Tuesday, August 25, 2020   
MSU COVID-19 guidelines set to ensure a safe welcome back
As students return to classes, Mississippi State University has implemented changes on campus to keep students safe and prevent the spread of COVID-19. Vice President for Student Affairs Regina Hyatt said students are required to wear a face covering in every campus building and outside when they cannot social distance. "Students do not have to wear a face covering in their individual residence hall room if it is just themselves and their roommate," Hyatt said. According to Hyatt, the transition time between classes will increase by 20 minutes, allowing students to social distance while going to their next class. This change also gives students time to travel to unique classroom locations where students can spread out. Provost and Executive Vice President David Shaw said some classes will be in locations such as Humphrey Coliseum, the Sanderson Center, Colvard Student Union, Bost Extension Center, the Newell-Grissom Building, McCarthy Gym and several other non-traditional classrooms. Rylie Stephens, a senior marketing major from Ocean Springs, said she is looking forward to this semester, but it will take some time to adjust to the new way of classes.
MSU Riley Center announces Marty Stuart show, 2 concert schedule changes
Fresh from his selection as a member of the Country Music Association Hall of Fame, Mississippi native Marty Stuart has scheduled a solo acoustic concert at 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 20 at the MSU Riley Center. The Riley Center also announced two schedule changes. The Bruce Hornsby concert, originally scheduled for March 18 and then rescheduled for Dec. 3, is now scheduled on Dec. 6, 2021. And the Steel Betty concert with special guest JEMS, which had been moved from May 16 to Oct. 16, has been canceled. "The pandemic continues to have ripple effects on entertainment schedules across the country, and for that matter around the world," Daniel Barnard, executive director of the Riley Center said in a statement. Stuart, a professional touring musician since he was 13, is from Philadelphia. He has a star in downtown Meridian's Walk of Fame and has performed previously at the Riley Center. He is a five-time Grammy Award winner and Grand Ole Opry star. Tickets can be purchased online at www.msurileycenter.com or by calling 601-696-2200.
Panhellenic recruitment adjusts to virtual methods
Despite a less than normal start to the semester, Mississippi State University sororities found a way to push on. This August, the eight sororities on campus held an entirely virtual recruitment for the freshman class of 2020. Potential members still attended the same events and went through the same process, but due to COVID-19 risks and guidelines, all events were held over Zoom. According to Chloe McKelvaine, junior marketing major and Pi Beta Phi vice president of recruitment, Zoom was definitely the biggest challenge for coordinating recruitment. McKelvaine said the challenges presented were overcome but not without much practice. "We practiced a lot," McKelvaine said. "We have a spirit week before the week of recruitment, and we used that to practice a lot. It was tough with the first couple of parties, but after that, it went very smoothly." Lindsey Jenkins, a senior in biological sciences and director of recruitment for MSU's Panhellenic Council, said via email the numbers going into recruitment were just as high as any given year and that made it all the more important to create a similar experience. "We have done the best we can with the circumstances, and our chapters took on this great challenge we faced this year," Jenkins said. "Our numbers are as strong as they were last year, so we have been confident that we can work towards creating an experience for our students that may look different but not less impactful."
Laura strengthens to Category 1 hurricane, could dump a foot of rain in some areas
Hurricane Laura strengthened from a tropical storm Tuesday morning, a day earlier than forecasters predicted. The storm, which has sustained winds of 75 mph, had been expected to reach hurricane strength late Wednesday or early Thursday. To be a Category 1 hurricane, a storm must have winds of at least 74 mph. Laura's track appears to be shifting west, with landfall possible between western Louisiana and eastern Texas, according to the National Hurricane Center. The Mississippi and Louisiana coastlines will begin feeling the storm's winds around 2 a.m. Wednesday, followed by heavy rain, storm surge and potential tornadoes, forecasters say. Counties farther inland may fare worse than coastal counties. Mississippi, for example, could see two inches in the southern half of the state and up to 4 inches in the northern half, National Hurricane Center maps show. "The heavy rainfall threat will spread northeastward into the middle-Mississippi, lower Ohio and Tennessee Valleys Friday and Saturday," the center said.
Mississippi lawmakers resolve budget for Marine Resources
The Mississippi Legislature returned to the Capitol on Monday and adopted a budget for the state Department of Marine Resources, nearly two months after the July 1 start of the state fiscal year. The department had been run under executive powers, but its leaders warned that all 175 employees might face furloughs if legislators failed to set a budget by Sept. 1. House and Senate negotiators on Monday resolved a conflict over the part of the budget that had put the whole thing on hold -- a plan for spending $46 million in federal money that Mississippi receives for oil and gas leases in the Gulf of Mexico. Legislative leaders said $26 million was already obligated. The other $20 million is split evenly. Republican Gov. Tate Reeves and executive branch agencies will decide how to spend $10 million. Legislators will have spending power over the other $10 million, and they will decide how to spend that portion next year.
