Thursday, September 3, 2020   
SMART serves as some residents' sole means of transportation during pandemic
The Starkville-MSU Area Rapid Transit bus system has seen more than 4 million riders since it began in 2013, and the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has highlighted how necessary public transportation is for some area residents, local leaders say. The Mississippi State University campus closed in March, but SMART buses -- which are free to ride -- still carried 14,500 riders between March 15 and Aug. 8, Jeremiah Dumas, MSU's executive director of transportation, told Starkville aldermen at their Tuesday meeting. Since going out in public has been largely inadvisable due to the pandemic, "we know those people have no other transportation options," Dumas told The Dispatch. Dumas told the board in January that SMART saw a 20.5-percent increase in ridership in 2019. The SMART system's 11 routes with 71 stops cover 62.2 miles, and 83 percent of that mileage goes between the city and campus or is solely in the city. Mayor Lynn Spruill agreed with Dumas that SMART is especially beneficial to the city at this moment. "Particularly during times when it's extremely difficult to afford to go places, it serves as an asset to the community as a whole from an economic development standpoint," she said.
17th annual 'Get Swept Up' event a success in Starkville
The annual "Get Swept Up" event took place Wednesday morning in Starkville, where hundreds of volunteers hit the streets to keep the city as clean as possible. It was the first city-wide event since the pandemic. Paige Watson, Special Events and Projects Coordinator for the Greater Starkville Development Partnership, said following CDC guidelines was a top priority. "This event we only had to make one major modification," she said. "Typically in years past, people can kind of gather and our office kind of serves as a hot spot. You know the meeting central place for the event. But this year what we did was we staggered those pick up times for supplies before so you know, we kept everything within state health guidelines." Watson said the pandemic didn't impact the number of people who volunteered to help. "It was right on track with any other year," she said. Watson said it was great feeling to see the community come together, especially during a year that has impacted so many.
Sweeping the streets of Starkville
The Greater Starkville Development Partnership hosted its 17th annual Get Swept Up event bringing in residents of the Starkville community to clean the city streets. This event is normally tied to the beginning of the college football season. Mississippi State was scheduled to play its first home game this weekend until the Southeastern Conference voted to shorten the season. Ultimately, GSDP decided to continue the event on the original date. The GSDP Special Events and Projects Coordinator, Paige Watson, says this event embodies the community well. Watson explained that despite the coronavirus, over 500 people showed up to volunteer. Although this event is helpful for the community, it is also beneficial for those who came out to volunteer. "Just to see the strength of when people can unite together in a common purpose I think is so much for people's mental health and emotional health," said volunteer, Melissa Rogers. "[It] is something that is really needed right now."
Oktibbeha supervisors disqualify election commissioner candidate
Oktibbeha supervisors voted 3-1 in a special-call meeting Wednesday to disqualify a candidate for District 3 election commissioner after the incumbent questioned his opponent's time as a permanent resident of the county. Catherine Van Halsema, an independent, was running to challenge Republican incumbent Myles Carpenter. His Columbus-based attorney, William Starks, told the board of supervisors that Van Halsema's decision to vote in Indiana via an absentee ballot in November 2018 meant she would not meet the requirement of living in Oktibbeha County for a full two years before the 2020 election. Election day is Nov. 3 this year, and in 2018 it was Nov. 6. The Oktibbeha County Election Commission has five members, one from each district, that serve four-year terms. The commission is responsible for "managing all aspects of general and special elections in the county, maintaining an up-to-date list of registered voters, hiring and training poll workers, and assisting in the resolution of election challenges," according to the county website.
Mississippi flag: Magnolia could replace old rebel symbol
Mississippi voters will decide whether to accept a new state flag with a magnolia to replace an old one legislators retired under pressure because it included the Confederate battle emblem that's widely seen as racist. A commission voted 8-1 Wednesday to recommend the magnolia over one other final design that featured a shield with wavy lines representing water. "We'll send a message that we live in the future and not in the past," former Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Reuben Anderson, the flag commission chairman, said after the vote. The single design will go on the November ballot. If voters accept the design, it will become the new state flag. If they reject it, the design process will start anew -- and Mississippi will remain a state without a flag for a while longer. The commission decided Wednesday that leading to the November election, it will promote the magnolia flag by calling it the "In God We Trust" flag.
