Tuesday, July 14, 2020   
T.K. Martin Center planning COVID-19 safety measures for preschool
Some families travel more than three hours one way to bring their child to the T.K. Martin Center for Technology and Disability, director Kasee Stratton-Gadke said, because its specialized preschool services can't be found anywhere else. The T.K. Martin Center on the Mississippi State University campus provides technology, training and educational support for people of all ages with disabilities, and it relies on grants and donations, Stratton-Gadke told the Starkville Rotary Club at its virtual meeting Monday. "(It's) really humbling to know that families are trusting us with that care, but also it really speaks to the impact of that program and what wonderful support our staff gives," she said. Stratton-Gadke has been the center's director for just more than a year. She was the first speaker of the new term of Rotary leadership on Monday, with Grant Arinder taking over the presidency from Sid Salter, and the club will make a weekly donation to the T.K. Martin Center in honor of the speaker at each meeting for the next year.
Famous Maroon Band alumnus goes viral over TikTok to show enthusiasm bands bring to sports
Caleb Sears has gone viral over several videos on TikTok including a lip-sync video on the Miser brothers and a comedy on how COVID-19 ruined all sports, but his most well-known video is one about marching band. Sears graduated from Mississippi State University and was a part of the Famous Maroon Band. He was in band for 12 years, playing in the marching, symphonic, and pep bands from middle school through college. Sears also competed in Drum Corps International, the NFL for marching band. Sears said the purpose of his video was to highlight a well-known song that showcases how enthusiastic marching bands can be no matter if the team is winning by 36 or losing by 24. Sears said part of being in band is providing a fun, enthusiastic and entertaining environment for the fans. Sears video has had over 1.2 million views, over 158,000 likes, and has sparked a conversation of the importance of band across the country.
Report Highlights Teacher Recruitment, Diversity Initiatives
To address ongoing teacher shortages and increase the diversity of the teacher workforce, the state of Mississippi has launched Grow Your Own (GYO) initiatives, according to a New America report. The report, "Mississippi's Multifaceted Approach to Tackling Teacher Shortages," analyzes the impact of the programs and offers strategies other states can implement. Under GYO, Mississippi has developed local teachers and established a state-run teacher residency program and a pilot teaching licensure program.In Mississippi, the Quitman County School District is using the GYO programs to recruit educators from the community to eventually teach there. Additionally, the Professional Advancement Network for Teacher Assistants (PANTA) program assists paraeducators who are near completion or currently hold an associate degree. The program aims to increase access to the elementary education program at Mississippi State University (MSU) at Meridian. To diversify the teacher workforce, the Mississippi Department of Education raised $4.1 million in support. The funding helped establish the Mississippi Teacher Residency program, which will recruit and place more than 100 new teachers over the course of three years. William Carey University, MSU-Meridian and Delta State University will partner with K-12 districts in the state. Last fall, universities began to enroll three cohorts of 12 residents each, the report said.
Governor: Mississippi seeing its 'worst' spread of COVID-19
A mask mandate and other restrictions took effect Monday in 13 of Mississippi's 82 counties as the state continues to see a rapid increase in cases of the new coronavirus, including a steady rise in hospital patients. "This is the worst that it's ever been for spread of cases in our state," Republican Gov. Tate Reeves said during a news conference Monday. Figures released Monday by the state Health Department showed 1,020 people were hospitalized with confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 Sunday. That is up from 664 on June 22. Reeves said wearing a mask in public is not foolproof, but it can help slow the spread of the virus. He said he has heard about "mask shaming" directed at people who cover their faces and at people who don't. "That is not helping," Reeves said.
Mississippi COVID-19: Gov. Tate Reeves imploring people to wear masks
As more Mississippi hospitals run out of intensive care beds, Gov. Tate Reeves again implored Mississippians to wear masks at a press conference Monday. Many Mississippians remain reluctant to wear masks, Reeves said, and some may never be convinced that wearing a mask will slow the spread of coronavirus. Reeves said he has tried to be an "honest broker" during the pandemic and now is the time for Mississippi to come together and do what is best for everyone's health by wearing masks. The governor said it's crucial that at least 80% -- if not 90 or 95% -- wear masks while in public. "We've looked at every available tool and I promise you this, this is the best weapon we have right now," Reeves told reporters. "It's not fun, but it's a hell of a lot better than widespread economic shutdown. And if we don't do something, that's the trajectory we're on ... The president's wearing a mask. I'm wearing a mask."
