Wednesday, August 19, 2020   
Mississippi State ends capital campaign with $1.07 billion in gifts
Infinite Impact: The Mississippi State University Campaign concluded its decade-long run in June with an unprecedented $1.07 billion in outright gifts and pledges, including $285.2 million raised in deferred gifts. The monumental support of 72,747 generous contributors enabled Mississippi State University to reach this historic peak of philanthropy and exceed a $1 billion milestone previously never achieved by an educational institution in the state of Mississippi. The ambitious campaign's timeframe ran consecutively with the successful tenure of MSU President Mark E. Keenum, bringing stability in MSU leadership. Keenum was inaugurated as MSU's 19th president in January 2009, and the MSU Foundation launched the campaign in July 2010. "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 Keenum. Infinite Impact gifts benefited MSU's core group -- its students and faculty -- along with ushering in critical support for facilities and programs.
Starkville aldermen debate tax increase, approve utility rate hike
Starkville aldermen on Tuesday debated raising property taxes by two mills in the Fiscal Year 2021 budget to offset an anticipated $1.1 million budget shortfall, with some aldermen who usually oppose tax increases firmly in favor of this one. "You know I don't (usually) vote for a tax increase, but I'm just wondering where the funding is coming from if we don't do something," Ward 7 Alderman Henry Vaughn said. The anticipated $540,000 in revenue from two additional mills would only cover about half of the projected shortfall. The city's sales tax revenue in FY 2021 might see a 12-percent drop, marking an $880,000 decrease from this fiscal year, after the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic started limiting business and social activity in March. The projected shortfall also took into consideration the potential cancellation of the college football season in the fall, Ward 2 Alderman Sandra Sistrunk, the board's budget chairperson, previously told The Dispatch.
Armored car maker to invest $2.3 million, create 30 jobs in Batesville
CITE Armored is increasing its presence in Mississippi by establishing van-production operations in Batesville. The project is a $2.3 million corporate investment and will create 30 jobs by the end of 2021. CITE Armored, currently located in Holly Springs, manufactures and services armored cars, SWAT vehicles and supply vehicles for organizations throughout the United States and worldwide, including the U.S. Embassy in Haiti, the Iraq Ministry of Trade and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. The company is expanding to accommodate additional military contracts and is moving its armored van production to the former Serta building in Batesville while maintaining the production of its other armored vehicles in Holly Springs. "We feel confident that Batesville will provide a strong strategic advantage in fulfilling our customer needs," said CEO Teresa Hubbard. "Thank you to all those who have made this transition efficient and seamless." The Mississippi Development Authority, along with the Panola Partnership, Panola County, the city of Batesville and TVA are lending support.
PERS investments rebound in the second quarter despite COVID-19 recession
The good news is that the investments made by Mississippi's defined benefit pension system are on the rebound and, barring another market meltdown, will likely finished with a small return rather than a loss. The bad news is that the big loss in the first quarter likely means consecutive years of investment returns below expectations for the Public Employees' Retirement System of Mississippi. The smaller investment gains won't be enough to counterbalance the increasing benefit costs due to a growing number of retirees. The plan has an expected rate of return of 7.75 percent, but last year, the plan's investments generated only 6.87 percent in returns. According to the second quarter investment report released by PERS, results were much improved for PERS, with overall investment returns of 12.29 percent for the quarter and 3.35 percent for the year so far. In 2005, there were 157,101 employees contributing into the system and 69,939 retirees. By 2019, the number of employees contributing to PERS had shrunk to 150,651, while the number of retirees was up to 107,844. This represents a 54 percent increase in 15 years.
Mississippi sees decrease in average cases of COVID per week
The state of Mississippi reported 34 confirmed deaths from the coronavirus and 795 new cases Tuesday. Mississippi has seen declining cases in recent weeks after a surge of new cases and deaths in July. The state has only seen one day within a 10-day period with more than 1,000 new cases reported. On July 29, the state's seven-day average peaked at 1,390 cases. On Monday, the state's seven-day average was below 700. The Health Department said Tuesday that Mississippi, with a population of about 3 million, has had at least 73,207 reported cases and at least 2,128 deaths from COVID-19 as of Monday evening.
COVID-19 cases continue to decrease, but testing hits a three-month low
Mississippi recently hit a positive COVID-19 milestone, touted by Gov. Tate Reeves and other state officials in recent days: For the first time since mid-July, the rolling average for new daily cases fell below 1,000. But as both the daily number of new cases and weekly average number of cases continue to fall, the average number of tests administered has also fallen to a three-month low, meaning Mississippi could be failing to identify and isolate active cases. State officials point to masking and social distancing as successfully driving case numbers down, but they also caution Mississippians to not let their guard down. Praising the declining case trends, Reeves says the concerted effort is paying off. But as the number of new cases continues to decrease, statewide COVID-19 testing has also decreased over the same time to its lowest daily average since mid-May. Though the average daily number of tests administered ticked up slightly Monday to just over 3,000, that number was at a three-month low as of Sunday. A month ago, as daily new cases were heading toward their peak, Mississippi averaged 6,000 daily tests.
