Tuesday, July 21, 2020   
MSU Staff Council hosts virtual Town Hall meetings
The MSU Staff Council would like to provide an opportunity to engage with MSU Leadership as it relates to Operational Guidance and other COVID-19 related issues that impact our Staff. The Council will host four (4) virtual Town Hall meetings with Drs. Keenum, Shaw and Hyatt that will take place from July 21-24. The first three (3) meetings will be assigned by Division and the fourth will serve as an open forum for those unable to attend the Town Hall assigned to their respective Division. For those individuals that are unable to attend, please feel free to submit any question(s) you would like answered to staffcouncil@msstate.edu. A WebEx invitation will be sent to the Staff of each Division on the morning of each respective Town Hall.
County extends mask ordinance, Rob Roberson confirms positive test
The Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors extended the county's mask mandate as its own attorney has confirmed that he has tested positive for COVID-19. Board Attorney Rob Roberson, who also serves as a state legislator, said he had the virus during the discussion of the county's mask mandate. Roberson joined the meeting via video chat, and said he was currently self-quarantining in his office. The board unanimously voted to extend the county's current mask mandate for another two weeks. Roberson spoke to his own experience with the novel coronavirus after a presentation from Mississippi State Department of Health Northern Regional Health Officer Dr. Crystal L. Tate. "Even with a minor case of this, this stuff will put you down," Roberson said. "Anybody that says that we're blowing this out of proportion, they ain't had it." He reiterated that anyone who did not take the novel coronavirus seriously had not experienced the illness.
Engineer Clyde Pritchard, MDEQ will work to secure FEMA funding for county lake dam
County Engineer Clyde Pritchard will work more closely with the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality to find funding sources for the possible replacement of the Oktibbeha County Lake Dam, county and MDEQ officials decided at Monday's board of supervisors meeting. The Federal Emergency Management Agency's Rehabilitation of High Hazard Potential Dam program will divide $10 million among dams in need of repair and replacement nationwide in September. One-third of the $10 million will be distributed evenly among states that need it, and the remaining two-thirds will depend on the number of dam projects in each state. Mississippi will receive "a large portion" of the federal funding because it has 60 projects while some states have fewer than 10, said William McKercher, chief of the MDEQ dam safety division. Of those 60 projects, the Oktibbeha dam is one of the top five most necessary according to MDEQ, and the funding will contribute to construction as well as assessment.
Official: Mississippi hospitals likely to be overwhelmed
Within two weeks, Mississippi hospitals will need to start housing patients two-to-a room and placing beds in open wards and other areas where patients don't normally stay to keep up with the surge in new coronavirus cases, the state health officer said Monday. "If we don't see a decrease in transmission immediately, then it's pretty likely that the health care system is going to be thoroughly overwhelmed," Dr. Thomas Dobbs said at a news briefing. On Monday, 943 people were hospitalized in Mississippi with confirmed cases of coronavirus and 293 people were battling the virus in intensive care. And 40% of all patients in Mississippi's ICU's have coronavirus compared with 31% of patients just last Friday, a "phenomenal number," Dobbs said. "The fact that we are growing so quickly really tells us that we are at the verge of really pushing our system over its capacity," he said. "In large measure, we are already there."
Mississippi on the verge of 'crisis' as ICU beds fill up and COVID-19 cases surge, Dr. Thomas Dobbs warns
Armed with grim ICU statistics after a record-breaking day for coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in Mississippi, Dr. Thomas Dobbs warned residents that COVID-19 could overwhelm the state's healthcare system if people don't follow social distancing guidelines. The state health department announced its biggest single-day coronavirus case load on Monday at 1,251 -- the fifth time in the last six days that the state has announced over 1,000 new cases. "As you've noticed, we've had quite the run of days over 1,000. We see no likely let up in that for the near future," Dobbs, the State Health Officer, said. "Any interventions taking place now will take weeks before any benefit is noted." An increasing lack in ICU space has required patients to be shipped to other states. Dobbs said Monday that one coronavirus patient had to be sent to Missouri.Some private labs have been overwhelmed by test submissions, forcing some patients to wait a week or longer to determine if they have the coronavirus, according to Dobbs.
Nearly half of state's population now under mask mandate
More than 1.4 million Mississippians are now under a mandate -- imposed by Gov. Tate Reeves -- to wear a mask in public and while shopping. On Monday, the first-term Republican governor added 10 counties to the original 13 he had placed under a mandate on July 10 to wear a mask in public crowds in an effort to try to combat the spread of COVID-19. The new executive order will remain in effect until Aug. 3. State Health Officer Thomas Dobbs said the state's health care system is at the point of being overwhelmed. "If we don't see a decrease in transmissions immediately, it is pretty likely the health care system will be thoroughly overwhelmed," Dobbs said Monday during the news conference he and Reeves had to provide an update on COVID-19. He said hospitals already are converting emergency rooms into intensive care unit beds. Under the executive order, groups of more than 10 indoors and more than 20 outdoors are banned.
