Monday, August 3, 2020   
100 years after his birth, Sonny Montgomery's good deeds continue
Patriot. Statesman. Soldier. Public servant. Those are just four terms often used to describe the late Gillespie V. "Sonny" Montgomery, a Meridian native, World War II veteran and prominent U.S. Congressman. Born Aug. 5, 1920, Montgomery, who died in 2006, would have celebrated his 100th birthday this upcoming Wednesday. A hundred years after his birth, and 14 years after his death, Montgomery's legacy continues to make an impact across Mississippi and the nation. After graduating from Mississippi State University, Montgomery joined the U.S. Army, serving in the European Theater during World War II. He remained on active duty during the Korean Conflict and later had a long career in the Mississippi National Guard, retiring after 35 years as a major general. Montgomery served as the representative for Mississippi's 4th congressional district from 1967 to 1972 and the representative for Mississippi's 3rd congressional district from 1973 to 1996. Since 2006, The G.V. "Sonny" Montgomery Foundation, which was established with the bulk of Montgomery's estate, has issued about $2 million to a variety of organizations and causes, Crawford said. In 2018, the foundation committed $100,000 to The G.V. "Sonny" Montgomery Center for America's Veterans at Mississippi State University, which supports military-connected students through educational benefits, transitional support and activities to promote learning, well-being and success.
Congressman Michael Guest announces $2 Million in Department of Energy grant funding for MSU
Friday, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced a $2,035,602 project to support Mississippi State University's research and development in bioenergy. In total, the DOE announced $97 million in funding for 33 projects in bioenergy research. In response to this announcement, Congressman Michael Guest released the following statement: "Mississippi State continues to lead in research and development, and I trust that these dollars will be used efficiently to help expand our nation's energy productivity. The research advanced by Mississippi State continues to prove beneficial to our state and nation and I believe this project will be no different from MSU's previous successes." Under Secretary of Energy Marl Menezes also released a statement on the projects announced by the DOE, saying, "Advancements made in bioenergy technologies will help expand America's energy supply, grow our economy, and enhance our energy security. These projects will ensure the United States' leadership across all segments of the growing global bioeconomy, and allow us to provide U.S. consumers and businesses more homegrown energy choices for their fuels and products."
MSU Extension Offices Now Accepting Unsolicited Seeds Drop Off
Mississippi Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce Andy Gipson announced that residents receiving unsolicited packages of seeds from China, or any foreign country, can now drop off the seeds at the Mississippi State University Extension Office located in their county. "I want to thank MSU Director of Extension Dr. Gary Jackson and the MSU Extension Offices in each county for providing assistance with seed collection during this time. We are continuing to get calls from across the state. We have had 82 reports of these seeds from 45 counties. We ask that the public hold on to the mailing label and place the seeds and packaging in a plastic bag prior to drop off, if possible" said Commissioner Gipson. "The Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce is continuing to work closely with the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service on this issue."
Don't open or plant unsolicited seeds from China
Mysterious packages from China are being shipped to the U.S. Officials said they don't know why, but they don't suspect a major conspiracy is afoot. Kathleen Cassedy of Ocean Springs just wanted some morel mushrooms. Instead, she has become a part of a growing mystery that is sweeping across the United States: unsolicited seeds from China. She had placed an order on Facebook but didn't get what she ordered. The next day, Cassedy saw a story about the seed shipments and she followed the advice that was given. Don't plant or throw away the seeds. Get them to the state agriculture department. "I encourage people to don't throw them away," said Gary Bachman, a research professor at the MSU Extension Service. "It is probably easiest to send them to the Mississippi State University Extension offices and let us forward them. We won't test them, It's got to go to the USDA."
All state households asked to submit census
The laid-back way of life in Mississippi has a downside when it leads to very low U.S. Census participation: Inaccurate population counts can cause the state to lose money, political representation and participation in beneficial programs. The U.S. Constitution requires a complete count of the U.S. population every 10 years. To reach this goal, census takers are being hired and trained to go door-to-door and gather in-person information on residents. Those who want to avoid this inconvenience can go online today to submit information on their household. Door-to-door canvassing for nonrespondents begins Aug. 11. Mississippi currently has a 57.5 percent response rate to the U.S. Census. There is still time to self-report Census information for households that have not yet done so. Respond now by mailing in the paper form, calling 844-330-2020 or submitting data online at The Mississippi State University Extension Service is partnering with the 2020 Census to ensure all Mississippians are represented in the final count. Learn how to avoid scams related to the census here:
Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District delays student start date to Aug. 24
Classes will start Aug. 24 in the Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District, Superintendent Eddie Peasant announced Friday, instead of Aug. 6 as originally planned, in order to prepare teachers for an unexpectedly high number of students who will learn through the district's virtual option. About 2,000 students had signed up for either fully virtual or "hybrid" learning -- where students would split time between in-person and virtual learning -- before July 21, and the district has received more than 1,000 more requests since then from parents wanting to switch their children to those models, Peasant said in a press release. Some students have also requested to switch from virtual or hybrid learning back to traditional, and as of Friday, more than 40 percent of students will be in all virtual or hybrid learning environments, district spokeswoman Nicole Thomas said. The district had only been prepared to accommodate 25 percent of students as virtual learners due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Peasant said.