'Not a good look': Rep. Wilkes says posting photo of Confederate flag was accident
State Rep. Stacey Hobgood-Wilkes, R-Picayune, said she didn't mean to tweet a photo of the Confederate battle flag in response to a tweet reminding people they could vote on a new flag design for the state of Mississippi. Wilkes, who was first elected to the Mississippi House in a 2017 special election and re-elected in 2019, said she quickly removed the tweet of the Confederate flag flying with a rainbow in the background from her private Twitter account. She was replying to a tweet from freshman Rep. Jansen Owen, R-Poplarville, encouraging people to go to the website of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History to express their preference for a new flag design for the state. In June, the Mississippi Legislature voted to remove the 126-year-old state flag that featured the Confederate battle emblem in its design. Wilkes voted against the bill removing the controversial flag. Wilkes said when she mistakenly posted the photo of the Confederate flag, she was trying to make the point that people should have been given the opportunity to vote on whether they wanted to remove the Confederate symbol from the flag.
Congressman Trent Kelly Says Lawmakers Will Continue Negotiations On Second Stimulus Package
An enhanced federal unemployment benefit will be one of the first items on the agenda when Democrats and Republicans return to Washington, D.C. in September. Extending the enhanced federal unemployment benefits was one of several sticking points as lawmakers on both sides of the aisle were debating a second stimulus package. Republicans have offered four hundred dollars per week in benefits, while Democrats called for six hundred dollars per week. However, both sides said compromise is possible, in return for aid to the postal service. Still, Mississippi Congressman Trent Kelly says there are still many things that need to be worked out. "I think it's real telling when the Speaker of the House goes, 'we won't even talk if they don't go to two trillion. That means you're not worried about anything underneath? Senator McConnell wants to do a skinny package, I'm fine with that , but I would say, do the things we can agree on to help the American people," Kelly said.
Mike Espy's 1988 convention speech offers clues to 2020 optimism
When Mississippi Rep. Mike Espy took the stage at the 1988 Democratic National Convention, he was a rising star casting a vision for a New South. Thirty-two years later, Espy believes his state is finally ready to turn the page and elect him to the U.S. Senate. Less than two years before his prime-time slot speaking slot, Espy had become the first African American elected to Congress from Mississippi since Reconstruction. He had won a majority-white district in the Delta region and came to Washington in the same class as the late John Lewis of Georgia. Espy's presence at the Atlanta convention and prominent role introducing the keynote speaker, Texas Treasurer Ann Richards, was part of the elevation of Black voices within the Democratic Party as a result of the strength of the Rev. Jesse Jackson's 1984 and 1988 presidential campaigns. Espy was not on in prime time this year, but he participated in a side event Tuesday, joining a panel with another former Agriculture secretary, Tom Vilsack, to emphasize the importance of rural voters in the Democratic coalition. In a recent interview, he connected his 1988 speech with today. "I was trying to show parallels between the Old South and the New South. Old Mississippi and New Mississippi," Espy said. "These parallels remain constant. I'm running against the Old Mississippi."
'He's Destroyed Conservatism': The Republican Case Against Trump's GOP
Stuart Stevens spent four decades helping Republicans -- a lot of Republicans -- win. He's one of the most successful political operatives of his generation, crafting ads and devising strategies for President George W. Bush, Republican presidential nominees Mitt Romney and Bob Dole, and dozens of GOP governors, senators and congressmen. He didn't win every race, but he thinks he had the best won-lost record in Republican campaign world. And now he feels terrible about it. Stevens now believes the Republican Party is, not to put too fine a point on it, a malign force jeopardizing the survival of American democracy. He's written a searing apologia of a book called It Was All a Lie that compares his lifelong party to the Mafia, to Bernie Madoff's fraud scheme, to the segregationist movement, even to the Nazis. He's pretty disillusioned. Stevens, a child of segregated Mississippi who has written powerfully about race in the past, says he always knew there was hostility toward minorities and immigrants and science within his party. But he thought that strain was a recessive gene, when it turned out to be the dominant gene. He was an unapologetic political hack whose job was helping Republicans win, but he always thought he was fighting for conservative policies and ideas, for a party that cared about something more than winning. He doesn't think that anymore, and his conversion story is getting a lot of buzz.
Senate Panel's Russia Probe Found Counterintelligence Risks in Trump's 2016 Campaign
Members of the 2016 Trump campaign represented a major counterintelligence risk to the U.S. due to their frequent contacts with individuals with close ties to the Russian government, a bipartisan Senate investigation has concluded. The Senate Intelligence Committee released the fifth and final volume of its Russia investigation report Tuesday. The partially redacted document is nearly 1,000 pages and largely supports the key findings on Russian election interference made by former special counsel Robert Mueller, whose probe confirmed that Moscow meddled in the 2016 election but didn't establish conspiracy or coordination between Moscow and members of President Trump's campaign. A substantial portion of the report focuses on the connections of onetime Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort with Konstantin Kilimnik, who is officially described for the first time as a Russian intelligence officer, and Russia-aligned oligarchs in Ukraine. Mr. Manafort's high-level campaign access and willingness to share information with Mr. Kilimnik and others "represented a grave counterintelligence threat," the report concluded.
