Monday, August 10, 2020   
Mississippi State prepares to welcome students for fall semester
The upcoming fall semester will be unlike any other at Mississippi State, and the state's leading university is committed to providing a safe and welcoming environment to help new and returning Bulldogs on their paths to success. "The start of a new academic year is always the most exciting time on campus, and we remain focused on helping our students successfully transition to a new term," said MSU Vice President for Student Affairs Regina Hyatt. "Whether they are joining us here in Starkville or online from home, we look forward to assisting students in getting connected and finding the resources they need to achieve their academic and personal goals." Hyatt said the university's Safe Return Task Force has developed a Comprehensive Health and Safety Return Plan for students and employees. The success of that plan, she said, will very much rely on the entire Bulldog family's participation in the university's Cowbell Well campaign.
Bully's Closet and Pantry makes changes amid pandemic
Bully's Closet and Food Pantry is making some changes during the coronavirus pandemic. A representative of the closet and food pantry said the closet and pantry will open five days a week instead of just three days. It's hours are from 1-6 p.m. Students can now use curbside service three days a week. Dr. Regina Hyatt, the Vice President of Student Affairs, said back in January the pantry is a partnership between MSU's Division of Student Affairs and MSU's Student Association. "If you're hungry ... you're not going to be able to concentrate on studying," she said. "We want to make sure students have the availability of food, so they can do what they need to do as students."
MSU students deliver disinfectant chamber to Metro Ambulance in Meridian
Some Mississippi State University engineering students are doing their part to protect workers on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic. Rayden Smith and Justin Easley helped develop and build a chamber that uses ultraviolet radiation to disinfect masks. The device, fitted inside a large truck toolbox, was delivered to Metro Ambulance Service in Meridian Friday morning. Smith, an MSU graduate student in mechanical engineering, said the device is designed to clean N-95, surgical and cloth masks. The box uses UV light and takes about 30 minutes to disinfect several masks. Smith said the device was developed after the MSU student health center started looking for a way to extend PPE equipment when the supply dipped in April. After meeting with his advisor, Smith came up with the design using a toolbox. Smith said the project has allowed him to use his knowledge to help others. "I think it's a really wonderful way to take your degree and apply it to solve a problem," he said.
Mississippi State students build and donate disinfecting device to Metro Ambulance
Students from Mississippi State University built and donated to Metro Ambulance a device to help disinfect protective masks. The device began as a truck toolbox and was converted into a device that uses ultraviolet light to clean masks. Students Ryden Smith and Justin Easley presented their device and showed how it works to paramedics at Metro Friday morning. "I think it's a really incredible opportunity to help our healthcare providers by giving them something that can help keep them safe while they're on the frontlines dealing with people who are battling this virus," Smith says. Director of Metro Ambulance Clayton Cobler says that this device will be really helpful. "They can come in and have [their masks] sanitized with peace of mind knowing that they put them on and go back out and still be protected," Cobler explains.
Officials: 'Mystery seeds' not dangerous, still should not be planted
Sissy Watson's family received a package in the mail in mid-July with a label that indicated jewelry was inside. Instead, it "smelled almost like lavender" and contained tiny, oval-shaped seeds, she said. The package likely came from China, part of an unexplained nationwide scheme, U.S. Department of Agriculture representatives claim. Unordered packages of unlabeled seeds have shown up in the mail in most of the country, including all but 10 of the 82 counties in Mississippi. "We didn't know about any of this, so we immediately threw them away in the garbage," Watson, of Starkville, said Thursday on Facebook. She was correct not to plant them, according to both USDA and the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce. The "mystery seeds" are not a risk to human health, but any seeds foreign to an environment could disrupt it, and they might be carrying fungi or pests, Mississippi Agriculture Commissioner Andy Gipson said in a July 29 press release. Collecting all the packages of seeds "has kept us very busy" and eventually became overwhelming for MDAC, he said, so Mississippi State University started allowing recipients to drop off the packages at MSU Extension offices statewide. So far the Lowndes County Extension office has received two packages and the Oktibbeha and Clay county offices have each received one, according to agents at all three offices.
Rice harvest looms, fields look good
Rice harvest is approaching in the Mississippi Delta, and early signs point to good yields in 2020. Bobby Golden, rice specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service and an assistant professor with the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station, said the condition of the state's estimated 150,000 acres of rice looks "very good" as growers prepare to fill their combines. With 221 rice-producing farms, Mississippi was No. 5 among U.S. states in rice production with a total value of $91 million last year. "The first fields that were planted may start draining as soon as the second week of August. Outside of some of the early rice that flowered in high heat, the majority of the state's rice crop will flower in good heat conditions," said Golden, who is based at the Delta Research and Extension Center in Stoneville. "There is some extremely good-looking rice out there, but it's too early to tell where our yields will be." Planted rice acreage -- about 2.9 million acres -- is up 30% over last year statewide and 15% over 2019 nationally.
Rice looking good in Louisiana and Mississippi
Agriculture experts in Louisiana and Mississippi say the rice crop is looking good. "It's a big contrast from last year," Jeremy Hebert, AgCenter agent in Acadia Parish, said in a news release Friday from the Louisiana State University AgCenter. "Things actually worked out in farmers' favor." Mississippi's harvest is about to begin and the state's estimated 150,000 acres of rice look very good, said Mississippi State University Extension Service rice expert Bobby Golden. Golden, based at the Delta Research and Extension Center in Stoneville, said the first Mississippi farmers to plant rice may be able to start draining their fields the second week of August. "There is some extremely good-looking rice out there, but it's too early to tell where our yields will be," Golden said in a news release Friday.
FAA awards $3.3M in drone grants to universities
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has awarded $3.3 million in research, education and training grants to universities that comprise the FAA's Air Transportation Center of Excellence (COE) for Unmanned Aircraft Systems, also known as the Alliance for System Safety of UAS through Research Excellence (ASSURE). The FAA's CEO program, authorized by Congress, is a long-term, cost-sharing partnership between academia, industry and government. The program enables the FAA to work with center members and affiliates to conduct research in airspace and airport planning and design, environment and aviation safety, FAA said. Mississippi State University received the Alliance for System Safety of UAS through ASSURE Program Management grant for $1,290,410. This grant is for the ASSURE lead university to provide overall program management. This program management will include tracking of financial information for all core university project activities; reviewing and vetting of all project related documentation prior to submission to the FAA; hosting and facilitating all FAA-required meetings; and outreach to government, industry and academia, FAA said.
