Monday, August 17, 2020   
Mississippi State campaign ends with $1.07 billion in gifts
Infinite Impact: The Mississippi State University Campaign concluded its decade-long run in June with $1.07 billion in outright gifts and pledges, including $285.2 million raised in deferred gifts. "We are forever grateful for the generosity of alumni, friends, foundations and corporations who value the university's contributions to Mississippi and the nation and share its vision. The historic Infinite Impact campaign brings vast support for significant advances in education and research that will benefit our society and economy and further grow the national reputation of our university," said MSU President Mark E. Keenum. Gifts totaled $7.8 million for the Promise Student Support Program as it offers financial and mentorship assistance to students from economically challenged backgrounds. Among new endowed positions are a cybersecurity chair; an applied big game research and instruction chair; a southeastern cattle management professorship; and an endowed professorship to encourage diversity and inclusiveness among faculty, among others.
COVID changes college move-in experience
In a typical year, the Saturday before college classes start are part celebration, part chaos. Saturday, the difference was palpable. By Saturday morning, the bulk of residential students at Mississippi State and Mississippi University for Women had already moved into their residence halls. For those who arrived Saturday, the students who moved into their rooms did so with little fanfare or fuss. At both campuses, the traditional "Move-in Day" became "Move-in Week" as students made appointments for move-in and began arriving on Monday. For parents, sending their children off to school already creates its share of anxieties. The threat of COVID-19 adds another. "As a parent, you always worry a little," said William Moore, who helped his daughter, Jordan, move into Critz Hall at MSU. Moore said he had confidence his daughter would take the COVID-19 requirements seriously. Jordan Moore said the virus hasn't dampened her enthusiasm for starting college. "It's still exciting," she said. "I'm not worried. I'm ready to get started."
Mississippi State students deliver mask disinfectant box to Metro Ambulance in Meridian
Emergency medical technicians and paramedics at Metro Ambulance Service have a new, fast way to disinfect their masks courtesy of a device designed and built by Mississippi State students. A team from MSU delivered the device, a tool box outfitted with ultraviolet lights, to Metro Ambulance this past week. As EMTs and paramedics complete their shift, they will be able to sanitize their masks in approximately 30 minutes, extending the lifespan of their personal protective equipment. The apparatus can be used to disinfect cloth, surgical and N-95 masks. The first disinfectant box was built at MSU's Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems in April after the university's John C. Longest Student Health Center requested it amid a national shortage of personal protective equipment. Within two weeks, the device was designed, built and delivered by students in MSU's Bagley College of Engineering with support from faculty and staff at CAVS. The students built another device for the Mississippi Veterans Home in Kosciusko. MSU has worked to make the technology publicly available through its Office of Technology Management.
Famous Maroon Band makes changes to program this year
Members of the Mississippi State University Famous Maroon Band are marching to a different tune this year because of the pandemic. Craig Aarhus, one of the Associate Directors of Bands, said there are some changes in the program. He said there are about 400 students in the band program. This year, all of the band members cannot practice together inside. Aarhus said they will split the band up by groups and mostly practice outside on the field. When band members go out on the field they will see signs that encourage social distancing. Aarhus said the band plans to play this year, but it's ultimately up to Southeastern Conference leaders if the band will perform during the games this season.
IFDA's Educational Foundation Announces Design Student Scholarship Winners for 2020
The Educational Foundation of IFDA, the International Furnishings and Design Association, has announced its design student scholarship winners for 2020. Since the early years of this 73-year-old global design industry alliance, EF has awarded scholarships to high-achieving design students. Molly Taylor of Mississippi State University was the winner of the IFDA Student Member Scholarship for $2,000 open to undergraduate students. Although originally from Memphis, TN, Taylor is currently pursuing her Bachelor of Science in Interior Design at MSU and belongs to IFDA's Virtual Chapter, where she is able to connect with various industry leaders from across the globe. Cary Reynolds of Mississippi State University was named the winner of the IFDA Philadelphia Scholarship for Furniture Design for $2,500, open to two- three- or four-year undergraduates. Hailing from Amory, MS, Reynolds received an Associate of Arts from Itawamba Community College in 2018 and he is currently working on his bachelor's at MSU. He is majoring in Interior Design and minoring in Landscape Architecture. He is a member of the ASID Student Chapter and the Fashion Board at MSU.
MSU Riley Center partners with Care Lodge to offer workshops for abuse survivors
The MSU Riley Center will begin in September to offer The Footlight Project, a series of drama workshops, to clients of Care Lodge, the Meridian organization that provides services for survivors of domestic violence. The name, Footlight Project, comes from the lights on the edge of a stage that reflect light onto performers from below to combat the dark shadows from overhead lighting. The Footlight Project intends to do just that, help survivors illuminate their darkness through the art practice of theatre. The workshops are designed to foster self-expression and personal growth. They will include voice and acting training, development of public speaking skills, guidance in monologue writing and more. These drama techniques can nurture personal growth as well as enhance life skills. "These workshops are about process, not the final performance," said Tiffany McGehee, Outreach Director at the MSU Riley Center, in a news release. "We're accessing the tools that actors and directors use to create theatrical works and applying them to look inside ourselves, make sense of what is happening, sometimes escape but ultimately find our voice.