Mississippi lawmakers return to Capitol to address DMR budget
Lawmakers approved a budget Monday for the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources amid two tropical storms in the Gulf. A compromise budget was approved that will provide $10 million in project funding immediately for the agency. The governor will decide how that $10 million will be spent. Another $10 million will be rolled over to the next fiscal year that the Legislature will decide how to spend, said Ports and Marine Chair Sen. Philip Moran, R-Bay St. Louis. DMR's total annual budget is about $27 million, with about $1.1 million of that coming from the state's general fund. Federal funding and oil and gas leases make up the bulk of DMR's budget. Funding for DMR had been stalled for weeks due to a dispute between Gov. Tate Reeves and House and Senate leaders over authority to spend federal money received by DMR for projects. Approval of the budget will allow DMR to pay furloughed employees and pay them for any back time. Lawmakers are expected to conclude their work Tuesday and adjourn. They could come back again to the Capitol this year if the need arises.
Lawmakers pass DMR budget compromise during fight with governor
After being at an impasse for months over the governor's spending authority, the Legislature on Monday passed a compromise budget for the Department of Marine Resources, just days before the agency would run out of money and with two storms rolling through the Gulf. "We agreed the issue needed to be resolved now," said Republican House Speaker Philip Gunn, who has been at odds with Republican Gov. Tate Reeves over appropriation power, and recently filed a lawsuit against the governor over his line item vetoes of legislative spending. Gunn and other legislative leaders say the state Constitution gives appropriation power to the Legislature, not the executive branch, and that previous governors' spending of Gulf restoration money that flows through DMR's budget has violated that separation for years. "We've agreed to continue to work on this issue," Gunn said Monday. "This deal is a one-time agreement for this year, it does not concede this issue or hinder anything moving forward."
Elections chief 'a bit concerned' about USPS returning ballots in time for general election
Secretary of State Michael Watson, the state's chief elections officer, says he is "a bit concerned" with the ability of the U.S. Postal Service to ensure absentee ballots are mailed out and returned in time to be counted for the November general election. "But our office can only control what our office controls, and the USPS isn't on our list," said Watson, a first term Republican, in prepared responses to questions from Mississippi Today. "I recently spoke to a circuit clerk who just this week received a mail-in absentee ballot that was postmarked last October, so everyone should be concerned about mail-in ballots, especially the states that have and are moving to vote by mail elections." In 2016, 28,716 ballots were mailed out in Mississippi. Watson said people eligible to vote absentee should request a ballot as soon as possible. The ballots should be available no later than Sept. 21.
Mississippi Senate confirms new state revenue commissioner
The Mississippi Senate on Monday confirmed an attorney as the new commissioner of the Mississippi Department of Revenue. Chris Graham has worked in recent years for the Legislative Budget Office, helping senators write spending plans for state agencies. He previously worked for the state Ethics Commission and in private law practice. Republican Gov. Tate Reeves announced July 13 that he was nominating Graham to lead the Department of Revenue, and Graham has been working in the job while awaiting confirmation. He succeeds Herb Frierson, who retired as commissioner July 1 after four years in that job. Frierson had a 42-year state government career that included time he served as a legislator.
Former Sen. Sally Doty confirmed as Public Utilities Staff director
A former state senator has been confirmed as director of the Mississippi Public Utilities Staff. Sally Doty was nominated last month by Republican Gov. Tate Reeves, and senators confirmed her to the post on Monday. The Public Utilities Staff analyzes proposals and provides advice to the three elected members of the Public Service Commission. The commission regulates utilities. The Public Utilities Staff is a separate entity that negotiates agreements with utility companies about rates and other issues that are ultimately voted on by the commissioners. Doty is an attorney from Brookhaven, and she was in her third term as a Republican state senator when Reeves chose her for the new job.
Popular flag proposal shares Tupelo flag motifs
Among the designs that might become Mississippi's next state flag, one has some local residents seeing double. A commission tasked with proposing a single flag design for November's ballot has winnowed down a pool of thousands to five possible designs. One of them has attracted some especially vocal supporters, especially online, and has been dubbed "The Great River Flag" by its designer, Micah Whitson. It also features some similar design elements as the banner in use by the city of Tupelo, though the two designs also have some key differences. The shield of both flags echoes elements of the central shield seen on the Great Seal of the United States. The Great River Flag's shield was inspired by a shield included on the 1798 seal of the Mississippi Territory. The Tupelo flag's shield is inspired by the logo of the National Civic League. ack Reed Jr., a local businessman, former Tupelo mayor and longtime supporter of a new flag, said local residents might be happy to see a familiar looking state flag. "I just take that as a compliment," said Reed, whose father sat on a commission that in 2001 recommended removing the Confederate battle emblem from Mississippi's now former flag.