New U.S. Covid-19 Cases Jump as Fears Grow Over Campus Spread
The number of new coronavirus cases in the U.S. climbed but remained below 50,000 for the fourth day in a row, as some universities and schools move classes online to avoid campus outbreaks. The U.S. on Tuesday reported more than 44,000 new coronavirus cases, up sharply from the previous day's 35,112, but lower than recent peaks this month and in July, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Total cases in the U.S. approached 5.5 million, while the nation's death toll neared 172,000. The seven-day new-case average in the U.S. was 48,744, less than its two-week average of almost 50,810. The country's seven-day average has been less than its 14-day average since July 26. Colleges, still, have felt the impact of the virus on the start of the new school year. Public schools in several states, including Indiana, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Georgia, closed to in-person learning this month after students and staffers tested positive for Covid-19, sending thousands into quarantine and remote learning.
University installs temporary fencing to block Confederate monument visibility
After continued criticism of the Confederate monument's placement on the University of Mississippi campus, the university installed "a temporary screen" on the side of the monument facing Manning Way and Hill Drive earlier this week. The decision stemmed from conversations between Chancellor Glenn Boyce and an unnamed group of student-athletes who did not want to see the monument from the football practice fields. "In response, the university is installing a temporary screen around the monument until permanent, limited landscaping can be planted later this fall, the optimal time of year for the plantings to take root," university spokesman Rod Guajardo said. Associated Student Body President Joshua Mannery said he had spoken to many football players who initially were not aware that the practice fields had such a clear view of the Confederate cemetery. "They don't want (to see the monument)," Mannery said. "Student-athletes are taking a much more active role in decision making on campus, and they made it very clear that they weren't going to sit this one out."
Ole Miss students return to campus for fall semester
The University of Mississippi is welcoming students, old and new, back to campus. Students began moving into residential halls on Saturday in preparation for classes to begin next week. For the past several months, the university has taken extensive planning efforts in order to ensure the safe return to instruction on the Ole Miss campus. "We are excited to get the fall semester started and look forward to once again having students fill our halls and apartments," said a letter to residences' of on-campus housing. "COVID-19 has impacted the world, our nation, and our campus." University employees and staff have been working hard to ensure the sanitation of the buildings are in line with the Campus Ready plan, which is a comprehensive plan in response to the COVID-19 pandemic that ensures the safe return to campus.
Alabama's High Stakes Experiment: Reopening Universities as Virus Looms
Gov. Kay Ivey of Alabama made a daring educational decision in June: She would fund a statewide student testing and technology program to help public universities and colleges reopen for in-person classes. Now, as Alabama college students start those classes this week and next even as local virus rates remain high, that program -- one of the nation's largest campus reopening efforts -- is facing the ultimate test. The sweeping endeavor, led by the state's public health department, along with the University of Alabama at Birmingham, a leading academic medical center, focuses on testing more than 160,000 students for the virus before they arrive at 59 local colleges and universities. The students must also wear masks and follow social-distancing guidelines, and many will be required to use a daily symptom-checking app developed by U.A.B. On Monday, the university released a second app, which can alert students to possible virus exposures. But even university leaders acknowledge the effort is a high stakes experiment that could set off new outbreaks in a state with one of the nation's highest per capita infection rates.
Alabama students explain fears, excitement and if return to campus will really work
The questions are simple in a situation that's anything but. University of Alabama students are returning to Tuscaloosa from all corners of the nation and overseas, but do they feel safe? Plans are in place, but without real precedent, they are essentially theoretical with classes beginning Wednesday. Better understanding the situation on street level meant speaking with seven Alabama students of different backgrounds, ages and circumstances. spoke with these students as they began to return to Tuscaloosa for a semester unlike any other. They offered insight into plans made by university administrators and subcommittees for a return to in-person learning after COVID-19 abruptly scattered the student body in March. A few responded to UA System chancellor Finis St. John's interview with in which he said the students carry a heavy burden to responsibly follow the school's stringent guidelines. But it comes down to simple questions with complex answers. Is this safe? Can these plans work? Will students follow the rules?