Prepare children for new rules at school
Parents can help children understand how to stay healthy at school amid the COVID-19 pandemic as they prepare for the start of the academic year. "Parents are children's first teachers, and it is important for them to reinforce the benefits of safe practices when returning to school or participating in any public activities," said David Buys, Mississippi State University Extension Service health specialist. "Children need to know the risks of COVID-19, and we have to devote time to giving them developmentally appropriate messages and explaining the importance of preventive behaviors like good hand hygiene, wearing a face covering, physical distancing and others." Based on current knowledge, most children who contract the illness exhibit limited or no symptoms. Whether or not they have symptoms, children who contract COVID-19 can transmit the disease to family members, school employees and other adults, who could become very ill or die, Buys said.
Paul Hollis: New Delta Council President to focus on Flood Control
Paul Hollis of Rolling Fork, the new president of Delta Council, plans to focus on moving forward with long-delayed flood control projects in the Delta and working for the continued economic development of the entire Delta that those of us who live there love so much. "As a board member of the Mississippi Levee Board and now president of Delta Council, flood control has always been a big concern of mine," says Hollis. "This flood control is a vital part of the Delta infrastructure as so much of our area is dependent on agriculture and recreation. Flooding over the past years has had a detrimental effect on both. My hope is to finally see the completion of the Yazoo Backwater Project that was originally started 79 years ago. This project will finally give relief to citizens of the lower Delta that they desperately deserve, and has long been overdue." Hollis was born in Wichita Falls, Texas, where his physician father was stationed at the time at Sheppard Air Force Base. After leaving Wichita Falls, the family lived in Tuscaloosa, Ala., for about two and a half years before moving back to his father's home town of Amory. Amory is where Hollis spent the majority of his early childhood before leaving to attend The Baylor School in Chattanooga, Tenn. After graduating from that high school in 1975, he attended Mississippi State University where he earned a B.S. in arts and sciences.
Ashley Furniture increasing capacity and adding jobs in Verona and Saltillo
Ashley Furniture Industries, Inc. is expanding operations at its facilities in Verona and Saltillo. The expansions represent a combined corporate investment of $22 million and will create a total of 130 jobs across the two facilities. "For years, Ashley Furniture has been a prominent employer in North Mississippi, with thousands of Mississippians in the region producing high-quality furniture and bedding products for consumers around the world," said Governor Tate Reeves. "As the world's leading furniture manufacturer, Ashley Furniture demands a skilled workforce to manufacture its products so the company can continue to live up to its legacy of superior craftsmanship. Ashley Furniture found that workforce in our great state, and we look forward to continuing our partnership with this company with this amazing $22 million investment and creating even more skilled jobs in Mississippi in the years to come." The Mississippi Development Authority is providing assistance for infrastructure improvements and the relocation of equipment. Lee County and the Tennessee Valley Authority also are providing assistance for the expansions. Three Rivers Planning and Development District will oversee the grant administration.
Mississippians can now apply to be hemp growers
Beginning Aug. 1, interested Mississippians can apply for a hemp grower license. The Mississippi Hemp Cultivation Act -- Senate Bill 2725 -- was signed into law June 29. This act legalized the cultivation of hemp under a state plan to be created and implemented by the Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce. Although the act allowed for a state program, the necessary funding to implement the state program was not appropriated by the legislature. "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," said Mississippi Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce Andy Gipson. Gipson said he had contacted the United States Department of Agriculture, however, to request funding assistance. "I requested the USDA accept applications and issue hemp grower licenses for Mississippians under the USDA plan. The USDA has agreed to this plan, and Mississippians can from Aug. 1 through Oct. 31 submit applications for a hemp license from the USDA under the U.S. Domestic Hemp Production Program."