Casinos back open for business but not back to normal
Gamblers eagerly returned to play their favorite games when most Mississippi casinos reopened May 21 after weeks of a mandated shutdown due to the coronavirus. Their enthusiasm carried over through the Memorial Day and July 4th holiday weekends, though new health guidelines and restrictions may have toned things down a bit. Still, casino operators and tourism officials say they are pleased with what they've seen so far in the all important summer season and are hopeful about how the rest of the year plays out. Beau Rivage in Biloxi reopened to the public on June 1 and officials say response has been "extremely positive." Of the casino resort's more than 1,800 slot machines, 925 are available to guests. Beau Rivage has 82 table games and currently has 50 of those games open. "We are doing better than projected and numbers demonstrate a pent-up demand, as well as confidence in our health and safety protocols, said Travis Lunn, Beau Rivage president and COO.
Attorney chosen as new Mississippi revenue commissioner
An attorney with experience in money matters will be the new head of the Mississippi Department of Revenue. Chris Graham has worked in recent years for the Legislative Budget Office, helping senators write spending plans for state agencies. He previously worked for the state Ethics Commission and in private law practice. Gov. Tate Reeves announced Monday that he is nominating Graham to become state revenue commissioner. Graham can work in the job while he waits for the Senate to consider his confirmation. In addition to overseeing the Department of Revenue, the commissioner serves in a group of experts that help legislators predict how much money the state might have available each year. That number is used as the basis for writing state budgets.
David Chism plans to run for House District 37 seat
Lowndes County native David M. Chism will run for the state House of Representatives seat recently vacated by his third cousin, Gary Chism. David Chism, a Republican, announced his candidacy for the District 37 seat on Facebook over the weekend. If elected, David Chism will complete Gary Chism's term, which ends in 2023. Gary Chism retired June 30 due to health issues in his family. David Chism said in the Facebook post announcing his candidacy that he plans to bring "sense and sensibility" to the people of Mississippi. While he is a self-proclaimed fiscal conservative, he said two of his main priorities moving forward are the expansion of broadband in rural communities and ensuring teachers have the necessary resources -- particularly technological resources -- to do their jobs in the midst of a pandemic. Teachers already do the jobs of "three or four other different professionals," he said, and starting in the fall they also will have to be technology experts and nurses. House District 37 covers parts of Lowndes, Oktibbeha and Clay counties.
Mississippi farmers can soon apply for hemp production license
Mississippi farmers will soon be able to apply for a hemp production license. Following the passage of the 'Mississippi Hemp Cultivation Act', which legalizes the cultivation of hemp under a state plan to be created and implemented by the Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce, farmers will be able to apply for such a license from August 1st through October 31st. Unfortunately for farmers, Ag Commissioner Andy Gipson explained that the Legislature did not appropriate the necessary funding for the program's implementation at this time. "I appreciate the Mississippi Legislature providing farmers with access to a new agricultural commodity. However, the economic stress of COVID-19 made it difficult for the Legislature to find a way to fund the program. As a result, the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce cannot implement a state hemp program. Should the Legislature decide to fund a hemp program, MDAC will request to be the licensing agency," said Gipson.
Attorneys blast Madison County attorney for online post over George Floyd death, protesters
A group of diverse attorneys in central Mississippi has sent a letter to Madison County prosecuting attorney Pamela Hancock criticizing her for a social media post after the Memorial Day death of George Floyd, a Black man, by then-Minneapolis police officers. In early June, Pamela "Pammi" Hancock said in a now deleted Facebook reply that she can only hope the deadly strain of COVID-19 spreads in riots. She later said she was only joking and didn't mean she wanted anyone to die. Hancock's post drew ire on social media. Now a group of 35 attorneys, including former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove, Constance Slaughter Harvey, Neely Carlton Lyons and Walter Boone, have signed an open letter released Monday expressing concern over Hancock's post. Boone said the broad-based group of attorneys hope Hancock will look at her own comments and conduct a deep dive into her office to ensure all people all treated fairly. He said it is important to talk about issues, not sweep them under the rug or not comment. Hancock said Monday she will have a formal response to the letter by Thursday.