Mississippi Wants Magnolia to Be Centerpiece of New State Flag
The law setting forth the process to pick a new Mississippi flag had two main stipulations: The words "In God we trust" had to be on it, and the Confederate battle emblem, which had been featured prominently on the old one, could not. Beyond that, the flag could go in virtually any direction as long as it captured the spirit of Mississippi. On Wednesday, a committee tasked with choosing from among the finalists decided, 8-1, on a design with 20 white stars ringing a white magnolia flower against a dark blue and red backdrop. Now it is up to voters, who will have a chance to approve it in November. The magnolia already has roots firmly planted in the history and culture of Mississippi, as well as across the South, as a bold and fragrant avatar of a genteel vision of the past. Yet some on the panel also cast it as a forward-looking symbol of Mississippi's promise. "All of my life Mississippi has been at the bottom, 50th, in whatever category you can think of," said Reuben V. Anderson, the chairman of the commission, who had been the first African-American to serve on the Mississippi Supreme Court. "Whether income, health care or education, we've always been on the bottom. On Nov. 3, I think that'll start to change."
Mississippi judge rules those with underlying health conditions may vote absentee amid COVID-19
A Hinds County chancery judge ruled Wednesday that voters in Mississippi who have underlying health conditions may vote absentee, according to court documents. Judge Denise Owens cited as an example a woman with Type I diabetes who would otherwise be able to vote in person but is considered vulnerable to the coronavirus. Owens quoted from a 1964 case, Wesberry v. Sanders, in her decision: "No right is more precious in a free country than that of having a voice in the election of those who make the laws under which, as good citizens, we must live. "Other rights, even the most basic, are illusory if the right to vote is undermined. Our Constitution leaves no room for classification of people in a way that unnecessarily abridges this right." Owens pointed out that Secretary of State Michael Watson said he and his office "do not believe voters should have to choose between casting a ballot and risking their own health." She and the plaintiffs agree in that respect, she said. Owens said her ruling only applies to 2020 because of the global outbreak and will be repealed after Dec. 31.
Mississippi governor defends his use of phrase 'China virus'
Mississippi Republican Gov. Tate Reeves on Wednesday defended his practice of referring to the new coronavirus as the "China virus." Reeves has used the phrase several times, including in social media posts. Reeves supports President Donald Trump, who has also used the phrase. During a news conference Wednesday, Reeves was asked about his use of the phrase, including whether such language could be used to bully people of Asian descent. "I don't condone anyone bullying them," Reeves said. "I don't condone mask bullying, either." Reeves added: "Had this virus not escaped from -- however it occurred -- from the lab in China, I don't know that we'd be having the kind of conversations that we're having all day, every day. And that's just a fact." Trump and some of his advisers have repeated the unsubstantiated theory about the virus originating in a virology lab in China.
COVID 'escaped' from lab in China, Mississippi governor says after controversial Facebook post
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves stirred some controversy on Wednesday when he referred to COVID-19 as the "China Virus" in a Facebook post, and he seemed to give support to a conspiracy theory about the source of the virus in a media briefing later that day. In his Facebook post, Reeves used the controversial term while warning people to be cautious and practice social distancing during the Labor Day weekend. Later that afternoon, Reeves was asked during the media conference why he had used the name for the virus, with the reporter pointing out that some people of Asian heritage have been harassed with the term. Reeves had not been heard using the term much, if at all, prior to Wednesday. "I've said it multiple times," he said. "I would say that I don't condone any Asian-Americans or anyone from the People's Republic of China who happen to live in the U.S. ... I don't condone anyone bullying them. I don't condone mask bullying either. I think those who choose not to wear masks should not be bullied by their friends. I think we should encourage those to wear masks. It's a mandate in our state." Reeves then seemed to stoke a conspiracy theory that COVID-19 was either made in a lab or it escaped from a lab.
Cindy Hyde-Smith vs. Mike Espy is two months from today. Here's what top politicos think.
Two months from Election Day during one of the most uncertain political moments in American history, we asked top Mississippi politicos to share their thoughts on the 2020 U.S. Senate race between Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith and Mike Espy. Hyde-Smith, the Republican incumbent, has struggled to raise cash this cycle and has not yet built much campaign infrastructure, but she is banking on proxy support from President Donald Trump. Espy has built as robust a campaign as any Mississippi Democrat and hopes to break yet another racial barrier in his long political career. Click on the names of political experts below to read more about what they think of the 2020 Senate race, including Marty Wiseman, longtime Mississippi politico and professor at Mississippi State University: "I think Espy has got a shot, but everything has to fall perfectly," Wiseman said. "People would have to turn out to vote who probably haven't turned out to vote since the Obama races in '08 and '12."
Trump administration requests funds for agencies hurt by the pandemic
The White House is asking Congress to include half a dozen pandemic-related fixes in the next stopgap funding measure if they are not put into any future COVID-19 relief legislation first. In a 23-page "anomalies" document obtained by CQ Roll Call, the Office of Management and Budget on Wednesday requested dozens more adjustments in spending in a continuing resolution that would extend fiscal 2020 spending levels into the next fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. The request would cover adjustments in appropriations laws funding agriculture programs, defense, homeland security and other federal programs needed through the middle or end of December. Without adjustments, the stopgap would generally continue spending at current year levels until Congress passes and the president signs fiscal 2021 appropriations bills. A stopgap is needed because with only weeks until the next fiscal year begins, none of the 12 fiscal 2021 appropriations bills has been signed into law. The White House document includes a request for accelerated reimbursement to the Commodity Credit Corp., a federal agency under the Department of Agriculture that supports farm income and prices.