Contactless parking options now open to visitors to Mississippi State
ParkMobile, the leading provider of smart parking and mobility solutions in the U.S., announced Tuesday the launch of service on Mississippi State University's campus in Starkville. Visitors on campus will be able to use the ParkMobile app to pay for parking at over 12,000 spaces around campus. With the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, campus leaders are encouraging visitors to use the app instead of the pay stations or traditional visitor passes. The ParkMobile app is available for both iPhone and Android devices. To pay for parking using the app, a user enters the zone number posted on stickers and signs around the pay station and throughout the parking lot, selects the amount of time needed and touches the "Start Parking" button to begin the session. The user also can extend the time of the parking session on their mobile device, without having to go back to the meter or kiosk.
Mississippi State rents two Starkville hotels to quarantine students with COVID-19
Mississippi State University has rented two Starkville hotels for the fall semester. According to The Dispatch, the hotels will be used by students who live in residence halls on campus to quarantine if they test positive for COVID-19. In a newsletter sent to MSU faculty, Provost and Executive Vice President David Shaw said it was "more cost-efficient" for the university to rent the Comfort Suites on Russell Street and the Hampton Inn on Blackjack Road than to set aside residence halls. Health experts recommend a 14-day quarantine if a person tests positive for COVID-19 or is aware of exposure to it. The rental of the hotels is the latest development in MSU's plan to bring students back to campus this month. Safety measures include requiring face masks, monitoring students' temperatures and enforcing social distancing in classrooms.
MSU employees prepare to occupy quarantine spaces
Two hotels in Starkville will transform into quarantine spaces for Mississippi State University. Sid Salter, Chief Communications Officer for MSU, said this partnership between Comfort Suites and the Hampton Inn is part of the Safe Return to Campus. It's a $1.2 million project funded by the Federal Cares Act. Salter said Housing and Residence Life staff and custodial staff will work at the quarantine spaces. The university will provide workers with personal protective equipment and the necessary equipment to sanitize the spaces effectively. He also said the staff will receive training before working in the quarantine spaces. "We want to be sure that they get the same level of care if they're houses in these hotels that they would get if they were housed in a residence hall here on campus.
Petition against in-person classes at MSU gains traction
A petition for Mississippi State University not to hold in-person classes gathered more than 230 signatures by Saturday after concerned faculty started circulating it Wednesday, along with an open letter to administration declaring the current plans to reopen campus insufficient to protect the MSU community from the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. MSU Chief Communications Officer Sid Salter said the administration will likely issue an official response to the letter. Salter confirmed that no university employees will receive "hazard pay." He also said all aspects of the MSU community from faculty to students have been able to participate in the decision-making process ever since COVID-19 became a concern in February. Administrators such as Provost David Shaw and Vice President of Student Affairs Regina Hyatt have been in regular communication with both faculty and staff, and the MSU Student Association has "had a seat at the table" as well, Salter said. "This has been a transparent process, it's been an open process, and there has been adequate opportunity since February for people to have an idea of where we were going," he said.
Census Bureau shortens deadline, sounding alarm for Mississippi
Mississippi is responding to a surprise decision announced Aug. 3 by the U.S. Census Bureau to shorten the census deadline by one month, from Oct. 31 to Sept. 30. State leaders said the shortened schedule eliminates a crucial time for door-to-door census workers to follow up with those who have not yet responded in an effort to get a more complete count for the state. The Census Bureau has said that this decision was made in order to expedite the process of data collection to meet an end-of-year deadline. "I challenge everyone in the Mississippi State University family to register and 'be counted' for the census," said Mississippi State University President Mark E. Keenum. "An accurate census count puts Mississippi in line for the maximum return of federal investment back into our state for things like highways, education, and healthcare. Mississippians truly can't afford not to register for the census."
Oktibbeha EMA hopes to improve remote emergency response
The Oktibbeha County Emergency Management Agency hopes to add to its dispatch communication equipment to increase the productivity of its remote work, Director Kristen Campanella told the board of supervisors at a special-call budget meeting Thursday morning. The $60,000 purchase might be fully reimbursable through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, since improving telework capabilities is one of the initiatives it is meant to help during the ongoing COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, Campanella said. EMA seeks improvements to its disaster response system every year, and a new "fully standalone communications console" would occupy a separate space in the EMA offices and therefore maintain social distancing among staff, Campanella said. She would prefer a reimbursement but would like to order the equipment regardless, she said, and County Administrator Emily Garrard said it would be non-refundable if reimbursement turned out not to be an option.
Dogs attacked young woman Sunday in Alcorn County
A young woman is recovering after several dogs attacked her while running Sunday. According to her grandmother Darla Nash, five dogs attacked Tess Lancaster. A nearby woman delivering mail used mace to scare away the dogs. Medics transported Lancaster to a hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. Alcorn County Sheriff Ben Caldwell said Lancaster sustained injuries to her head and face Nash said her granddaughter has since been released from the hospital and will need to have plastic surgery. Lancaster, a recent graduate of Alcorn Central High School and class valedictorian, was scheduled to move into her dorm at Mississippi State University this week, her grandmother said.
Last call: Governors roll back hours instead of reopenings as bars take blame for coronavirus surge
Some state and local jurisdictions, rather than ordering bars to shutter, have started implementing "last call" orders, which ban the sale of alcohol past a certain time. The restrictions come from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and are an attempt to stop the spread of Covid-19. The idea is to prevent large crowds from gathering and to help maintain social distancing. However, some health experts say it's unclear whether the curfews will fulfill their intended purposes. Ty Thames, who owns bar-restaurants in Mississippi State University's hometown of Starkville, said he understands the need for public health measures like social distancing and only serving alcohol to seated guests. However, he said Gov. Tate Reeve's 11 p.m. cap on alcohol sales is arbitrary. "If people are seated and have a server with a mask deliver their food and their alcohol, I don't think the beer is less safe at 10:59 than it is at 11 or 11:01," Thames said. "It's the precautions that you take that really makes a difference."