As a Flag Comes Down, Looking for a 'New Mississippi'
The activists were infants when two-thirds of Mississippians voted in 2001 to keep the state flag embedded with the battle emblem of the Confederacy. They grew up pledging allegiance to it in school, where they also learned about a history of segregation and oppression associated with the banner. The activists, a band of Black Lives Matter organizers, marched last month through the streets of Jackson, the flag's removal among their demands. But despite the fury, it seemed a false hope in a state that had proudly flown it for 126 years. "The state flag, we thought, was a constant," Calvert White, 20, said on a recent afternoon. But in a matter of days, something that had seemed impossible was suddenly inevitable. State troopers folded the flag at the Capitol for the last time last week, a turnabout that was powered by a coalition of seemingly unlikely allies, including business-minded conservatives, Baptist ministers and the Black Lives Matter activists. They were bound by a mutual affection for a state not always understood by the rest of the world and a recognition that the flag presented complications as Mississippi confronts a daunting roster of struggles.
'Here's your check': Trump's massive payouts to farmers will be hard to pull back
Government payments to farmers have surged to historic levels under President Donald Trump as the Agriculture Department floods the industry with cash to stem the financial losses from Trump's tariff fights and the coronavirus pandemic. But as agriculture grows more reliant on unprecedented taxpayer support, farm policy experts and watchdog groups warn the subsidies are growing too big and too fast, with no strings attached and little oversight from Congress -- and that Washington could have a difficult time shutting off the spigot. The massive payments have been a political boon to Trump in farm country -- he tweeted in January that he hoped the money would be "the thing they will most remember" -- but risk creating a culture of dependency, as farmers and ranchers work the bonus subsidies into their financial plans when making large, up-front investments in seed, feed and farm machinery. t's a problem for taxpayers, too: The size, speed and lack of scrutiny of the payments should concern the public, says Neil Hamilton, emeritus professor and former director of Drake University's Agricultural Law Center.
Trump team eyes school funds boost in next virus aid bill
President Donald Trump's push to reopen schools is being complicated by a split within his ranks over how to do it, with some advisers advocating for a massive federal expenditure to make campuses safe as Congress compiles the next COVID-19 relief bill. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Monday that schooling will be a priority in the coming package. Senate Democrats have proposed a $430 billion education stabilization plan. But the Republican leader has not said how much Congress is willing to spend, wary of high-dollar outlays that will run into resistance from GOP senators. Vice President Mike Pence assured governors Monday that talks are underway for education funds from Congress. "We can't have a normal country unless kids are back in school," McConnell said during a hospital visit in Kentucky.
Mitch McConnell Signals Limits on Race-Related Policy Changes
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) said he sees little sign that racial minorities are contending with voter suppression and defended the current role of police in society, signaling limits to how far Republicans will go in response to demands for change touched off by the killing of George Floyd in the custody of the Minneapolis police. "You know, you can either look at the situation with despair, or say well, yes, there are still problems but it is dramatically better in almost every measurable way since it was in the 1960s," the Senate majority leader, 78 years old, said about racism in America. In an interview, Mr. McConnell disputed claims by Democrats and civil-rights groups that Black Americans are disadvantaged at the polls by state-based measures like voter ID requirements or shortened voting hours. "There's very little tangible evidence of this whole voter-suppression nonsense that the Democrats are promoting," Mr. McConnell said. "My prediction is African-American voters will turn out in as large a percentage as whites, if not more so, all across the country."
President Trump talks up Tommy Tuberville on election eve conference call
President Donald Trump spoke on an election eve conference call with Tommy Tuberville, who carries the president's endorsement into Tuesday's runoff against Jeff Sessions for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate. "It's great to be speaking with the people of Alabama, a place I love, a place where we've had tremendous success, where they like me, and I like them," Trump said after an introduction by Tuberville. "Maybe love is a better word, frankly. But it's been a great state and I love helping you. And I think one of the reasons and one of the ways that we're going to be helping you is by recommending strongly Tommy Tuberville to be your next senator." The president, never shy about his admiration for the football dynasty Nick Saban has built at the University of Alabama, mentioned Tuberville's success against the Crimson Tide as Auburn's head coach, a run that helped bring Saban to Alabama to reverse the trend. But Trump got Saban's first name wrong more than once on the call. The winner of Tuesday's runoff moves on to face Sen. Doug Jones, a Democrat, in November.