U. of Alabama adds distancing, shields, PPE and more as students return to campus
X marks the spot where you cannot sit, 6 feet from the next University of Alabama student. Plexiglas shields rolling in front of podiums, and between rows of tables in larger lecture halls, reflect the new countenance of in-person education. "Many students need a face-to-face learning experience," said Matthew Fajack the University of Alabama's vice-president for the division of finance and operations. As UA confronts that need for on-campus classes Tuesday, after having converted to remote learning since spring break, defenses raised against the COVID-19 pandemic will range between obvious visible efforts, and changes unseen, but still detectable. Roughly $2.5 million has been spent on additions and adaptations including distancing and shielding measures, sanitation stations and disposable wipes. The major shielding and distancing additions were built into about 20 large lecture halls on campus, Fajack said. Some classes have been moved to larger rooms, to allow for better spacing.
Auburn University to require masks inside and outside on campus
Auburn University will now require that all students wear masks while they are indoors or outdoors on campus. In an email sent to students, faculty and staff, the University said that the only exceptions to this rule will be designated areas or for approved medical reasons. This policy will be effective on Wednesday, Aug 19. Previously, the University had only required that students wear masks while inside buildings on campus. This policy change was announced on Auburn's second day back to campus.
Auburn police to begin proactive enforcement of safer-at-home order after lack of compliance
Auburn police will begin taking a more proactive approach to enforce Alabama's safer-at-home order due to an increase in a lack of compliance in the community. The Auburn Police Division has received many complaints, and department staff has observed a lack of compliance to the safer-at-home order, said officials Tuesday morning, with the new emphasis including the issuing of uniformed non-traffic citations resulting in fines for those in violation. Auburn students began class on Monday, and scenes of crowded bars and parities in the area filled with patrons not wearing masks have been spreading across social media since students returned last week. Auburn police have primarily focused on educating the community and spreading awareness of the requirements in the health order.
Two Kappa Kappa Gamma members under quarantine
One Auburn sorority is quarantining two active members who tested positive for COVID-19 following Saturday's in-person Bid Day, according to an email obtained by The Plainsman. The email, from Kappa Kappa Gamma president Montgomery-Lee Todd, senior in accounting, was sent to members of the Epsilon Eta chapter on Auburn's campus and other potentially exposed Bid Day participants on Tuesday after the two members received their results on Monday. "If you are receiving this email it means you are marked as 'attended' on our records for Bid Day event(s) on Aug. 15 and may have been exposed to two of our Active Members (roommates) who tested positive for COVID-19 this Monday, Aug. 17," Todd said in the email. Both members have contacted the University and are moving to quarantine housing in The Hill as well as following A Healthier U guidelines, Todd said. She asked KKG members to keep watch on their symptoms and to contact the Auburn University Medical Clinic should they have any concerns.
U. of Tennessee says it tracked COVID-19 cluster to student party
The University of Tennessee at Knoxville has traced a cluster of active COVID-19 cases to an off-campus party, the university announced Tuesday. The party took place on Laurel Avenue last week, Chancellor Donde Plowman said. A cluster is defined as at least five connected cases or 20 people in self-isolation stemming from one event, said Dr. Spencer Gregg, director of the UT Student Health Center. Plowman called on students to be responsible when returning to campus. Students who do not comply could face punishment from the university, she said. "We know students have missed their friends and they want to connect but they have to do it safely," Plowman said. Plowman said students will be required to comply with contact tracers throughout the semester, and there would be punishment for students who did not comply because "you are risking the health and welfare of everyone else here." The university reported 75 active cases of COVID-19 and 270 people in self-isolation on Tuesday.
U. of Arkansas told of coronavirus cases; emails show officials' response after students test positive
The University of Arkansas, Fayetteville responded to student cases of covid-19 on the first official day of campus move-in last week, records show. Even before thousands of students arrived, officials received word about student cases, though partial records and redactions make details unclear. "Thank you for your assistance in providing information regarding the recent positive case at your house," states an Aug. 11 email from Capt. Matt Mills, emergency manager for the University of Arkansas Police Department Division of Emergency Management. Copied as recipients on the email were the medical director of the campus health center, UA's dean of students and the director of UA's Greek Life office. However, UA spokesman Mark Rushing said Tuesday that the university is "not aware of any positive cases involving individuals living in Greek housing." The records, released to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette under the state's public disclosure law, only cover communication involving the university's Greek Life office, which supports fraternities and sororities.
Georgia college students make case for cut in online tuition costs
Many Georgia college students whose schools have switched to online learning for the fall semester are pleading for tuition decreases, echoing calls by students across the country who say the online instruction is not what they paid for. The students say online classes omit some key elements of in-person learning, such as face-to-face meetings with instructors that allow for greater dialogue than online conversations -- and important networking that could lead to a job upon graduation. Locally, the most vocal complaints are coming from Emory University law school students. More than 300 of them signed a petition noting their tuition has increased while the university froze tuition for undergraduate students. The dispute is part of a debate occurring on many college campuses nationwide about tuition for online learning. Many schools have decided to teach online only as COVID-19 cases have increased in Georgia and other states. Students in some states have said they will withhold their tuition in protest.