Analysis: Why Demographics May Make Trump's Reelection Tougher
President Trump's base has gotten smaller. That's a key finding of an analysis of how the U.S. electorate has changed since 2016, based on census data analyzed by the Brookings Institution and NPR. In 2016, Trump was helped to victory by winning a record margin among white voters without a college degree. But in the last four years, they have declined as a share of the voting-eligible population across the U.S. and in states critical to the presidential election. Nationally, the group has gone from 45% of eligible voters to 41%. Meanwhile, some other demographic cohorts -- whites with a college degree, Latinos and, to a lesser extent, Asian Americans and other groups -- have all gone up. The trend holds in the battleground states as well. Of the 16 states most likely to be closely contested this election, all but two have seen a decline in whites without a college degree as a share of eligible voters. College-educated whites, on the other hand, have gained in 14 of those states, according to the analysis. Almost two-thirds of whites without a college degree voted for Trump in 2016, and they are still among the largest voting blocs in the country. But the gap between them and other more Democratic-leaning groups is shrinking.
Facebook will ban new political ads in the week before election day
With just two months left until the U.S. presidential election, Facebook says it is taking more steps to encourage voting, minimize misinformation and reduce the likelihood of post-election "civil unrest." The company said Thursday it will restrict new political ads in the week before the election and remove posts that convey misinformation about COVID-19 and voting. It also will attach links to official results to posts from candidates and campaigns declaring premature victories. "This election is not going to be business as usual. We all have a responsibility to protect our democracy," Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a post Thursday. "That means helping people register and vote, clearing up confusion about how this election will work, and taking steps to reduce the chances of violence and unrest." Facebook and other social media companies are being scrutinized over how they handle misinformation, given issues with President Trump and other candidates posting false information and Russia's interference in the 2016 election and its ongoing attempts to interfere in U.S. politics.
JSU alum creates COVID-19 app
Jackson State University is using a new app to track the health of students and staff on campus. The Safr Mgt. app was developed by JSU alum Fredrick Burns, who said it could help universities around the country battle COVID-19. "The world as we know it has changed, and going forward, we need to take preventative measures," Burns said. "Students needed to return to school in a safe manner. We need some type of technology to help with that process. I realized that Jackson State would be a great candidate for us to roll out this application on a university level." The app works by sending students a health questionnaire asking about COVID-related symptoms. As students enter building around campus, they'll scan a code along with a temperature check from campus staff. The data is collected and sent to the university to track symptoms and potential outbreaks.
Halter Marine, MGCCC team up to mold apprentices into shipbuilders
A new apprenticeship program through Halter Marine is hoping to teach just 50 students the ins and outs of being a shipbuilder. The apprenticeship program -- which is being done in partnership with Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College -- kicked off classes Wednesday. The goal is to make the 50 men and women into professionals who can move up the ladder to build successful careers in the shipbuilding industry. "The sky's the limit. You can start out as a welding apprentice, electrical apprentice, whichever craft you're in, and get out of the apprentice school. When you get out, don't look at it as the end, look at is as the beginning," said Kevin Amis, Halter Marine Executive Vice President of Operations. That future starts with this program, which puts the students in classes while rotating on the job training at Halter. In all, the students will end the apprenticeship program with 576 hours of classroom work and 8,000 hours on the job. "Work yourself into an associate's, degree then into a bachelor's degree," said Amis. "All of that with having a skilled craft profession is a recipe for nothing but success."
Alabama makes its case to keep students on campus amid pandemic
If there were questions about Alabama's plan to keep in-person classes, the UA System's news release sent Wednesday evening had the answer. The headline in bold type stated "Leading medical experts caution universities that are considering closing" with quotes from doctors and infectious disease experts. It comes two days before the UA System plans to release its next round of student COVID-19 test results after more than 1,000 were infected in the first week of classes in Tuscaloosa. A handful of schools including North Carolina, North Carolina State and Notre Dame have ended or paused face-to-face classes after campus outbreaks. The Alabama campuses, it appears, are sticking it out. "There is a strong feeling among public health and infectious disease experts that it is safer to keep students on a college campus where there is COVID-19 spread rather than closing campus and sending students home en masse," said Dr. Michael Saag, an infectious disease expert who serves as associate dean of Global Health in the UAB School of Medicine.
