Monday, July 13, 2020   
Fall college instruction to be a mix of in-person and online
Students in Mississippi are scheduled to return to school in August amid rising cases of COVID-19 in the state, but campus life will be a lot different than what many are used to. At Mississippi State, temperature check-in kiosks will be scattered around campus. In reports detailing plans for the start of the academic year released in June from Mississippi State and University of Mississippi, education officials say they want to provide as much in-person direction as possible. They said instruction will likely be a mix of online and in-person options. "Administration does not view this as a binary choice of online or face-to-face only; a number of combinations are possible that can work specifically for the discipline or course," Mississippi State's plan reads. "Faculty are encouraged to explore creative approaches using blended and hybrid approaches this semester that maximize safety but also provide in-person instruction and interactions with students."
Architect to help develop Starkville downtown streatery concept
The concept for Starkville's downtown streatery is moving forward. The Starkville Board of Aldermen approved the concept to move forward during Tuesday's board meeting. The streatery will be an outside dining area for patrons to eat at Moe's Original BBQ, Restaurant Tyler and Nine Twenty Nine Coffee, but customers will dine in designated parking spaces. Fran Pharis, architect with the Carl Small Town Center at Mississippi State University, said her team is helping plan the layout and design of the streatery. She said the basic idea right now is to make a colorful graphic on the street and to build a barrier between the sidewalk and the road. The center will also partner with the city to use resources and save money. "We will be using city planters and we'll have some greenery to put in those, and then we'll also be using some city benches," said Pharis.
Plans to attend MSU-Meridian
Photo: Abagail Spangler of Meridian, right, meets with her advisor, Greshka German-Stuart in the Sonny Montgomery Advisement and Career Services Center while Spangler's mom, Michelle Edmond, looks on. Spangler is a transfer student from Meridian Community College and plans to major in elementary education at the Meridian Campus when fall classes begin Aug. 17. To learn how to attend MSU-Meridian, visit
Bainbridge native Buck Sarrette retires after 20 years of service in U.S. Army
Lieutenant Colonel David "Buck" Sarrette, an honor graduate from the Bainbridge High School Class of 1996, retired from the United States Army recently after 20 years of service. Sarrette then attended the US Military Academy at West Point and graduated in 2000. He then completed flight training as a helicopter pilot at Fort Rucker and went on to serve two combat tours in the Iraq War in 2003 and 2007 as a helicopter pilot. Upon returning to the states, Sarrette served as a Brigade Commander of the 16th Combat Aviation Brigade based out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington and most recently serving as the Commander of the Army ROTC program at Mississippi State University. Sarrette will now take on a civilian position as a research program manager at Mississippi State.
Keep a routine during unusual summertime
Parents dealing with COVID-19 closings are working daily to find safe child care for young children when most of the traditional summer options are gone. The Mississippi State Department of Health has updated requirements for summer camps and youth programs to protect the health and safety of participants from the virus. But with the limited number of camps and day care options available this year, and those accepting fewer children, thousands of families are making hard decisions on how to care for their kids. Ensley Howell, a family and consumer sciences agent in Pontotoc County with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said some parents can supervise their own children because they are able to work from home. "Other parents are having to ask for help from family and friends to provide supervision for their children until day cares reopen, or they are seeking new options to replace day care, such as a retired person on a fixed income who is willing to care for a child to supplement their income," Howell said.
Keep a routine during unusual summertime
Parents dealing with COVID-19 closings are working daily to find safe child care for young children when most of the traditional summer options are gone. Christy King, Extension agent with 4-H responsibilities in Clarke County, said a consistent routine is a great tool for helping parents and children navigate these unusual times. She listed chores, education and physical activity as important components. "Kids are staying inside more, not going out to play, and are on their devices, computers and television more," King said. "They're not getting the benefit of physical exercise, and there is research that shows you are happier and think more clearly when you get exercise, and there is research that shows when you get exercise, it produces chemicals in the brain that make you happier and think more clearly." King said social isolation is compounding this problem, and some children are dealing with depression and a loss of interest in normal activities. These feelings can lead to behavioral problems.
Large PPP loans help local-based businesses 'weather the storm'
In the middle of storm season, 4-County Electric Power has one principal job: to keep the power on. Consequently, Marketing and Public Relations Director Jon Turner said, "the last thing you want to do is be understaffed." When this year's storm season coincided with the costs of the COVID-19 pandemic -- including unpaid bills from many customers making use of the statewide ban on utilities disconnections -- Turner acknowledged that 4-County could have been in a troubling spot. So 4-County applied for loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration's Paycheck Protection Program, part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act passed by Congress in March. The program is aimed at helping small businesses keep workers on the payroll during the pandemic. "What it allowed us to do was kind of weather the storm," Turner said. In Lowndes, Oktibbeha, Clay and Noxubee counties, 2,010 businesses were approved for PPP loans, for which small businesses with 500 or fewer full-time employees are eligible. If the money is spent on payroll, rent, utilities and mortgage costs -- with at least 60 percent devoted to payroll -- the loans are forgivable.