Ingalls could surpass 200 coronavirus cases after nearly 70 reported in 7-day period
Ingalls Shipbuilding reported on Monday that 16 employees tested positive for the coronavirus as cases at the Pascagoula shipyard and Jackson County continue to escalate. With 18 new cases reported Saturday and two other days of 10 cases or more, there were 69 new cases in the last seven days. Total cases at the shipyard since the pandemic began has reached 194, with 95 employees eligible to return to work. The company posted on its website July 12 that it in response to Gov. Tate Reeve's executive order, additional screening practices are in place and face coverings are required for employees that can't maintain 6 feet of distance and if their job allows for face coverings. While many businesses don't report to the public on cases among their employees, Ingalls Shipbuilding posts each new case on its website. The company also reports the area where the person works and when they last were at the shipyard.
Sally Doty opens up on executive appointment
Sally Doty, the now-former state senator from Brookhaven, is stepping down from her legislative post after being appointed to Staff Director for the Mississippi Public Utilities Staff by Governor Tate Reeves. The Public Utilities Staff was created in 1990 in order to represent the broad interest of the state by balancing the concerns of the residential, commercial, and industrial utility customers, the state agencies, and the public utilities. According to Doty, the Public Utilities Staff "really serves as the information-gathering arm" to the Public Service Commission. While Doty is moving away from the Senate, she won't be moving too terribly far just yet as one of her first orders of business at the Public Utilities Staff is to administer and audit the funds that fall under the recent passage of Senate Bill 3046, or the "COVID-19 Connectivity Act." "Actually, one of the bills I'm working on now at the Public Utilities Staff is the broadband enabling act," Doty said. "We set up a grant fund that the Public Utilities Staff will be handling and receiving all applications from co-ops and from other entities to expand broadband in Mississippi in response to the COVID crisis."
Malcolm White Retires as Director of Mississippi Arts Commission
After nearly 15 years of public service to the state of Mississippi, Malcolm White will retire as executive director of the Mississippi Arts Commission on September 30, 2020. His career in public service has included two stints as executive director of the Mississippi Arts Commission as well as several years serving as director of Visit Mississippi. White is perhaps best known for his role in the hospitality industry as owner of the popular Hal & Mal's restaurant and founding special events throughout the state such as Hal's St. Paddy's Parade. "Malcolm brought a unique set of skills to the Arts Commission," said Carol Puckett, board chair of the Mississippi Arts Commission. "His background as a successful entrepreneur and trendsetting cultural leader transformed and energized the work of the agency. He is well-known for his big ideas, passion for the arts in all forms and advocacy of small towns and out-of-the way places. The arts in Mississippi are better, healthier and more visible because of his leadership."
Lottery transfers more than $10 million to State of Mississippi
The Mississippi Lottery Corporation has completed its June transfer of $10,723,795.84 in net proceeds to the Lottery Proceeds Fund in the Mississippi State Treasury. This brings the total amount deposited to the State for Fiscal Year ending June 30, 2020, to $70,730,502.31. "We have actively sold lottery tickets slightly more than seven months during FY2020," said MLC President Tom Shaheen. "We are very pleased we have been able to return as much as we have to the state. This would not have been possible without the support of our players, retailers and MLC staff. The Mississippi Department of Transportation is already putting several lottery-funded projects in motion. We look forward to continuing our work to raise money for roads, bridges and education."
Two more Mississippi boards vote to keep Confederate statues
Supervisors in two Mississippi counties voted Monday not to move Confederate monuments that stand in front of courthouses. One vote happened Neshoba County, where three civil rights workers were killed and buried in an earthen dam in 1964 in what the FBI called the "Mississippi Burning" case. The other happened in Lauderdale County, where those civil rights workers had been based. Confederate monuments have come under increased scrutiny recently amid widespread protests over racial injustice. Lauderdale County is going to turn its current courthouse into a history museum after it moves government operations to a different building. Supervisors' President Kyle Rutledge said the statue's current location is "a fitting place," WTOK-TV reported.
Legislation to protect statues from vandalism introduced in House
Mississippi's Third District Congressman, Michael Guest, has cosponsored legislation regarding prosecution and punishment for defacing statues and monuments. According to Guest, the bill begins with an overview of the anarchist and extremist behavior that has taken place in the United States in recent weeks and the efforts to "indiscriminately destroy anything that honors our past and to erase from the public mind any suggestion that our past may be worth honoring, cherishing, remembering, or understanding." The legislation's text resembles the Executive Order on Protecting American Monuments, Memorials, and Statues and Combating Recent Criminal Violence issued by President Donald Trump.