Mississippi's only abortion clinic asks Supreme Court to decline 15-week ban case
Mississippi's currently-blocked law that bans abortions after 15 weeks should not be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court, attorneys said last week. "The state has asked the Supreme Court to review the 5th Circuit decision striking down the 15 week ban and we are telling the Supreme Court that there's absolutely no need to review that decision -- the 5th Circuit decision was correct based on decades of precedent about pre-viabilty ban," Hillary Schneller, lead attorney representing the Jackson Women's Health Organization, told Mississippi Today about the new court filing. The law has been overturned by federal courts twice in two years. This was the first of recent abortion bans to be passed by a state, blocked by federal courts, and if taken up by the Supreme Court, would be the first to make it that far. Up to now, the Court has declined to take up any recent cases banning abortion at various points in pregnancy.
Up in the polls during pandemic, Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith's campaign lays low
Incumbent Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, about two months from the November election, is keeping a low profile, riding an apparent lead in the polls and banking on proxy support from President Donald Trump's popularity in Mississippi. She's so far done little public campaigning in person or virtually amid the pandemic. "I definitely think the school of thought with (presidential candidate Joe Biden) is the same thing going on in Cindy Hyde-Smith world: Let's lay low. We have a lead," said Henry Barbour, longtime Republican strategist and Mississippi Republican national committeeman. "That's a tried-and-true strategy. If you're winning, keep your head down. That's the same reason that (former U.S. Sen.) Thad Cochran didn't debate Chris McDaniel in 2014. Why do it? Don't give your opponent the platform." Barbour said he believes Hyde-Smith will benefit from a large Republican presidential turnout and from "a clear choice" voters have in the Senate race.
South Carolina's Nikki Haley, Tim Scott reflect on being minorities during RNC speeches boosting Trump
Former Gov. Nikki Haley and U.S. Sen. Tim Scott reflected on their personal experiences as minorities in the Palmetto State and took aim at Democrats who claim racism is alive in America during their speeches at the opening night of the Republican National Convention. The South Carolina pair were part of the closing portion of the first night of a four-day push to launch Donald Trump toward a second term. Haley, Trump's former U.N. ambassador, used her televised speech to reflect on how her rise in politics shows that opportunity -- and not racism -- defines America. "In much of the Democratic Party, it's now fashionable to say that America is racist," she said. "That is a lie. America is not a racist country." Scott spoke of American opportunity and following Trump's path to get there. "There are millions of families like mine across this nation...full of potential seeking to live the American Dream," he said. "And I'm here tonight to tell you that supporting the Republican ticket gives you the best chance of making that dream a reality." Monday's theme was "Land of Promise" and both South Carolinians highlighted their careers as examples of how they prospered in America and took aim at Democrats who they believe want to divide the nation.
It's Nikki Haley vs. Don Jr. for the soul of the GOP
Political conventions are usually as much about a party's next nominee as they are about its current flag-bearer. The Republican convention on Monday night featured a glimpse of the coming fight to define the post-Trump world: Will it look and sound more like Donald Trump Jr. or Nikki Haley? The need for definition is especially urgent for a party when it is led by someone as historically unique as Donald Trump. He's fashioned the GOP into a personality cult built around him rather than as a vessel to pursue a shared set of principles or ideas. This by now common observation about the historic transformation of the Republican Party was made starkly clear this week when the GOP reaffirmed a previous decision to abandon the creation of a policy platform -- one of the main activities for a political convention -- and instead declared "[T]hat the Republican Party has and will continue to enthusiastically support the President's America-first agenda." When a party is built around a person, the aftermath can be especially messy when he exits the scene.
Joe Biden retirement proposal would upend traditional 401(k) plans
A little-noticed feature of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden's tax plan would flip the incentive structure of a retirement system grounded for nearly a century on the tax deductibility of saving. The former vice president's "drastic" proposal, in the words of one industry lobbyist, would upend existing tax preferences for retirement saving in 401(k)-style plans. The Investment Company Institute, which represents mutual funds, exchange-traded funds and other investment vehicles in the U.S. and abroad, has already promised opposition. Under current law, workers contribute pretax dollars and thereby reduce their annual taxable income, but they pay full freight when funds are eventually withdrawn in retirement. The upfront tax break is larger for richer households, however, since deductions are more valuable the higher one's tax bracket is. Biden would instead "equalize" the incentive system by ending such deductions and replacing them with flat tax credits for each dollar saved.