Mississippi lawmakers returning to work on state budget
Mississippi legislators are returning to the Capitol to wrap up unfinished parts of the state budget as leaders are clashing with Republican Gov. Tate Reeves. The legislative website shows that the House and Senate will convene at 1 p.m. Monday. A week after the state budget year started July 1, Reeves vetoed big parts of the education spending plan because legislators did not fund a bonus pay program for teachers in schools that either maintain high academic performance or show significant improvement. Reeves also vetoed parts of a bill that allocated federal relief money for the coronavirus pandemic. Legislators are expected to try to set a budget for the state Department of Marine Resources. Final talks about the department's budget stalled just before legislators left the Capitol on July 1 because the House and Senate clashed over how to spend $40 million a year that the state receives from oil and gas production in the Gulf of Mexico.
Amid fight with governor, Mississippi lawmakers return to Capitol today
Mississippi lawmakers reconvene at the Capitol Monday afternoon to hammer out two major budget issues involving education and the Department of Marine Resources. The return -- confirmed by multiple lawmakers and expected to last only a couple days -- comes in the midst of an escalating fight with Gov. Tate Reeves, who vetoed parts of prominent bills, and just as dozens of legislators and staff recover from bouts with the coronavirus. House Speaker Philip Gunn and Pro Tem Jason White, both Republicans, sued Reeves on Wednesday over the Republican governor's line-item vetoes of much of the education budget as well as parts of a coronavirus relief bill that allocated federal money to several agencies. Reeves on social media called the suit a "power grab," and alleged it was launched by "some liberal Republicans who've joined forces with liberal House Dems." It appears lawmakers' top two priorities next week will be dealing with the Department of Marine Resources budget --- which they couldn't agree on before they left last month --- as well as potentially overriding Reeves' veto of most of the education budget, which would require a two-thirds majority.
Analysis: Budget dispute goes to one judge in Hinds County
Mississippi Republican legislative leaders helped defeat a 2015 education initiative by arguing that if someone sued the state over school funding, one judge in Hinds County would make budget decisions for the whole state. Now, some of those same leaders are asking one judge in Hinds County to side with them in a legal dispute over budgets. House Speaker Philip Gunn and Speaker Pro Tempore Jason White are suing Gov. Tate Reeves, a fellow Republican, in Hinds County Chancery Court. They are challenging his partial vetoes of two bills to fund state government programs for the year that began July 1. The House leaders' lawsuit points out that the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled in 1898, 1995 and 2004 that a governor cannot veto parts of budget bills that deal with the conditions, or purpose, for how money is spent. The lawsuit asks a judge to uphold the previous Supreme Court rulings and declare that Reeves's partial vetoes are invalid and the budget bills have become law.
The man Google loves to hate
Jim Hood antagonized Google for nine years as Mississippi's attorney general, going after the internet giant for enabling the sale of illegal drugs, allowing pirated content to flourish online and serving up targeted ads to children. And Google fought back: Hood holds the title of the only U.S. public official the company has ever sued. Now Hood has returned for more. Earlier this year, he signed on as a consultant to the massive, multistate investigation into the company's dominance online. Forty-eight states, D.C. and Puerto Rico are investigating the company and some are expected to file an antitrust suit against the company this fall, though not all have decided yet whether they will sign on to a complaint. That suit, paired with a federal antitrust probe, represents the biggest regulatory threat to Google's business yet. The twin efforts target the heart of Google's business: advertising and search, which are key to the company's $160 billion annual revenue. “Dealing with Google is like dealing with a teenager,” the 58-year-old Democrat said in an interview. “They don’t follow the norms that other businesses do. Google will tell you one thing and do something different.”
Exclusive: Federal officials launch vaccine pilot program
After months of remaining vague about its plans to distribute a COVID-19 vaccine, the Trump administration is quietly piloting distribution working groups, CQ Roll Call has learned. The plan, which is not yet public, was confirmed by four state health departments. Federal officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Pentagon and the administration's Operation Warp Speed initiative plan to conduct site visits and develop "model approaches" for other states based on what they learn, according to a CDC description of the project shared exclusively with CQ Roll Call. The states involved include California, Florida, North Dakota and Minnesota. The start of vaccine distribution plans come amid calls by public health experts for a national strategy. Distributing any authorized vaccines effectively will be crucial to stemming the coronavirus pandemic. Normal life can't begin to resume in the United States until a large proportion of residents are immune.
Coronavirus Turmoil Raises Depression Risks in Young Adults
For Da'Trevion Moss, a 23-year-old college student at the University of Dubuque in Iowa, the Covid-19 pandemic has dealt a series of personal blows. His summer internship at a local hospital was canceled. Many of his plans for starting an on-campus chapter of Active Minds, a young adult mental-health-advocacy organization, had to be shelved. And now he's anxious about going back to in-person classes as the virus continues to spread. "I felt like my career, all the things I was looking forward to and planning, were all ruined," says Mr. Moss, who is starting his senior year and goes by Tre. "I was hurt and devastated by that." The social isolation has made everything harder, he says. "I really thrive off face-to-face interactions. Not having that for the past four or five months has been really, really difficult." The pandemic and its economic fallout are taking a toll on the mental health of many Americans. But the burden is perhaps greatest for those on the brink of adulthood, young people who are often seeing their dreams of careers, romances and adventures dashed.
W Move-In Day expanded to multiple days
Move-In Day for Mississippi University for Women students assigned to on-campus housing will begin Wednesday, Aug. 12 and end Sunday, Aug. 16. The W has expanded Move-In Day to multiple days to adhere to CDC guidelines. Students approved for on-campus housing should check their university email for their designated day/time to move in. "We are really excited to have students back on campus. The health and safety of our residents is a top priority. Extra steps and safety measures have been implemented due to COVID-19," said Andrew Moneymaker, director of Housing and Residence Life. Students are allowed two guests (no children) to assist with their unloading and unpacking, during their assigned date and time. Outside guests assistance will not be permitted after a student's move-in window has closed. Dollies and carts will be available for limited use on move-in day, but volunteers and staff will not be available to assist with unloading.