What it's really like on the Alabama campus during COVID-19
One rarely leaves her dorm room. One never even left New Jersey to return to the Alabama campus. Another thought for sure he'd been infected by COVID-19 before testing negative. And Hayley Czarnek isn't even allowed to step into the law school since her re-entry test results never came back. Together, this group of University of Alabama students help paint a picture of the first two rocky weeks of a fall semester not only during a pandemic but on a campus dealing with its own outbreak. From bar closings to isolation dorm drama, more than 1,000 positive tests and general campus anxiety, it's been quite a time in Tuscaloosa. caught up with a few of the students initially interviewed to gauge the temperature entering this most unusual school year to see how the reality meshed with expectations. Few if any of their classes are meeting in person while one of the students spoke to from quarantine in his off-campus apartment.
Auburn University trustees to look at construction, budget Friday
Building projects and next year's budget are on the Auburn University Board of Trustees' agenda Friday morning, but COVID-19 is certain to come up repeatedly. The trustees will meet via teleconference at 9 a.m., as campus officials continue to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak among returning students. The university reported over 500 new cases of the virus Tuesday, but Medical Director Fred Kam said he had actually expected worse numbers from the second week of classes. There is no direct reference to COVID-19 issues on the agenda or in the board packet; however, Auburn University President Jay Gogue and/or Provost Bill Hardgrave will most likely update the board on virus-related developments during their comments. The university's 2020-21 budget is also on Friday's agenda. Kelli Shomaker, vice president for Business & Finance and Chief Financial Officer, will brief trustees on the plan, which must be adopted by Oct. 1. The proposal was not included in the board packet.
Auburn students say they have good Wi-Fi but poor connection
Last August, Auburn's campus was booming with students as the beginning of the fall 2019 semester began. Dining halls, the Student Center, classrooms and residence halls saw thousands of students eating, hanging out with friends, learning and studying. However, this year things are looking quite different around campus, especially for students living on campus at a time when many classes have moved online. So what is on campus living really like for those whose schedules are compiled of just online classes? Some students living in residence halls this year have mixed emotions about having mostly online classes. Savannah Aldridge, freshman in pre-nursing, is among them. "I feel like I have a hard time making friends and putting myself out there while being locked up in my room all the time," Aldridge said. Aldridge said she believes it's unfortunate the class of 2024 will have a more limited beginning of college than students of other years. She said she is worried about the possibility of being told she has to move off campus.
U. of South Carolina's COVID-19 cases rank among the highest on US college campuses
The University of South Carolina has more reported COVID-19 cases than almost any other major university in the country, a sign of the school's struggles to contain the virus after reopening the campus. USC's 1,192 reported cases since Aug. 1 is more than the universities of Florida, Mississippi, Virginia and Washington combined. During checks of university dashboards by The Post and Courier, the only college found to have more reported cases than USC was the University of Alabama with 1,201 cases. But Alabama's total goes back through March when the coronavirus outbreak began. Alabama has had 1,043 cases since Aug. 18, while USC surpassed it with 1,092 since classes started Aug. 20. USC is finding more cases, in part, because it is testing more students and staff than many other schools, according to university dashboards. And not all school data is current through this week like USC. "Quite frankly, sometimes I feel our aggressive testing program is going against our ability to build public confidence," USC President Bob Caslen said Wednesday.
U. of South Carolina quarantines another house in Greek Village, bringing total to 10
The University of South Carolina has quarantined a tenth house in its Greek Village due to cases of COVID-19, the school announced Wednesday. More than a fifth of USC's 48 chapters of fraternities and sororities and half of the Greek Village's 20 facilities and houses have now been quarantined because of the novel coronavirus. The school also confirmed that all the upcoming fraternity rush events would be held virtually instead of in-person to minimize large gatherings as USC deals with more than 1,000 cases of the novel coronavirus among students. Sororities held their rush events several weeks ago in-person, and university President Bob Caslen has said he was pleased with examples he saw of Greek life members practicing social distancing and wearing face masks to protect against the virus. On Aug. 25, however, two sororities were quarantined after multiple cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in each house. Since then eight other houses have been quarantined after Wednesday's announcements. University officials have said none of the cases have required hospitalizations.
Louisiana's colleges set plans for coronavirus case reporting; here's what to know
The state's public universities will start in two weeks reporting positive COVID-19 tests by campus on the Louisiana Department of Health's website dashboard. Some campuses are reporting the data on their own. The University of Louisiana at Lafayette started Wednesday and LSU started two weeks ago. But the state dashboard will include all colleges and universities. The UL campus at Lafayette reported 81 confirmed cases among students and faculty since March but none since Aug. 30. UL Lafayette created the dashboard "in the interest of transparency and accuracy," said Dr. Jaimie Hebert, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs. The numbers will be updated by 5 p.m. daily to reflect positive, documented cases confirmed the previous day. LSU reported 366 positive tests -- up by 137 cases -- from 3,544 tests since Aug. 15. Meanwhile, Nicholls State University in Thibodaux has quarantined 14 students. Higher education and health department officials met with the Board of Regents Wednesday to cobble out the protocols needed to ensure that the tests are reported the same way so that the information would be comparable.