Starkville site studied for evidence of mass extinction 66 million years ago
In a trench behind an apartment complex off Highway 182 in west Starkville Thursday, a team of paleontologists were gathering handfuls of 66 million-year-old fossils. From fossilized molds of snail shells to evidence of ammonites -- prehistoric shelled mollusks that University of New Mexico post-doctoral researcher James Witts said "looked a little bit like a squid shoved into a shell" -- the group hoped the finds would help contribute to an ever-growing picture of what marine life looked like in the oceans covering what is now Northeast Mississippi millions of years ago. More specifically, they hoped to learn more about how that life changed after a mass extinction event wiped out 70 percent of life on earth 66 million years ago. "It's a pretty dramatic change (from Cretaceous to Paleocene)," said Mississippi State graduate student Joshua Broussard, whose research project for MSU geosciences professor Renee Clary is on how life changed during and after the event. "Literally an apocalypse."
Free MSU resource for comparing soil moisture monitoring systems
The Mississippi State University Extension Service and USDA/ARS have jointly created the National Center for Alluvial Aquifer Research (NCAAR). In doing so, they have developed a new way for farmers and consultants to learn about different soil moisture monitoring systems. And all of the information and training is free. Mississippi State University's Row-Crop Irrigation Science Extension and Research (RISER) initiative, with leadership provided by Assistant Professor and Extension Irrigation Specialist Drew Gholson and Assistant Extension/Research Professor Himmy Lo, launched a display of 11 soil moisture monitoring systems at the Delta Research and Extension Center's West Farm in Stoneville. Six industry partners generously supplied these systems; EnviroSolutions, High Yield Ag Solutions, Irrometer, PrecisionKing, Trellis, and Vantage South. The soil moisture monitoring showcase is a collaboration between MSU Extension Service, ARS, NCAAR, and the Row-Crop Irrigation Science Extension and Research (RISER) initiative.
Starkville discusses possible tax, utility rate hikes
Faced with a projected $1.1 million budget shortfall in Fiscal Year 2021, the city of Starkville may have to raise the property tax rate by 2 mills and delay its debt payment for a year to help offset the financial impact, Ward 2 Alderman and Budget Committee Chair Sandra Sistrunk said during a work session Friday morning. The estimated budget impact next year is largely due to a projected sales tax revenue downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic as well as increased spending compared to FY 2020, according to Sistrunk's presentation. The city's sales tax revenue in FY 2021 may see a 12-percent drop, marking an $880,000 decrease from this fiscal year, Sistrunk said. The potential decrease comes as the pandemic negatively affected many local retail businesses, restaurants and bars, some of which have closed, she said. "It's less impacted when you are talking about big stores -- Kroger, Walmart," Sistrunk said. "Mom and Pop shops are suffering more. So when our retail sales tax diversions may not be dropping much, it's dropping in the people that make us who we are as a community." The projection also took into consideration the potential cancellation of the college football season in the fall, Sistrunk told The Dispatch.
Four candidates in state Senate special election
Four candidates are vying to fill a vacant state Senate seat in a special election set for next month. The June retirement of longtime Sen. Gary Jackson only six months into a four-year term of office will require a special election to select a new District 15 state senator. In the running to replace Jackson are Bricklee Miller, Levon Murphy Jr., Bart Williams and Joyce Meek Yates. A special election is scheduled for Sept. 22, but a runoff will be required if no one captures more than 50 percent of the votes on the first round of balloting. State Senate District 15 includes portions of Oktibbeha County, including part of Starkville, as well as parts of Choctaw, Webster and Montgomery counties. Jackson, the former District 15 senator, held the seat almost 17 years but resigned this year citing health concerns. Jackson was a Republican. Candidates running in the special election to replace him will not be identified with any partisan affiliation on the ballot, but are free to claim association with a party during the campaign.
Federal funds to help Mississippi expand internet access
A Mississippi-based technology company plans to install more than 33 miles of underground fiber infrastructure that will help offer ultra-fast broadband internet access to rural areas by the end of the year. C Spire announced the project last week for parts of Hinds, Madison, Amite and Pike counties, The Vicksburg Post reported. The company says 20 miles of that project will include areas of Highway 27 between Utica and the Warren County line, and Highway 18 southwest of Raymond. The project will provide broadband internet access to 157 homes along the route. C Spire was one of 19 recipients of a total of $75 million in federal grant funds under the Mississippi Broadband COVID-19 program. After installing the infrastructure, officials said the company plans to begin offering services by the end of December.
Analysis: Flag group seeks image that evokes Mississippi
Commissioners working on a new Mississippi flag said they don't want a big single star on the banner. That image is already taken by Texas. One also said he doesn't want a design that depicts one of Mississippi's next-door neighbors. One of the commissioners, Sherri Carr Bevis, works for a hospital system on the Gulf Coast. She said she looked at flags from all 50 states and found few she liked. She said the South Carolina flag, with a crescent moon and a palmetto tree, is a favorite because it reminds her of that state's beauty. She urged fellow commissioners to choose a design that does not need a detailed explanation. Cyrus Ben, chief of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, persuaded fellow commissioners to add a diamond shape to each of the final designs, because that's an important motif in Choctaw art.