The Equity-Diversity-Inclusion Industrial Complex Gets a Makeover
Starbucks is trying. In 2018 the coffeehouse company became a national punching bag after a café manager called the police on two Black men for sitting and not ordering anything in one of its Philadelphia locations. Ever since, company leaders have been working, fully caffeinated, to make amends for this racist misstep. Right after the incident, they closed some 8,000 shops for a day to hold a mandatory antibias training. Then, they worked with scholars at Arizona State University for a year and a half to develop "To Be Welcoming," an online curriculum featuring videos of leading scholars on topics ranging from policing in America to harmful stereotypes about people with disabilities. The company released To Be Welcoming as a voluntary class for their employees last September. At the same time, they made the class freely available to anybody who'd like to use it. In creating this series, Starbucks has essentially updated a decades-long workplace tradition: the diversity training workshop. So now seems like a good time to raise a scientific question: Does the training actually work? A lot of research suggests not.
U. of Mississippi begins relocating Confederate monument
Workers on Tuesday morning started the process to relocate a controversial monument to the Confederacy that has stood in the center of the University of Mississippi's campus since 1906. Over a year ago, campus groups, most of which were student-led, passed resolutions calling for university leaders and the state college board to move the statue to the Confederate cemetery, which is a more obscure place on the university campus. McCarty King Construction Company and Mark Watson Engineering -- both Tupelo-based companies -- have been hired by the university to oversee the relocation of the statue. After initially pausing the relocation process, the trustees of the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning approved the relocation process last month.
Confederate statue on Ole Miss campus relocated
The Confederate soldier statue on the University of Mississippi campus is being relocated Tuesday, a year and a half after students passed a resolution decrying the monument. Ole Miss spokesperson Rod Guajardo confirmed the move Tuesday morning. The statue is being moved from its current location near the university's administration building to the Confederate cemetery on campus. It was erected in 1906, more than 40 years after the end of the Civil War. In May, the words "spiritual genocide" were spray-painted on the monument along with red hand prints. The relocation has been met with pushback from those on campus however, after it was revealed that the move would cost approximately $1.2 million. The Daily Mississippian, Ole Miss' student newspaper, reported both students and faculty marched in protest at the end of June, demanding that the statue be torn down instead.
Crews move Confederate monument at University of Mississippi after years of student activism
As the sun rose Tuesday morning, workers began the process of moving the controversial Confederate monument at the University of Mississippi. The 30-foot monument has greeted visitors at the university's main entrance as the campus' most visible ode to the Lost Cause since it was erected by the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1906. Workers began disassembling the statue at dawn Tuesday morning to little fanfare. The date of the move, which university officials had broadly signaled would occur "as quickly as possible," had not been announced publicly. As a worker began sawing the stone soldier off its pedestal at dawn, there were no bystanders. One university police officer watched from his parked patrol car. Crews are expected to have completed the statue's move to the cemetery by the end of the day.
Dr. John Neff's colleagues say he was against erecting individual graves in UM Confederate cemetery
Faculty in the University of Mississippi Department of History released a statement on July 13 in an effort to set the record straight about Dr. John Neff's involvement in the cemetery enhancement plans. The statement states that the "recent efforts to posthumously weaponize [Neff's] authority to provide cover for a plan he spent years of his life fighting are an insult to his scholarship as well as his character." Neff, who died suddenly on Jan. 30, 2020, was a leading authority on death, mourning and Civil War memory. Founder of the UM Center for Civil War Research, he argued that efforts to individualize and dignify the Confederate dead distorted Civil War history in order to distract from the Confederacy's association with racism and treason. Faculty members of the University's history department said in the letter that they felt it was important to set the record straight about Neff's work and to see that his work on the project is not manipulated or forgotten.
UMMC's AirCare, Anderson announce enhanced affiliation
Anderson Regional Medical Center in Meridian and the University of Mississippi Medical Center's AirCare medical helicopter transport announced they are enhancing their partnership caring for patients. Dr. Damon Darsey, an emergency medicine physician and medical director of UMMC's Mississippi Center for Emergency Services, said the goal is keeping patients local, when possible. "What's not working is that everyone's coming to big centers," he said. "That's not a sustainable system. COVID or non-COVID, we've got to keep people local, and so our job is how do we work with Anderson to keep things here." The partnership between the two hospitals began in 2016, but the enhanced relationship expands educational and clinical components from providers at UMMC, according to a news release.