Georgia college leaders worry as COVID-19 cases rise before Labor Day
COVID-19 cases have surged on some of Georgia's largest public campuses, impacting nearby communities and leaving school leaders worried about even more cases after the upcoming Labor Day holiday. The University of Georgia reported 821 positive cases between Aug. 24-28, part of its first full week of the fall semester. The number was four times higher than the prior five-day total of 189 cases. About one-half of the recent cases were self-reported by students and employees, which is required by the university. UGA announced Wednesday it's expanding a plan to have about 500 rooms on and off campus for students to stay in isolation or quarantine if they are showing symptoms of, have tested positive for, or have come in close contact with someone who has contracted COVID-19. Meanwhile at Georgia Tech, which reported 544 positive cases in August, its president announced plans this week encouraging students who share a room to move into a single room to slow the spread of the disease.
Forced-out U. of Kentucky dean details removal. Faculty expresses 'dismay.'
When he was forced out, the dean of the University of Kentucky's largest college was asked to sign a pre-typed resignation letter in exchange for a "generous offer" that would immediately expire if he didn't sign. Mark Kornbluh, the now-former dean of the 5,800-student College of Arts and Sciences, wrote in a letter to faculty that in a meeting Monday, Provost David Blackwell told Kornbluh that he'd "lost faith in me and my deanship was over." "I said that after eleven years, I deserved a reason," Kornbluh wrote in the letter that faculty received Wednesday afternoon. "I asked for the rest of the day to look at the papers and think it over. He indicated that I had to sign immediately, or the offer was off the table and he would terminate me. I said that I deserved to be treated better than that and left." Kornbluh's letter comes a day after faculty leaders within the college expressed their "profound dismay and disappointment" about the abrupt removal of the dean earlier in the week. UK spokesman Jay Blanton did not comment on why Kornbluh was no longer dean.
Texas A&M President Michael Young says he will leave position next May
Texas A&M University President Michael K. Young is retiring from his current position at the end of May and moving into other roles at the school. With a final academic year remaining, Young said there are several items he wants to continue to focus on before beginning his time as the first director of the Institute for Religious Liberties and International Affairs at the George H.W. Bush School of Government and Public Service. Young also will become a tenured faculty member at the A&M Law School. Young said he sees his upcoming time at the Bush School as an opportunity to work on subjects that he is passionate about, adding that the institute is a platform for serious scholarly work. Additionally, he said, it will bring international relations and religious communities together and create a better understanding of religious sensibilities in an effort to develop ways of interacting that can ensure peace. "I am at heart an academic," Young said in a Wednesday interview. The Harvard Law graduate has led A&M's flagship campus since 2015.
U. of Missouri COVID-19 testing gets more complicated as cases soar
Nearly 700 University of Missouri students have tested positive for the coronavirus since Aug. 19, according to the university. At the same time, MU has revised the process for getting a COVID-19 test, and some students are confused about the steps they need to take to get tested. In the weeks leading up to Aug. 24, the first day of classes, community members displaying COVID-19 symptoms could go to the Mizzou North testing site and receive an evaluation without a health provider's order. This was because MU "had a mechanism in place at the drive-thru site to assess patients and provide an order onsite if needed," Liz McCune, associate director of MU News Bureau, wrote in an email. Then, the students arrived and the demand for testing increased. "Many students showed up for testing without provider orders," McCune said. This required MU Health Care to assess them onsite "before they could be swabbed," McCune said via email. "This slowed our process and caused longer wait times." The new requirement to have a referral before driving to testing sites has made the process more efficient, McCune said. However, it has also created an additional barrier for some students.
State politics influenced college reopening plans, data show
Colleges and universities looked at several factors when determining whether to reopen their campuses to students for the fall, including local COVID-19 case numbers, campuses' ability to physically distance students and what students said they wanted in surveys. But another factor seems to have played a major role in the decision-making process, one that is not being touted in news releases or letters to the community: colleges' decisions appear to be closely tied to whether the state they are in is red or blue. Data from Ad Astra's College Crisis Initiative was able to predict the likelihood of whether an institution planned to be in-person or predominantly in-person for the fall term based on the political leanings of the state. "In an ideal world, perhaps it shouldn't matter whether there's a D or an R after your governor's name," said John Barnshaw, vice president of research and data at Ad Astra, which provides scheduling software and consulting services to institutions of higher education. "But it seems to matter, for better or for worse."
Do student suspensions violate rights or protect others?