Higher education during a pandemic: Giving it the old college try
The last time the University of Mississippi campus was full of students was in May. They had come to clear out their dorms, after the coronavirus had chased them home in March. "It was hard because everyone ... was finally getting together, bonding, getting really close, like all my friends, and then we all had to leave," said Olivia Fuller, who spent most of the spring semester taking classes online at home in Chicago. Not ideal, said Olivia's mother, Kim: "I'm more concerned about her not having her college experience with her friends than I am anything," she said back in May. Now, Olivia is heading back to school for the fall semester. But Ole Miss won't be the same. Classes will be a combination of online and in-person. "They're not all online," said Fuller. "I have two hybrid classes -- one is my chemistry lab, and the other one is a nutrition class. The hybrid means that sometimes you'll meet in person and some stuff will be online." Noel Wilkin, the provost at the University of Mississippi, said they are working hard to keep the coronavirus off-campus.
Here is what UM's Black student leaders want from the university and how they hope to get it
On the afternoon of July 20, nine Black student leaders -- Nicholas Crasta, DeArrius Rhymes, Jailien Grant, Re'Kia Fairley, Candace Bolden, Amirah Lockhart, Asia Eichelberger, Chinwe Udemgba and Zuri Dixon Omere -- met with Chancellor Glenn Boyce to discuss the future of minority representation and administrational transparency at the University of Mississippi. Black Student Union (BSU) President Crasta said their requests included more minority representation on every university committee, the construction of a multicultural building on campus and targeted efforts to increase Black student recruitment and retention at the university. "We, as Black students, represent 13% of the university, and that aligns with the population of the United States, but Mississippi is 37% Black," Rhymes, the president of Men of Excellence, (MOX) said. "At the beginning and end of the day, we want to recruit and retain more Black students, so letting go of Confederate symbols, taking Lamar's name off of Lamar Hall or Vardaman's name off of Vardaman Hall and publicizing the good stuff we do at our university is what's going to help with that."
Sarah Lee Named Director of USM School of Computing Sciences and Computer Engineering
An award-winning educator with a rich diversity of experience in both the private sector and in academia has been named director of The University of Southern Mississippi School of Computing Sciences and Computer Engineering. Dr. Sarah Lee takes on her new post August 12, coming to USM from Mississippi State University where since 2011 she has served on the faculty and in leadership roles, most recently as assistant department head in the MSU Department of Computer Science and Engineering. Prior to joining MSU, she worked 19 years at FedEx in key roles as a member of its information technology division. "I'm excited about the opportunities for collaboration within the University and with other stakeholders throughout the state," Dr. Lee said. "The School is well positioned, with degree programs in Hattiesburg and on the Gulf Coast, to become a leader in computing education and innovative research in Mississippi and beyond."
Southern Miss Dixie Darlings to undergo name change
After 66 years of operating under the Dixie Darlings moniker, the University of Southern Mississippi's marching band's precision dance team has announced it will soon choose a new name to represent the squad. A statement released Aug. 7 on the team's website said the decision was made -- and the new name will be chosen -- by the leadership of the Pride of Mississippi and all of its component performing units, in consultation with university administrators and the Southern Miss Alumni Association's Traditions Committee. Although a specific reason for the name change was not given, the statement said it has become increasingly difficult for the university's students to focus on the school's core values of excellence and the faculty's ability to provide a positive and safe environment. The Dixie Darlings were created in 1954 under the university's fourth president, Robert Cook, and the team performed for the first time at the Mississippi Southern College vs. Alabama game at Montgomery in September 1954.
USM Ocean Science school starting Shark Week social media campaign
As locals prepare for another year of Shark Week, the University of Southern Mississippi's School of Ocean Science and Engineering is preparing to post and tweet about the top predators in the sea. Starting Sunday, the school will start posting daily photos and facts about sharks as well as some of the research done at the Gulf Coast Research Lab. "We are putting a lot of effort into this," said Jill Hendon, interim director of the Center for Fisheries Research & Development. "Interacting with the public is one of the biggest parts of our jobs and it's one of the parts of the job we really enjoy. We want to make sure we're still getting this information out there." The posts will be geared toward education rather than focusing on the fear factor of sharks. Hendon also said the goal of the campaign is to educate the public on how important and essential sharks are to nature, especially South Mississippi. "I would love it if people found the awesomeness that all of us here at the research lab feel about sharks," she said. "I want some of that fear to be subsided."
Brookhaven woman named Co-Lin Foundation president
Sammye Burris of Brookhaven is the new president of the Copiah-Lincoln Community College Foundation Board of Directors. Burris follows Andrew Calvit of Natchez. Other recently-elected officers are Dr. Donald Cotten of Hattiesburg, vice-president; Sarah Johnson of Ruth, secretary; and Charles Hart of Wesson, treasurer. Burris graduated from Co-Lin in 1987 and later attended The University of Mississippi School of Banking. She works as a loan officer and executive vice president at United Mississippi Bank. Burris has been a member of the Co-Lin Foundation Board since 2013. Johnson graduated from Co-Lin in 2010 and Mississippi State University in 2012 with a degree in apparel, textiles and merchandising, and a minor in general business administration. Johnson works as office manager of the Co-Lin Foundation and Alumni Relations office.
Rebels and racists may lose namesakes on U. of Alabama buildings
In what some consider a slow change coming, the name of slave-owner Josiah Clark Nott was struck from a campus building, based on a resolution passed unanimously this past week by the University of Alabama System Board of Trustees. It's the first of what may be several such adjustments. Since June, a working group of trustees, including Tuscaloosa's John England Jr., with Barbara Humphrey, Vanessa Leonard, Harris Morrissette, Scott Phelps and Stan Starnes, has been compiling information on controversial namesakes, not just at the University of Alabama, but at the system's two other campuses: University of Alabama at Birmingham and University of Alabama in Huntsville. Reams of historical background, studying positives -- why they were chosen in the first place, their contributions -- and negatives have been compiled, with the dossier of at least one under consideration roughly 400 pages thick. Other namesakes under discussion may be more complicated, but still the group, which meets again on Wednesday, hopes to have another resolution for the board's September meeting. "We anticipate making an additional report which could involve some more changes," England said.