Millsaps College stands behind international students after Trump administration's new restrictions
Millsaps College is standing behind their international students after the Trump administration's new restrictions. A recently announced directive says that international students cannot stay in the U.S. if they take all their classes online this fall. A wide range of colleges and state and local officials are standing up to the policy, which faces mounting legal opposition. Dr. Robert W. Pearigen, President of Millsaps College announced he does not support the administrations new rules: "Last week, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced a set of draft regulations with potentially negative consequences on international students studying in the United States. The proposed changes to the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) could jeopardize the well-being and success of the international students at Millsaps. ... I do not support this action, and I want to assure you that the Millsaps administration will take appropriate actions to mitigate the negative consequences of these regulations. To our international students, you are welcome here and we will do our best to make sure you can successfully meet your academic and personal goals. We are proud that you have chosen Millsaps."
Belhaven University announces new doctoral program for business administration
Belhaven University has announced its second doctoral program, the Doctor of Business Administration (DBA). The online doctoral program is dissertation-based and prepares candidates for high-level positions in the business sector. "It's exciting to see this new Doctor of Business Administration take its place alongside our fast-growing Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) program as the second doctoral degree offered at the University," said Belhaven University Provost Dr. Bradford Smith. "With all the challenges and opportunities in the current national and global scene, this is the perfect time to pursue a DBA that will develop skills and prepare our candidates to move ahead in the business world. We are thrilled that Belhaven University's School of Business is now offering an innovative DBA – offering the same affordable, student-friendly, high quality education that students have come to expect from Belhaven," said Dr. Smith.
UGA faculty, others pushing back against university system's fall reopening plans
Faculty resistance continues to mount at the University of Georgia and other University System of Georgia colleges against what they see as top-down, one-size-fits-all and inadequate planning for campuses to reopen this fall. On Wednesday, the University of Georgia's Franklin College of Arts and Sciences Faculty Senate will meet to discuss a resolution calling for changes in reopening plans, though no vote is scheduled during the Zoom meeting. The senate scheduled the special meeting in response to a petition signed by 228 faculty members in Franklin College, UGA's largest academic unit. Last week, 58 Regents professors -- the highest academic rank in the University System of Georgia -- released a statement calling on the USG and Chancellor Steve Wrigley to allow individual college presidents to make decisions about their campuses' reopening plans. Georgia public colleges "are placed at risk by top-down policies from the state-wide university system that do not account for local realities," reads the statement in part, published in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Big changes are coming this fall to U. of Tennessee, where not wearing a mask is not an option
Life at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, won't be the same when students return to campus this fall, with smaller classes and more outdoor events designed to keep campus safe from COVID-19. The fall semester begins Aug. 19 and in-person classes will end before Thanksgiving. Provost John Zomchick and Vice Provost for Student Success Amber Williams spoke with Knox News to outline some of the major changes students should expect as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Knox County and across Tennessee. There are three options for classes this fall: face-to-face, online, and a hybrid of the two. The university is adding new technology to classrooms for online and hybrid classes, Zomchick said. Students and faculty in face-to-face classes will be required to wear a mask at all times. While changes are still being finalized, Zomchick said, the best thing to do when returning to campus is pay attention to signs and new information.
Texas A&M forms commission for diversity, equity and inclusion
Forty-five people in the Texas A&M University community are coming together for the next few months to address topics surrounding diversity, equity and inclusion at the school. A&M President Michael K. Young announced Monday that the commission will look into racial intolerance and historical representations such as statues, policies and practices. The future of the Lawrence Sullivan Ross statue on campus will be part of the group's focus. The commission is made up of 14 current students, 12 former students, 16 faculty and staff, two members of the Board of Regents and the president of Prairie View A&M University. The commission's charges include gathering input through public forums and assessing reports, policies and practices related to diversity, equity and inclusion at the school and the Bryan-College Station community. The group is asked to provide a final report with its findings to the A&M System Board of Regents and Young by Oct. 30. After both review the findings, the Board of Regents will have the final say about how to move forward.