'We're being treated as guinea pigs': Faculty members fear in-person return to Texas universities
Most Texas universities are plunging forward with varying degrees of in-person teaching this semester, eager to preserve some semblance of a normal academic year. They're asking reluctant instructors to cooperate, but some faculty members call the pressure to return to face-to-face instruction a callous decision that prioritizes money and the college experience over the safety of the university community. "People are pretty upset and feeling like they're being forced into a situation that's really unsafe," said Jay Ganz, a special education professor at Texas A&M University's College Station flagship. "We're being treated as guinea pigs." In an interview, Provost Carol Fierke said Texas A&M prioritized granting remote-only requests from individuals in the highest risk-categories designated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If faculty members didn't fit in those categories and still wanted to teach remotely, they were asked to have conversations with their department heads about specific accommodations. Texas A&M will have around 1,800 faculty members teaching courses with an in-person component and 1,300 teaching online-only classes, Fierke said. Around 45% of the school's credit hours this semester will offered in person.
Missouri students' return brings optimism for economy, anxiousness over how long it will last
Business was sluggish for Zella Vinluan this summer. The barista at Shortwave Coffee had grown accustomed to serving a steady flow of customers each morning, until COVID-19 shut down the University of Missouri and slowed business in Columbia to a crawl. "It was normally just a couple customers an hour until two weeks ago," Vinluan said. "It was super slow." That has changed with the imminent start of the school year, which means the return of thousands of students to Columbia. Local businesses that have been grappling with the economic and logistical challenges posed by the pandemic now are seeing a sudden influx of customers. While some businesses voiced optimism that students will remain on campus for the entire fall semester and continue to reinvigorate sales, others were more pessimistic. Outside Pizza Tree, owner John Gilbreth said that while his restaurant has prepared for the anticipated uptick in customers, "it might be all for naught." Asked if he thought MU would shut down again at some point in the fall, Gilbreth said "It would be weird if they didn't." He cited the high incidence of mask-wearing violations he has seen in the city, which he fears is a sign that cases of COVID-19 will grow.
Pressure mounts on many colleges to move classes online
When the dominoes fell in March, it was swift. The University of Washington was the first to switch to remote learning, followed by other Seattle colleges, the West Coast and eventually the country. For months, observers have been on the lookout for fall's first domino, the one that will take them all down. Worthy contenders -- Johns Hopkins University, Princeton University, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst -- have all come and gone. Some thought the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill could be that domino. But the thing about the fall is that the dominoes are not lined up neatly in a row, as they were last spring. Recent announcements have the makings of a wave, but the response by colleges is in nearly every way more diffuse than it was in March. While some have thrown in the towel, others will not let one or two bad examples be their cue to give up. "All the external pressure favored reopening," said Terry Hartle, senior vice president of government and public affairs at the American Council on Education. "Leaders at institutions that did decide to reopen were acutely aware that it wouldn't be easy and might not be possible."
College freshmen face decisions on debt, coronavirus risks ahead of their first semester
They'd be in remote classes for only about two weeks. Soon, they'd be back to cheer on friends playing spring sports, plan graduation parties and shop for prom dresses. Or so they thought. Those milestones, of course, never came for high school seniors. But for many who had college plans, the fall offered a second chance -- an opportunity to make things right after a botched senior year. Kailyn Penn, an 18-year-old from Upper Marlboro, Md., saw her freshman year at the University of Maryland's flagship campus in College Park as a chance to break out of her shell. A'dreana Williams, 18, had been wanting to enroll at "the illustrious Howard University" since she was a freshman in high school. But as the spring melted into summer, those plans were -- once again -- thrown into chaos. After spending the past several months steeped in uncertainty and waiting to learn how their universities would reopen in the fall, students had hoped the last few weeks of the summer would usher some stability. Instead, college students at all levels are facing potentially life-altering decisions -- weighing their desire for a normal college experience against their health and safety, against the financial burden of going to school during an economic crisis.
Notre Dame moves classes online for two weeks after COVID-19 cases more than double in one day; campus public spaces also shut down
Calling COVID-19 "a formidable foe," the University of Notre Dame's president announced Tuesday that all undergraduate courses will be shifted online for at least two weeks in an effort to contain a spike in cases since classes began on campus a week ago. The Rev. John Jenkins detailed the change in a video address for students after cases identified at a campus testing center jumped from 58 to 147 in just one day. "We have decided to take steps short of sending students home, at least for the time being, while protecting the health and safety of the campus community," Jenkins said. "For at least the next two weeks, we will move undergraduate classes to remote instruction, close public spaces on campus and restrict residence halls to residents only." Jenkins said the school was prepared to halt in-person classes indefinitely but decided to try the stricter trial period after consulting with the county's public health department, which supports the move. The university outside South Bend, Indiana, began the fall semester early and serves as a bellwether as other colleges attempt to reconvene face-to-face instruction for the first time since the pandemic shut down schools in the spring.