Virus forces 'silent' 2020 sorority Bid Day for U. of Alabama
If elated voices ring out from sorority pledges mid-month on Colonial and Magnolia drives they'll have to be heard through speakers, not coming live from delighted young women rushing toward their new sisters and homes. All 2020 sorority fall recruitment at the University of Alabama has been moved to virtual rounds due to concerns about the ongoing threat from COVID-19. Bids will be distributed via email at 1 p.m. on Aug. 16 and, in the same email, new members will be informed about specific times that afternoon to visit new chapter houses. There will also be information for those who don't wish to visit in person. No guests or alumnae will be allowed indoors at houses, so families have been asked not to attend Bid Day, known colloquially as "Squeal Day" for its clamorous rejoicing. Answering concerns about online-only rush has made for a busy summer for Myron Pope, who became UA's new vice president for student life May 4. "I've been getting phone calls: 'You're the new guy, taking away all our things. Taking away traditions.' I was the devil," Pope said, laughing.
Campus police ready 'to adapt' with AU students' return
Thousands of students are streaming back to town for the start of Auburn University's 2020-21 year to the delight of local retailers and the consternation of others who worry about a major COVID-19 spike. Auburn Police Division's campus precinct will be ready, according to its leader. "What we can control is how we respond to things and make sure we're responding in the proper way," said Assistant Chief Clarence Stewart. "We know how to function and how to adapt." From all indications, the city's population will nearly double as it does every August. Campus officials have reported that student housing is fully booked for the year, including the beds leased in the 160 Ross student apartments by the university as part of the plan to replace the older dorms on the Hill. Mask policy compliance is a big concern of university faculty and staff. They see students partying off campus in local bars without masks or regard for social distancing guidelines, and several are worried about what they can (or should) do when students refuse to wear masks in class.
U. of Kentucky receives reports of parties, promises to enforce student code
After the University of Kentucky received several reports of house and apartment parties over the weekend, UK officials announced Monday that it will be enforcing the Student Code of Conduct on students who gather at those events. It's unclear how many reports of parties the university received over the weekend. The university says it is working closely with the Lexington Police Department and other city officials. Reports of parties were being given to the university so that it can enforce the Student Code of Conduct, which now includes social distancing rules and applies to students even if they're off campus. UK also posted an online form for reporting alleged on- and off-campus code violators. The university and city are working together to "coordinate an appropriate response" to the reports of parties, but additional details weren't immediately available. Students began moving back into dorms this past weekend, and students living near to campus have been moving into near-campus houses and apartments since leases renewed at the beginning of the month. The first day of school is Aug. 17.
U. of South Carolina rolls out new system to gauge COVID 19 threat level on campus
As students continue to move into dorms, the University of South Carolina is introducing a new system to respond to coronavirus cases on campus, the school said Monday. Going forward, USC will be under one of four status alert levels: "new normal" (green), Level 1/Low (yellow), Level 2/moderate (orange) and Level 3/high (red). At the lowest level, "new normal," classes and activities will proceed as usual, but with the addition of face masks, social distancing and hand-washing, according to USC's website. At Level 1/Low, classes remain open but group gatherings are limited and surfaces are sanitized more often. At Level 2/Moderate, campus remains partially open with limitations on everyday activities. Certain areas of campus where there is an outbreak may have more restrictive rules. At Level 3/High, campus is all but closed. Classes could switch to completely online, and USC will "take strong measures to limit all contact," according to the website.
U. of Tennessee students prepare for new semester amid COVID-19 on move-in day
Students prepared for a semester unlike any other at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville this weekend. The campus was noticeably bare as families unpacked belongings from vehicles on the first move-in day. Efforts were taken to limit the number of people in dorms at once, with three-hour appointments to move into dorms. Face masks were required and the number of people allowed to help students move into the dorms was limited to two. "We're really trying to limit the number of people in the halls to allow for as much social distancing as possible," Chandra Myrik, executive director of university housing, told Knox News last month. Rachel Stewart, a sophomore, is usually a heavy packer, but she only brought enough to make her new dorm room "feel like home." She unpacked a car outside Vol Hall with two family members and told Knox News that she returned to campus because she has both in-person and online classes.
Colleges in Arkansas firm up plans for covid-19; testing, tracing among concerns
Plans for covid-19 testing and contact tracing are emerging at Arkansas' college campuses as students have begun moving in for the first on-campus coursework since March. Most Arkansas colleges begin instruction the week of Aug. 17 or the week of Aug. 24, although some campuses have moved up their fall calendars to have the term end before the Thanksgiving break. The beginning of the semester brings together thousands of people from across Arkansas, the nation and world, from covid-19 hot spots and places where the disease's spread has calmed. No one will be required to be tested for the coronavirus prior to going to campus -- unless they are athletes or fall within guidelines to be tested, based on symptoms or recent close contact with a person who has tested positive -- and only international students will be compelled to quarantine for 14 days prior to arriving on campus. The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences has $5 million in state funding to develop a contact tracing plan for 52 Arkansas colleges and universities, public and private. The tracing initiative had a "soft launch" last week, said Dr. Benjamin Amick, one of the leaders of the contact tracing effort.
UF reopening plan does not have Florida's higher education union approval
In combat, third generation military veteran Paul Ortiz said creating a plan gives people a sense of stability. But when the situation changes, the plans must change with it. Now, a University of Florida professor and president of UF's chapter of the United Faculty of Florida, he said this rule applies to UF's plan to reopen campus in the Fall. Ortiz and the union are calling for the university to update its course of action. United Faculty of Florida, the union for Florida's higher education faculty, asked Gov. Ron DeSantis and other representatives on July 27 for Florida institutions not to teach in-person classes in Fall. They say they are terrified of returning in Fall and are asking the administration to come up with a more robust plan that takes recent COVID-19 spikes in Florida into account, Ortiz said. Ortiz praised UF for transferring all classes online in March after DeSantis announced four UF students tested positive for COVID-19. But now, Ortiz fears the university will be moving in reverse by holding some Fall classes in person.
U. of Missouri students worry about safety, financial issues this fall
The University of Missouri's fall semester starts in two weeks, but some students still have concerns about reopening campus, including safety and financial issues. MU spokesperson Liz McCune said university officials have heard from students and parents that they want to return to campus for in-person experiences, and freshman enrollment for this fall is up slightly from last fall. "So, the university is moving forward with plans to offer an in-person experience with a number of safety protocols from creating safe distances to requiring face coverings in most situations on campus to developing quarantine and isolation plans in the event of positive cases," McCune said. Although MU has lots of rules to respond to the pandemic, some students are still worried about health and safety. "Despite the precautions that the university has in place for classes, you don't know who you can trust to be around because you don't know (if) people are going to party and whether they are irresponsible and selfish," said Hope Davis, a sophomore journalism student.