America's Governors Get Tested for a Virus That Is Testing Them
Governors have always been judged on their disaster responses, but the coronavirus wreaking havoc across the country these days does not recede like floodwaters and cannot be tamed by calling out the National Guard. The states' chief executives have been tested for the very virus that keeps testing them -- politically, personally, logistically. And they have been forced onto the national and global stage in a way few governors have ever endured -- an unending and very public test on a highly scientific and ever-shifting subject with the lives of their constituents, the economies of their states and their political careers at stake. Tate Reeves has been the governor of Mississippi for just under six months. During that time, he has had a very full plate: deadly tornadoes, the flooding of the capital city of Jackson, violence in the state prisons, a vote to take down the flag with the Confederate battle emblem. But the coronavirus has eclipsed all of that, and in recent days, the virus was threatening the statehouse and his own house a few blocks away. The pandemic has put Mr. Reeves, a Republican, and many of America's governors of both parties under a spotlight for which none of their aides and consultants have a playbook.
Health Department puts statewide ban on non-urgent, elective medical procedures
The state's health officer has put a ban on all non-urgent and elective procedures in hospitals and clinics across the state in an effort to ensure there are available hospital beds for critical care patients. The statewide ban begins Sunday and extends until July 20, unless revoked by the state Department of Health. It includes elective surgeries that require overnight hospitalization and elective medical admissions "that can be safely delayed." The restrictions apply to Tier 1 and Tier 2 surgeries and elective procedures which are considered non-urgent, such as hip and knee replacement and elective spine surgery, among other procedures. Any surgery in those categories and require overnight hospitalization must be performed due to "extraordinary circumstances" and have "an extensive and compelling reason," State Health Officer, Dr. Dobbs said Friday evening.
Pandemic strikes Choctaw Indians, Neshoba County
Drive down Highway 16 near Philadelphia and you can't miss the giant moon towering above the Pearl River Resort, welcoming visitors to the games below. But on the ground is the reminder of the coronavirus that has swept through Neshoba County, killing dozens of people and sickening hundreds more. The casino parking lot is nearly empty and barricades block the entrance. Upbeat music blasts out of a speaker for no one. At a nearby gas station, signs remind you to keep your distance and wear a mask. The MBCI has more than 11,000 members in eight communities across 10 Mississippi counties. Pearl River, in Neshoba County, is the largest. It's also the tribal community with the highest number of COVID-19 cases. David Vowell, president of the Philadelphia Community Development Partnership, said the pandemic affects employers and workers throughout the community. The Neshoba County Fair and the Choctaw Indian Fair, both scheduled for July and big tourist draws to Neshoba County, were canceled due to the pandemic. At Williams Brothers General Merchandise, where customers were purchasing slab bacon and other groceries, co-owner Sid Williams was already seeing a loss in business from the canceled fairs.
Former governor candidate Robert Foster says he'll defy mask mandate
Robert Foster is mad about having to wear a face mask. And that's putting it mildly. The former gubernatorial candidate and state representative on Friday ripped into a recent mask mandate, which includes DeSoto County where Foster lives, and called on Mississippians to outright ignore it. He said he would defy social distancing mandates as well and challenged Gov. Tate Reeves, who ordered the mandate, to respond. "With all due respect Mr. Governor, I am openly defying your public mask mandate and social distancing executive orders. Now, what are you going to do about it? I would like to see you come up here and try and make me wear a mask!" Foster wrote in a lengthy post on his Facebook page. Foster said protesting is not enough to combat the governor's order. He called for civil disobedience. "I'm not calling for a protest I'm calling for something even more powerful. I'm calling for you to be Civilly Disobedient. I'm calling for you to defy these unlawful Liberty infringing and financially crushing small business mandates. What's it going to be Mississippi, Liberty or Tyranny?" Foster wrote.
Coronavirus in Mississippi: 1 new death, 393 new cases reported Monday
The Mississippi Department of Health reported one new coronavirus death and 393 new cases Monday, bringing the state total to 36,680 cases and 1,250 deaths. The state has experienced a surge in cases recently, with 1,092 cases on June 25, the highest one-day total during the pandemic. An estimated 25,932 people are presumed recovered from COVID-19, the Health Department said. A person is presumed recovered if it's been 14 days since he or she tested positive and was not hospitalized or 21 days if hospitalization was involved. The estimated number of recoveries is updated weekly.