Michigan State scraps in-person undergraduate classes for fall, Notre Dame suspends for 2 weeks
Two more major research universities are walking back plans to resume in-person undergraduate instruction, continuing a rocky rollout for fall reopening efforts across higher education. The University of Notre Dame announced Tuesday afternoon it was suspending in-person classes for almost 12,000 students, moving undergraduate classes to remote instruction for two weeks while keeping students on campus and giving leaders a chance to reassess plans and a rising coronavirus infection rate. The announcement came at virtually the same time Michigan State University asked undergraduates who had planned to live in residence halls to stay home and announced that it will transition classes planned for in-person instruction to remote formats. As prominent research universities with big-name athletic programs, the trio of universities changing their fall plans at the start of the week drew widespread attention. But hundreds of colleges across the country have been reversing or altering reopening plans in the last several weeks amid the pandemic.
Howard University Shaped Kamala Harris' Path To Political Heights
A couple of years before California Sen. Kamala Harris announced that she would run for president, she returned to Howard University to speak to the graduating class. "First, to lead and to thrive, you must reject false choices. Howard taught me, as it has taught you, that you can do anything and you can do everything," Harris told the 2017 graduates. After attending elementary school in Berkeley, Calif., and high school in Montreal, Harris decided on Howard and was focused on becoming a lawyer. "So when it came to college, I wanted to get off on the right foot," she wrote in her book, The Truths We Hold. "And what better place to do that, I thought, than at Thurgood Marshall's alma mater?" In choosing Howard, regarded as one of the nation's premier historically Black educational institutions, Harris was immersing herself in Black culture and Black life. She pledged Alpha Kappa Alpha, the nation's oldest Black sorority, founded more than 100 years ago at Howard. When Harris moved into Eton Towers in the fall of 1982, she added herself to a long lineage of prominent Black leaders who count themselves as alumni: activist Stokely Carmichael, author Toni Morrison, Rep. Elijah Cummings and writer Zora Neale Hurston among them.
Kamala's private army: Why Harris' HBCU, AKA affiliations could help Biden's campaign
When it comes to mobilizing Black voters, Kamala Harris has something even President Barack Obama didn't have as America's first Black president. Her degree from Howard University, a historically Black university, and membership in Alpha Kappa Alpha, the nation's oldest Black sorority, could give her a noticeable advantage among loyal members and alumni, including in Delaware. "It's a part of Black America that most Americans are not aware of," Akwasi Osei, a political science and history professor at Delaware State University, said about the Greek organization. "And it is huge." It could be the blessing that Biden's campaign needs after Black voter turnout dropped in 2016. Osei expects Harris to revitalize turnout to match that of its historic levels during Obama's presidential bids, if not higher. Since her presidential bid last year, members of the sorority have formed into Harris' own, unofficial private army. It's one of nine service-oriented Black sororities and fraternities known as the Divine Nine, and those familiar with the organizations say they should not be overlooked as a pervasive and organized sector of the Black community.
U.S. Warns Colleges to Divest China Stocks on Delisting Risk
The U.S. State Department is asking colleges and universities to divest from Chinese holdings in their endowments, warning schools in a letter Tuesday to get ahead of potentially more onerous measures on holding the shares. "Boards of U.S. university endowments would be prudent to divest from People's Republic of China firms' stocks in the likely outcome that enhanced listing standards lead to a wholesale de-listing of PRC firms from U.S. exchanges by the end of next year," Keith Krach, undersecretary for economic growth, energy and the environment, wrote in the letter addressed to the board of directors of American universities and colleges, and viewed by Bloomberg. "Holding these stocks also runs the high risks associated with PRC companies having to restate financials," he said. The warning to endowments opens a new front in the Trump administration's multipronged campaign against China's government, businesses and individuals.
COVID-19, visas, Trump: International students turning away from US colleges for lots of reasons
Already reeling from the coronavirus, American colleges and universities now stand to lose hundreds of thousands of international students over the country's failure to contain the pandemic, the challenges of online learning and a more hostile U.S. government. Also at stake: billions of dollars the international students spend annually in the country, plus the intellectual capital of having many of the world's best and brightest minds educated in America. Nearly 1.1 million students came to the U.S. from other countries for college or practical training programs, according to the Institute for International Education's latest Open Doors report, which the U.S. Department of State supports. Those students spend more than $40 billion a year in the U.S., according to the latest report, which looked at the 2018-2019 school year. But most of the students come from countries that have gotten far better control of their coronavirus outbreaks than the U.S. has, and the government here has been less welcoming.
Mississippi elections laws
Syndicated columnist Sid Salter writes: As the national debate roils over whether or not President Donald Trump and some of his appointees are actively setting up the U.S. Postal Service as an intentional impediment to mail-in voting and other early voting efforts, Mississippi is essentially on the sidelines as one few states that haven't embraced both "no excuse" mail-in voting and early voting initiatives. The political drama playing out on the national scene is an old one in Mississippi. Generally, Mississippi Republicans have opposed "no excuse" early voting reform efforts as ones that created electoral disadvantages for the GOP. Democrats have long countered that GOP fears of early voting fostering voter fraud are unfounded and lacking in statistically substantial evidence. ... While the Trump administration's Post Office battles over mail-in voting won't directly involve Mississippi elections, our state continues to generate our own challenges. Despite the postal challenges, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended states encourage voters to cast ballots through the mail.