Americans support Black Lives Matter but resist shifts of police funds or removal of statues of Confederate generals or presidents who were enslavers
A majority of Americans support the Black Lives Matter movement and a record 69 percent say black people and other minorities are not treated as equal to white people in the criminal justice system. But the public generally opposes calls to shift some police funding to social services or remove statues of Confederate generals or presidents who enslaved people, a Washington Post-ABC News poll finds. These findings underscore the mixed fallout after the brutal killing of George Floyd while in the custody of Minneapolis police in May. There is increased public scrutiny of police treatment of black Americans, but less unity on broader questions about how to address the country's treatment of black Americans since its founding. The new poll finds that 52 percent of Americans oppose removing public statues honoring Confederate generals, while 43 percent support their removal. That includes an 80 percent majority of Republicans and 56 percent of independents in opposition, while 74 percent of Democrats support the removal of these statutes. Opposition is even greater to the removal of public statues honoring former U.S. presidents who enslaved people, with 68 percent of Americans opposed and 25 percent in support of their removal.
Wicker's $120B RESTAURANT Act to help small businesses
Republican Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker and Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) introduced legislation on Thursday to establish a fund for independent restaurants and drinking establishments hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic. The $120 billion bill, dubbed the Real Economic Support that Acknowledges Unique Restaurant Assistance Needed to Survive Act, or RESTAURANT Act, would provide grants to restaurants that are not publicly traded and have $1.5 million or less in revenue under normal circumstances. The grant can be used to cover payroll, benefits, mortgage, rent, protective equipment, food or other costs. It provides an addition or substitute to loans provided through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which Congress passed in the $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package in March, for restaurants to spend more on overhead costs, as well as payroll. Wicker's Senate bill allows for franchisees with 20 locations or fewer to access these grants.
From cotton to hogs, agriculture groups seek billions more in coronavirus aid
The National Pork Producers Council plans to campaign for a change in federal law that would allow the Agriculture Department to pay livestock and poultry farmers for healthy animals they euthanized because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The trade association said Monday that it wants the provisions included in the Senate version of the next economic recovery bill with a goal of getting the language into a compromise version worked out between the Senate and the House by early August. The council's request for aid is just one item on a wish list from the agriculture sector for direct payments to farmers and ranchers to cover lost renewable fuel revenue and a collapse in the demand for cotton, aid to meat processing plants to ensure production lines keep moving, and other items. Advocates for renewable fuels, pork and cotton relief put the COVID-19 damage at about $17.8 billion, a sum that includes at least some estimates of continuing cost in 2021. Farm and agriculture-related groups say the pandemic, coming after several years of flat or low prices and two years of retaliatory tariffs from trading partners, has left them battered.
Another Problem On The Health Horizon: Medicare Is Running Out Of Money
Everyone involved even tangentially in health care today is consumed by the coronavirus pandemic, as they should be. But the pandemic is accelerating a problem that used to be front and center in health circles: the impending insolvency of Medicare. With record numbers of Americans out of work, fewer payroll taxes are rolling in to fund Medicare spending, the number of beneficiaries is rising, and Congress dipped into Medicare's reserves to help fund the COVID-19 relief efforts this spring. "I think we have a real, impending health care crisis," said Dr. David Shulkin, who was undersecretary for health at the Department of Veterans Affairs under President Barack Obama for two years and led the VA for a year under Donald Trump. In April, Medicare's trustees reported that the Part A trust fund, which pays for hospital and other inpatient care, would start to run out of money in 2026. That is the same as the projection in 2019. But the trustees cautioned at the time that their projections did not include the impact of COVID-19 on the trust fund. The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a nonpartisan group of budget experts focused on fiscal policy, estimates that the pandemic will cause the Part A trust fund to be unable to pay all of its bills starting in late 2023 or early 2024. "But we're still very close," said Marc Goldwein, the group's senior vice president.
East Mississippi Community College reopens all campuses to public as semester slowly approaches
All East Mississippi Community College campuses will now be opened to the public. In recent months, the college has closed its doors to the public because of COVID-19. "Everything we put together is following the Mississippi Department of Health, the CDC, guidelines," said EMCC President Dr. Scott Alsobrooks. And those changes, and one thing we know is it took a lot of work to get to where we are, to be prepared to bring people in and to do it safely." Dr. Alsobrooks said students will be provided with several options for attending classes. "Classes will be live, classes will be recorded so students can sit and watch a lecture at home or watch it recorded at home if they are not comfortable coming to class," said Dr. Alsobrooks. And for those who want to attend class in person, Dr. Alsobrooks said classroom desks will be separated and classes will be divided up lowering the number of students in the classroom at one time. Alsobrooks said it will be a requirement for anyone on campus to wear a mask.