President Trump's executive orders could dim prospects of more federal aid for colleges
Executive orders President Donald Trump signed this weekend may bring a little help to Americans, including continuing to excuse many student loan borrowers from making payments through the rest of the year. But the unilateral move to deal with a handful of the problems the nation is facing during the coronavirus pandemic does not include help for the nation's colleges and universities, which are seeking more than $110 billion in federal help the industry says it needs to stabilize difficult financial situations, reopen campuses safely or to protect them from coronavirus-related lawsuits. And higher education lobbyists say they are worried that by dealing with some of the most pressing issues, like continuing to give the unemployed slightly larger federal checks each week, Trump's orders -- if they survive legal challenges -- will take away some of the steam to push a divided Congress to pass a larger relief bill with additional aid to higher education, as well as the protection from lawsuits colleges want when, as is expected, people contract COVID-19 when campuses reopen.
Survey: 40 percent of freshmen may not enroll at any four-year college
Colleges that have been struggling to get their yield rate equivalent (or at least close) to last year's may be in for a rude awakening. SimpsonScarborough is releasing a survey tomorrow of incoming freshmen who aspired to attend a four-year residential college that finds that 40 percent of them say they are likely or highly likely to not attend any four-year college this fall. Further, 28 percent of returning students who have the option to return to their campus say they are not going back or haven't decided yet. (Some of both groups of students may be interested in attending a community college.) Students planning to attend private institutions were more likely than those at public institutions to change their minds about attending. "It's an insane marketplace," said Elizabeth Johnson, chairman of SimpsonScarborough. "It could be catastrophic." The trend extends to the most competitive of institutions. Harvard University last week said that 20 percent of freshmen were deferring enrollment. In fact, Johnson said SImpsonScarborough has stopped trying to predict how many students will enroll this fall. "The colleges are not going to know until move-in day, and then colleges have to count heads."
No Parties, No Trips: Colleges Set COVID-19 Rules for Fall
As they struggle to salvage some semblance of a campus experience this fall, U.S. colleges are requiring promises from students to help contain the coronavirus -- no keg parties, no long road trips and no outside guests on campus. No kidding. Administrators warn that failure to wear masks, practice social distancing and avoid mass gatherings could bring serious consequences, including getting booted from school. Critics question whether it's realistic to demand that college students not act like typical college students. But the push illustrates the high stakes for universities planning to welcome at least some students back. Wide-scale COVID-19 testing, quarantines and plexiglass barriers in classrooms won't work if too many students misbehave. "I think that the majority of students are going to be really respectful and wear their masks, social distance, keep gatherings small," said incoming Tulane University senior Sanjali De Silva. "But I fear that there will be a distinct group of students that will decide not to do that. And it'll be a big bummer."
Reopening Schools: College Orientation at Notre Dame Welcomes Students to a Strange New World
On Friday night, Stephanie Swegle and her roommate participated in a near-sacred activity for University of Notre Dame students: They watched the movie "Rudy." The first-year students sat in the stands of the football stadium next to each other, wearing masks. About 6 feet away, another set of roommates settled in for the feel-good flick. Six feet from there, another pair. Ms. Swegle, an 18-year-old biology major from Seattle, had an odd introduction to college life but her experience at Notre Dame, which brought students back last week and begins classes Monday, provides a preview for what others may expect. Hundreds of thousands of students will descend on campuses around the country in coming weeks, beginning their fall terms under unprecedented circumstances. Move-in is tightly scheduled, and parents are discouraged from lingering too long as they say their goodbyes. Masks are a must. Orientation events are conducted outdoors, in small groups, or virtually.
Mitch Daniels Has Not Changed His Mind
In a video message to students, Mitch Daniels attempts to strike a balance between prudence and confidence. "Review all the precautions we've taken," says Daniels, who is a wearing a shirt with a Purdue University logo and holding a face mask. "If you're still not comfortable with coming in person, that's fine." Students who do choose to return in the flesh, however, "will have the satisfaction for a very long time of knowing that you played an essential part in a very significant achievement." He signs off: "See you in August." It's a tricky tone to get right, made trickier still by the intense national interest in how colleges will fare this fall. Perhaps no university will be watched more closely than Purdue, and no president's reputation is more on the line than Daniels's. That's because he emerged as one of the earliest and most vocal proponents of an in-person return to campus. In a May 25 column for The Washington Post, Daniels, who has been Purdue's president since 2013, argued that "failure to take on the job of reopening would be not only anti-scientific but also an unacceptable breach of duty."
The Making (And Unmaking) of Jerry Falwell Jr.
He promised to be a 'good boy,' but it was too late. By the time Jerry Falwell Jr. sought forgiveness for posting on social media a photo of himself with his pants partially unzipped and his arm draped around a woman with an exposed midriff, the president of Liberty University and unwavering surrogate for President Donald J. Trump had already lost valuable allies in the evangelical and conservative circles that have helped to transform Liberty into an online education juggernaut that practically prints money. In an interview on Wednesday with a radio station, in Lynchburg, Va., where Liberty's residential campus is located, there was little Falwell could say that would save him from the coming moment of judgment -- a rebuke from his governing board that casts his future as president in doubt. "I've apologized to everybody," Falwell told the radio station. "And I've promised my kids I'm going to try to be -- I'm gonna try to be a good boy from here on out." By Friday, though, the good boy had been banished.
Gov. Tate Reeves takes firm but skittish steps to stop virus spread
Syndicated columnist Bill Crawford of Meridian writes: Some applaud, some slight Gov. Tate Reeves for his recent firm, but skittish, steps to slow the spread of the deadly COVID-19 coronavirus in Mississippi. These come as Mississippi's infections soared and the positivity rate moved to number one in the nation (hitting 25.8% last week). Earlier, Dr. Ashish K. Jha, Director of Harvard's Global Health Institute, wrote on Twitter that Mississippi was "doing VERY badly" with infections soaring, the positivity rate climbing, hospitalizations up, and the daily death toll nearly doubling. ... Prior to this, Reeves had implemented mask and social distancing mandates in 37 counties. And he has consistently encouraged everyone to wear masks. Yet, infections and deaths soared. His latest actions came after rumors circulated that he was considering much stronger orders, including another stay-at-home mandate. He did not reveal how he had come to his more skittish decisions in contrast to the strong recommendations by state health experts. Nor did he explain how he determined 12 days of mask wearing would make a real difference.