State flag commission makes tweaks, narrows choices to nine
The Mississippi Flag Commission met Friday planning to narrow choices for a new state flag to five, but instead ended up with nine after much debate and tweaking of designs. Those nine designs are available for public viewing and input on the Mississippi Department of Archives and History website. The commission reviewed nearly 3,000 public submissions for a new state flag design. Commissioners plan to vote via online meeting Tuesday morning to pick five designs, of which cloth prototypes will be made and flown at the Old Capitol on Aug. 25. Then, commissioners will by Sept. 2 choose one flag to put before voters on Nov. 3. Commissioners -- who were appointed by the governor, lieutenant governor and House speaker -- on Friday debated intricacies of various designs and looked at multiple variations of numerous proposals. Commissioners on Friday also met with a lawyer, and approved a copyright and intellectual property agreement that finalists will have to sign before their designs could be chosen for the state flag.
Governor Tate Reeves tells CBS Face the Nation 'our mitigation measures are working'
Governor Tate Reeves appeared on CBS' "Face the Nation" on Sunday to talk COVID-19 in Mississippi, the impact on schools and what it means for the upcoming November election. Host Margaret Brennan began by saying that according to Johns Hopkins, Mississippi has a positivity rate of 23%, "which is the highest in the nation when it comes to COVID infections." "Where are you headed going into a fall that the CDC warns could be the worst ever?" Brennan asked Reeves. "Well, I haven't seen that particular data," the Governor responded, adding, "but what I can tell you is in our state, we peaked with a seven day average of one 1,391 cases on July 29. As of yesterday, we had brought that number down considerably to 728 cases per the state of Mississippi for a seven day trailing average. And so we've actually almost cut the total number of cases on a daily basis in half just over the last two and a half weeks. And what that shows us is our mitigation measures are working."
'Legally cast votes will be counted'; Gov. Tate Reeves talks schools opening, Mississippi voting procedures on Face the Nation
Sunday morning, Governor Tate Reeves defended allowing schools to open for in person classes and the state's ability to handle in-person voting this November without universal mail-in voting. He spoke with CBS's Face The Nation on why he will not shut down schools and will continue to allow in-person classes. Currently, hundreds of children are in quarantine after over 100 tested positive for the coronavirus as schools began to open. Reeves quoted Dr. Redfield with the CDC saying that the state is working to mitigate risk with public health in respect to COVID-19 and public health in respect to kids not having been in school for such an extended time. He says that none of the positive cases have happened in the schools and instead are happening because of community spread. The governor is also defending the state's plan to conduct November's election without universal mail-in voting. Reeves said that legally-cast votes will be counted.
Legislators avoid catastrophe despite large COVID-19 outbreak among their ranks
The ongoing 2020 session has been like no other -- to a large extent because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and to a lesser degree because of the ongoing donnybrook between Gov. Tate Reeves and legislative leaders. But thus far it has not been catastrophic. It could have bordered on catastrophe if the COVID-19 outbreak that besieged the Legislature, beginning in early July, had occurred two weeks earlier. On July 1, the first day of the new fiscal year, legislators completed their task of approving a $21 billion budget to fund state government --- everything from education to transportation to law enforcement. The enactment of a budget by the Legislature is a massive task, entailing the approval of more than 100 bills and the work of a dozen or more staff members. Normally the budgeting process is completed in March or April or, in some instances, early May. But because of an interruption in the session in March caused by the coronavirus, the Legislature was completing the process just as the new budget year began.
Commissioner Andy Gipson says the Mississippi State Fair is still on -- social distance style
According to Agricultural Commissioner Andy Gipson, the Mississippi State Fair is still set to happen. "Coming soon, my friends!" he wrote on Facebook earlier this week. "Less than two months out from the Mississippi State Fair, October 7-18, 2020 -- social distance style." This was followed by another post of his that read, "A wise man once said, 'Lead, follow, or get out of the way!' Mississippi agriculture cannot be shut down. The Mississippi State Fair Livestock Shows will be held October 8-18, 2020, and we will post the detailed schedule tomorrow." That schedule has since been posted. This news comes as the Georgia National Fair, the Iowa State Fair and the Washington State Fair were all canceled due to the pandemic. The Neshoba County Fair was also canceled earlier this year. Hinds County, which is where the fair will take place, has been declared a coronavirus "hot spot," causing the Jackson Public School District to cancel all Fall sports and to continue practicing distance-learning until their Spring semester.
House 'drew the line in the sand' on DMR budget. Impasse stalls Coast projects
A host of tidelands and environmental projects are on hold and pay will run out Aug. 31 for 175 employees at the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources because members of the House of Representatives question how the DMR and Gov. Tate Reeves plan to spend millions in federal funds, state Rep. John Read, R-Gautier says. Legislators have in the past questioned spending of federal oil-lease money, called GOMESA funds, that is supposed to be used to improve the environment. In 2019, for example, Gov. Phil Bryant announced that almost $7 million would go for a tramway connecting the Gulfport harbor and Mississippi Aquarium. The project was later killed, but the aquarium is set to receive $8 million for conservation and education programs. Read, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, said members want to make sure GOMESA funding is going to restore and conserve Coast waterways and resources, as it is intended to do. The Senate is ready to sign off on the budget without "micromanaging" the GOMESA projects, Sen. Brice Wiggins said, which he believes the House is trying to do. Joe Spraggins, DMR's executive director, said the attorney general's office reviews GOMESA projects for compliance with federal guidelines, then a scientific review team at DMR looks over the projects.
