -- including the requirement that face coverings be worn by everyone in university buildings.
Big Ten's move to conference-only schedules will have a ripple effect -- especially on college football -- if seasons are played: 'We may not have sports in the fall'
The Big Ten has canceled nonconference competition in all fall sports and will face only conference opponents -- if the 2020 seasons are played at all -- because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In a release Thursday afternoon, the Big Ten said it made the decision based on medical advice and after monthslong conversations among conference presidents and chancellors, athletic directors and medical experts. Details for the sports --- football, men's and women's soccer, men's and women's cross-country, field hockey and women's volleyball --- will be released at a later date. Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren said it was "much easier if we're just working with our Big Ten institutions" in terms of things like scheduling and traveling. "We may not have sports in the fall," Warren told the Big Ten Network. "We may not have a college football season in the Big Ten. So we just wanted to make sure that this was the next logical step to always rely on our medical experts to keep our student-athletes at the center of all of our decisions and make sure that they are as healthy as they possibly can be from a mental, a physical, an emotional health and wellness standpoint."
SEC's Greg Sankey says league will continue to weigh options despite Big Ten decision; A&M's Ross Bjork concurs
The Southeastern Conference will continue weighing its options regarding fall sports in light of the Big Ten's decision to play conference-only games, said SEC commissioner Greg Sankey. Texas A&M continues to work closely with the SEC office to do what's best for all concerned. "We remain in constant contact with the SEC and believe that decisions of this magnitude warrant much more planning and communication," A&M athletic director Ross Bjork said in a text. "Throughout this process, our approach at Texas A&M has been to stay organized and informed with current information, and that mindset will continue in the days and weeks ahead. As we have learned throughout this unprecedented situation, everything remains fluid, and there are a number of scenarios that can work for college sports." The Big 10's decision has already affected Texas A&M. The Aggie soccer team was originally scheduled to start the season at Ohio State on Aug. 20. That game has been removed from A&M's online schedule.
Ed Orgeron says LSU is still preparing for a football season after initial coronavirus spike
LSU coach Ed Orgeron said the football program's coronavirus case numbers are "way down" from its initial spike after summer activities began and that reports on the number of players who tested positive were too high. The program began voluntary workouts on June 9, and Orgeron said most of the team's cases were due to players attending bars in Tigerland -- a student-focused nightlife area that the Louisiana Department of Health announced June 19 produced more than 100 positive cases. LSU's total number of cases focused around a group of five to six players, a source told The Advocate. No players were hospitalized and each case showed mild symptoms. Sports Illustrated reported at least 30 of LSU's football team was isolated because they either tested positive for COVID-19 or were in contact with others who tested positive. "The number 30 was not correct," Orgeron said Wednesday evening on WWL Radio's "SportsTalk" with Bobby Hebert and Kristian Garic. "That was inaccurate. I don't know who said that. It wasn't that high. But we did have a little spike. Now it's going down. I think it's under control. I think it's a fairly low number right now that we're very pleased with. It looks like everything's going smooth for us."
Non-conference games for UGA in question if college football season is played
The upcoming college football season -- if there will be one -- could be headed to mostly conference games among power five conference schools. That could mean that UGA's season-opening game against Virginia and its regular season finale in Athens against Georgia Tech would be off the schedule due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Soon after the Big Ten announced Thursday afternoon that it would not play any non-conference games this season, veteran college football reporter Brett McMurphy of Stadium said that the ACC is expected to go to a conference only schedule. The Athletic's Bruce Feldman reported ACC coaches said such a move is not yet definite. Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity was asked if he had word that the Sept. 7 Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game against Virginia in Atlanta's Mercedes-Benz Stadium may be off. "Not yet," he said. Georgia and Georgia Tech have played their football rivalry game every year since 1925.
Arkansas-Mizzou still scheduled in Kansas City for now
Missouri athletics director Jim Sterk said Thursday the Tigers still plan to play their football game against Arkansas at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo. During a Zoom call with reporters, Sterk was asked about the status of the game and whether it might be moved to back to Mizzou's campus in Columbia. "We've been in discussions with the Chiefs," Sterk said. "We're kind of in the same boat trying to determine what we're going to do. As of right now we plan on playing that game there." The game is scheduled to be played on Saturday, Nov. 28, but could be moved up a day to accommodate TV. The Razorbacks and Tigers have played on CBS the day after Thanksgiving each year since 2014. Poor attendance for those games has led both teams to schedule the series at off-campus stadiums in larger cities. The Razorbacks' contract with War Memorial Stadium calls for the Missouri game to be played in Little Rock during odd-numbered years through 2023.
Mizzou AD Jim Sterk: SEC-only schedule a possibility
Missouri athletic director Jim Sterk understands that the guidelines and expectations of how to navigate a college football season amid the coronavirus pandemic remain extremely fluid. Sterk said early into a conversation with local reporters Thursday afternoon that no AD is more encouraged that there will be a full football season than they were three weeks ago. Just minutes later, word began to spread about the Big Ten Conference switching to a league-only fall sports season, effectively canceling football matchups such as Ohio State vs. Oregon and Iowa vs. Iowa State. No Southeastern Conference football team is scheduled to play Big Ten opposition this season. "I guess I'm an optimist from the standpoint of, three weeks ago, we were really optimistic. People were saying they were going to have full stadiums and all of that," Sterk said. "Now the pandemic has resurged a bit, if you will, and pro sports have stumbled as they started out of the blocks. It's positive for us that we can see what's working from their standpoint and apply that to decisions we make. It continues to change daily and weekly. In a month, in two months, I'm hopeful it's a heck of a lot better and things are better than what we have. If not, then we have to pivot and adjust our plans."
Tennessee athletics has spent almost $60,000 on COVID-19 testing for athletes, staff
Tennessee athletics has spent almost $60,000 on COVID-19 testing for athletes and staff members as they returned to campus starting in June. UT has spent $59,390 on testing as of July 8, according to a records request by Knox News. UT spent $45,990 on 511 nasal swab tests and $13,400 on 268 antibody blood tests. Tennessee has tested athletes and staff members of the football, men's basketball, women's basketball and volleyball teams. It also has conducted testing for part of the women's soccer team, which is in the first phase of a two-phase returning process. One football graduate assistant tested positive in the initial round of testing. The athletic department has confirmed that two men's basketball players tested positive and were in quarantine. The two men's basketball players are the only Vols athletes who are known to have tested positive for COVID-19. They were not identified.
Sen. Kelly Loeffler, co-owner of WNBA's Atlanta Dream, says Black Lives Matter threatens to 'destroy' America
Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Georgia, the co-owner of the WNBA's Atlanta Dream who says politics do not belong in sports, doubled down on her stance against the Black Lives Matter movement. A day after catching heat from the WNBA Players Association and multiple players for sending a letter to Commissioner Catchy Engelbert denouncing the league's endorsement of the BLM movement, Loeffler joined Laura Ingraham on Fox News for an exclusive interview standing firm in her beliefs: BLM is "based on Marxist principles" that threatens to "destroy" America. She also called the BLM group "anti-Semitic and doesn't support the nuclear family." Loeffler said she will not give up her ownership stake in the Dream despite players and the union calling her to do so. Loeffler, a co-owner since 2011, wants the WNBA to place an American flag on players' jerseys instead of incorporating anything Black Lives Matter related in the game. Loeffler, who describes herself as a "Conservative Businesswoman and Political Outsider," is seeking re-election in November.

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 10, 2020Facebook Twitter