U. of Missouri leaders meet with education faculty, staff about dean's ouster
University of Missouri President Mun Choi and Provost Latha Ramchand on Monday met virtually with more than 300 faculty and staff in the University of Missouri College of Education about last week's sudden removal of Dean Kathryn Chval. Interim Dean Erica Lembke also participated. "They were giving space for faculty and staff to speak up," said Zandra De Araujo, College of Education member of the MU Faculty Council. Faculty and staff in the College of Education are upset about Chval's removal and have started an online petition seeking her reinstatement. Chval remains on the faculty after what Choi, who is also interim MU chancellor, and Ramchand, described as a leadership change. Chval had been dean since 2016 and on the faculty since 2003. She was a candidate for provost in 2018. Lembke, chair of the Department of Special Education, was appointed interim dean.
Schools, Businesses, Cities Push Back On Rule Blocking Some International Students
One week ago, the Trump administration announced it would ban international students from attending U.S. colleges in the fall if they only take online classes. Now hundreds of colleges and universities, dozens of cities, and some of the country's biggest tech companies are pushing back. In several court filings Friday and Monday, the groups stand with the international students. The administration's plan could be catastrophic to some schools. And international students make "immense contributions" to campuses nationwide, they said, fostering diversity and enhancing schools' intellectual and athletic competitiveness. Blocking these students from attending American schools would only send them elsewhere, giving an advantage to foreign nations, the schools said. An amicus brief filed by America's top technology companies makes a similar point. International students are both customers and future employees of these companies, wrote Google, Facebook, Twitter, Spotify, Adobe and others in a filing Monday. If international students lose their visas and are forced to return home, American businesses and the economy at large will suffer, they said.
At college health centers nationwide, students have battled misdiagnoses and inaccessible care
After days of sharp pain shooting up her left abdomen, Rose Wong hobbled from her history class to the student health center at Duke University. A nurse pressed on the 20-year-old's belly and told her it felt like gas. Wong questioned the diagnosis but said the nurse dismissed her doubts and sent her to the campus pharmacy to pick up Gas-X that afternoon in February 2019. The next morning, Wong doubled over in pain, and a roommate drove her to a nearby emergency room in Durham, N.C. In the hospital, doctors discovered her condition was far more serious: Her left kidney had a massive hemorrhage. The bleeding, she later learned, was caused by a cancerous tumor that required surgery and chemotherapy and forced her to miss an entire school year. Wong said she worries that when she returns to the Duke campus next month, the university and its medical clinic will be incapable of keeping her and 15,500 other Duke students healthy and safe in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic. Wong's misdiagnosis at Duke is among the scores of problems documented by The Washington Post at college health centers nationwide. As millions go back to school during the pandemic, the ability of campus health services to safeguard and care for students will be tested as never before -- and many colleges appear unprepared for the challenge.
Study: Concept of faculty fit in hiring is vague and potentially detrimental to diversity efforts
Faculty search committees often pick candidates based on their supposed fit. But rather than a defined metric, fit is a highly subjective concept that opens the door to racial and other biases, according to a new study in The Journal of Higher Education. Beyond providing a novel analysis of faculty fit and its implications for diversity, the paper is also a fascinating window into the pre-COVID-19 hiring process in general. The study confirms what many already believe or suspect about academic hiring: that it typically privileges perceived research impact over all else and that it runs on what's been called cloning bias, or homophily. Still, the paper doesn't vilify the concept of fit altogether. Instead, it advocates standardizing fit, such as through the use of jointly designed rubrics, to uncover and calibrate search committee members' preferences and to promote diversity.
Colleges grapple with professional licensure disclosures
As of July 1, all higher education institutions in receipt of federal financial aid are required to inform prospective students whether a degree program will qualify them to work in the state where they are located. The new rule is intended to prevent students from studying for years to enter professions such as nursing or teaching, only to realize upon graduation that they do not meet state-level requirements for employment. Horror stories of students wasting thousands of dollars on the "wrong" degree for state professional certification are uncommon but not unheard-of. While there are often pathways for professionals to become licensed in other states, additional training can be costly and time-consuming if reciprocity agreements are not in place. No student wants to make an uninformed decision about their future, said Sharyl Thompson, CEO of Higher Education Regulatory Consulting. Students should know where they will be qualified to work when they graduate. But providing this information to students is not a straightforward task for institutions, she said.