Mississippi College works to combat COVID-19 spread
State health officials are warning about the rapid spread of COVID-19 among college students. But one local college is putting in mandates to stop the transmission on their campus. Mississippi College is requiring masks campus wide and implementing strict guidelines following large gatherings. Graduate student Natalie Allen of Dallas is happy about the increased safety measures that Mississippi College put in place in response to COVID-19. "I feel comfortable," said Allen. Out of more than 1,660 students only 10 have tested positive. Five are in isolation off campus. Five are in an isolation dorm on campus. Campus Covid Coordinator Beth Stapleton said students in isolation remain in the dorm and have daily medical checks. Their meals and other supplies are dropped off to them. The college also has strict enforcement of the policies including fines, loss of privileges up to removal from campus.
Oak Grove High School students walk out in protest
Dozens of Oak Grove High School students staged a walkout Friday to protest what they believe are lax rules around COVID-19 precautions and the handling of an alleged racially charged incident. Faith Jones, an Oak Grove senior, said the students came to school Friday with a plan to walk out.. "Oak Grove is extremely reactive and never proactive," she said. The protest was planned after a senior photo was taken Aug. 13 during a celebration of seniors at the start of the school year. Students wore masks until it was time to take the photo, but were crowded together despite Gov. Tate Reeves' mandate on social distancing. Parents later were notified by the district that "an individual in your child's class, group or team has been diagnosed with COVID-19." The letter was not signed, but was printed on school district letterhead. Lamar County Superintendent Tess Smith said Friday she could not comment about the district's COVID-19 cases and declined to answer a question about the number of students notified of possible exposure. Also during the senior event, a video posted to Facebook showed students allegedly yelling "white power" during the senior run on the football field. Smith said the school is still investigating the incident.
U. of Alabama reports more than 500 confirmed COVID-19 cases
The University of Alabama on Monday released the first numbers of on-campus COVID-19 test results that raised alarm bells internally. A total of 531 confirmed cases between students, faculty and staff were reported on the Tuscaloosa campus since classes resumed Aug. 19, UA announced Monday evening. The dashboard did not include how many were tested Aug. 19 through Aug. 23 or the rate of positive tests. The cumulative figure includes positive tests on UA System campuses identified through sentinel testing, point of care testing in campus health centers, and self-reported tests from private providers," the dashboard reads. "Entry testing is not included in this calculation." Isolation and quarantine spaces are not at capacity, said Dr. Ricky Friend, dean of the UA College of Community Health Sciences. "But we are concerned that each day that goes by," he said, "there might be more cases."
Tuscaloosa bars ordered closed after rise in COVID-19 cases
Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox announced the closure of bars and bars inside restaurants, effective at 5 p.m. Monday in response to a rise in positive tests at the University of Alabama. The bar closure order will continue through Sept. 8. "The truth is, fall in Tuscaloosa is in serious jeopardy," Maddox said during a joint news conference with officials from the University held Monday at the Manderson Landing boathouse. "As mayor, my first responsibility is to protect the health, safety and welfare of this community and of every person that is living here, studying here or working here." The executive order is a result of consultations with UA officials who have been using contact tracing for students and have identified hot spots on campus and around the city. The university is also limiting students' activities on campus to address those hot spots. "The rising COVID cases we have seen in recent days is unacceptable and if unchecked threatens our ability to complete the semester on campus," UA President Stuart Bell said. "I think as we began this year, we had very robust testing, so we know that our students that showed up here all tested negative. What we have seen is an increase in those numbers. What we are trying to do now, certainly with our general student body, is flatten that (growth) curve."
Auburn University's COVID-19 cases multiply by five
When Auburn University released its newest data from its COVID-19 testing Monday, it showed that the number of positive cases has multiplied more than five times. In the week of August 15-21, it recorded 208 total positive cases, up from 41 the week before. Out of the positive cases, 203 were students while five were employees. All but one of the cases are at Auburn's main campus. The other one is a student who tested positive at the AU Airport. The data does not include results from the re-entry testing program according to Auburn's website. Those results won't be added until all of the re-entry testing is finished and the receipts for all the results are in. Individuals who test positive are only counted once, so if they were positive from the week of August 8-14, they were not counted in the most recent results. Auburn did not report how many tests it has given out.
Four U. of Tennessee students face disciplinary proceedings over COVID-19 rules
University of Tennessee at Knoxville has initiated disciplinary proceedings against four students for "endangering the health, safety and welfare of others," related to COVID-19, Chancellor Donde Plowman said. Three of the four students could face punishment because they threw a party that did not follow social distancing or mask usage rules. The fourth student faces punishment because he or she left self-isolation after they tested positive for COVID-19, Plowman said in a message to students Monday. The students were not identified. "If the facts reported to the university are accurate, these students will face at least suspension from the university, and potentially greater penalties," Plowman said in the message. The four students violated "the Student Code of Conduct by endangering the health, safety, and welfare of others," Plowman said. The message comes a week after Plowman threatened to expel students who threw parties or did not comply with requests from the university's contact tracers.