Golden Moon set to re-open this month
Pearl River Resort has announced a phased reopening of its Bok Homa Casino and Golden Moon Hotel & Casino properties. Bok Homa Casino located in Sandersville will reopen on Friday, Aug. 7 at noon and the Golden Moon Hotel & Casino will reopen to the public on Friday, Aug. 14 at noon. The reopening date for the Silver Star Casino property has not yet been set. "After over four months of closure, we are excited to welcome our Guests back and look forward to safely providing them with outstanding service and a comfortable gaming experience," said William "Sonny" Johnson, President and CEO of Pearl River Resort. "The health and safety of our Associates, Guests and Tribal community remains our top priority." The Casinos will continue to follow rigorous cleaning and sanitation protocols. Some service offerings may be limited or unavailable to help maintain safe social distancing and health and safety guidelines.
Mississippi will be nation's #1 in new COVID cases, Harvard Global Health director says
The director of the Harvard Global Health Institute says Mississippi is on track to be the no. 1 state in the country for new coronavirus cases per capita. Dr. Ashish Jha posted a Twitter thread on Saturday, saying Mississippi is "doing VERY badly but has received little attention." Last week, the state was second only to Florida in number of new COVID-19 cases compared to its population, and Mississippi's number is "going up" while Florida's is "slowly inching down." "But the story here is much worse," Jha said. The state is already no. 1 in its test positivity rate, which is the number of tests that come back from labs as confirmed positive cases of COVID-19, at 22%. Testing also is down 8% in the state over the past two weeks, he tweeted, while cases are up 37%. Hospitalizations are up, he said, and the daily death toll has doubled. Jha also mentioned how much of the state and its businesses are open with "only modest limits" and no statewide mask mandate.
Analysis: Mississippi group aims for simple flag design
Nine commissioners designing a new Mississippi flag have the complicated task of choosing a simple design. Mississippi recently retired the last state flag with the Confederate battle emblem that's been widely condemned as racist. An expert told commissioners last week that an effective flag is distinctive and easy to recognize from a distance. Clay Moss said a design with lots of small details might be a dud on a flagpole. "A good design will resonate in people's hearts and create a sense of pride," he said. The Mississippi Department of Archives and History asked the public to submit flag ideas, with a Saturday deadline. Department spokesman Michael Morris said that by Friday, people had submitted more than 1,800 designs that meet the two criteria, plus some that do not. Archives and History plans to post the public submissions that meet the criteria on its website by Monday.
Mississippi releases more than 2,000 ideas for new state flag
More than 2,000 Mississippi flag design ideas were released online Monday following a weekslong public submission process. The Mississippi Department of Archives and History posted the flag designs on its website, Members of the commission charged with redesigning the flag will each now select 25 of their favorites. Later this month, the nine-member commission plans to meet and narrow the submissions to five finalists following a ranking process. Those finalists may also be designed by the commission members themselves -- or pull design themes from multiple flags proposals submitted by the public. Some of the submissions posted Monday were drawn by children, or roughly described on pieces of note paper. Many incorporate magnolia blossoms, the official state flower. At a flag commission last week, well-known Mississippi gardener and radio host Felder Rushing provided a brochure urging commissioners to include the magnolia blossom in their final design. Commissioners plan to each choose their favorite 25 flag submissions by Friday.
Gov. Tate Reeves plans to replace Republican Chairman Lucien Smith
Gov. Tate Reeves, as de facto head of the Mississippi GOP, plans to replace Lucien Smith as chairman of the state party, numerous Republican sources said. The change is not because of any major political dispute, most of those sources say, and Smith has appeared to be widely respected among party leaders. It's partly because Smith is an attorney at a major law firm that does millions of dollars in business with the state and Reeves believes that is untoward and wants a chairman with no such entanglements. The leadership change is not likely to happen at Saturday's state GOP convention, which is being held online because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Republicans are expected to elect a 52-member executive committee, a national committeewoman and committeeman and the party's six electors on Saturday. A change in the state GOP chairmanship is more likely to come after the Republican National Convention that starts Aug. 24.
Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton won't seek third term
After previously declaring his intent to campaign for a third term, Mayor Jason Shelton on Sunday declared in a surprise announcement that he will not seek re-election as mayor of Tupelo. Shelton, the second-term Democratic mayor, penned an op-ed in the Daily Journal saying he is bowing out of another run for office to spare citizens and his family from experiencing a bitter campaign in which opponents are likely to scrutinize his opinions on statewide issues and his activism for certain political candidates. "As much as I love serving our great All-America City as mayor, it is more important for me to be able to sleep with a clear conscience and to fight the fight that needs to be fought at this pivotal time," Shelton wrote. "While I am willing to fight that fight, I am not willing to put our city through the ugliness of the mayoral campaign that will follow, as has already begun by ne'er-do-wells on social media."