Universities Cut Oil Investments as Student Activism Builds
When the University of Michigan's chief financial officer asked the school's Board of Regents in December to authorize a new $50 million oil-and-gas investment, they gave an answer he had never heard before: No. The board delivered the news at a meeting packed with student activists. They had spent months pushing the university to stop funding fossil-fuel companies. A few weeks later, the school said it was freezing all direct investments in such companies. U.S. university and college endowments control more than $600 billion of investments, and the movement to divest those funds from fossil fuels is gaining momentum -- even though the pandemic has kept students off many campuses and issues of racial injustice have dominated the national discourse since George Floyd was killed in police custody in May. Activists say years of alarm about the costs of climate change have unified a broad base of support, including among the alumni that typically fund endowments. Big universities rarely capitulate to such campaigns and fossil fuels seem to be joining a very short list of investments deemed off-limits by the ivory tower, such as apartheid-era South Africa and tobacco products.
Gov. Tate Reeves prison reform bill veto invites federal intervention
Cliff Johnson, the director of the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center at the University of Mississippi School of Law, writes: Without offering any meaningful explanation, Gov. Tate Reeves recently vetoed thoughtful, bipartisan criminal justice reform legislation that would have gone a long way toward addressing Mississippi's current prison crisis. And we all know where this veto leads. The Department of Justice is going to ramp up its previously announced investigation and come down here and whack us (even harder if Joe Biden wins in November and Attorney General Kamala Harris is wielding the hammer). The governor's veto proves, once again, that change just doesn't happen in Mississippi without external pressure. Where he failed, we now must look to the Department of Justice for help. I figure that since I am a native Mississippian who has practiced law here for 28 years and cares as much about this place as anyone, folks wouldn't mind if I went ahead and drafted the letter on behalf of our beloved home state. I'll be sure to let you know what action our friends in D.C. take in response to this, but I have to warn you -- I don't think it's going to be good news.
Hard won change comes to reluctant Mississippi
Syndicated columnist Bill Crawford of Meridian writes: These are still "times that try men's souls" Mr. Paine, but not as they did in your time. When you penned these famous words in your pamphlet "The Crisis," the passionate issue was freedom from English tyranny. "Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered," you wrote, as you belittled the "summer soldier" and "sunshine patriot" who "shrink from the service of their country." Not all agreed and heeded your words, but enough people did that independence was won and the United States born. Today, the passionate issue is freedom from the tyranny of racism. Not all agree, but enough do that change, at long last, is spreading across America (and Mississippi). Racism, like tyranny and hell, is not easily conquered. And the enemy is not a wayward king on a distant island, but our own wayward brothers and sisters.
Useful bellwethers for Mississippi
Columnist Phil Hardwick writes for the Mississippi Business Journal: During this pandemic, there are daily statistics, trends, charts, and other data offered to the public. It's difficult to make sense of it all. What's the real current status? What does the future hold? Which numbers should we pay attention to? Number of cases, percent increase in cases, deaths per capita, hospitalizations per capita, or something else? Are there data that can reliably predict the number of cases? And if so, can it aid us in deciding which activities we should or should not participate in? What we need is a reliable bellwether.

Greg Sankey to Finebaum after SEC meetings: 'I don't know if it is every conference for ourselves'
Greg Sankey isn't in the business of predictions. He's looking at facts. With that said, the SEC commissioner told "The Paul Finebaum Show" on Monday the upward trends of COVID-19 are "problematic" but also said he feels a "responsibility not to just say, we're done." Any plans for the upcoming college football season as it relates to the schedule won't be made until late July. Sankey, after a full day of meetings with the league's athletic directors in Birmingham, plans to take as long as possible before a plan is devised. "There are any number of opportunities to learn from, which is the way we've always viewed what would play out," Sankey told Finebaum. "You go back to April, one of the guiding points from our faculty members, to take as long as you can in your decisions because you will have better information."
No changes to SEC football schedule as of now; conference continues with wait-and-see approach
The Big Ten and Pac-12 decided last week to nix their nonconference football games and limit member institutions to a conference-only schedule amid the coronavirus pandemic. The SEC is making no such move -- at least as of now. SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said Monday on "The Paul Finebaum Show" that the conference will continue to take a wait-and-see approach with hopes of having more information to make a decision later this month. "If we can wait to make major decisions, we're going to have better information," Sankey said on "Finebaum." "So, we're going to be patient." Coronavirus cases are surging throughout most of the U.S., including throughout the South. More than 135,000 deaths have been confirmed in the United States, according to John Hopkins University data. Global deaths top 570,000, according to the database. "The trends are not what we desired, not what we had experienced a bit earlier in the summer –--very much in the wrong direction. That's problematic," Sankey told Finebaum. "That doesn't mean that's the finish line."