LSU to reopen campus Tuesday after Tropical Storm Marco; decision on Tropical Storm Laura pending
LSU will reopen campus Tuesday, Aug. 25 following closures on Monday due to Tropical Storm Marco, the university announced Monday morning. All classes and activities will resume as scheduled on Tuesday morning, but the university will continue to monitor the weather conditions of both Tropical Storm Marco and Tropical Storm Laura for any further cancellations later in the week. A decision will be made about Wednesday classes on Tuesday at approximately 2 p.m. Students, faculty and staff should begin using the TIGER Check daily symptom checker on Tuesday on their mobile devices before returning to campus, the university said.
A less-crowded U. of Arkansas, Fayetteville commences an odd semester
Fall semester classes began Monday at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville with the campus noticeably less bustling than in past years. A majority of course sections -- 2,733 out of 4,638, or 59% -- normally taught in person have shifted to remote instruction this fall, UA spokesman John Post said. The percentage more than doubled from last month, when Post said about 28% of fall courses were set for online-only instruction. In July, Post had said the percentage "would likely continue to change somewhat as needed." Other courses are in person or involve a hybrid model that mixes face-to-face and online participation. "I feel like that was just a really good option for them to be offering, like not forcing you to be here but not forcing you to be online either," said Alondra Altamirano, 20, on campus to attend a class, Animals and World History. Post said "nearly" every class is being recorded and made available for online viewing, with exceptions for some courses on "technical topics" such as studio art.
UGA faculty question COVID plans and 'regime of secrecy'
More University of Georgia faculty are questioning UGA administrators' planning ability in continued criticism of the university leaders' preparations for reopening in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 350 faculty members have signed a new petition calling for "an immediate change in plans" as fall semester begins. At the same time, four top public health experts on the faculty of the UGA College of Public Health have called on the UGA administration to change its "regime of secrecy" and to replace the university's small surveillance plan with a more ambitious plan that could work. Instead of having a useful plan, the UGA administration's secrecy "serves to bury our collective heads in the sand," they wrote. The faculty petition also notes that as of the time the petition began last week, Georgia was the #1 state in the nation for new COVID cases, and that according to a risk management assessment formula developed by the Harvard Global Health Institute, 158 of Georgia's 159 counties should be under a shelter-in-place order.
UF graduate students petition to move COVID-19 quarantine rooms
Graduate students at the University of Florida hope to quickly change a plan that would house suspected COVID-19 infected students in vacant apartments in graduate student village clusters. Of the 400 spaces UF has tapped for designated rooms to quarantine students this semester, 65 are tucked within on-campus graduate and family housing. The remaining, according to UF Student Affairs officials, will be in Riker Hall, Trusler Hall and a building in Lakeside Complex. Several graduate and doctoral candidates, such as Miaad Hassan, said they weren't aware of such arrangements until accommodations were already underway by movers shuffling furniture into the vacant rooms in Corry Village over the weekend. "They are bringing positive cases next to us," Hassan said. "We spent the whole summer planning for our kids' schooling, and now UF is planning to bring the virus to us and our kids." Sara Tanner, director of marketing and communications for UF student affairs, said the graduate and family housing is not the primary temporary quarantine option, and will only be used for students believed to have come in close contact with a positive COVID-19 case.
National Zoom outage disrupts UF, Greek life recruitment
As UF students and faculty prepare for a semester of online classes, a temporary Zoom outage Monday morning shook the confidence in a remote learning experience. Zoom, an audio and video conferencing app used in workplaces, schools and social circles across the globe, suffered an almost four hour outage in the U.S. and parts of the U.K. While UF classes are not in session, some students, including those involved in Greek life, were affected. UF spokesperson Steve Orlando said he doesn't know how many at UF were affected, but noted that the impact appeared minimal. UF typically has between 12,000 and 15,000 active users at a given time of 75,000 total users affiliated with the university, Orlando said. Less than 8% of active users were affected by the outage. He added that only those trying to enter through the browser were impacted, not those connecting through desktop and mobile app. UF Panhellenic recruitment, which began its second day on Monday with a packed schedule from 8:30 a.m. to noon, is relying heavily on Zoom. The process spans about a week and involves those interested going house to house and meeting the eighteen chapters around campus.
Texas A&M professor arrested on charges related to ties to China
A Texas A&M University professor has been accused of working with the Chinese government and Chinese-owned companies while doing research for NASA. Zhengdong Cheng, 53, was arrested Sunday and charged with conspiracy, making false statements and wire fraud, according to a criminal complaint released by the Justice Department on Monday. Cheng led a team of researchers that received nearly $750,000 in NASA grants for space research. At the same time, he served as director of an institute in Guangdong, China that was established by China's Education Ministry, prosecutors say. In addition, he is accused of participating in talent recruitment programs established by the Chinese government that the U.S. says entices professors at American universities to steal cutting-edge research that can be provided to China. A Texas A&M University official confirmed Monday that the university has 50 active NASA projects funded directly to university staff members. "We worked closely with the FBI on this case, and we gladly will work with them again as needed," John Sharp, the chancellor of the Texas A&M University System, said in a statement.