Mike Espy's campaign will either be history-making or instructive for Mississippi Dems
Bobby Harrison writes for Mississippi Today: If Democrat Mike Espy catches lightning in a bottle in November, he could make history as the first Black Mississippian elected to the U.S. Senate in the modern era. If he does not, his campaign could at least serve as a primer for future statewide candidates. Espy is running a statewide race like no other Mississippi Democrat has. In the past, Mississippi Democrats -- at least those with a puncher's chance of winning -- ran from national Democrats. Espy is not. Espy, who is challenging Republican incumbent Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith in the Nov. 3 election, was the featured speaker recently in a videoconference conducted by the campaign of presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden on racial equality in rural America. Espy was asked to participate because he represented the mostly rural Mississippi Delta as a member of Congress and because he served as U.S. secretary of agriculture. At the event, he spoke glowingly of Biden.

Mississippi State players join '#WeWantToPlay' college football movement
It's just a hashtag, but it hasn't gone unnoticed. Multiple reports surfaced over the weekend indicating the 2020 college football season is in jeopardy of being played because of COVID-19 concerns. SEC Network analyst Paul Finebaum said Monday morning the season is on "life support." College football players across the country took to Twitter to let their voices on the subject be heard. Two of Mississippi State's best players from both sides of the ball, senior linebacker Erroll Thompson and senior running back Kylin Hill, tweeted "#WeWantToPlay" Sunday evening. Many of Thompson and Hill's teammates chimed in too. Freshman wide receiver Tulu Griffin and redshirt freshman offensive lineman Nick Pendley tweeted the hashtag as well as well. The movement stretches far behind Mississippi State, though. At one point Sunday night, the hashtag was the third most popular thing trending on Twitter. Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence did some major legwork in getting everything off the ground by posting a thread of tweets explaining why it would be best for the players to have a college football season.
Mississippi State adds Georgia and Vanderbilt to 2020 schedule
Mississippi State has added two more opponents for the 2020 football season. Following the Southeastern Conference's announcement last week that it would move to a 10-game, conference-only schedule this fall amid COVID-19 concerns, it was announced Friday that MSU will now also face Georgia on the road and host Vanderbilt this year. "We appreciate the leadership of the SEC throughout the process of revising the 2020 schedule and their direction moving forward on medical protocols," MSU Athletic Director John Cohen said in a news release. "While we're hopeful and planning to have a competitive season this fall, we understand there is a challenging road ahead." Dates and times for the 2020 season will be announced at a later date.
Mississippi State adds Georgia, Vanderbilt to 2020 football schedule
Mike Leach said he took the Mississippi State job in large part to see how he'd fare in the rough and tough SEC. He'll be put to the test like never before in Year 1. The SEC is playing a 10-game, conference-only football schedule for the first time ever this year because of complications concerning the COVID-19 pandemic. Friday, the two extra SEC East teams Mississippi State will face this fall were announced. The Bulldogs will battle Vanderbilt at home and Georgia on the road. It will be a third-straight trip to Athens for Mississippi State. MSU has not beaten Georgia since 2010 at home, but the Bulldogs boast three wins a row over Vanderbilt. MSU has not lost to Vandy since 2004. "We are excited about our challenging conference-only schedule featuring five games in Davis Wade Stadium," coach Mike Leach said in a statement. "We are extremely proud of our program's growth during the summer access period as well as the patience and resiliency our student-athletes have displayed across these last several months."
Mississippi State, Ole Miss football programs plan to shoulder combined $600K in COVID testing costs for 2020 season
Mississippi State football players' post-practice routines are consistent. Student-athletes place their pads in their respective lockers before heading to the dining room in the Leo Seal Jr. Football Complex for a team meal, snack or drink. Some stop in the training room for varying treatments on whatever bumps or bruises they might have endured. Meetings or extra film study in the offices scattered throughout the building persist. In 2020, that usual routine has new wrinkles. Neck gaiters and masks are worn throughout the building. Social distancing measures have been added. So too have brief strolls to the Longest Student Health Center where players have endured a slew of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, or a search for pieces of the COVID-19 coronavirus in the nose, throat or other parts of the respiratory tract through a nasal or throat swab. For players, coaches and staff, the new measures are obvious but necessary inconveniences if they hope to complete the planned 10-game season this fall. For Southeastern Conference athletic departments, including those at MSU and Ole Miss, they represent a pricy grasp at normalcy in an era being defined by a global pandemic.
Sanderson Farms to be played without spectators, pro-am uncertain
The tens of thousands of people that descend on Jackson each year for the Sanderson Farms Championship will have to watch the golf tournament on TV. Century Club Charities just announced that the tournament will be played this year sans spectators, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The event is slated for September 24 to October 4. It typically draws thousands of people to the Country Club of Jackson, and has a multimillion-dollar impact on the metro area's economy. News comes as other tournaments on the PGA Tour are also played without fans, and as social distancing and capacity guidelines remain in place. "While everyone involved is disappointed this is the direction we have to go, our team is still upbeat about the opportunity to host an outstanding tournament for the world's best golf professionals, while showcasing the Sanderson Farms Championship and the beautiful course at The Country Club of Jackson to the rest of the world through the Golf Channel broadcast," said Sanderson Farms Championship Executive Director Steve Jent.
As college leaders meet, football players push to play
After the Power Five conference commissioners met Sunday to discuss mounting concern about whether a college football season can be played in a pandemic, players took to social media to urge leaders to let them play. Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said no decisions on the season have been made, but conceded the outlook has not improved. "Are we in a better place today than two weeks, ago?" he said. "No, we're not." Bowlsby cited "growing evidence and the growing pool of data around myocarditis." The final call on whether major college football will played this season rests in the hands of the university presidents who oversee the largest conferences. All this activity comes a day after the Mid-American Conference became the first among 10 leagues that play at the highest tier of Division I college football to cancel fall sports because of concerns about keeping athletes from contracting and spreading COVID-19.