Meridian Community College to honor Dr. Bill Scaggs
Meridian Community College is renaming its central building in honor of President Emeritus Dr. William F. "Bill" Scaggs. Ivy Hall, originally named for college founder, Dr. H.M. Ivy, will become Ivy-Scaggs Hall to also pay tribute to MCC's first president, who served the college for 35 years. Dr. Scaggs died on July 14, 2020, at the age of 84. He began working at MCC in 1963 as registrar before becoming the school's dean, a position he held from 1964 to 1967 and then serving as president from 1967 to 1998. Upon his retirement, he was named president emeritus by the board of trustees and by his successor, Dr. Scott Elliott. Current president, Dr. Thomas Huebner, said Scaggs's leadership was fundamental in establishing what Meridian Community College is today. William (Skip) Scaggs spoke on behalf of the family. "Meridian Community College was in most part, the brainchild of Meridian Public School Superintendent Horace Ivy, and I think Dr. Ivy would welcome Dad in sharing the honor. Dad, on the other hand, would likely shrug at the thought and not be too concerned with it."
Meridian Community College trustees add Bill Scaggs name to Ivy Hall
The Meridian Community College Board of Trustees is honoring former president emeritus William F. "Bill" Scaggs by renaming Ivy Hall to Ivy-Scaggs Hall. The new name pays tribute to the founding father of MCC, H.M. Ivy, and the first president, Scaggs, who served 35 years in leading the institution, the college announce Monday night. Scaggs died on July 14 at age 84. Scaggs' son William "Skip" Scaggs said his family appreciated the MCC board's gesture. Skip Scaggs said his father believed that the heart of the college was not in the name of the building but instead in the instructors' dedication, staff, and students on the inside. "Creating and cultivating that culture of nurturing instructors created a hallmark by which the college grew under his time here," Scaggs said in a statement. "As a family, we are thankful for his life and the lessons he lived out for us as well as our extended college family."
U. of Alabama hotline offers COVID-19 information
The University of Alabama's College of Community Health Sciences has set up a hotline that will provide the campus community with answers to frequently asked questions about COVID-19. "We wanted to create a centralized hub for communication with a consistent message and clear way to get COVID-19 answers on campus," said Dr. Lea Yerby, associate professor and vice chair in the department of community medicine and population health. "Those who might have a common or specific question can call the hotline and we will provide an answer or direct the caller to the proper source." Through the hotline, two nurse practitioners will be available to answer basic medical questions and refer callers to testing, self-quarantine or medical care. Operators will also be able to advise those in the UA community who test positive for COVID-19 about what they need to do in relation to work, housing and other matters. "The new hotline is an important way to reduce confusion, have a clear UA message, meet the need of our campus population and all of its diverse members and streamline response," she said.
Changes to Greek life at U. of Tennessee: Recruitment will be virtual, masks required
Recruitment for sororities at the University of Tennessee will include more virtual events this year, as the COVID-19 pandemic has limited the number of people who can gather at once. While some in-person events will take place, sorority and fraternity recruitment will also use a hybrid model, bringing virtual recruitment and events to campus this semester. "In this new recruitment plan, our priorities are the health and safety of PNMs (potential new members), active members, advisors, volunteers and UTK staff, while still maintaining the integrity of the recruitment process and allowing the Panhellenic community to host the best recruitment possible given the circumstances," UTK's Panhellenic Council said in a social media post. Final stages of recruitment, including the preference round, where potential members narrow their choices to one or two sororities, will include some in-person events, with the option to participate over Zoom. Another major change to recruitment is the "elimination of singing and chanting to minimize the spread of germs," the release said.
U. of Arkansas, Fayetteville tuition award eligibility extended to Georgians
A major award program for out-of-state students attending the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville is expanding eligibility for its most generous scholarships to include Georgia residents. Incoming students from Georgia enrolling in the summer or fall 2021 will be eligible for UA's New Arkansan Non-Resident Tuition Award Scholarship for Surrounding States that reduces by 70%, 80% or 90% the gap between more costly out-of-state tuition and the tuition rate paid by in-state students. Last fall, 1,645 degree-seeking new UA freshmen received the award, said Suzanne McCray, the university's top enrollment official. The university's full degree-seeking freshman class totaled 4,601 students. Students from outside Arkansas in recent years have made up about half of UA's incoming freshman classes, with the university relying on their numbers to boost enrollment and tuition revenue in an era of mostly flat state appropriation dollars.
University System of Georgia presidents endorse return to in-person classes
Georgia's public college and university presidents are fully onboard with plans to open campuses to in-person instruction during the upcoming fall semester. That's the sentiment expressed in a recent letter to the University System of Georgia Board of Regents signed by the presidents of 25 of the system's 26 campuses. "Resuming in-person classes this fall will be a difficult but important task, and it is one we are committed to achieving, as it serves the best interests of our students and the state of Georgia," the letter stated. "The campus experience is an essential part of the educational growth that is critical for the overall success of our students." The letter comes as some K-12 school systems in Georgia are choosing to stick with online classes only this fall as a way to discourage the spread of COVID-19. The 25th signatory to the letter, University of Georgia President Jere Morehead, sent the letter on behalf of the other 24 presidents. The only president not to sign the letter, Kimberly Ballard-Washington, is serving Savannah State University in an interim capacity.