About a dozen students temporarily suspended or put on probation for breaking their college's COVID-19-related public safety rules have sought legal support from civil liberties advocates. The students say they were punished for behavior on or off campus without being given an opportunity to explain their actions or defend themselves. Andrew Miltenberg, a prominent lawyer who represents students in claims of due process violations, said he has been "informally counseling" six first-year students at Syracuse University, Notre Dame University, Elon University and other colleges who said they violated public health directives -- at times accidentally -- and were put on probation without a formal hearing or the chance to state their case to university officials. The Foundation for the Individual Rights in Education, or FIRE, a campus civil liberties watchdog, received six similar complaints during the weekend of Aug. 29 to 30 and has since been "inundated" with reports from students claiming they're unfairly facing suspension, said Will Creeley, director of legal and public advocacy. But despite how unfair students perceive swift disciplinary sanctions to be, university student conduct officials must weigh removing individual students that pose potential public health or safety risks with the need to keep others on campus safe.
'Irresponsible and dangerous' partying by some students leads U. of Illinois to crack down on social activity and warn of suspensions
Despite an expansive testing program and models that predicted how many COVID-19 cases would pop up on campus, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is confronting a grim reality shared by other colleges attempting to stay open: Partying among undergraduate students is leading to hundreds of more infections than anticipated, jeopardizing the in-person experience for everyone. UIUC, the state's largest university, has tallied roughly 780 new cases on its downstate campus among students, faculty and staff since classes began Aug. 24, according to Martin Burke, a chemistry professor leading the school's testing program. Earlier Wednesday, the school had characterized the number as "more than 400″ before clarifying during a news conference. During a virtual news conference Wednesday afternoon, Provost Andreas Cangellaris said the school is prepared to clear out dorms and revert to remote learning, as happened in the spring, if cases don't decline. In the news release, officials cited concerns that hospitalizations would be required if infections continued to spread at a rapid rate.
Iowa grad students and faculty stage 'sickout' to protest campus reopening plan
Faculty, staff and students at the University of Iowa staged a "sickout" Wednesday, the latest in a series of escalating calls to end face-to-face instruction during the pandemic. "I feel so utterly powerless about a situation very quickly and clearly getting out of control," said a teaching assistant in world languages, literatures and cultures who participated in the sickout and did not want to be identified by name for fear of disciplinary repercussions. Megan Knight, associate professor of instruction in rhetoric, participated in the sickout. Knight said in an interview that there is "really a lack of leadership here and real confusion on my part as to, 'OK, who's in charge here? Who's going to make decisions based on science and what we know about public health?' It really feels like we're at sea." Campus leaders are following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, state and county health officials, and the Board of Regents for the State of Iowa, the statement said. Faculty and staff members, meanwhile, "have responded with incredible agility, thoughtfulness and grit and we are grateful for their efforts to support our students in person and online."
College Political Activists Trade Door-Knocking For Apps To Register Voters
The start of the new school year is prime time for registering college students to vote and getting them excited about casting ballots in November -- many for the first time. But this fall, those students who can return to campus are doing so under restrictions aimed at keeping the coronavirus from spreading. That means political organizing at universities is going virtual. Figuring out how to reach people during a pandemic is hard, said Ben Rajadurai, executive director of the College Republican National Committee. He led campus Republicans at Stonehill College in Massachusetts before graduating in 2017. "We were trained, like, knock doors, not keyboards," he said. "And then overnight, it's like, no, no, no, knock keyboards ... You quite literally cannot knock doors right now." On campuses across the country, club recruiting fairs are happening on Zoom. College Republicans and Democrats are using Instagram and Facebook to promote virtual events. Members are swapping political memes on messaging apps like GroupMe.

How Jamar Chaney's run as a high school coach prepared him to return to Mississippi State
Jamar Chaney is right at home. Following a five-year NFL career that spanned four teams, a three-year run at his alma mater St. Lucie West Centennial High School in Port St. Lucie, Florida, and a one season spell under former head coach Dan Mullen at Florida, Chaney has promptly carved a niche on a staff long on experience, but short on MSU ties. Staying in contact with MSU Senior Associate Athletic Director of Football Dave Emerick throughout the offseason, the pair traded messages over potential positions on first year head coach Mike Leach's staff. Settling on a senior defensive analyst role, Chaney was officially hired on July 15. "We wanted to get Jamar back home," Emerick told The Dispatch. "He played here, had a great career here, played in the NFL. (He's a) young guy, a lot of energy players relate to." Given his official title, Chaney's on-field responsibilities are limited by NCAA rules. Despite that, he's quickly developed an acumen on the recruiting trail rooted in his time as a high school coach.
College football is back. So are fans in stadiums. How does Southern Miss plan to pull this off?