At Joe Biden event, Mike Espy praises presidential hopeful's plan to help rural Black communities
Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Mike Espy participated in a video conference Friday on racial equality in rural communities hosted by the campaign of Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee for president. Espy, who is challenging incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith in the November general election, said one reason he is supporting Biden is because of the Democratic nominee's plan to help people of color in rural America. "I believe he is going to be president not only because he is capable, but also because he has empathy," said Espy, who endorsed Biden when the former vice president visited the state earlier this year. Black farmers and rural landowners have struggled, Espy said during the conference, because of generations of a lack support from the United States Department of Agriculture to garner access to capital and credit. Espy, who was the first African American secretary of agriculture in the nation's history, said he worked to change the agency to make it more responsive to minority farmers, but he added there is more work to do. Biden has a plan and a willingness to correct those injustices, Espy said.
Trump administration examining options for unilateral action if no coronavirus deal is reached with Congress
The Trump administration is looking at options for unilateral actions it can take to try to address some of the economic fallout caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic if no relief deal is reached with Congress, according to two people with knowledge of the deliberations. The discussions are a reflection of officials' increasingly pessimistic outlook for the talks on Capitol Hill. The White House remains in close contact with Democratic leaders, but a wide gulf remains and deadlines have already been missed. It's not clear what steps the administration could take without the help of Congress on issues such as lapsed enhanced unemployment benefits or the expired moratorium on evictions -- the two matters President Trump has recently identified as his highest priorities in the ongoing talks. Both of those programs were authorized by Congress earlier this year but were designed to be temporary.
Republicans prep for leadership battle if President Trump goes down
The maneuvering for power in a possible post-Trump world has already broken out among House Republicans -- a worrisome preview for the GOP of potentially chaotic leadership fights this fall. The party's long-simmering divides were largely papered over after Donald Trump won the White House in 2016. But members expect the truce among the GOP's warring factions to crumble if Trump's presidency ends, and the current leadership could face the fallout. How that will shake out for Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Minority Whip Steve Scalise and GOP Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney is not completely certain. But according to interviews with over a dozen Republican lawmakers and aides, there's a growing sense that if Trump loses the White House -- and the GOP fails to make meaningful gains in the House -- the fight for the future of the party will play out in challenges across leadership.
Dr. Deborah Birx Warns U.S. Coronavirus Epidemic Is In 'New Phase' As Cases And Deaths Climb
White House coronavirus task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx said on Sunday that the U.S. is in a "new phase" of the pandemic, urging people to follow public health guidance as cases continue to climb in many parts of the United States. "What we're seeing today is different from March and April," Birx said on CNN's State of the Union. "It is extraordinarily widespread -- it's into the rural as equal urban areas." The U.S. has surpassed more than 4.6 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 154,000 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Cases have skyrocketed in many Southern and Western states in recent months, and members of the White House's coronavirus task force are warning of emerging hot spots in the Midwest. The latest national ensemble forecast, published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, predicts the U.S. could record as many as 182,000 total deaths by Aug. 22, just three weeks away. Birx told CNN that projections for a death toll by the year's end depend on how states accelerate and maintain their mitigation efforts, particularly in the South and West.
What safety measures are Mississippi colleges and universities taking to reopen?
Two months after the coronavirus swept the globe, the Board of Trustees of the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning abruptly voted that the state's public universities must resume "traditional operations" in the fall. That means offering as many face-to-face classes as possible -- a nerve wracking concept for people whose lives have been upended by this pandemic. Naturally, more questions arose than answers, the most pressing of those being "how?" "How can we build a sense of community and be safe? We know we're not the only ones trying to figure this out, so there's a lot of interesting conversations going on," said Nora Miller, president of Mississippi University of Women in a June interview. As each university releases its plan for the fall, common trends emerge that seek to answer the query Miller and others pose.
UM Researchers Tackle Challenges of Safe Drinking Water in Mississippi
Recognizing that clean drinking water is a necessity of life, a group of University of Mississippi professors is using community-based research, education and outreach to work with communities in addressing water quality challenges. "To date, the research team has primarily focused on education – raising awareness of the lead risks and encouraging behavior change among individuals, including flushing their pipes and using water filters," said Stephanie Showalter Otts, team member and director of the National Sea Grant Law Center at the UM School of Law. The research began in the Mississippi Delta, with researchers receiving a UM grant to work with the Tri-County Workforce Alliance in Bolivar, Coahoma and Quitman counties, along with other nonprofit groups in the broader Delta region. The grant included holding several water sampling events for families of students enrolled in their programming. "We are also entering into a partnership with Mississippi State University later this fall on a lead-testing-in-schools project funded by EPA. Our team will be coordinating sampling in the Delta counties."