Analysis: Session brings wide range of new Mississippi laws
Mississippi is enacting a wide range of laws based on bills passed during this year's legislative session, including some that separately regulate wine, school buses and scooters. Mississippi residents who visit wineries in other states will be able to have bottles of wine shipped back home, in a roundabout way. House Bill 1088 will become law Jan. 1. It says a person may purchase wine from a winery and have it shipped to a package retail store in Mississippi, and that package store will ensure that the Mississippi Department of Revenue collects all taxes, fees and surcharges that the state is owed -- expenses that will, presumably, come from the wallet of the consumer and not from the retailer acting as the middle man. School bus drivers may now go as fast as 65 mph on interstate highways, up from a previous limit of 50 mph. That change is in House Bill 1176, which became law July 1.
Local senator discusses governor's vetoes
A local lawmaker weighed in following Gov. Tate Reeves' veto of a handful of key bills. Reeves vetoed the bulk of House Bill 1700, which funded public education for the 2020-2021 school year. Reeves said his main issue with the bill was the removal of $26 million from an incentive pay program for teachers to the general education fund. Reeves said the measure would force 23,157 teachers to take a pay cut. Other bills vetoed by Reeves include two criminal Justice reform bills, House Bill 658 and Senate Bill 2123. In a lengthy Facebook Post, Reeves said S.B. 2123 went too far, allowing parole for criminals that were eligible for the death penalty but received life in prison instead. West Point Democratic Sen. Angela Turner-Ford was critical of the vetoes. However, she said she still planned to take a closer look at the bills. "It's my understanding that the bill had been changed rather significantly since the time it originally came to the senate," Turner- Ford said. "I don't like the idea of it being vetoed, but certainly, that's not my call to make."
Mississippi Secretary of State's office announces new chief of staff
Carla Thornhill has been promoted to Chief of Staff for the office of Mississippi Secretary of State Michael Watson. The former Deputy Chief of Staff replaces Keith Davis, who recently accepted a position as Deputy Commissioner of Operations with the Mississippi Department of Public Safety. Carla Thornhill is a native of Philadelphia, Miss., and earned a Bachelor's degree in Political Science and History, as well as a Master's of Social Sciences from Mississippi College. While in college, Carla interned with the Secretary of State's Office and officially joined the agency in 1997 as the Director of Human Resources. During her time at the agency, Carla has served as Interim Chief of Staff and Deputy Chief of Staff.
A Senate Takeover Is Very Much A Possibility For Democrats. Just Follow The Money
To take control of the U.S. Senate, Democrats need to net three seats in November if former Vice President Joe Biden wins, and four if President Trump is reelected. That once looked like a near impossibility, but it's becoming a real possibility. Republicans hold a 53-to-47 majority in the Senate, with the Democrats' side including two independents who caucus with them. Five Republican incumbents are looking increasingly vulnerable, with their races labeled as "toss ups" by the Cook Political Report. Meanwhile one Democrat, Doug Jones of Alabama, is seen as being in real jeopardy. Those five Republicans are Arizona's Martha McSally, Colorado's Cory Gardner, Maine's Susan Collins, Montana's Steve Daines and North Carolina's Thom Tillis. Fundraising reports from the Federal Election Commission provide glimpses of Democratic strength.
The W issues return to campus plan
Mississippi University for Women has published its plan to resume fall operations. "This plan was carefully and thoughtfully developed with the health and safety of our students, faculty and staff in mind. I am grateful for the time and care that our Campus Renewal Task Force put into this work," said W President Nora Miller. The Campus Renewal Task Force comprised of administration, faculty, staff, students and community members formed the plan outlining six areas of strategic focus. Faculty, staff and administration will resume normal campus operations Monday, July 27. The first day of classes for the fall 2020 semester will be Monday, Aug. 17. In an effort to enhance physical distancing, course locations and delivery methods continue to be evaluated and most, if not all, schedule changes should be finalized soon. Final exams will be administered Wednesday, Nov. 18 through Tuesday, Nov 24. All faculty, staff, students and visitors are required to wear face coverings unless walking alone in an outdoor space or working alone in a personal office space.
What Oxford's missing COVID-19 cases tell us about contact tracing in college towns and a new normal this fall
When Oxford Mayor Robyn Tannehill announced last month that she found 162 college-aged COVID-19 cases that were not included in Lafayette County's total tally from the Mississippi State Department of Health, confusion erupted. The University of Mississippi, located in the county, tweeted that Tannehill's announcement was the first they'd heard of it. The state health department balked initially, reiterating that county-of-residence -- in college students' cases, usually where their parents live -- dictates where their case will show up, but said they'd work with college towns to improve their unique reporting situations. This is a problem for Tannehill and leaders in college towns across the state, as "contact tracing," or efforts to track individuals with an infectious disease and who they've interacted with, are falling short. The issue, according to Tannehill, is that she needs to make policy decisions based on real-time positive cases currently in Oxford, especially with the transient nature of college-aged students.