Leave it to Southern Miss football coach Jay Hopson to sum up 2020 with a front-runner for understatement of the century. "It's been a different spring," Hopson said. "It's been a different summer. This year everything has been different. ​​​​​​" However understated he may be, Hopson is right. 2020 has been different. Nearly six months after the spread of novel coronavirus led to the World Health Organization declaring a global pandemic, life as we know it still isn't normal. And there's no indication when that normalcy might come. But on Thursday night, Hopson's Southern Miss team has the opportunity to be a beacon of hope. The Golden Eagles host South Alabama at 8 p.m. Thursday in the first college football game of the year between two FBS schools. Not only that, but they'll be doing so in front of a limited crowd, playing contrast against a fanless NBA bubble and empty MLB stadiums this summer. "We don't always play in an arena where all eyes are on from the standpoint of really being the only show in town," Southern Miss athletic director Jeremy McClain said. "It's a unique opportunity, it's a huge opportunity. I know our coaches and student-athletes understand that, and the plan is to go out and take advantage of that. I just feel blessed to lead the way and have all eyes on our program Thursday night."
Coach-turned-author John Barry still loves football but urges caution during pandemic
Mississippi sports columnist Rick Cleveland writes: Three facts you should know about author John M. Barry, the former football coach whose masterful historical literary works include both "The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Greatest Plague in History" and "Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America": Barry, who once coached football at the high school, small college and major college levels, remains a huge fan of the sport who admits to watching replays of games from yesteryear on the SEC Network. Because of his exhaustive research for his book about the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918-19, Barry has become a renowned expert on pandemic preparedness ... Despite his love for football and his knowledge of pandemics, Barry doesn't have a hard-set stance on whether or not college football should be played during the current COVID-19 pandemic. The season begins in Mississippi Thursday night when Southern Miss plays host to South Alabama. "It's a very difficult question," Barry said.
ESPN's 'GameDay' to debut with destination reveal show, college football broadcast teams released
Booger McFarland is back on the college football scene, and we're sure to find out where ESPN's "College GameDay" will be headed this season with a special two-hour season premier on Saturday, Sept. 5. ESPN announced, among other things, its broadcasting teams for the upcoming college football season, which includes McFarland -- a Monday Night Football analyst the past two year -- joining host Kevin Negandhi and analyst Mark Sanchez on ABC as part of the studio lineup for the 2020-21 season. McFarland will also join ESPN's "Monday Night Countdown" NFL pregame show. ESPN's main vehicle, "College GameDay Built by The Home Depot" will kick off the season this Saturday, Sept. 5, at 10 a.m. (11 a.m. EST), with a special two-hour preview show. Host Rece Davis will be live from ESPN's Bristol, Conn., studios, while analysts Lee Corso, Kirk Herbstreit, Desmond Howard and David Pollack will be live from remote locations. Maria Taylor will also contribute to the program. The destination of GameDay's first road trip of the 2020 season, set for Sept. 12, will be announced during the show.
Texas A&M AD Ross Bjork says all football season ticket holders who want tickets in 2020 will get some
With the deadline passed for Texas A&M season ticket holders to opt in or out of the reshuffled 2020 football season, A&M athletics director Ross Bjork said on the Studio 12 radio show that Kyle Field will be able to accommodate all who chose to opt in under a 25% capacity restriction. Those who chose to opt in should have received an email with an appointment time between Sept. 8-11 to select new seats, according to the 12th Man Foundation. Kyle Field's seating chart will be altered due to social distancing guidelines. "Overall, we had a really good response, a strong response," Bjork said on the radio show. Season ticket holders who initially opted to buy tickets this season can change their mind during the seat selection period. A final total of how many tickets will be issued to season ticket holders, and in turn the number of student tickets that will be set aside, will be determined closer to the Aggies' season opener against Vanderbilt on Sept. 26.
Vanderbilt football has 'small number' of COVID-19 positive tests
A week after returning to football practice following COVID-19 positive tests, Vanderbilt athletics reported a few more on Wednesday. "A small number of positive COVID-19 test results within the football and soccer programs" were confirmed through a university statement. However, the football team appears to be moving forward with preseason practice after a small adjustment. The football team was originally scheduled to practice Wednesday and take a day off Thursday. Instead, it took off Wednesday and plans to practice Thursday, athletics spokesperson Alan George confirmed. Coach Derek Mason also was scheduled to have a Zoom call media availability Wednesday, but it was postponed. "The student-athletes that tested positive for COVID-19 have been placed in isolation per the university's protocols," the statement continued. "... We will continue to follow our safety guidelines and implement additional measures as necessary during the (football and soccer) programs' activities."