Student teachers face uncertainty as schools make reopening decisions
As school districts across Mississippi decide how or if they will reopen for in-person learning, nearly 200 student teachers at the University of Mississippi are preparing for the school year under ever-changing conditions. Education majors spend their senior year student teaching in schools throughout north and central Mississippi. They assist a teacher several times a week during the fall semester and step into a more significant teaching role in the spring. Susan McClelland, chair of teacher education, said the biggest challenge facing student teachers this fall is the uncertainty of in-person instruction. "The biggest challenge that we have is the unknown," Mclelland said. "Will the schools start? How long will they be in session, and what will (student teaching) look like if they close due to COVID-19?" None of the school districts in which UM students are placed have announced a transition to all-virtual learning this fall. Currently, the School of Education intends for all of its seniors to report to their placement for face-to-face instruction.
UM Panhellenic Council's 2020 recruitment to be held virtually for first three days
The University of Mississippi's College Panhellenic has released its revised plan for the 2020 recruitment schedule. Four of the five rounds will be held virtually, including the first three. The decision to switch some rounds to a virtual method was announced on Friday. "Due to the ongoing concerns surrounding COVID-19, the university College Panhellenic Council has decided to move the first three rounds of recruitment to a virtual format," a statement by the CHP read. "The decision was not made lightly as the health and safety of our members current and new has weighed heavily on our minds." The UM College Panhellenic asks that all in-person recruitment events that mask be worn by both PNMs and active members. Should any woman partaking in the recruitment process test positive or show symptoms of COVID-19, there will be an option for a fully virtual experience. There will also be thorough cleaning between any in-person rounds.
IMS Engineers pledges $50,000 for STEM scholarships at JSU
Jackson State University announced IMS Engineers made a $50,000 pledge for the IMS Engineers Endowed Scholarship. "IMS Engineers has been a long-term partner of JSU, and they also hire an astounding number of our graduates," Hudson said. "This is another great way for them to give back and show support for the future engineers of Jackson State University. It is our hope that others are inspired to give as well." The scholarship will be used to pay for tuition, textbooks, supplies and other fees included in the cost of education for eligible students in the College of Science, Engineering and Technology. The president and co-owner of IMS Engineers, Rod Hill, said, "This is a great opportunity for us to reach back to the university as we've always done over our 24-year history, and do something different besides hiring JSU alums."
The surreal scene inside Alabama's muted graduation ceremony
Families in their Sunday best filed into Coleman Coliseum early Friday afternoon on what's typically a festive affair. Instead, it was quiet just after 1 p.m. on a sunny, yet humid day. And because it's 2020, storm clouds were on the horizon for this most unusual college graduation ceremony. The scene was, frankly, surreal. Approximately 250 picked up diplomas at this second of nine weekend commencements Alabama will stage in the basketball home of the Crimson Tide. This health crisis played a primary role in the 1:30 ceremony that needed just 49 minutes to complete. It wasn't without joy, it was just muted for obvious reasons. Just a few blocks up Bryant Drive, 110 inpatients (29 in ICU and 15 on ventilators) at DCH Regional Medical Center battled the coronavirus that's wrecked havoc on our daily lives for four-plus months now. It didn't, however, stand in the way of something resembling a traditional graduation ceremony Friday afternoon.
Graduations proceed with caution at U. of Alabama
The University of Alabama proceeded with the spring and summer commencement Friday at Coleman Coliseum. The normal spring ceremony in May was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The graduation this weekend observed strictly enforced guidelines to help ensure public safety while also giving students an opportunity to experience a traditional graduation. Seats on the floor of coliseum were arranged to provide social distancing, while each graduate was permitted a maximum of four guests in the arena. Coleman Coliseum has a capacity of 15,383. No more than 500 students were involved in any one of the nine commencement exercises held over three days. While graduates were presented their diplomas on stage, the traditional robing ceremonies were suspended while handshakes and hugs were replaced with verbal congratulations.
Students asked to sign liability waivers to return to campus
As the start of the fall semester approaches, students enrolled at various colleges across the country are being prompted by their institutions to sign similar agreements acknowledging, and in some cases even assuming, all the risks of returning to campus. Some of the agreements are more explicit than others, such as the contract used by Bates, which legal experts say implies that students are waiving their right to pursue litigation for negligence on the part of the college. Heidi Li Feldman, a Georgetown University Law Center professor who is an expert on legal liability and negligence law, advises against students signing such agreements. Feldman said she has received several calls and messages from students, parents and faculty members across the country who are trying to better understand how signing the agreements affects their rights. While many of the people who sought Feldman's advice found the agreements "surprising," she found them "appalling."