JMAA partners with JPS and JSU to launch education and training academy
The Jackson Municipal Airport Authority (JMAA) has partnered with Jackson Public Schools (JPS) and Jackson State University (JSU) to launch the inaugural JMAA Education and Training Academy. It will be known as Jet-A, "Fueling the Future of Aviation; Get Set to Jet!" The Academy is slated to begin Monday, July 13 at Hawkins Field Airport (HKS) in Jackson. Jet-A will engage 23 students selected by JPS who have the potential to become future aviation professionals. They will enjoy a robust curriculum to include Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) principles and concepts developed through the partnership with JSU. All activities and training will be held at HKS, JSU and Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport (JAN). The Academy aims to provide students with extensive learning opportunities, including flight simulators, a flight design challenge, seminars, an aviation career fair, aerodynamic exercises, facility tours and more.
With a new surge in COVID-19 cases, how are school districts preparing for distance learning?
When traditional instruction halted in mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, public school districts across Northeast Mississippi were tasked with instantly developing plans for online or distance learning. With school districts set to resume varying forms of traditional classes next month, many schools are looking to use a new state law to invest in distance learning. The law from this past legislative session, Senate Bill 3044, or the Equity in Distance Learning Act, allocates around $150 million in federal coronavirus relief funds to school districts around the state to purchase laptops, internet hotspots and other items to equip students for distance learning technology. The legislation, which attracted wide bipartisan support, automatically became law on Thursday when Republican Gov. Tate Reeves neither signed nor vetoed the legislation. "We know this technology is very important from job training skills and future academic skills, but I think it's absolutely essential for our education system," said state Sen. Nicole Boyd, an Oxford Republican who sits on the Senate Education Committee. Boyd, a freshman lawmaker, pushed to have language including in the bill saying that school districts would be required to make "specific provisions" for students with special needs when purchasing devices and equipment.
U. of Alabama expects need for up to 300 off-campus beds to isolate COVID cases
When announcing a blueprint for reopening the University of Alabama campus, the board of trustees knew avoiding coronavirus infections wouldn't be possible. Having more than 33,000 undergraduates enrolled and 8,400 dorm beds on campus complicates that fight to keep students healthy. Documents obtained by reveal roughly how many on-campus students the school expects to isolate with fall classes set to begin Aug. 19. UA anticipates needing up to 300 beds off campus for students who either tested positive for COVID-19 or came in close contact with someone who tested positive. That figure comes from a solicitation for bids from local hotels and off-campus apartment buildings posted on the school's website. Specifically, the language states the school anticipates 0-150 students who were exposed to someone with COVID-19 and 0-150 students who test positive themselves.
Pandemic pushes Alabama, Auburn to virtual sorority rush
Due to ongoing COVID-19 health and safety concerns, the University of Alabama and Auburn University's fall sorority recruitment will be held virtually. No parents, family or guests will be allowed to attend Bid Day activities at either school. On Thursday, the Alabama Panhellenic Association announced bids will be distributed via email to new members at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 16, and will include additional information about an opportunity for the new members to come to the chapter house at a specific time later that afternoon, as well as information about available accommodations for those who do not wish to visit the chapter house in person. In 2019, more than 2,000 women received bids during the culmination of the University of Alabama's sorority recruitment week, with the annual Bid Day drawing another large crowd on a scorching-hot Sunday at the Capstone. Auburn's Bid Day is still tentatively scheduled for August 15, though the specific details are still being finalized. Similar to UA's recommendation, due to health and safety concerns, AU will not host parents, families and other guests during Bid Day activities.
Auburn University loses $15 million from pandemic
As Auburn University approaches four months since its initial move to remote instruction because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the institution has reported $15 million in losses between the transition online in the spring and its recent reopening for summer. The Plainsman recently spoke to Kelli Shomaker, Auburn's chief financial officer, for a more in-depth look into the University's finances before students, faculty and staff return for the fall.
Auburn University supply chain grads finding jobs despite 'weird stuff'
Making widgets and getting them to market is far more complicated today than it has even been before -- one part is made in one place and another part is made halfway around the globe from that place and the finished product is sold somewhere else altogether. Auburn University has started a Department of Supply Chain Management to better train students who are gravitated to that booming employment sector. In fact, the number of students pursuing supply chain has grown by double digits in each of the past five years, according to the university. "One of the indicators of that I think it's the fact that we have over 100 companies committed to recruiting just for supply chain -- they had their separate Career Services career fair," said Annette Ranft, Dean of AU's Harbert College of Business. "So, in order to be structured in a manner to meet that industry demand, I think it's important for us to establish it as a separate unit."
U. of South Carolina cancels in-person commencement ceremony for 2020 graduates
The University of South Carolina has officially canceled its in-person commencement ceremony that had already been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In a letter sent to eligible graduates Sunday, university president Bob Caslen says the decision was made to cancel the ceremony after consulting with the Board of Trustees. The announcement was made to allow those considering traveling to Columbia time to adjust plans. The letter, however, did promise a virtual ceremony would continue as planned on the same date of August 8. "I know this may come as a great disappointment to you and your family. When we announced the tentative ceremony last month, it was conditional on coronavirus infection levels remaining relatively low," Caslen's letter reads. "Unfortunately, South Carolina has experienced a marked increase in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks and both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and our own public health experts do not believe it is safe to host a large in-person gathering because of the increased risk of transmission."