Georgia Tech to offer hundreds of classes remotely this fall
Georgia Tech plans to have courses in-person for the upcoming semester, but many will be taught online. Nearly 1,000 courses will be taught remotely, according to a list of class schedules released Monday by the school. More than 600 classes are scheduled to be taught in-person. Others will offered through a hybrid model of remote delivery and in-person, the school said. The school said on its website Monday that the majority of its courses will have some in-person attendance. "We are still working through some final details of each available classroom to ensure physical distancing can be maintained consistently, so class locations are still being finalized. They will be shared in early August ahead of the first day of classes," the website said. Georgia Tech has significantly increased its online degree programs in recent years. More than 12,000 students, about one-third of its enrollment, were in online master's programs last year.
Drawing the full picture: Former Texas A&M student wins Pulitzer Prize in History
In 2014, historian Caleb McDaniel learned of the formerly enslaved woman Henrietta Wood, who won a lawsuit in the 1800s against a man who sold her back into slavery after she was freed. McDaniel said he immediately knew it was a story that deserved a book. This year, the former Texas A&M student's work about Wood titled Sweet Taste of Liberty: A True Story of Slavery and Restitution in America was awarded the 2020 Pulitzer Prize in History. Putting the pieces of history together was a long process that included trips to look at archives in several states. McDaniel said he ran into challenges along the way as he looked through newspapers that sometimes had incorrect information. Finding the original case files from the lawsuit, he said, took several attempts since they had been misfiled and misplaced for many years. The documents were crucial, as they confirmed that she was paid the money she won in court and because they included clues that led McDaniel to other sources. Now about two decades removed from his time at A&M, McDaniel recalls fondly professors who shaped his educational experience in Aggieland.
U. of Missouri union criticizes president's stance on dissent
The union representing custodians and landscapers at the University of Missouri criticized system president and interim MU chancellor Mun Choi in a news release on Monday for what it calls his stance of stifling dissent. Choi recently called senior leaders in the chancellor's office, the president's office, the provost's office and deans for Zoom meetings to tell them he expects people who disagree with decisions to remain publicly silent. He also criticized tweets by KBIA health reporter Sebastian Martinez Valdivia and KOMU news producer Kellie Stanfield, a news producer at KOMU. Both are university employees. "Choi could have taken this opportunity to create a culture of integrity, transparency and respect in his university," reads the news release from Laborers International Union Local 955. "Instead he has doubled down and reinforced his Vice Chancellor Gary Ward's actions to silence any and all dissent." MU has sought proposals from private companies to replace the union custodians and landscapers. While it is keeping the union landscapers, there has been no decision on the custodians.
Study: Columbia in top 25 most vulnerable college towns because of pandemic
An already difficult year may not get much better for college towns like Columbia, at least according to a new study by SmartAsset, a financial technology company based in New York City. The study ranks Columbia the 25th-most vulnerable U.S. college town -- of 95 analyzed -- to the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Much depends on what universities decide to do about holding in-person classes this fall and what those classes will look like. Many fear that in-person classes will accelerate the spread of the virus. Even if schools reopen, the pandemic is still expected to reduce spending and revenues as at least some students reduce activities to stay safe. That's a big concern for cities like Columbia, whose economies rely on large student populations. The three college campuses include the University of Missouri, the UM System's flagship campus with a student population just shy of 30,000; Columbia College, which has about 1,100 students; and Stephens College, with fewer than 1,000 students.
Dem Bill Seeks to Prevent Tying Federal Funds to Reopening
Though the focus is on the Trump administration's threats to cut off funding to K-12 schools that choose not to reopen this fall, a spokeswoman for Senator Mark Warner said a bill being introduced by the Democrat from Virginia would also make it "crystal clear" funding cannot be taken away from higher education institutions that do not resume in-person classes. "Decisions about school openings should be made by local health officials, parents and teachers -- not Betsy DeVos or Donald Trump," Warner tweeted last week. "I'll be introducing a bill to make it crystal clear that they don't have the authority to cut off funding for local schools during COVID-19." While Trump hasn't been as explicit about colleges and universities resuming in-person teaching, he has pushed for campuses to reopen. Meanwhile, as Senate Republicans and the White House continued to hash out a proposal for the next stimulus package, public colleges and universities on Monday urged Congress to give them the same tax credits private universities and for-profit institutions got in previous coronavirus packages.