Nick Saban stands by Alabama football players' approach to Monday march
Not all was positive from the University of Alabama's march Monday against racial injustice. For all the unity and empowering words spoken at the schoolhouse door of Foster Auditorium, there was vitriol and criticism, specifically on social media. UA coach Nick Saban's own daughter, Kristen Saban Setas, experienced it herself. Saban is not interested in the backlash. Saban defended the team and athletic department's actions in his Wednesday press conference via Zoom. "I don't have an opinion about everybody else's opinion. We try to do the right things, we try to provide positive leadership for our players," Saban said. "I don't think they've ever come out and said they support any organization, good, bad or indifferent. They support concepts of things that can be done in the future."
Mizzou student-athlete march focuses on unity, justice
Cason Suggs says he vividly remembers the first time he saw someone who looked like him on television. Suggs, now a junior on the Missouri track and field team, was watching a nightly news show Feb. 26, 2012. He turned up the volume only to hear the anchor announce the death of Trayvon Martin, an African American teenager. Martin had been fatally shot while walking home from a Florida convenience store. Suggs, who is also Black, remembers the news segment ending with how "the suspect claimed that (Martin) was armed," but it "was a bag of candy." George Zimmerman, the man who killed Martin, claimed self-defense under Florida's Stand Your Ground Law. Zimmerman was a neighborhood watch coordinator for the gated community where the incident occurred. Martin had been temporarily visiting there with family. Zimmerman, who called 911 to report the 17-year-old Martin as suspicious before the shooting, was charged and tried but was acquitted by a jury the following year. Suggs told that story on Wednesday while standing on the sidelines of Faurot Field in front of approximately 600 people in the stands after Missouri student-athletes led a peaceful march for awareness of social justice issues. At the forefront of the protest was unequal treatment of African Americans.
Ohio State President Kristina M. Johnson making a stand in favor of fall football
Ohio State's stance on playing football in the face of the coronavirus pandemic has maintained a sober yet confident consistency since the spring. Whether the words came from athletic director Gene Smith or football coach Ryan Day, the message seldom changed. Ohio State regarded COVID-19 with appropriate concern. It declared on multiple occasions that medicine and science would direct their decisions and policies. New OSU President Kristina M. Johnson joined the Big Ten's coronavirus conflict late. She became involved in the voting process before her tenure technically had begun. Coming from the outside, hers was an unpredictable voice. Early rumors of OSU being on the cancellation side of a 12-2 vote came at a juncture of some confusion as to who represented the school's voice in the Big Ten deliberations. Now officially on the job, Johnson is speaking clearly about her and Ohio State's position. Diplomatically, she has not spoken in terms of specific dates while the Return to Competition Task Force on which she serves and the rest of the Big Ten work towards some resumption of play. Johnson, though, emphatically wants Buckeye athletes back on the field soon. Johnson confirmed a report that she preferred delaying the Big Ten's decision, rather than applying the finality of cancellation.
Former tennis star James Blake encouraged by social activism, five years after police tackled him
James Blake, the newest commentator on the ESPN crew at the U.S. Open, was among the most popular American tennis players of his era. The nation's top collegian coming out of Harvard in 1999, he was ranked as high as No. 4 in the world, defeating Rafael Nadal at the 2005 U.S. Open and following that with an epic five-set quarterfinal against Andre Agassi -- just 15 months after he crashed into a net post and broke his neck during a training session. Next week will mark the fifth anniversary of a more sobering memory for Blake, 40. Waiting outside his midtown Manhattan hotel to get a car service to the Open, Blake, an African-American, was jumped, slammed to the ground and handcuffed by a white plainclothes New York City police officer. Four other officers closed in for support. Police said it was a case of mistaken identity. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner William Bratton apologized to Blake. The officer, James Frascatore, was docked five vacation days as punishment. USA TODAY's Wayne Coffey spoke to Blake before he went on the air Tuesday. The interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.
Trump and the right loved Clay Travis. The fight over college football sealed their bond.
For fans of college football, hope came Wednesday in the form of a presidential tweet. "Had a very productive conversation with Kevin Warren, Commissioner of the Big Ten Conference, about immediately starting up Big Ten football," President Trump tweeted. "On the one yard line!" Though the fate of Big Ten football remains unclear, the tweet offered a momentary boost to fans, whose fall suddenly looked less desolate, and to Trump, for whom empty college football stadiums could signal to some swing-state voters his failure to respond to the coronavirus pandemic. But it was perhaps an even bigger moment for Clay Travis, who reportedly brokered the phone call, completing his only-in-2020 transformation from abrasive sports blogger to influential conservative sports radio host to apparent Trump campaign surrogate. For years, Travis, who also hosts a gambling show on Fox Sports and runs a website called Outkick, has been building a brand partly rooted in attacking progressive athletes and accusing ESPN of liberal bias. But this summer, as the pandemic, protests over racial injustice and the approaching election collided with the return of sports, Travis's nascent mini-media empire has morphed into the go-to platform for Republicans hoping to win over sports fans.

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