Executive Q&A: Bob Scott Says Extension Service Covers the Field for Arkansans
Bob Scott succeeded Rick Cartwright, who retired as director of the Cooperative Extension Service on June 30. Scott grew up on a family farm in Oklahoma and joined the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture as an extension weed scientist in 2002. He also worked at the Arkansas Experiment Station. In 2013, he was named director of the Newport and Lonoke Extension Centers, then in April 2018 he was appointed director of the Rice Research & Extension Center near Stuttgart. Scott earned a bachelor's degree in agronomy and a master's in weed science from Oklahoma State University, as well as a doctorate in weed science from Mississippi State University.
LGBTQ+ faculty discuss steps toward a more inclusive UF
Kelli Agrawal said she felt like she didn't belong. She was the only openly queer graduate student in her public health masters program when she came to UF in 2015. When she got the chance to take an elective on gender and sexuality in public health, she was excited. What she ended up studying, she said, felt more insulting than anything else. For LGBTQ+ individuals, starting somewhere new can feel less like a fresh start and more like a daunting task---including in the workplace. UF has a checkered past when it comes to homophobia and anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment, and although campus conditions have improved and 2020 has brought about important changes for LGBTQ+ rights across the nation, students and faculty at UF say the university could do better. UF has had its own non-discrimination policy that includes protection for the LGBTQ+ community, but educators like Ryan Need, a UF materials science and engineering assistant professor, said that policy alone isn't enough.
Opposing sides debate Texas A&M's Sul Ross statue at Sunday protest
More than 100 people gathered for more than three hours on Sunday -- with temperatures over 100 degrees for the first time this year -- for a protest hosted by the Aggies of Color Coalition; a sizable group showed up to defend the Lawrence Sullivan Ross statue in front of the Academic Building and share information about his life that, they argued, shows his commitment to the education of all Texans. Ross was a Confederate general who later served as governor of Texas before becoming A&M's president, where he served from 1891 until his death in 1898. He is credited with saving the struggling university in its early years, boosting enrollment and securing additional funding; the statue was dedicated in 1918. At the start, the two sides kept approximately 25 yards between them; that changed about 40 minutes later as other BLM supporters arrived, including Texas A&M track student-athlete Infinite Tucker, and encouraged their group to move closer to the statue and its supporters. Many people on both sides wore masks, though mask use on both sides fell off as the evening progressed.
Texas A&M implementing computer requirements for students this fall
Texas A&M University is implementing minimum computer requirements for students this fall to ensure students are able to complete all coursework due to changes in course delivery. A&M's minimum computer requirements include an Intel i5 8th Generation processor or equivalent, 8 GB of RAM, 256 GB storage system, a 13-inch screen, an integrated webcam and Wi-Fi capability. A&M said most computers purchased in recent years should meet these minimum standards. Some colleges have further computer requirements for students to meet the needs of their degree programs. These include the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Architecture, Engineering, Law and Texas A&M Health. Students receiving financial aid may be eligible for additional funding to purchase a computer with these minimum requirements.
U. of Missouri lays off 17 more workers, number furloughed drops
Seventeen more University of Missouri employees have been laid off, according to the weekly report of budgetary actions by MU's Human Resource Services. It brings the total number of employees laid off in response to the university's economic hardship caused by the COVID-19 pandemic to 165. Savings from layoffs total $6.85 million. There was no report last week before the Fourth of July holiday. The number of employees furloughed fell by 84, to 2,927. That happens when managers decide not to pursue furloughs and instead find other ways to save costs. Cost savings from furloughs total $3.82 million. There are 2,122 employees facing mandatory or voluntary salary reductions, 166 more than during the previous reporting period. Cost savings are $5.19 million. MU budget officials have asked division managers to prepare for cuts of around 12.5 percent.
U. of Missouri will enforce Columbia's mandatory face mask ordinance for fall semester
The University of Missouri will follow the city of Columbia's mandatory face mask ordinance on campus this fall, a university spokesman confirmed Friday. The ordinance, which took effect at 5 p.m. Friday, was passed Monday by the City Council. It requires everyone age 10 or older to wear face masks when around people outside their households in both public and private settings, aiming to limit the spread of COVID-19 as cases continue to rise in Boone County. Masks should be worn whenever maintaining 6 feet of distance from others is not possible, according to the MU Alert website that tracks university actions related to the virus. MU spokesperson Christian Basi confirmed the change Friday. In following the city ordinance, MU's official mask guidelines will become more strict than originally outlined in the Show Me Renewal Plan for the fall semester, released at the end of June. The city ordinance, as passed by council, does not apply to property of the state or county, including MU. However, UM System President and Interim MU Chancellor Mun Choi said in a letter to campus announcing fall plans that mask policies would adjust according to local guidelines.