U.S. Coronavirus Forecasts Offer Somber Outlook
The U.S. coronavirus death toll is expected to pass 180,000 and could reach 200,000 by Sept. 5, according to modelers whose forecasts are shared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention -- a somber prediction as the country tries to battle the virus and revitalize the economy. U.S. deaths currently number at least 169,313, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Total infections exceed 5.3 million, with the new cases logged Friday topping 60,000 after two days of over 50,000 new cases, according to the Johns Hopkins data. The U.S. total represents about a quarter of the cases world-wide, which surpassed 21 million. The CDC updated guidance for people who have recovered from a coronavirus infection, based on findings that they can continue to test positive for up to three months without being infectious to others. People should stay isolated for at least 10 days after symptoms appear and until 24 hours after their fever subsides, but after that need not "quarantine or get tested again for up to three months as long as they do not develop symptoms again," the CDC website says.
FDA clears saliva test for Covid-19, opening door to wider testing
The Food and Drug Administration on Saturday authorized emergency use of a new and inexpensive saliva test for Covid-19 that could greatly expand testing capacity. The new test, which is called SalivaDirect and was developed by researchers at the Yale School of Public Health, allows saliva samples to be collected in any sterile container. It is a much less invasive process than the nasal swabs currently used to test for the virus that causes Covid-19, but one that has so far yielded highly sensitive and similar results. The test, which also avoids a key step that has caused shortages of chemical reagents used in other tests, can run approximately 90 samples in fewer than three hours in a lab, although the number can be greater in big labs with automation. Moreover, Yale intends to provide its "open source" testing protocol to laboratories around the country. Other labs can now adopt the method while using a variety of commercially available testing components that can reduce costs, speed turnaround times and increase testing frequency, according to the FDA.
Ghanshyam Heda receives Kossen Award at The W
Ghanshyam Heda, Ph.D., recently was named the Kossen Faculty Excellence Award winner. The award was presented during summer commencement ceremonies Aug. 1. Connie ('64) and Tom Kossen established the Kossen Faculty Excellence Award endowment. Every year the endowment funds a $5,000 award to recognize an outstanding faculty member. Heda, who has been at the Mississippi University for Women for 12 years, received his bachelor's and master's degrees as well as his doctorate from Osmania University (India). He worked with medical schools, a pharmaceutical drug company and as a full-time researcher for the government prior to coming to The W in 2008. "The right opportunities are rare, especially in this world of robust competition," said Heda, who is a professor of biology. "This mindset may be a motivating factor for me in getting involved with so many things. "I am thrilled and honored to be named the Kossen Faculty Excellence Award winner. I am thankful to our department chair (Bonnie Oppenheimer), current and past students for their support, and the search committee for selection."
U. of Mississippi history professor begins fellowship at Harvard
University of Mississippi history professor, Garrett Felder, will begin a one-year fellowship at the W.E.B. Du Bois Research Institute at Harvard University's Hutchin's Center for African and African American Research in September. Felber is among 16 chosen fellows for this year. He will spend the year working on two book projects that include "We Are All Political Prisoners: The Revolutionary Life of Martin Sostre" and "The Norfolk Plan: The Community Prison in the Age of Mass Incarceration." "I'm humbled and honored to be in community with such accomplished scholars of the African Diaspora and have space, resources, and time to pursue my next project, a biography of former political prisoner and revolutionary anarchist Martin Sostre," Felber said. Due to COVID-19, Felber will be working remotely from Oregon.
USM students react to COVID-19, online classes
Students at The University of Southern Mississippi are preparing for the start of classes this semester. Between online classes and canceled extracurriculars, students aren't sure what to expect but shared their thoughts about the upcoming school year. Sophomore Joseph Weishaar described how he prepared to move to campus. "When we started packing we weren't really sure what to expect, how much would I need, I packed a lot less because I didn't know like at any moment we could be sent back home like we were last year," said Weishaar. "So I'm not entirely sure what to expect at all, I don't think anybody is, this is something that happens once a century." USM will begin online classes for the fall semester Monday, August 17th. The plan is to spend the first three weeks learning virtually and have some classes return in person on September, 8th. Even with classes online, students are glad to be back on campus. "We're on campus so I guess that will make it better, us being in the space where it kind of fosters excellence around other people that are doing the same thing you're doing," said senior Michandra Washington.
JSU receives $2.6 million grant for TRIO Student Support Services
Jackson State University announced the Office of Student Success has been awarded more than $2.6 million over a five-year period. Grant funding will be used to implement two TRIO Student Support Services (SSS) Programs from the U.S. Department of Education. "One of the responsibilities given to me in this role was to increase the TRIO programs at JSU as I did at a previous institution," said Dr. Mitchell Shears, associate vice president for Student Success and executive director of Title III. "I am excited to see the vision become a reality and that we are able to secure external funding to provide academic support to our students." The grant will provide academic and other support services to low-income, first-generation and disabled college students to increase students' retention and graduation.
Chick-fil-A opening on Mississippi College campus
As students, faculty, and staff return for the fall semester on Monday, they can look forward to a new dining option on Tuesday. Mississippi College is opening a Chick-fil-A restaurant in the university's renovated Alumni Hall. School leaders said the new space will provide a convenient spot for students and staff to dine. President Blake Thompson said it provides "a remarkable new place" for the MC family to gather.