UNC System Faculty and Staff Prepare Lawsuit to Delay Opening
Faculty and staff at the University of North Carolina system's 16 campuses are preparing a lawsuit to postpone the start of classes this fall. North Carolina is among several states that have recorded record-high numbers of Covid-19 cases in recent days, and the White House Coronavirus Task Force has tabbed the state as a "red zone." Early this month, 37 people in the Chapel Hill campus's athletics department tested positive for Covid-19, resulting in a pause on voluntary football workouts. (Housekeeping staff responsible for cleaning areas where the infected people had been living and working were not told about the infections.) The system, meanwhile, is preparing to open for in-person instruction, although specific plans differ from campus to campus. Faculty and staff members have been sounding the alarm about that risk for weeks.
UNC Chapel Hill faculty to students: stay home
Many professors think their institutions' fall reopening plans are foolhardy, dangerous or even unethical. But a group of tenured faculty members at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill took the unprecedented step Friday of directly telling students not to come back to campus next semester. "We recognize that some of you will have to live on campus this fall semester for financial or personal reasons, and we want to help ensure that campus is safe for you," the 30 professors wrote in an open letter to undergraduates, published in the Charlotte Observer. "We implore the rest of you to stay home this fall." Contradicting the basic institutional rationale for reopening campuses during the ongoing coronavirus crisis -- that the benefits outweigh the risks -- the North Carolina professors wrote they are "confident that what we offer you, safely, online, will be better than what we can do under the compromised conditions of the face to face classroom during the pandemic."
The War on Frats: Groups of fraternity brothers and sorority sisters are working to kick their organizations off campus
In the past month, hundreds of students have dropped out of their fraternities and sororities at Vanderbilt University. They have gathered, digitally, using group-run Instagram activist pages. They have written searing op-eds condemning their own organizations for the student newspaper, The Vanderbilt Hustler. And they have petitioned the administration to ban Greek organizations from campus. The mass action, which has taken place while students have been away from the Nashville campus for the summer and isolated because of the pandemic, has been accelerated by a handful of racist incidents that have been surfaced in videos and on social media. But students said their real reasons have deeper roots: that Greek life is exclusionary, racist and misogynist, as well as resistant to reform because of the hierarchical nature of the national Greek organizations, which control local chapters. Similar "Abolish Greek Life" movements have sprung up at other universities around the country, including at the University of Richmond, Duke, Emory, American University, Northwestern and the University of North Carolina.
What sort of hearts lead us today?
Syndicated columnist Bill Crawford of Meridian writes: There are the cold-hearted and the warm-hearted, the kind-hearted and the cruel-hearted, the soft-hearted and the hard-hearted among us. Do hearts matter when it comes to leadership? Author Clifton Taulbert, who grew up in Glen Allan, Mississippi, thinks so. In 1997, he wrote a book entitled "Eight Habits of the Heart" gleaned from the people who made a difference in his early life. "They told me I was good and that my life had a value." "The people in my small 'colored' community had a thousand reasons not to build, but they ignored that reality and built their lives for my benefit," he wrote. "When one builds people, a good community will emerge, one that will leave its imprint beyond our front rooms, far beyond the classroom, beyond the gym, beyond our offices, and, in some cases, beyond geographical boundaries. The Eights Habits of the Heart practiced and lived out in our daily lives builds people and creates a good community." Those habits are nurturing attitude, responsibility, dependability, friendship, brotherhood, high expectations, courage, and hope. Pause, now, and re-focus from this heartfelt exposition to our leadership in America today.
Gunn's special delivery to Reeves made for busy July 4th holiday
Bobby Harrison writes for Mississippi Today: Imagine the surprise the security officer must have felt on July 2 when Speaker of the House Philip Gunn showed up at the gate of the Governor's Mansion to deliver about 75 recently passed bills to Gov. Tate Reeves. The episode, verified by multiple legislators and staff members, highlights the ongoing distrust, contention and one-upmanship between legislative leadership and the governor this session -- the first of the four-year term. Gunn's special delivery occurred after legislators stayed in session late the prior night to conclude their work. Then Gunn and Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann, who presides over the Senate, quickly completed the legislative process by signing the bills that had been passed during those past few days."