'Thrilled to death': How Mississippi State coach Mike Leach feels about first football practice
He popped in front of the camera with his usual stopwatch dangling around his neck and a pair of sunglasses folded over the collar of his T-shirt. Then he told reporters he's not one for long, drawn-out opening statements. He turned the floor over to them. Mississippi State coach Mike Leach was back in his element. An abnormal accessory was wrapped around the first-year Bulldogs coach's neck, though, almost serving as a symbol of the peculiar times Leach has been tasked with coaching through. It was a protective face mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Leach took questions during the Tuesday evening press conference with all those things visible. There was even an unopened Coca-Cola bottle on the podium. An item that wasn't in the camera shot but was perhaps the most important of the day? A football. Mississippi State had just concluded its first official practice of the Mike Leach era. Leach, who was hired over 200 days ago, finally got a chance to conduct a true practice.
Mike Leach's Bulldogs debut in Starkville
The first practice of the 2020 preseason comes in the shadow of the scheduling announcement, for Mississippi State, the Bulldogs prepare to open its 2020 campaign against the defending national champion LSU on September 26th. New head coach Mike Leach now has a little over a month to fully install his offense, choose a starting quarterback and wrap his mind around playing a 10-game all-SEC schedule. All while navigating the coronavirus. In his press conference, Leach said that the testing protocol Mississippi State has in place is one of, if not, the best in college football. However, he declined to say if there are any active cases at State right now. He's focused on getting his team ready to invade Baton Rouge and tackle a tough regular-season schedule. "There's some schedules which maybe I'm jealous of and there's some schedules that I'm glad I don't have," Leach said. "I mean if there's ever been an era, a day, a time, where's there been a more competitive schedule, a more demanding schedule, than what we have this season in the SEC for all the teams involved, I'd be curious to see what that is."
Mississippi State training camp notebook
Mike Leach isn't naming a starting quarterback anytime soon. Speaking with the media Tuesday for the first time since National Signing Day, Leach said the quarterback competition amongst Stanford graduate transfer K.J. Costello, sophomore Garrett Shrader and freshman Will Rogers -- all of whom were repped in the Bulldogs' first fall practice -- could last until the week before the season opener against LSU on Sept. 26 given the lack of evaluation time he and his staff have had. "I hope it doesn't extend that far, but it could," Leach said. "So we're trying to roll them through ... in these practices, get the best look that we can." Though things are early, Costello is expected to be the front-runner to take the reins under center when the Bulldogs open the season in Death Valley. Committing to MSU in February, Costello completed 495 of 791 passes for 6,151 yards and 49 touchdowns to just 18 interceptions over 28 career games at Stanford and is far and away the most experienced passer on the roster. While Costello presumably boasts the inside track to the starting role, Shrader earned avid hype during a freshman campaign in which he split time with Penn State transfer Tommy Stevens.
Southern Miss adds North Alabama to complete 2020 football schedule
Southern Miss Director of Athletics Jeremy McClain announced a date change as well as an addition to the school's 2020 football schedule Tuesday morning. The Golden Eagles, which was set to begin Conference USA play Sept. 12 at home, pushed back its Louisiana Tech contest a week to Saturday, Sept. 19. The Sept. 12 date now becomes an open date for Jay Hopson's football program. Southern Miss also added FCS-member North Alabama for its 12th game. That game takes place Nov. 7 at home, replacing Tennessee Tech which canceled last Friday due to the Ohio Valley Conference announcement of not participating in fall sports due to COVID-19. "We are excited to get back to a full schedule and a seventh home game, as we continue to push forward cautiously," said McClain. "Our situation is ever-changing, but we will continue to make decisions with the safety and welfare of our student-athletes, coaches, and fans in mind."
Texas A&M to limit Kyle Field crowds to 30% capacity this season
Texas A&M's anticipated attendance for football games at Kyle Field this season will be 30% of normal capacity, the school announced Tuesday. The exact capacity percentage will be determined by the number of season ticket holders and student sport pass holders who choose to attend. That is subject to change based on emerging information as well as local and state health developments. Kyle Field's capacity is listed at 102,733, but its normal operating capacity is 110,000, said A&M athletic director Ross Bjork. The Fightin' Texas Aggie Band will be counted among the students, an A&M official said. A&M had been making plans for 50% capacity after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said last month that would be the operating capacity for the upcoming season during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Southeastern Conference released its guidelines for fan health and stadium safety at fall sporting events earlier Tuesday. Face coverings will be required by fans, stadium workers and athletics staff when entering, exiting and moving around the stadium, the SEC said. Bjork said face coverings will be required at all times inside Kyle Field, except when eating or drinking.