Pearl River Community College receiving $1.8M grant for Student Support Services
Pearl River Community College will receive a Federal Student Support Services/TRiO grant for $1.8 million from 2020-2025. PRCC has had funding for the SSS Program for over 20 years and has assisted almost over 1,600 students in graduating. "It means everything to the students to receive this grant," said SSS Director Georgia Field. "We have a support system in place that lays the foundation for their academic successes. We have a great team in place that makes it all possible." SSS helps college students who are low income, first-generation, meaning those whose parents do not have a four-year college degree, and students with disabilities. Services the funding will provide are comprehensive and will include academic tutoring, financial aid advice, career and college mentoring, help in choosing courses, transfer assistance and other forms of assistance. The services will increase academic success and make it more likely that students will graduate or transfer to a four-year school.
GTECHS reopens with virtual, in-class options for students
More than half the students enrolled at the Golden Triangle Early College High School on East Mississippi Community College's Golden Triangle campus opted to take virtual online classes for the first semester of the school year that began Aug. 10. The remaining 72 students, which represents 43 percent of the student population, are returning for in-class instruction, but classes this semester will look different than they have in the past given precautionary measures taken to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus. GTECHS Principal Jill Savely said she is not surprised at the number of students who will be taking classes virtually this term. Students enrolled at GTECHS also take courses at EMCC. Twenty-eight of the 44 students who graduated from GTECHS last May also received a one-year technical certificate or associate's degree from EMCC that month. EMCC classes begin Monday, but given rising COVID-19 cases in the state and updated guidance from Gov. Tate Reeves, many courses will meet virtually until Sept. 8. Some classes requiring hands-on instruction will be conducted face-to-face following recommended CDC guidelines.
Some U. of Alabama faculty concerned as campus re-opens
Some University of Alabama stakeholders are calling for increased transparency and information surrounding the school's decision to re-open campus for classes next week amid ongoing coronavirus spread in Alabama. The campus, along with others in the state, will begin in-person classes on Wednesday, Aug. 19. Even as the local public school system has switched to virtual only instruction until at least mid-October, the university has maintained its requirement for freshmen to live on campus and is offering a mix of in-person and remote learning in a shortened semester. Professor Michael Innis-Jiménez, a member of the campus' Campus Workers Union, said he hopes the university's plan is successful but doesn't have enough information to be confident they won't be forced to shutter the campus sometime before November. "The university is not being transparent with what it's going to do under certain scenarios. We're hoping for the best and believe the University is, also. I'd like to be confident about going back. But when we're being kept in the dark, when we're told, "Just trust us," when they're not even wanting to give us the number of positives cases? We don't know what would cause a shutdown. We won't even know if students who have been in our class have tested positive."
Tuscaloosa police cite 12 for mask violations
Crowds of unmasked college students clogging The Strip this weekend were enough to warrant the first mask violation citations issued in the city of Tuscaloosa. Mayor Walt Maddox took to social media to decry the gatherings and Tuscaloosa Police Chief Brent Blankley called officers in to work Sunday afternoon after multiple social media posts circulated depicting large crowds violating COVID-19 regulations at bars and businesses along the University Boulevard corridor. "It's a damn shame that our officers who are stretched thin across the city and who are working to exhaustion can't have a few hours of down time," Maddox said via Twitter. "Wearing a mask and practicing social distancing is not much to ask for to protect yourself, your family, your friends, (DCH Health System) and the jobs of thousands of people." While officers found that none of the bars exceeded capacity requirements, many of those inside were not wearing masks or face coverings as required by state emergency guidelines, Tuscaloosa police said. In all, officers issued 12 citations for mask violations and four people were arrested on seven charges.
Alabama Bid Day 2020
While slightly subdued, there were squeals in Tuscaloosa for the University of Alabama's annual sorority Bid Day. Due to ongoing COVID-19 health and safety concerns, the UA announced that its fall sorority recruitment would be held virtually. No parents, family or guests would be allowed to attend Bid Day activities. On Sunday, there were was an in-person Bid Day event, with participating sororities using a staggered approach where new pledge classes gathered at Tutwiler Hall and left one group at a time to visit their new houses, where active members and ZAP photographers awaited them. The scene was not the spectacle the event typically draws, in which scores of family and friends and other onlookers create a gameday-like atmosphere on Magnolia, Colonial and Bryant Drives, in the shadows of Bryant-Denny Stadium. In 2019, more than 2,000 women received bids during the culmination of the University of Alabama's sorority recruitment week, with the annual Bid Day drawing another large crowd on a scorching-hot Sunday at the Capstone.
Auburn students must submit daily COVID self-screenings starting today
Auburn University will begin requiring students to perform daily self-screenings for COVID-19 today as some return to campus for face-to-face instruction. The requirement was previously announced as part of the University's "A Healthier U" reentry plan for the fall semester. Students must complete a Healthcheck screener each day of fall instruction through AUAccess to visit campus and attend classes in person, according to the University. The Healthcheck screener was developed by the University of Alabama at Birmingham as part of its GuideSafe testing program, which is providing free COVID-19 testing to returning Auburn students. In order to prove they have completed the screener, the University said students will receive an A Healthier U pass after answering questions that will either permit or deny them access to campus activities. Students who receive a green pass for the day may safely visit campus, while those who receive a red pass are asked to stay home or seek medical assistance.
These changes are coming as LSU and other Louisiana universities reopen this week
The 16-member LSU Board of Supervisors sat at every other desk in an 80-seat Coates Hall lecture room. They were taking a tour of changes LSU administrators had made to make the flagship somewhat safer for the 50,000 or so students, staffers, faculty and contractors who last fall congregated daily on the Baton Rouge campus. Interim LSU President Tom Galligan pointed to a moveable plexiglass shields to protect instructors. Provost Stacia Haynie pointed to the newly installed equipment that allows the professor to simultaneously teach students in the classroom as well as those online. Last year, about 214,205 students were on public Louisiana campuses. About the same number of students have enrolled this year. But about a third of the students will be taking classes online only and another third will be taking at least some of their classes online, which leaders hope will tamp down campus populations for what everyone agrees will be the most unique college term in history.