How Mike Leach, Mississippi State coaches showed support for Starkville first responders
Millions of Americans have lost their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic. Plenty more have been furloughed or forced to work from home. First responders, though, have been on the front lines every day as usual. Last week, Starkville's first responders -- from the emergency operations department to the police and fire departments and the office of emergency management -- were greeted by several Mississippi State athletics representatives who showed their appreciation for what the workers have done during these tough times. Mike Leach and senior associate athletic director Dave Emerick took some members of the MSU football staff to the fire department. Baseball coach Chris Lemonis was accompanied by some of his assistants, including pitching coach Scott Foxhall and hitting coach Jake Gautreau, at the police department. "I felt truly honored to spend time with the Starkville Fire Department and the first responders," Leach told the Clarion Ledger. "They do great work in protecting all of us. The sacrifices they make for us are heroic and appreciated."
Former Mississippi State, EMCC assistant D.J. Looney dies of heart attack at 31
Former Mississippi State offensive lineman and graduate assistant D.J. Looney has died of an apparent heart attack. He was 31. Looney, who was serving as the offensive line coach at Louisiana, suffered a heart attack during a team workout at Cajun Field on Saturday, according to a news release. A Birmingham, Alabama, native, he previously spent time in varying roles at East Mississippi Community College, Central Arkansas and Georgia. "The entire Mississippi State Family is deeply saddened and heartbroken by the loss of one of our very own in D.J. Looney," Mississippi State Athletic Director John Cohen said in a statement from MSU. Mississippi State President Mark E. Keenum mourned the passing of Looney, whom he called a "tremendous young man with a limitless future" in a statement Saturday. "We had a special relationship with him and eagerly followed his successes. His loved ones and friends will remain in our prayers," Keenum said.
UL assistant D.J. Looney remembered: 'He always cared about you,' former Mississippi State teammate says
On Friday, Sam Williams was on the phone with his longtime friend and former Mississippi State teammate, D.J. Looney. The next day, Williams -- a Mississippi high school football head coach and athletic director, for the last three seasons at Pelahatchie Attendance Center and now at Ridgeland High near Jackson -- learned that the 31-year-old Ragin' Cajuns assistant coach had passed away after having a heart attack as UL held a team workout Saturday morning at Cajun Field. Looney, who was heading into his third season at UL as a full-time assistant working with an offensive line that produced 2020 NFL Draft picks Robert Hunt of the Miami Dolphins and Kevin Dotson of the Pittsburgh Steelers, recruited Mississippi for the Cajuns. "He was always good to my (players) ... and gave them time, whether it was at Pelahatchie or now at Ridgeland," said Williams, a married father of three young children. "He was always there for you."
Former Bulldog player, coach, D.J. Looney passes away
Former Mississippi State player and assistant coach D.J. Looney, who was serving as an assistant on the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns staff, died on Saturday after suffering a heart attack during a team workout at Cajun Field. Looney was 31 years old. Looney, a Birmingham, Alabama native, was an offensive lineman for Mississippi State and played for the Bulldogs from 2007 through 2010. When his playing career concluded, he jumped right into the coaching ranks at MSU, serving as an offensive graduate assistant in 2011. Mississippi State Director of Athletics John Cohen released a statement on Looney's passing. MSU President Mark Keenum added this: "(My wife) Rhonda and I were stunned and saddened to learn of the untimely passing of former Bulldog student athlete D.J. Looney. D.J was a tremendous young man with a limitless future. We had a special relationship with him and eagerly followed his successes. His loved ones and friends will remain in our prayers."
Former Mississippi State coach Sylvester Croom inducted into Alabama Sports Hall of Fame
Sylvester Croom took his place in Alabama sports history Saturday night. The Tuscaloosa native and longtime football coach was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame. Croom, 65, became the first Black head coach in SEC history when he took the reins at Mississippi State in 2004. He stayed in Starkville for five seasons. "I want to thank Dr. Charles Lee and Larry Templeton for hiring me at Mississippi State University," Croom said in his virtual acceptance speech. "I will always cherish my time as a member of the Bulldog family. I would like to thank the coaches and the players who were a part of those Mississippi State teams. I am proud to be your coach." After playing for Paul "Bear" Bryant at Alabama from 1972-74 and his brief one-year stint in the NFL with the New Orleans Saints, Croom got into coaching in 1976 as a graduate assistant at his alma mater. "Coach Bryant never gave up on me and I appreciated that," Croom said.