President Trump tells Treasury to review universities' tax exempt status
President Trump on Friday threatened the tax-exempt status of and funding for universities and colleges, claiming that "too many" schools are driven by "radical left indoctrination." "Therefore, I am telling the Treasury Department to re-examine their Tax-Exempt Status and/or Funding, which will be taken away if this Propaganda or Act Against Public Policy continues," Trump tweeted. "Our children must be Educated, not Indoctrinated!" Trump did not name specific institutions whose tax-exempt status he wants the Treasury Department to review. Most private and public colleges and universities are exempt from taxes because they qualify as 501(c)(3) organizations. It would fall to the IRS, a bureau of the Treasury Department, to conduct the review that Trump described. However, federal law prohibits the IRS from targeting groups for regulatory scrutiny "based on their ideological beliefs." Trump's latest remarks come amid his escalating battle over schools' plans for learning during the coronavirus pandemic. The president has sought to pressure schools to physically reopen come fall, even suggesting he could withhold federal funding from those that do not comply with his demands.
M.B.A. Programs Debate Dropping GMAT
Some business schools are temporarily loosening their standardized testing requirements, a move that could help struggling programs attract more applicants and increase diversity but also make it harder to evaluate candidates. Schools across the country began waiving test requirements for the fall semester as the coronavirus pandemic closed centers where students take the GMAT, the standardized test required for most graduate business and management programs. In recent weeks, a growing list of M.B.A. programs, including the University of Virginia's Darden School of Business and the Wisconsin School of Business, said they plan to extend their test-optional format to the 2021 admissions cycle. Several other M.B.A. programs say they are considering a similar move, citing challenges students continue to face despite the exam moving online. Schools also say the test-optional format enables them to recruit from a broader pool of applicants. The re-examination of the GMAT comes as various selective colleges have said they won't require applicants to submit scores from the widely used college entrance exams ACT and SAT, including Harvard and Stanford universities, next year.
Survey finds higher prevalence of depression among students and difficulties accessing mental health care during pandemic
Sixty percent of college students say the pandemic has made it harder to access mental health care, even as financial stresses and prevalence of depression increased among them, according to a new survey on the impact of COVID-19 on student well-being. The survey by the Healthy Minds Network for Research on Adolescent and Young Adult Mental Health and the American College Health Association garnered results from 18,764 students on 14 campuses. Researchers say much of what they found is more confirmatory than surprising, but having the hard data will help colleges make decisions about providing mental health and well-being services to students. Mary Hoban, chief research officer for the American College Health Association, stressed that the data were collected during a fairly narrow window between March and May when colleges that hadn't used telehealth before the pandemic had to quickly put new telehealth systems in place. She said college counseling centers also struggled initially with state-level licensure regulations that prohibited providing mental health services across state lines; many of those regulations have been relaxed for the duration of the public health emergency. Hoban expects the picture for mental health access and college counseling center capacity will improve in the fall.
Meet U. of Arizona's Associate Vice Provost for Diversity and Inclusion's final candidates
This week, the final four candidates for the Associate Vice Provost for Diversity and Inclusion at the University of Arizona were interviewed in open forums. Here's a rundown of each candidate...: Timothy Fair is one of the latest candidates for the position. Fair has university level administration experience in diversity and inclusion, acting as Associate Director of the Diversity Center at Mississippi State University, Assistant Dean of Students at Cornell University and most recently Chief of Staff in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion at Auburn University in Alabama. One of Fair's central beliefs is centering and collaborating with normally marginalized groups, such as UA's Native American population, DACA recipients and intersectional groups like LGBTQIA+ students of color, so their voices are heard at all levels within the university.
International students in U.S.: Trump's move stuns Indian families, students
When Prakriti Dahiya arrived at the University of Washington last year, it was the culmination of a family dream. No one else had made the journey from India to attend college in the United States. Her parents took out loans and gave up vacations to afford the fees. The investment would be worth it, they hoped: Perhaps Prakriti might even end up working at one of Seattle's famed technology companies after graduation. When the Trump administration on July 6 abruptly announced a policy shift that will make it more difficult for international students to remain in the country, the whole family was stunned. "It's dream-crashing times for everybody," said Prakriti's mother, Shalini, 46, a biology teacher. For Indian families, sending young people to the United States has long been a rite of aspiration and hope. There are more than 200,000 Indian students in the United States, second only in number to students from China. Indian students contributed an estimated $8 billion to the U.S. economy last year, according to the Institute of International Education. The administration's latest decision -- which says that international students must take in-person classes or face deportation -- will only deepen the sense that the United States is no longer as welcoming to foreign students as it once was.