U. of Missouri first-day enrollment up but well below record
Students are staying at the University of Missouri, but new faces might not be as numerous as in the past. MU logged an increase in overall fall semester enrollment on Monday, with a downturn in first-time students and remaining well below record levels as the COVID-19 pandemic remains a local and nationwide focus. As students returned to campus for fall semester classes, the university released preliminary enrollment numbers. Students began moving into residence halls on Aug. 12. The 30,849 students is up 4 percent from the 29,667 students on the first day of the 2019 fall semester. The number is 12 percent below the record – set in 2015 -- first-day enrollment number of 35,050. There was a slight decline -- less than 2 percent -- in the first-day number for first-time students, from 5,459 to 5,380.
Missouri professor 'relieved of teaching duties' after alleged xenophobic comment
On Monday morning, Joel Poor, University of Missouri associate teaching professor at the Trulaske College of Business, made what some are calling a racist and xenophobic comment during the first day of his upper level marketing class. By Monday night, Poor sent a Canvas notification to his students that read: "Today I was relieved of teaching duties, I apologize for any disruption this might cause you." The Twitter account #StillConcerned posted a clip of the Zoom lecture. Calls for disciplinary action ensued. In the video posted on Twitter, Poor asked students if anyone was from outside the U.S., and a student responded that he was from Wuhan, China. After hearing where the student was from, Poor made this comment. "Let me get my mask on." Following the backlash on Twitter, Poor wrote in a later email that the comment, which was in reference to Wuhan being the origin of COVID-19, was a joke. While Poor may have meant this comment to be humorous, some MU students do not see it in that way.
COVID breaks out at Phi Delta Theta house at U. of Missouri
Among the 168 students reported with positive COVID-19 tests to the University of Missouri are several who are members of Phi Delta Theta fraternity, the fraternity's national headquarters confirmed in a news release. The university began classes Monday with most students receiving at least a portion of their instruction online. MU also launched a dashboard tracking coronavirus infections on campus. It shows there are 159 active infections among students and 168 total reports of infection. Nine of the infections are no longer active. Physician Scott Henderson, medical director of the MU Student Health Center, said in a news release that MU expected some cases but also believes the disease can be managed. "As cases are identified, we will be isolating those students from the general campus population," Henderson said. "By following classroom guidelines that keep participants 6 feet apart and by requiring face coverings, the rate of transmission between students and instructors is expected to be very low."
Why was Education Secretary Betsy DeVos left out of speaking at Republican convention?
As speakers appear at the virtual Republican National Convention over four nights this week, one prominent but polarizing face will apparently be missing -- that of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. DeVos wasn't included on a list of more than 70 speakers scheduled by the Trump campaign to speak during the convention. That's somewhat surprising, education policy experts said, given her championing of giving parents more choice over what K-12 schools their children can attend, a popular position among Republicans. And as Politico noted in February, DeVos has been visible on the campaign trail for President Donald Trump, and she drew cheers while slamming one of Democratic nominee Joe Biden's main higher education proposals -- free college. Neither a Trump campaign spokeswoman nor Angela Morabito, an Education Department spokeswoman, would comment Monday on why DeVos was left out. But it's less surprising, said others, including Tamara Hiler, an education policy director at the centrist Third Way, considering polls show DeVos is deeply unpopular nationally, including with the key Independent voters who could decide the election, as well as the lukewarm support she receives even among a significant number of Republicans.
Ed Dept. Issues Final Distance Learning Rule
The U.S. Department of Education has released its final rule on distance learning, which it said would modernize regulations. "The Department's regulations regarding distance learning had not kept pace with advances in technology and they created tremendous uncertainty for institutions about what kinds of innovations were permissible, including innovations in team-approaches to instruction," said a fact sheet about the rule, which will not go into effect until July 1, 2021. The product of months of negotiations by a panel of experts, the final rule would among other things allow more flexibility to "emphasize demonstration of learning rather than seat time when measuring student outcomes," the fact sheet said. It was praised by Steve Gunderson, president of the for-profit college industry group Career Education Colleges and Universities. However, some experts, including Clare McCann, New America's deputy director for federal higher education policy, raised concerns. The biggest change is clarifying the term "regular and substantive" in the nation's main higher education law, said James Murphy, senior policy analyst with Education Reform Now.