Monday Profile: How Gavin Gilbert has revolutionized Starkville High School football's statistics
Rushing through the rain armed with a pen and paper, Gavin Gilbert entered the press box at Yellow Jacket Stadium and began to scribble. Keeping note of that night's scoring plays between Starkville High School and DeSoto Central, Gilbert -- a social studies teacher at SHS since 2015 -- launched a career in sports statistics that has seen him compile numbers for at least 10 NFL players, nearly every member of the Clarion Ledger's Dandy Dozen who's played in Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 6A since 2010 and countless other high school prospects who've gone on to prolific collegiate football careers since their days in the yellow and white. Gilbert has long boasted a passion for sports. Arriving at MSU as an undergraduate in the fall of 2000, Gilbert quickly became a manager for the school's women's tennis team. He stayed in that post for six years before earning a spot as an eighth-grade social studies teacher at Armstrong Middle School in the fall of 2009. With his ensuing dash through the rain during that year's first region game against DeSoto Central, he helped the SHS coaching staff keep stats by hand the rest of the year and took over on his own for the season opener against Noxubee County in 2010. He's since added positions on stat crews at East Mississippi Community College and MSU during Thursdays and Saturdays in the fall.
SEC football players push leaders for answers on coronavirus safety
College football's most powerful conference, the SEC, announced Thursday that it plans to forge ahead with a season this fall. But a day earlier, in a private meeting with conference leaders and medical advisers, several football players raised concerns about their safety, only to be told that positive cases on their teams were a "given," according to an audio recording obtained by The Washington Post. The meeting, which took place Wednesday, included more than a dozen SEC football players, members of the conference's medical advisory board and SEC officials, including Commissioner Greg Sankey. It was designed as a "confidential free exchange," an SEC spokesman said in an email, in which the league's medical advisers could "hear questions and our student-athletes were able to hear answers." But the recording offers a window into how conference officials -- keen on keeping a multibillion-dollar industry afloat amid the novel coronavirus pandemic -- are and aren't reassuring the athletes they need to make the season a reality.
Tiger Stadium could have between 50-75% capacity depending on re-opening phases
After the Southeastern Conference decided to shorten its season to a 10-game, league-only schedule, it was clear that the league intends on playing football in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. One question that still remains: Just how many fans will be able to attend the games? LSU executive deputy athletic director Verge Ausberry told WNXX-FM Friday afternoon that Tiger Stadium's occupancy will depend on what reopening phase the state of Louisiana is in. During Phase 2, the state's current stage, Tiger Stadium would be limited to 50% occupancy, Ausberry said. That would increase to 75% under Phase 3. "So it just depends on where we are as a state," Ausberry said. Ausberry later told The Advocate that the school doesn't know what the actual numbers of fans allowed inside Tiger Stadium will be when the season begins Sept. 26.
Phillip Fulmer updates what capacity limit might look like for Tennessee games at Neyland
There almost certainly won't be 102,455 fans at Neyland Stadium for Tennessee football games this season. Phillip Fulmer is ready to acknowledge that much. Tennessee's athletics director said during a Friday interview on WNML that he's preparing for capacity restrictions for a season that already has been restructured because of the COVID-19 pandemic. "We won't be 100% (capacity)," Fulmer told WNML. "I'm hopeful we might be 50(%) or be like most folks and looking at 20% or 25%." Neyland Stadium is one of the largest in college football. Fulmer said in a statement Thursday that the university was working through multiple capacity scenarios and ticket allocation strategies and added that the capacity limit might fluctuate from week to week. "I don't think there's any question there will be reductions," Fulmer told WNML. "I'm kind of holding out, hopeful that we can get the curve kind of turned back down. We've got maybe a month. And maybe even during the season it could continue to get better. We also know it could continue to get worse. I don't want to put a number out there right now."
Thirteen Pac-12 football players release a wide range of demands, threaten a boycott
A group of more than a dozen Pac-12 Conference football players released a lengthy list of demands Sunday intended to protect and benefit them amid the COVID-19 pandemic and racial injustice that have roiled the country, threatening to boycott practices and games unless their requests are met. The demands include health and safety protections, the elimination of what the players described as excessive salaries, an end to racial injustice in sports and society, guaranteed medical coverage, and a profit-sharing arrangement in which 50% of each sport's conference revenue would be distributed evenly among athletes. It was not immediately clear how many players would be willing to participate in a boycott; one UCLA player told The Times on Saturday that the Bruins' top players, while supportive of the movement, were eager to play in a season scheduled to start against USC on Sept. 26. "I understand and support every guy on the Pac-12 petition & #WeAreUnited," UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson wrote Sunday on Twitter, "but Opting-out is not a option for me, You all need to feel this team and I this year."

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