Ronnie Musgrove 'paid a price' for his efforts, but 19 years later is happy to see state flag removed
Bobby Harrison writes for Mississippi Today: In May 2000, Ronnie Musgrove, coming off a razor-thin win the year before to capture the office of governor, had just enjoyed a successful legislative session where his teacher pay raise proposal, still the largest in state history, was approved. He was riding high when in early May when the Mississippi Supreme Court delivered a bombshell -- the state had no official flag. In an opinion written by then-Chief Justice Edwin Pittman, head of the state's highest court, he ruled that the flag approved by the Legislature in 1894 was inadvertently repealed in 1906 and that in fact it was a "political decision " for the current Legislature and governor to decide whether to maintain the old flag, which included the controversial Confederate battle emblem in its design. Musgrove's effort to replace the flag, though unsuccessful, has to be considered one of the key factors leading to his defeat three years later to Republican Haley Barbour. Barbour campaigned on the issue and helped to distribute signs throughout the state instructing Mississippians to "Keep the flag. Change the governor."

With free football camp in Starkville, Jeffery Simmons hopes to 'pass the crown' to next generation
Before Jeffery Simmons was a first-round NFL draft pick, before he was a standout at Mississippi State, even before he was a phenom at Noxubee County High School, he was a water boy. Tyrone Shorter remembers bestowing the position on Simmons when Shorter was the head football coach at Noxubee County and Simmons was entering the fifth grade, back when neither had any idea the kind of player Simmons would become. On Saturday afternoon, almost 12 years after Simmons lugged water bottles for the Tigers, Shorter -- now the head coach at Louisville High School -- chatted with his former charge and a bevy of fellow NFL players from the area under the shade of a black canopy at the Starkville Sportsplex. The first-round draft pick of the Tennessee Titans in 2019 had come back to the town where he played college football to host the first-ever Jeffery Simmons Football Camp, a free enterprise held for first through eighth graders Friday and high schoolers Saturday. Seeing Simmons give back to his old community by helping kids no different from him so many years ago, Shorter said Simmons' legacy has almost come full circle. "To now see the man that he's become, it is huge," Shorter said.
In Mississippi's fight to discard Confederate relics, a new ally: college athletes
College sports are cultural staples in Southern university towns like this one, where they wield huge influence over devoted fan bases. That's helped lead to a sudden social justice shockwave in recent weeks: College athletes in Mississippi and across the country have harnessed their collective power to call for the removal of Confederate monuments, symbols and honorifics and demand their institutions and communities account for racial inequities. Stars from the University of Mississippi football team in this North Mississippi town have used their platform to push for the removal of Confederate statues on and off campus and marched alongside their coaches, fellow students and residents for social change. Meanwhile, a star running back at Mississippi State University, Kylin Hill, publicly threatened to quit his team if the Confederate battle emblem wasn't removed from the state flag that had flown in Mississippi since 1894. With college sports closely tied to the state's identity, and bringing in hundreds of millions of dollars to the Mississippi economy each year, college athletes often have to face Mississippi's history head on -- though in the past they've done it quietly. That's now changed.
SEC commissioner Greg Sankey: Concern about football season 'high to very high'
SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said Saturday his concern for the football season is "high to very high" and acknowledged, "We are running out of time to correct and get things right." During an interview on Marty & McGee on ESPN Radio, Sankey was asked about looming decisions the SEC must make about the upcoming season, with coronavirus cases across the South rising, and about announcements the Big Ten and Pac-12 have made regarding the move to conference-only schedules. "We put a medical advisory group together in early April with the question, 'What do we have to do to get back to activity?' and they've been a big part of the conversation," Sankey said. "But the direct reality is not good and the notion that we've politicized medical guidance of distancing, and breathing masks, and hand sanitization, ventilation of being outside, being careful where you are in buildings. There's some very clear advice about -- you can't mitigate and eliminate every risk, but how do you minimize the risk? ... We are running out of time to correct and get things right, and as a society we owe it to each other to be as healthy as we can be."
SEC athletics directors will meet Monday to discuss 2020 football season
SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey will meet with the league's athletics directors Monday to discuss various scenarios about the 2020 football season, but he sounded a grim note Saturday that there was a reasonable possibility of no season at all without significant changes in the current coronavirus numbers and pandemic-related behaviors. "Yep...that's exactly what I said...and have been saying," Sankey wrote on his Twitter account after an appearance on the "Marty & McGee" radio program on ESPN. "I want to provide the opportunity for college athletics to be part of the fall, but we need to all consider our behavior to make possible what right now appears very difficult. "The direct reality is not good ..." Sankey said the SEC continued to work toward a final decision regarding the season in late July, some two weeks away. He said that the decisions by the Big Ten and Pac-12 to play conference games only -- a decision that has canceled the Alabama-USC game on Sept. 5 in Dallas, among others, would not accelerate the SEC timetable.