At the Heart of It: Cardiac Inflammation the Next Virus Hurdle for College Leaders
Dr. Matthew Martinez has studied so many images of a beating heart that he couldn't possibly count them. Maybe 500,000. Maybe 1 million. As a non-invasive cardiologist, his job revolves around the constant evaluation of pictures of the heart. He knows what a strong, healthy heart looks like. He knows what a poor, struggling heart looks like. And he knows what a heart looks like after COVID-19's tentacles have reached the most vital organ in the human body. "This virus," he says, "seems to have an affinity for causing damage to the heart." In a small percentage of infected patients, COVID-19 leaves behind troubling scars in the throbbing muscle within their chests, known as myocarditis. Lately, physicians are identifying the condition in young, healthy Americans --- including athletes. "The last month or two, even asymptomatic young people are developing myocardial injury," Martinez says. Of all the hurdles impeding a 2020 college football season, there is one roadblock that has gone mostly overshadowed, buried beneath the other more prominent obstacles, such as testing, travel, a bubble-less college campus and quarantine requirements. That hurdle? The heart.
With Big Ten on 'cusp' of canceling season, SEC holding firm
With the college football season seemingly hanging in the balance, the Southeastern Conference is holding firm. A sense of panic broke across college football Sunday night amid reports of multiple Power 5 conferences moving closer to canceling their fall seasons. Sports Illustrated reported the Big Ten had already been gauging interest in whether other Power 5 conferences were on board for a uniform decision to be announced later this week. Don't include the SEC in that group, at least not yet. The SEC isn't moving toward canceling its fall football season, according to conversations with sources throughout the conference in the aftermath of reports the Big Ten was on the verge of doing so. The conference, which unveiled its 10-game schedule on Friday, prefers to take a wait-and-see approach.
SEC players join #WeAreUnited movement as some UGA players express desire to play during pandemic
SEC players and those from the Big 12 and ACC early Monday followed the lead of the Pac-12 and Big Ten in forming a united front at a time when the fall college football season appeared like it could be shut down in a matter of days. Some UGA football players including senior linebacker Monty Rice went to Twitter to express a desire to play during the COVID-19 pandemic with reports that the Big Ten was moving towards canceling the fall season. The hashtag #WeWantToPlay gained steam Sunday night and became a top trending topic. Hours later players from the five power conferences put out a streamlined message that included the desire to "ultimately create a College Football Players Association." Former UGA quarterback Justin Fields, now at Ohio State and Alabama running back Najee Harris were among the most prominent players taking part. Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity said last week that "in general what we're able to provide for our student athletes, especially in the Southeastern Conference due to our resources in all areas of student-wellness and permissible opportunities that we're able to maximize, we feel very confident that our student-athletes are afforded the best possible environment that is permissible under NCAA rules. I'll just leave it at that."
Several Tennessee football players say #WeWantToPlay amid season's uncertain future
Jarrett Guarantano made his opinion clear on Sunday about the fate of the upcoming college football season. "#WeWantToPlay," Tennessee's fifth-year senior quarterback wrote. Numerous college players, including several at Tennessee, tweeted #WeWantToPlay in reaction to national media reports over the weekend that the Big Ten and Pac-12 are moving toward cancelling the football season this fall. On Saturday, the Mid-American Conference became the first FBS conference to cancel the season. The MAC plans to consider a spring season. As Power 5 conferences, the Big Ten and Pac-12 are bigger dominoes that could set off a chain reaction if they cancel the season. "Worked way too hard for this. #WeWantToPlay," linebacker Henry To'o To'o said.
Trevor Lawrence pleads to play amidst reports college football to be canceled; #WeWantToPlay trends
Amidst reports college football will be canceled this upcoming season, one of the sport's most visible athletes is speaking up. Clemson's Trevor Lawrence took to Twitter on Sunday with a passionate plea for teams to take the field this season. "People are at just as much, if not more risk, if we don't play," Lawrence tweeted. "Players will all be sent home to their own communities where social distancing is highly unlikely and medical care and expenses will be placed on the families if they were to contract COVID-19. "Not to mention the players coming from situations that are not good for them/ their future and having to go back to that." The series of tweets come on a day when many outlets, citing sources, the entire season is now in jeopardy. "Football is a safe haven for so many people," Lawrence tweeted. "We are more likely to get the virus in everyday life than playing football. Having a season also incentivizes ... Players being safe and taking all of the right precautions to try to avoid contracting COVID because the season/ teammates safety is on the line. Without the season, as we've seen already, people will not social distance or wear masks and take the proper precautions."
Colorado State suspends football activities amid racism allegations
Colorado State football team activities have been suspended indefinitely due to allegations of racism and verbal abuse in the program. The Coloradoan reached out to CSU leadership on Friday seeking interviews regarding an investigation by the paper looking into allegations by multiple CSU players and athletics staff who say they witnessed racial insensitivity and emotional and verbal abuse among coaches and athletic administrators. The Coloradoan published a story looking inside the athletic department on Saturday. Later on Friday, CSU released a statement from athletic director Joe Parker. "Today, we learned of some extremely troubling allegations of racism and verbal abuse from CSU's athletic administration generally and in the football program specifically. I have consulted with President (Joyce) McConnell about these new allegations, which obviously deeply concern her as well. Effective immediately, and for the best interests of our student-athletes, I am pausing all football-related activities indefinitely. This includes practices, workouts, and team meetings."
Brett Favre says there's 'no right answer' to kneeling during anthem
Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre wonders how NFL locker rooms will react during the 2020 season -- when more athletes are expected to kneel for the national anthem. "I know from being in an NFL locker room for 20 years, regardless of race, background, money you grew up with, we were all brothers it didn't matter," Favre said. "Guys got along great. Will that be the same (with kneeling scenario)? I don't know. If one guy chooses to stand for his cause and another guy chooses to kneel for his cause, is one right and the other wrong? I don't believe so. We tend to be fixed on highs. I don't know what it's like to be Black. It's not for me to say what's right and what's wrong. I do know we should all be treated equal. If you can't do that, you shouldn't be in America." Favre, who played with four teams, including 16 seasons with the Green Bay Packers, said he felt a camaraderie with all of his teammates but questioned if a serious issue like kneeling would divide teammates. "There's no right answer," Favre said to the idea of kneeling during the anthem.

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