Commissioner Greg Sankey says SEC in holding pattern
SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said after a meeting with all 14 conference athletic directors on Monday that the league is hoping to wait until late July before making a firm decision on football in the fall. "I've talked about late July. I've always observed the fundamental truth that if we can wait to make major decisions, we're going to have better information," Sankey said on the "Paul Finebaum Show" on the SEC Network shortly after the meeting in Birmingham, Ala., ended. "And so we're going to be patient." Sankey noted public actions regarding the virus need to improve. To that end, the SEC released a video Monday that featured all 14 SEC head football coaches wearing a mask with their school colors and logos on them. After the 14 coaches flashed past in alphabetical order of their school name, this text appeared: "We're wearing them. Are you?"
SEC commissioner Greg Sankey, ADs meet for first time since March, waiting to make return-to-play decisions
Southeastern Conference commissioner Greg Sankey said the league will wait until late July to make any decisions on the fall season after a day-long meeting Monday with conference athletic directors in Birmingham, Alabama. Monday's meeting, which lasted approximately eight hours, was the first in-person meeting of SEC staffers and athletic directors since the SEC men's basketball tournament in March. "It's a very serious tone right now," A&M athletic director Ross Bjork told The Eagle. "I wouldn't say it's positive one way. I wouldn't say it's negative the other way. I would say it was serious." The conversation revolved around issues that will help in the decision-making process for what to do with fall sports, including scheduling options and game management best practices for healthy competition, the release said.
NJCAA postpones fall sports to spring; MACC abstains on final vote
Another college sports domino fell Monday evening. The National Junior College Athletic Association officially announced it will move all fall sports, with the exception of cross country and half marathon championships, to the spring semester. Sports moving to the spring include football, men's and women's soccer and volleyball. Furthermore, all winter sports, including men's and women's basketball, will begin in January and finish in April. After the NJCAA announcement, the Mississippi Association of Community Colleges released a statement that painted a more wait-and-see approach than JUCO's governing body indicated. "The Region 23 representative to the NJCAA Board of Regents, upon the recommendation of the MACC presidents, voted to abstain on the final vote regarding moving most sports to the spring," the MACC official Twitter account wrote. "While we are concerned about the health and safety of our student-athletes, personnel and fans, we believe they are best served by waiting for other conferences and organizations to make a final decision regarding fall sports." Several JUCO coaches believe this decision will hurt their athletes' prospects of playing at a four-year college.
LSU marching band isn't traveling to any road football games, officials say
The Tiger Marching Band will not make road trips with the LSU football team this season due to the coronavirus pandemic, the school confirmed Monday. The decision not to travel was made collectively by the LSU Department of Bands and the Athletic Department, said Kelvin Jones, Tiger Marching Band director. Five road games are scheduled: a nonconference contest against Rice at Houston's NRG Stadium on Sept. 19, and Southeastern Conference games at Florida on Oct. 10, Arkansas on Oct. 17, Auburn on Nov. 21 and Texas A&M on Nov. 28. The band members have been informed, Jones said. "Everybody understands this is a unique year, a unique time," Jones said.
Memphis athletes signed waiver before campus return due to COVID-19 pandemic
Before Memphis athletes returned to campus June 6, they had to sign a waiver releasing the university from any liability from illnesses related to COVID-19. The two-page document, obtained by The Commercial Appeal through an open records request, states that while the university is taking precautions against COVID-19, athletes understand the risks and agree to follow safety protocols as they began voluntary workouts. By signing it, athletes waived their rights to sue the university, its athletic department or anybody affiliated for any "injury, loss or damage in connection with exposure, infection, and/or spread of COVID-19 related to my use of UofM property and/or participating in athletic related activities." On the waiver, athletes also had to sign a checklist noting they understood the need to follow safety recommendations such as social distancing, frequent handwashing, avoiding social gatherings as well as alert athletic trainers should they feel sick or notice symptoms. They also had to complete a health assessment questionnaire before coming to campus or they wouldn't be allowed to participate in any athletic activities.

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