Alabama limits football stadium to 20% capacity; tailgating banned
The University of Alabama announced its ticket plan for the 2020 football season on Tuesday, including approximately 20% capacity, a facemask requirement at Bryant-Denny Stadium and a moratorium on tailgating activities on campus. Alabama announced the policies in an e-mail sent to Tide Pride members. "As you know, the SEC recently announced that the 2020 football season will be comprised of a 10-game, conference-only schedule that will kick off on September 26. In compliance with state public health guidance, seating in Bryant-Denny Stadium for the 2020 Alabama football season will be socially-distanced resulting in approximately 20% seating capacity," Alabama athletics director Greg Byrne said in the message. "Also, due to guidelines relating to social distancing and large gatherings, tailgating will not be permitted on The University of Alabama campus for the 2020 football season." Bryant-Denny Stadium has an official capacity of 101,821.
The business of football? Louisiana shops 'full steam ahead' toward LSU season
Bayou Apparel owner Daniel McNamara remembers his screen printing presses zipping out merchandise before and after former LSU quarterback Joe Burrow was awarded the Heisman Trophy last year. "When Joe won, we were printing all night to serve the Louisiana market," McNamara said. "Everybody knows that football is king in the South." Looking forward to the springboard off that undefeated National Championship season into this year, he and other business owners have been concerned about LSU football over the past few weeks as various conferences postponed their fall seasons until the spring because of the coronavirus pandemic. McNamara found relief Monday after the Southeastern Conference attached actual dates and places to its in-conference-only schedule and put LSU on a slightly delayed track to a Sept. 26 kickoff. "We are moving full steam ahead," McNamara said. The business of throwing a party in Baton Rouge is worth hundreds of millions to the local economy. In a normal year, about $60 million is spent by out-of-town visitors when the Tigers take the field each fall season.
Auburn athletes stress seriousness of COVID-19; encourage fellow students to take it seriously
While Auburn football players have been back on campus for a while now, the students are just now back on campus for the start of the semester. Auburn football players have been turning to Twitter and other platforms to ask their fellow students to remain responsible and to take the ongoing pandemic seriously. Auburn University started class Aug. 17 and pictures have surfaced on social media showing downtown bars and large groups of people gathering. Players including wide receiver Anthony Schwartz and offensive linemen Kameron Stutts have expressed their concern on Twitter with the crowded venues and lack of masks. This pandemic started hitting close to home with that reality shock for the Tigers. Senior linebacker K.J. Britt said after several positive tests over the summer the team had meetings to talk about the accountability to each other and the team as a whole. He said it was a learning experience for everyone. "Accountability is something that every team that's going to be successful is going to have to have, especially during the pandemic," Britt said.
SEC's revised football schedule adds to South Carolina's budget crunch
The football schedule is set. Now, how does South Carolina get to the road games? The Gamecocks' schedule typically balances the easiest and most difficult road trips. Then coronavirus came along, bringing an updated schedule and a financial crunch. The SEC gave USC another must-fly game at Ole Miss, while cutting the game at Clemson. The Gamecocks were already scheduled to play at LSU, also a game that requires a flight. A charter flight to Ole Miss will cost about $90,000, according to figures the USC Board of Trustees discussed last week. Athletics director Ray Tanner has estimated that USC could lose from $40-70 million with fewer games and limited football attendance, and employees in the athletic department already have taken furloughs and salary cuts. Coach Will Muschamp, who voluntarily gave up 10 percent of his $4.4 million salary, has an idea to help combat the cost. "If our league would bump back all the games to 3:30 or later, travel the day of the game. Fly in four hours before the game, go eat a pregame meal, and go to the ballpark," he said. "So I told our guys we might be traveling just like you did in Little League. Got your helmet and your shoulder pads, fly the day of the game, pick your stuff up, walk in the ballpark in your cleats and let's go play."
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski says NCAA can't go another year without NCAA tournament
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said Tuesday he doesn't believe the NCAA can afford -- literally -- to go another year without the lucrative NCAA tournament. March Madness was canceled this past spring as the coronavirus pandemic began. "We're the thing that the NCAA is most concerned about because men's college basketball and the tournament pays for something like ... it produces 98% or more of the money for the NCAA," Krzyzewski said in his ESPN radio interview on "Keyshawn, JWIll & Zubin." "We need to have the tournament. We can't have it where two years in a row you don't have the NCAA tournament." The NCAA depends on the men's basketball tournament for a large chunk of its annual revenue -- close to 85%, according to a USA TODAY review of its most recently available audited financial statement. More than half of the profit is distributed directly to Division I schools and conferences. The money comes mostly from a multi-billion dollar media and marketing contract with CBS and Turner, but it also is driven by ticket and merchandise sales. "Make sure you have the tournament. It doesn't make any difference when it is," Krzyzewski said Tuesday.

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