'Wake up and read the stories:' Banners describing racism at U. of Kentucky were swiftly removed
A student-led group pushing for reforms to benefit students of color at the University of Kentucky hung banners around campus Saturday morning, but the signs were promptly removed by the UK Police Department, the group's founder said. The four banners, three of which were painted with anecdotes describing racism on campus, were hung by the Movement for Black Lives University of Kentucky at the student center, parking garages on Rose and Limestone streets and outside Maxwell Place, the historic home of the university president. Khari Gardner, who founded the group, said the stories of "marginalization and discrimination" that were painted on the banners had been told to him by other students. "It's move-in weekend," Gardiner said. "We wanted people to wake up and read the stories." He said it's also important to amplify the students' voices "because the university had taken a stance of ignoring us."
U. of South Carolina President Bob Caslen wins positive first-year review but no raise with COVID-19 crunch
As the University of South Carolina tries to tunnel out from under more than $165 million in financial loss due to the coronavirus outbreak, President Bob Caslen earned praise but no raise from the school's board. In the new president's first annual review, board chairman John von Lehe heaped praise on the former West Point superintendent and three-star Army general for his strategic plan initiative and his response to COVID-19. USC was the first to close its campus last spring and will be the only large four-year university in the state to begin with in-person instruction this fall. He also spearheaded a new five-year strategic plan to improve research and diversity as well as consistently beat rival Clemson University in athletics. Caslen has had to overcome a hiring riddled with conflict. Critics were upset none of the presidential finalists were women and questioned his credentials to run a major public college, due to his lack of a doctorate degree or research pedigree. Calls came from large university donors to expand the search.
Sororities go virtual for rush week at U. of Florida
For years, Katherine Terry dreamed about shopping for white dresses and rompers she'd wear to rush week and the friends she'd make in line outside of sorority houses. Instead, she'll meet her soon-to-be sisters from behind a computer screen. The 18-year-old UF psychology freshman filmed an introductory video and answered questions like, "What are you passionate about?" and "Why do you want to join a sorority?" to a camera. "It was super awkward," she said. "It's so hard to develop your personality in a 90-second video." Terry and other students hoping to join UF sororities will have a completely virtual rush week this Fall. The Panhellenic Council, which oversees 18 UF sororities, moved its recruitment entirely online due to ongoing concerns regarding COVID-19, after initially announcing it would have one final in-person round. Individual chapters may still choose to hold in-person events on Aug. 27 and beyond. Potential new members will be asked to submit a form Aug. 26 indicating whether they will be in Gainesville and would like to attend an in-person event to celebrate their bid, or acceptance into a sorority.
Protesters demonstrate at Texas A&M's Sul Ross statue
About 100 people gathered at Texas A&M University's Academic Plaza on Saturday afternoon to express their views on the placement of the Lawrence Sullivan Ross statue. While one group called for the removal of the statue in the center of campus, another group stood to defend the statue's prominent placement. The latest of several demonstrations to take place at the statue this summer, the informal event drew demonstrators of varying ages. One group of several dozen held signs calling for the removal of the statue and used chalk to write messages condemning white supremacy on the ground. A group of several dozen counter-protesters in favor of the statue's placement was present and sang the Aggie War Hymn, played patriotic music over an amplifier and chanted popular Texas A&M school yells. "I'm here to protect Sully," said Taylor Husak, a member of A&M's class of '22. "He is an important part of our traditions -- not just because we put pennies on him, but because he is connected to the Ross Volunteers."
U. of Missouri marks 200 layoffs in final weekly report
The University of Missouri has laid off an even 200 workers in response to the financial difficulties dealt the university by the COVID-19 pandemic. Friday's release is the final regular weekly budgetary actions update by MU Human Resource Services. "We believe we are through with the vast majority of decisions of budget cuts that had to be made between March and June 30," said MU spokesman Christian Basi. "We are continuing to look at our budget and continuing to look at spending. Should we experience another significant budget event, the budgetary actions will resume." Students began arriving on campus this week in anticipation of the start of classes on Aug. 24. Numerous students could be seen Friday on campus without face masks. Anyone on campus is supposed to follow the rules laid out in the Columbia ordinance requiring face masks, Basi said. Those rules are to wear a mask at all times while indoors except when isolated in a private office or eating and outdoors when social distance cannot be maintained.
U. of Memphis to 'eradicate systemic racism, promote social justice'
The University of Memphis has created fourteen focus groups to carry forward a new initiative to "eradicate systemic racism and promote social justice," both within the campus community and beyond, the university announced Friday. Daphene R. McFerren, executive director of the Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change, Karen Weddle-West, vice president of student academic success and director of diversity initiatives and Linda G. Hall, associate dean of multicultural affairs are overseeing the initiative, according to the announcement. The three created the focus groups and will curate diverse groups of faculty, staff, students, alumni and community and corporate leaders, according to U of M. "As an institution of higher education in one of the most diverse communities in America, our University is committed to being part of the solution," U of M President M. David Rudd said in a statement.