Universities invite some, but not all, students back to campus
In the past few weeks, a number of colleges and universities, particularly highly selective institutions, have announced that they will invite back to campus a fraction of their undergraduates this fall in an effort to lower campus density. The effort to de-densify campus could have a public health benefit if the extra space is used to spread people out across classrooms and residence halls, said Craig Roberts, an epidemiologist emeritus at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and a member of the American College Health Association's COVID-19 task force. "If the reduction is being done solely for budget reasons, however," he said, such as to "keep class sizes the same but have fewer classes with fewer instructors, then I don't think it's going to make much difference." Research shows household density and crowding, rather than overall population size, is what matters in terms of transmission risk, said Roberts.
Survey hints at long-term impact of spring pivot to remote learning
Given the skepticism voiced by many students, administrators who oversee online learning share a surprisingly sunny outlook on how well their institution handled the pivot to remote learning this spring, according to new survey data. The Changing Landscape of Online Education (CHLOE) report, published today, is the fifth in a series of annual surveys on online learning conducted by Quality Matters and Eduventures. This report, however, focuses specifically on the pivot to remote teaching that occurred this past spring. The report includes responses from 308 chief online officers at two- and four-year public, private nonprofit and for-profit institutions. Numerous recent surveys on the spring semester have reflected student dissatisfaction with the remote learning they experienced. But 78 percent of online leaders surveyed in the CHLOE report said the pivot to remote instruction at their institution was completely or largely successful in keeping students academically on track.
Amid concerns about college affordability, a call to increase Pell
When researchers at the National College Attainment Network this month looked at data showing how many people with student loans were reapplying to get money to return for another year of college, they were alarmed. After dipping in the spring at the start of the coronavirus outbreak, the numbers over all had gone back to around what they were at this time last year. But not for the lowest-income students. The number of those with incomes less than $25,000 who were trying to get loans to go back to school was down about 5 percent. The numbers on reapplying for financial aid tend to be an indicator of whether students are coming back in the fall. Some higher education advocates are worried it's a sign that as the pandemic has closed bars, restaurants and other businesses, where many students work to save money to make up the growing gap in how much of tuition Pell Grants will cover, many students aren't able to afford to go back to classes.
U. of South Florida launches a new research project: explore systemic racism
The University of South Florida on Monday announced the creation of a task force that will launch and oversee a year-long series of research projects aimed at exploring systemic racism and finding solutions to the problem. The university has created a $500,000 fund from the provost's office and the research and innovation office to support the first round of research projects. In a message calling for proposals from USF researchers, the university encouraged projects across multiple disciplines on its three campuses. Preference will be given to research teams that meet certain criteria, including those with established research in Africana studies or engagement with Black communities. Elizabeth Hordge-Freeman, an associate professor in sociology who penned the letter and a member of the task force, said she too was encouraged by the university's commitment to this work. She noted the recommendation that projects include community involvement so that research is not divorced from actual need.
Black Greek letter organizations protest police violence at Black Lives Matter plaza in D.C.
Several dozen members of black fraternities and sororities braved scorching heat and a regional uptick in coronavirus infections on Sunday to gather at Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington. Shirts emblazoned with Greek letters clung to the sweaty backs of attendees as they stood in front of the tall chain-link fence outside Lafayette Square, across from the White House. Cellphones and cameras overheated as white-haired alumni dropped to their knees with 20-something student leaders, marking eight minutes and 46 seconds of silence to honor George Floyd, whose death in the custody of Minneapolis police seven weeks ago triggered a national reckoning on racism and police conduct. Organizers said they wanted the event to serve as an acknowledgment and, more importantly, a reminder of the origins of African American Greek-letter organizations, many of which were founded to resist racism in the early 20th century. "Our organizations were born through social justice, born to fight for what was right," said Gordon-Andrew Fletcher, 35, an attorney and an alumni leader of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc. "Black Greeks now -- we aren't as relevant and as present as we should be."

'It's not trending the way we want it to trend': MSU AD John Cohen says decision on football season, fans in stands are nearing
Decision day is looming at Mississippi State. While fans were alerted to a new mobile ticketing service for sporting events beginning this fall with the 2020 football season in recent days, MSU Athletic Director John Cohen told The Dispatch Monday any decision regarding whether those fans will have the opportunity to use those tickets could come in the next few weeks. Cohen, who previously told The Dispatch in June that a decision regarding fan attendance would have to be made somewhere around Aug. 1, doubled-down on that sentiment, though current numbers suggest things aren't headed in a positive direction. "We hope that things get better instead of worse," he said regarding the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. "For right now, it's not trending the way we want it to trend and we're hopeful that trend can change." At present, circumstances for a normal football season have become increasingly bleak in recent weeks as the Big Ten and Pac-12 have already shifted to conference only schedules, but Cohen preached patience as there is still time, albeit not much, before any major motions must be made at MSU and in the SEC.