Colleges pull back on athletics amid coronavirus
The Pacific-12 Conference announced Friday that it would only schedule in-conference athletic events this fall for football, men's and women's soccer, and women's volleyball. It also said it would delay the start of mandatory athletic activities "until a series of health and safety indicators, which have recently trended in a negative direction, provided sufficient positive data to enable a move to a second phase of return-to-play activities." The decision follows a similar announcement by the Big Ten, a Power Five conference often aligned with the Pac-12, as colleges confront the difficulties of athletics during the pandemic. The impact is also being felt financially. Florida State University announced a 20 percent cut in its athletic budget, reported The Orlando Sentinel. Officials cited declines in football ticket sales and donations. "I am personally heartbroken over the impact this pandemic has had on our employees, and I am disappointed that I must give you this discouraging news today," Florida State athletics director David Coburn wrote in a letter sent to all athletics department employees Friday. "However, I am sure you have seen that other athletic departments around the country are also making reductions."
Normal football season on shaky ground as SEC considers options
Ray Tanner was as usual. South Carolina's athletic director was optimistic Wednesday, hopeful and encouraging that the Gamecocks' football season could still happen with no major changes, outside of fan attendance. But the first domino toward there being a shortened season, if there's any season at all, fell a few hours after Tanner concluded his monthly talk on 107.5 FM The Game. More fell before the weekend. He'll be in Birmingham on Monday with the SEC's other 13 ADs, and while no decisions are expected from the previously scheduled meeting, there will definitely be a lot more to discuss. "We're trying to make the right decisions for us, for the Southeastern Conference," SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said on ESPN radio on Thursday. "It does have an impact because I've said publicly we're all linked nationally, so when other people make decisions, yes, there's an impact, but also we're going to look at our situation and make a decision that's appropriate for the Southeastern Conference and most importantly for the health of our student-athletes."
Traditional SEC kickoff is missing
Today, the SEC was supposed to convene in Atlanta to celebrate the beginning of a new football season. But SEC media days will not be held at the College Football Hall of Fame as originally scheduled. Instead, SEC officials are scheduled to be at the conference office in Birmingham, Ala., today hosting in-person meetings between SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey and the league's athletic directors. The SEC brass and athletic directors will convene against an ominous backdrop of covid-19 spikes throughout most of the conference's 11-state footprint. Arkansas Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek will represent a state that surpassed 1,000 new cases in one day on Saturday for the first time since the outbreak began. That is not the direction the SEC wanted to be headed with eight weeks remaining until the scheduled start of the college football season. In a coronavirus-free world, the SEC would have kicked media days today for a conference that has claimed 10 of the past 14 national championships.
'We don't know': Auburn football grips with uncertain future
Coynis Miller could probably only laugh. He had to share it. Auburn's rising junior at defensive tackle hit retweet on a simple public service announcement last Thursday, as he was scrolling through his phone sometime between the rigorous contact tracing and the constant symptom testing that he faces every day on campus in the bubble with his football teammates. "On behalf of every football player in America," Clemson defensive lineman KJ Henry had conveyed on Twitter, "stop asking us if we're having a season. We don't know." Miller just jokingly added: "Please." It was a lighthearted exchange, but it still illustrates the distressing reality weighing on college football players across the country -- and at Auburn -- as the calendar inches closer to the start of the fall semester.
Bryant-Denny Stadium renovations on schedule
The shadow of doubt the coronavirus pandemic cast over the 2020 college football season became tangible earlier this week, when the Big 10 announced it is canceling all non-conference games. The SEC may follow in the coming days or weeks; whether it does or not, the University of Alabama will have a new version of Bryant-Denny Stadium to play in. Despite two confirmed -- yet brief -- work stoppages, the renovation of the stadium remains on schedule. An expanded recruiting suite, a new home locker room, new video boards and student plaza are among the new facets of the stadium, ready for the 2020 season. Further changes to Bryant-Denny Stadium will come in later phases.
College football conference-only schedules cost Group of Five big
In one of the gloomiest days in recent college football memory, Troy Dannen, if he looks hard enough, can find the glass at least fractionally full. In these dark pandemic times, he'll accept even a small trace of liquid lining the bottom of the cup. As Tulane's athletic director, he oversees one of the rare Group of Five programs to not have scheduled this season what's termed as a "buy game" against a Power 5 school, where in which big brother writes a hefty check to little brother for what's usually a beatdown. As college football moves closer and closer toward a season in which non-conference games won't exist, Dannen, unlike many of his colleagues, is in the clear. "Fortunately, we didn't schedule one this year, so we're not relying on it to balance our budget," he says, and then reality sets in, "but we are relying on football games." Across the country, Group of Five administrators are bracing for the budget hole that will be left without their big-money road games. Nearly 40 Power 5 programs have scheduled a total of 49 buy games worth about $65 million, according to the Associated Press. The home team often shells out anywhere from $800,000 to $1.8 million for these matchups -- fractional numbers for their own $100 million budgets but serious cash for the recipients.

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