The pandemic hasn't ended the campus culture wars
College conservatives are still waging the campus culture wars -- even if they don't have a campus. With President Donald Trump facing a tough reelection fight, throngs of conservative college groups around the country are getting creative as they try to maintain the energy Trump tapped in 2016 on his way to a surprise victory. Activist training sessions have moved online. Speaker series that bring controversial right-wing figures to campus are pivoting away from nationally recognized pundits to local ones instead. Pro-Trump student groups are organizing off-campus events to get around universities' restrictions on hosting large gatherings. The Leadership Institute, perhaps the oldest college conservative group in the country, has even held online seminars for students on how to safely host events on campus. Trump himself is similarly trying to keep the momentum alive.
A College's 'Free Speech Areas' Face Supreme Court Review
A few years ago, a college student in Georgia stood on a stool outside a campus food court to talk about his Christian faith. He spoke for 20 minutes about human frailty and the possibility of salvation when school officials told him he had to stop or face discipline. This fall, the Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether the student, Chike Uzuegbunam, can sue the officials for violating his First Amendment rights when they enforced a particularly severe version of the school speech codes that have become commonplace at colleges and universities around the nation. Mr. Uzuegbunam had tried to comply with the rules at his school, Georgia Gwinnett College, a public institution in Lawrenceville, Ga., that sprawls over 260 acres. The college had designated two small patches of concrete as "free speech expression areas." By the calculations of Mr. Uzuegbunam's lawyers, the areas in which free speech was permitted -- a patio and a sidewalk -- amounted to .0015 percent of the campus.
Less Than A Week After Starting Classes, UNC-Chapel Hill Reports 4 COVID-19 Clusters
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill announced on Sunday that it identified another cluster of coronavirus cases on campus, the fourth reported in three days. State health officials define "clusters" as five or more cases in a single residential hall or dwelling. The latest cluster is located at Hinton James Residence Hall, the university said in an alert. According to the university's website, the living space typically houses over 900 students, many of whom are in their first year. The individuals in the cluster are isolating and receiving medical monitoring, the university said, and all dormitory residents have been given "additional information about this cluster and next steps." Contact tracing is underway, the university said. The Daily Tar Heel reported on Thursday that police in Chapel Hill will ramp up patrols downtown and in student neighborhoods after receiving reports of people violating social distancing guidelines.
U-Md. students stage protest, continue to fight lease agreements at campus apartments
Gavin Kohn, 21, signed his lease to live in the Courtyards, an apartment on the University of Maryland's campus in College Park, in February. The novel coronavirus, at that point, had arrived in the United States, but the then-junior didn't know it would upend the school year. But as the virus raged on, it became clear his senior year was also in jeopardy. The university scaled back on-campus housing, announced plans to conduct 80 percent of undergraduate courses online and imposed coronavirus testing requirements. Kohn, and about 500 other students who had planned to live in the Courtyards and its sister property, South Campus Commons, started to feel wary about living in groups. But, bound by their leases, they may be forced to do it, anyway. Last week, Kohn joined a car caravan protest with about two dozen of his peers. The mechanical engineering and astronomy student stood through the sunroof of his brother's blue Hyundai Elantra and shouted through a megaphone: "U-Md., do something!" The line of cars snaked around the main administration building on the College Park campus, which houses the president's office.
Suicidal ideation on the rise for college-aged adults due to COVID-19 pandemic
One in four people aged 18 to 24 seriously contemplated suicide in June, according to new research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The data are the latest in a series of reports highlighting increases in anxiety, depression and suicidal ideation since the COVID-19 pandemic began. The data do not have a breakdown for college students, but they do break responses down by age groups. People who are in the traditional age group for college students seem to be especially vulnerable to mental health issues, compared to other age groups, and experts believe colleges should be investing more in mental health services during this time. With the ongoing recession, though, some worry that counseling and other services will be on the chopping block. "I think mental health services are an 'easy' thing, in some people's minds, to cut," said Nadine Kaslow, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University and past president of the American Psychological Association. "I'm very worried."
Christian Colleges Ask: Would God Want Us to Reopen?
America's Christian colleges promise students not just an education but moral and spiritual enlightenment. The coming fall semester presents a new moral quandary: Can a reopening that poses serious health risks be justified in the eyes of God? Does the decision to hold in-person classes represent a brave step forward -- or a reckless turn away from honoring the sanctity of life? Kevin Timpe, a professor of Christian philosophy at Calvin University, in Michigan, said public health is clearly a moral issue that should concern all colleges. "But I also think the Church, especially, has reason to care about how the pandemic disproportionately affects some parts of our communities more than others," Timpe wrote in an email to The Chronicle. "After all, we're called to care specifically for the disadvantaged, the vulnerable, the marginalized. If we don't take seriously our responsibilities to these groups, we fail to live up to our mission." At one Christian institution after another, though, leaders are citing their spiritual mission to explain decisions to bring at least some students back to campus.
Hit 'em where it hurts: How economic threats are a potent tool for changing people's minds about the Confederate flag
Activists nationwide have resumed demanding the removal of statues and symbols that are considered racially offensive -- such as of slave owners, Confederate leaders and the Confederate flag. The requests -- and related boycotts and threats of other economic protests -- have been part of the national controversy about racism in American life and have sparked questions about how to recognize traumatic elements of U.S. history. Typically, the debate about the role of Confederate imagery in public life is seen as a political, social or racial issue. But in recent research, we discovered that economic concerns could be effective in shifting Southerners' attitudes about Confederate symbols. Public officials and individual citizens alike are more likely to oppose the presence of Confederate symbols when they learn it may be bad for local business.