Mississippi State coach Mike Leach believes there will be a college football season
David Sparks' audio cut out and Mike Leach's face popped up, front and center, during the end of the Rotary Club of Tupelo's virtual meeting Monday afternoon. Sparks, the club's president, was thanking Leach, Mississippi State's football coach, for answering questions for an hour when he accidentally muted himself. Leach alerted Sparks that nobody could hear him. The mishap was one Leach is well accustomed to by now. Like every other college football program in the country, Mississippi State has held a plethora of virtual meetings since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The technological errors that come with them are a part of the "new normal" way of coaching. "We're all hopeful we'll have football this year, and I believe we will," Leach said. "Of course, we got to follow the experts on this. The experts vary a little because they'll change their mind here and there, but nevertheless they're the experts." Leach added that football, if conducted in a safe and healthy manner, could be just what the doctor ordered for a country feeling the ill effects of the pandemic.
Mississippi State coach Mike Leach talks football season, recruiting in Rotary Club meeting
New Mississippi State football coach Mike Leach believes there will be a college football season this year. Leach joined a Zoom conference call with Rotary Clubs from across the state on Monday afternoon, where he talked about previous coaching stops, his thoughts on recruiting and what he's enjoyed about his time in Mississippi. One of the options being discussed for the 2020 college football season is playing only conference games. The Pac 12 and the Big Ten conferences have already announced they are playing conference-only schedules, while the SEC announced last Monday that it will wait for more information before making that decision. The Big 12 and the ACC have not made decisions regarding schedules, either. Leach said on Monday that he wants to play a full schedule and would be disappointed if his team plays less than 10 football games this season. Leach went on to talk about how he loves being in Starkville, and how recruiting is different in Mississippi than how it was during his stops at Texas Tech and Washington State.
Mississippi State drops football game vs. Alabama A&M with SWAC shutdown of fall sports
Mississippi State's 2020 football schedule took its first official hit Monday. The Southwestern Athletic Conference announced the postponement of all fall sports until spring 2021 because of COVID-19. Mississippi State was scheduled to host Alabama A&M on Nov. 21. The matchup would have been Mississippi State's first against a SWAC opponent since the Bulldogs defeated Alcorn State, 51-7, at Davis Wade Stadium on Sept. 7, 2013. According to documents obtained by the Clarion Ledger, Mississippi State was set to pay Alabama A&M $475,000 for this year's game. The two programs agreed to contract terms on Oct. 15, 2018. It's unclear if Mississippi State's administration will have to work to fill the void on the schedule. Two Power 5 conferences -- the Big Ten and Pac-12 -- have announced that their member institutions will play a conference-only schedule.
MSU Athletics Offers Mobile Ticketing
Mississippi State Athletics will transition to mobile ticketing for all ticketed athletic events, beginning with the 2020 football season. The move to mobile ticketing will provide greater convenience and a safer environment for fans. It will offer a contactless entry into athletic venues and the ability to transfer tickets electronically, eliminating physical touching concerns prevalent during this time. Mobile ticketing will also provide an added layer of security, guarding against the production of fraudulent and counterfeit tickets. MSU Athletics will still have a print-at-home option available this season but are strongly urging fans to go with mobile tickets. "We're excited to introduce mobile ticketing at our venues," MSU Director of Athletics John Cohen said. "Mobile ticketing has become the standard for sporting events across the country, and we believe it will be a positive change for our fans. Our gameday experience has and will continue to be of the utmost importance. Mobile ticketing will offer the MSU Family flexibility and create a safer and more convenient method to enter our venues."
Derrick Zimmerman promoted to Mississippi State men's basketball Director of Scouting and Analytics
Derrick Zimmerman will be promoted to Mississippi State men's basketball's director of scouting and analytics, the team announced Tuesday. MSU assistant John Janovsky held that role last season. Zimmerman, a former All-SEC player at MSU, spent the last two years on the coaching staff as a graduate assistant. "I'm really excited to promote Derrick to the director of scouting & analytics role on our staff," MSU coach Ben Howland said in a news release. "He was an integral part and did an outstanding job of communicating with our players as a mentor during the last two years as a graduate assistant while earning his master's degree. Derrick possesses an excellent basketball mind and was a great player at Mississippi State. He bleeds maroon and has a great love for our program and the institution. It's a real blessing for us to have Derrick on our staff, and he has an incredibly bright future ahead of him in the coaching profession."
Here's how much money Mississippi's Division I sports programs made in 2019
Mississippi's three FBS universities combined to make almost a quarter of a billion dollars in athletics revenue during the 2018-19 fiscal year. USA TODAY compiled the financial data in partnership with Syracuse University's S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. Unsurprisingly, SEC stalwarts Ole Miss and Mississippi State rank among the most profitable athletics departments in the country. Mississippi State raked in $112,273,809 in revenue in 2019, ranking No. 30 in the country in total revenue. That's an increase of $9 million over 2018 and revenues that have more than tripled since 2009. Ole Miss lagged a little bit behind Mississippi State, ranking No. 34 in the country by bringing in $108,442,428. That number is actually a slight decrease from 2018 when the Rebels made more than $110 million. Ole Miss saw a significant drop-off in contributions in 2019, earning about $7 million fewer than it did a year before. Finances continue to be a struggle at Southern Miss. The Golden Eagles' athletics department brought in $25,687,189 in 2019. That total is the third-smallest revenue number of any public university in the FBS, ranking only ahead of Louisiana Tech and Louisiana-Monroe.