Colleges Weigh Transparency Versus Privacy When It Comes to Covid-19 Data
When the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill sent students text alerts this month of four Covid-19 clusters, Annie Ferry had a simple question that hinted at a privacy debate looming over campuses around the country. "What is a cluster?" the UNC junior asked. Ms. Ferry expected groups of five or more cases in close proximity, per the state's definition of "cluster," as students started coming back in early August for some in-person classes. But UNC didn't specify the number of positive tests in each alert out of privacy concerns, leaving students like Ms. Ferry speculating that one cluster at a frat house could include dozens. "I'm scared because I don't like the way that information is being communicated right now," Ms. Ferry said. Other schools trying to open campuses are also grappling with how to collect and share data about the virus, raising questions among some students and faculty of where legal compliance ends and public relations begins.
'Will Purdue last?': University restarts in person amid pandemic
Outside an engineering building here in West Lafayette, Indiana, Lauren Johnson offered pandemic-safety gear to students hustling to the first classes of the fall term. But no one who had passed her so far on this blue-sky morning needed a "Protect Purdue" face mask. "I would say a majority of students are abiding by the regulations right now," Johnson said Monday. "It's not a perfect world, and we're going to have some people not follow the rules." The 22-year-old senior from West Lafayette belongs to a squadron of Purdue University safety "ambassadors" paid $9.50 an hour to promote measures the public institution is taking to protect its campus from the novel coronavirus. Purdue has become a national poster school for the push to bring students to campus and teach in person despite the public health crisis -- a push that in many other places has failed or is in deep jeopardy. The wave of fall reopenings, now accelerating, has exposed the fragility of plans once seemed solid. If Purdue is forced to pivot to an online-only semester, other public universities could face pressure to follow suit, said Christopher R. Marsicano, an assistant professor of the practice of higher education at Davidson College who is tracking pandemic responses.
Jerry Falwell Jr. Says He Has Resigned as Liberty University President
Jerry Falwell Jr. resigned as president of Liberty University late Monday night, following a tumultuous day during which he tussled with the university's board of trustees over his future at the school. In a phone call to The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Falwell said he had just sent his resignation letter to the board of the Christian school in Virginia. Mr. Falwell was placed on an indefinite leave of absence two weeks ago, following criticism about a photo he posted on social media showing him with his pants unbuttoned, a cup of dark liquid in one hand and his other arm draped around a woman. The woman, who Mr. Falwell said was his wife's assistant, also had her pants open. "The board put me on leave, took away my duties as prez, and that's not permitted by my contract," Mr. Falwell said Monday night. "And they put me on leave because of pressure from self-righteous people." Pressure for the college to part ways permanently with Mr. Falwell had ratcheted up on Monday, after Reuters reported that Mr. Falwell, 58, and his wife, Becki Falwell, had maintained a yearslong sexual relationship with Giancarlo Granda.
Biloxi's 15-year recovery from Hurricane Katrina offers lessons for other coastal cities
The one-two punch of tropical storms Marco and Laura along the U.S. Gulf coast eerily echoes Hurricane Katrina's arrival 15 years ago, on August 29, 2005. Katrina, which caused some US$170 billion in damages, remains the most costly storm in U.S. history. Much attention in 2005 focused on the devastating flooding that Katrina wreaked in New Orleans. But other hard-hit towns also have stories to tell. I've spent 15 years researching the storm's effects in Mississippi, centering on the city of Biloxi, home to about 46,000 people. Biloxi's history, culture and economy are tied to the Gulf, driven by seafood and tourism. Its nickname is "the playground of the South," an allusion to local beaches and its long history of illegal gambling. Today the gaming is legal: Eight of Mississippi's casinos are located in Biloxi. Those casinos employ over 7,200 people and generate close to $20 million annually for the city. In my forthcoming book, "Mississippi After Katrina: Disaster Recovery and Reconstruction on the Gulf Coast," I explore Biloxi's story and what it can tell other U.S. communities about long-term disaster recovery.

Why one voter put Mississippi State at No. 23 in Preseason AP Top 25 Poll
Only one voter of the 62 who make up the Associated Press Top 25 Poll put Mississippi State in the rankings. It was a writer who's fairly familiar with new football coach Mike Leach. Washington State beat writer Theo Lawson of the Spokesman-Review placed Leach's Bulldogs at No. 23 in the inaugural poll release Monday. Lawson covered Leach for three of the eight seasons Leach spent at Washington State. Here's why he placed MSU in his Top 25. "Washington State made top 25 appearances in each of Mike Leach's last five seasons in the Pac-12 and the Cougars spent 35 total weeks in the poll during that span, climbing all the way up to No. 7 in 2018. Of course, it took Leach six years to reach those heights. In the coach's first three seasons, the Cougars were just 12-25 and never sniffed the Top 25. At Mississippi State, though, he's set up to have more success right away. The Bulldogs will need a few years to master the Air Raid offense, but Leach is inheriting more than he did in 2012 when he arrived at WSU. "
Mike Leach's fixer-upper now in Mississippi
The thinking down in Starkville, Miss., for the 2020 SEC football season might go like this: Thank goodness for Arkansas. That would be two programs seemingly in a rebuild, with Mississippi State clearly restarting from a stronger position with three consecutive wins over the Razorbacks, the last two by hefty margins, and seven victories in the past eight games in the series. Just like Arkansas, Mississippi State is transitioning to a new coaching staff under quirky Air Raid offensive operator Mike Leach. Leach, who also interviewed with the University of Arkansas in December, has a two-decade history of leading conference outposts Texas Tech and Washington State into prominence, and he's looking to enhance that career theme in Starkville. The Bulldogs finished fifth in the SEC West last season, but they were gutted on defense with a host of NFL-caliber players lost. They also have an interesting quarterback duel taking place in camp.