Mississippi State receivers a focus in fall camp
The Mississippi State football program has to learn Mike Leach's Air Raid offense in an expedited fashion this preseason. After the spring football practices were canceled and fall practice was delayed due to COVID-19, the Southeastern Conference begins fall camp on Monday. The plan is to start the conference-only season on Sept. 26. In the meantime, the Bulldogs have a lot of new faces learning a new playbook on offense. Transfer quarterback KJ Costello and preseason All-American running back Kylin Hill return as the most experienced players, while the receiving corps features a plethora of new players and question marks.
College football: 5 questions for Mississippi State defensive depth chart
If the SEC's plan to play football during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic comes to fruition this fall, many eyes will turn to how well Mike Leach installed the Air Raid offense at Mississippi State. This is a conference, though, that has long prided itself on defense. As preseason training camp begins Monday in anticipation for the season's scheduled Sept. 26 start date, here are five questions surrounding MSU defensive coordinator Zach Arnett's unit.
Analysis: Three position battles to watch as Mississippi State opens fall camp
Football is upon us, at least for the time being. While it remains to be seen whether the Southeastern Conference and its compatriots in the Big 12 and ACC actually begin, let alone finish, the 2020 season amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Mississippi State is slated to begin fall camp Monday as it prepares for its 10 game, conference-only slate. Here are three major matchups to watch as the Bulldogs open camp.
SEC to announce football schedule Monday
The SEC has announced the times of its big announcement. The Southeastern Conference media relations department distributed an email Sunday afternoon saying the complete revised 2020 football schedule will be released Monday night at 6 on the SEC Network. Week 1 of the schedule will be revealed at 2 p.m. on the Paul Finebaum Show. Late in July, the league said it would play a 10-game schedule against only conference opponents through the COVID-19 pandemic. That's two more conference games than are normally played, and the league announced each team's additional opponents on Aug. 7. Tonight, the dates of games will be added.
Gov. Tate Reeves orders strict attendance rules on prep football, K-12 school events
Gov. Tate Reeves announced Friday that attendance at K-12 school and extracurricular events, including sports, will be limited to two attendees per participating student. This includes two attendees per player, band member and cast member. The governor's new executive order, which includes an extension of the statewide mask mandate, will last until Aug. 31. Excluded from these attendance limitations will be coaches, directors, teachers, officials, medical personnel, staff/workers and media. "Sports and these other activities are instrumental in the lives of our young Mississippians. They teach discipline and responsibility in a way that can't be replicated," Reeves said Friday. "That said, we are living through a pandemic. One of my greatest concerns heading into this school season has been sports and those other events which cause the community to come out in crowds. Twenty-two players on a field is not going to overwhelm a local hospital. Two thousand people in a small school's bleachers might."
Alabama lineman unhappy with large crowds, lack of masks in Tuscaloosa
The return of students to the University of Alabama's campus has brought large crowds to bars and sparked frustration from at least one Crimson Tide football player. Senior offensive lineman Chris Owens shared a photo Sunday afternoon on Twitter of The Strip in Tuscaloosa, where a long line of people -- many not wearing masks -- had formed outside a bar. The photography editor from the school's student newspaper shared more pictures of crowds outside bars and a lack of mask-wearing at those establishments. The behavior led to a rebuke from Alabama athletics director Greg Byrne later in the day. Tuscaloosa mayor Walt Maddox responded to Byrne's tweet by saying the city would be requesting daytime police help from the university. Owens' public frustration with the crowds comes one day after Auburn wide receiver Anthony Schwartz shared similar feelings about crowds of people without masks on that school's campus after students returned.
South Carolina president says SEC appears intent to 'move forward' with football in the fall
The final call has yet to be made but University of South Carolina President Bob Caslen said Friday that the Southeastern Conference seems intent on holding a fall football season amid the COVID-19 outbreak. Caslen told USC trustees that he met Thursday with SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey and other conference member presidents for an update as other conferences have begun to bail on having fall football. "My assessment is there appears there is an intent to continue to move forward to have a season," Caslen said. During that conference meeting, a SEC doctor and task force presented findings on various medical concerns from the coronavirus. Caslen said conference officials were not worried about reports of a heart condition possibly linked to COVID-19 infections because medical studies backing those findings were conducted on older patients.
Ohio State, Iowa, Penn State football parents speak out, outraged over Big Ten's 'unfortunate' decision to postpone season
Frustrated parents of football players at Ohio State, Iowa and Penn State are speaking out against the Big Ten's decision to postpone the football season to the spring, questioning the process and the conference leadership, and are asking the league for further consideration and input. Iowa parents on Friday hand-delivered a letter to the conference headquarters in Chicago, requesting a meeting with commissioner Kevin Warren to ask questions "and get direct answers and to have a say in the decision-making process." Ohio State and Penn State parents also shared letters demanding answers from Warren on Saturday. "The Big Ten had months to develop a strategic plan but instead chose to leave it up to each individual school creating confusion, inconsistency and no plan of action," the letter stated. "There is time to fix the wrongdoings and come out as leaders. We strongly encourage the Big Ten to reconsider playing the fall college football season, develop a plan of meaningful action and letting these young adults be included in the decision-making process."

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