USM football left with 2020 hole after SWAC decision
University of Southern Mississippi athletic director Jeremy McClain said Monday night that the school was working to replace a hole in the 2020 football schedule that appeared in the face of COVID-19 pandemic. The Southwestern Athletic Conference announced Monday evening that it was suspending its entire fall sports schedule because of health risks associated with the coronavirus. SWAC administrators voted to push the fall competition into the spring, including football. USM was set to welcome for the fourth time SWAC member Jackson State University on Sept. 19 to M.M. Roberts Stadium. "We were recently made aware of the SWAC's decision to cancel all athletic competition for the fall, and this, obviously, impacts several of our sports, including our Sept. 19 home football contest against Jackson State," McClain said in a statement. "We have been in discussions with several programs, and are working towards filling that date at 'The Rock' with another game."
U. of Tennessee no longer requires athletes to sign COVID-19 risk acknowledgement form
Tennessee is no longer requiring athletes to sign the COVID-19 risk acknowledgement form that its athletes were asked to sign when returning to campus last month. "Our intent was never for the form to serve as a waiver of liability," athletic department spokesman Tom Satkowiak said Monday in a statement to Knox News. "Following a recent review, we are no longer asking our student-athletes to sign it. We will, however, continue to educate our student-athletes regarding virus prevention behavior." SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey addressed the form during an interview with HBO's "Real Sports." Asked about UT requiring athletes to sign that form, labeled by UT as an "Acknowledgement of Risk and Shared Responsibility," Sankey told HBO that he'd confirmed with UT Chancellor Donde Plowman that the university had dropped that practice.
Auburn's game with Alcorn State called off after SWAC postpones football
The Southwestern Athletic Conference announced its member schools will postpone sports through the fall semester on Monday, calling off the Auburn football team's season opener with Alcorn State originally scheduled for Sept. 5. The move marks the first official blow to Auburn's football schedule this fall. Alcorn State is a member of the SWAC along with in-state schools Alabama State and Alabama A&M. The conference's presidents and chancellors met Monday afternoon before announcing the decision, calling on concerns over the spread of COVID-19 as coronavirus numbers continue to surge in the United States. It's the latest domino to fall in a line of decisions made by conferences across the country impacted by the virus. As for Alcorn State, Auburn football was set to pay the program $475,000 for the game per the programs' contract, according to FBSchedules.com.
Fall without football would cost billions to colleges, NFL, TV networks, local economies
In the world of sports, there is simply no cash cow like football. At the professional and major college level, it is the fulcrum upon which tens of billions of dollars shift, churning out revenue for NFL owners, athletic departments, television partners, sports books and more. In some instances, the sport can serve as a seasonal engine for an entire local economy. But what would happen to that economic machinery if football couldn't be played in the fall? For NFL teams and major college athletics departments, the financial implications of such a move would be staggering, far-reaching and compounded by unknowns. If COVID-19 wiped out play in the fall, could the season take place in the spring? How would a fall without football impact television partners and corporate sponsors? And how do you maintain operations when cash is only flowing out? A fall without football could give university administrators a preview of how their sports program fare when they simply cannot spend as much as they have in recent years.
M-Braves, Shuckers plan rousing comebacks in spring
Expectations of their teams making grand returns to the field in April have replaced the despair of a 2020 season lost to the coronavirus pandemic, say executives of the Mississippi Braves and Biloxi Shuckers of the Double A Southern League. The clubs will devote the months in which their teams would otherwise be on the field to putting talents to work on crowd-pleasing promotions and events for a-hoped-for 2021 season. With pent-up fan demand for live baseball, the teams expect rollicking receptions on their return to Trustmark Park in Pearl and MGM Park in Biloxi, respectively, the club executives say. "While we would never choose this script, a silver lining is that we now have a big head start on the new features we will be presenting to fans in 2021," said Pete Laven, a 30-year veteran of minor league front office work who joined the Mississippi Braves as vice president and general manager in 2018. In Biloxi, Hunter Reed envisions the Shuckers' opening day in April as a "tremendous occasion."

The Office of Public Affairs provides the Daily News Digest as a general information resource for Mississippi State University stakeholders.
Web links are subject to change. Submit news, questions or comments to Jim Laird.
Mississippi State University  •  Mississippi State, MS 39762  •  Main Telephone: (662) 325-2323  •   Contact: The Editor  |  The Webmaster  •   Updated: July 21, 2020Facebook Twitter