College Football Playoff to be played as scheduled after 2020 season with no plans for spring 2021
College Football Playoff executive director Bill Hancock chuckled at Monday's redefinition of the CFP's promotional tagline: Who's In? Who, indeed. Apparently, not the Big Ten and Pac-12. For the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic put the entire 2020 college football season in question, the CFP seems to moving toward some basic conclusions. On Monday, it announced the dates of its CFP Rankings shows set for this fall. If there is a season, the College Football Playoff will take place as scheduled. The CFP Selection Committee will consider only the 76 teams set to play this fall, Hancock said. Those include teams from the ACC, BIg 12, SEC, American, Conference USA and Sun Belt, along with a few independents. The CFP more than hinted as much in a tweet that used the hashtag #2021Miami. Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, is the site of the CFP National Championship set for January 11, 2021. "We made the decision," a member of the CFP College Football Management Committee told CBS Sports. "We're moving forward with the plan as originally scheduled [to play this fall]." Another member of the committee suggested no such decision had been made.
Ole Miss announces football attendance plan for 2020 season
Last week Governor Tate Reeves announced an attendance limit of no more than 25 percent capacity for all Mississippi college stadiums and on Monday, Ole Miss announced their full attendance plan for 2020. Vaught-Hemingway Stadium will allow up to 25 percent of its maximum capacity to begin the upcoming season. After being bowled in a few seasons ago, the stadium seats up to 64,038 fans but will hold a maximum of 16,009 with the 25-percent cap. Home tickets will be available for fans on a single-game basis and sold in monthly selection waves. In each of those waves, fans will be able to choose from the next month's home games and pick their preferred stadium section. The student section will be in the north endzone this season. Student tickets will be on a single-game basis and sales will begin the Monday before each home game. With tailgating and other social gatherings on campuses banned by Reeves this season, fans are being encouraged to limit their time spent on campus before and after games. The Grove and Lyceum Circle areas will be used as pedestrian walkways only.
How Tennessee football will allocate tickets to fans with capacity limit
Tennessee will allocate football tickets to season-ticket holders in a descending order based on their Tennessee Fund annual gift amount and donor rank order. UT announced its ticket allocation strategy on Tuesday. Tennessee plans to restrict attendance at Neyland Stadium to about 25% of capacity because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Starting Thursday, donors in descending groups will receive an email from the Tennessee ticket office offering tickets in a specific location, along with a deadline to accept or decline the ticket offer. Fans will have 48 hours to respond to the email. If no response is received by the deadline, tickets will be considered accepted and charges will be processed. Seats will be assigned to create at least a 6-foot buffer between ticket groups. The location of allocated seats will be different from the season-ticket seats that originally were purchased. "I can't overstate how much I empathize with the thousands of fans who won't get to experience gameday in Neyland Stadium this fall," Tennessee athletics director Phillip Fulmer said.
Mizzou AD Jim Sterk: 'Pretty dang optimistic' about SEC football, fall sports
Guiding the Missouri athletic department during the coronavirus pandemic has qualified as uncharted territory for Jim Sterk. Sterk, who recently completed his fourth year as the Tigers' athletic director, said Monday afternoon that leading during COVID-19 has come with plenty of highs and lows. As of now, though, he's hopeful about the path forward for fall sports and the 10-game, Southeastern Conference-only football season that's scheduled to start Sept. 26, only 33 days away from his Monday conversation with reporters via Zoom. "I'm back to being pretty dang optimistic about what's going on. I've had my highs and lows, and you guys have gone through the ringer as well," Sterk said. "I was talking to (head men's basketball coach Cuonzo) Martin about it. All of us, we need some sports to occur, some contests to occur because we've been going through the past six months and it's just been crap the whole six months of dealing with all these different issues. We're missing the highs and lows of that competition. So, one, I'm very hopeful, and two, I'm optimistic. I don't control the virus, but I think the next two weeks will determine if we can get to that full season and so we'll see from there. Ask me again in two weeks."

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