Friday, September 4, 2020   
Labor Day gatherings, travel could bring COVID spike to area
As Labor Day weekend begins, state leaders and health experts are urging caution among citizens to avoid COVID-19 case spikes following the holidays -- when family reunions and large gatherings tend to take place. In Lowndes and Oktibbeha counties, each of which has a sizable college student population, university officials are concerned that student travel during the holidays may lead to higher case counts after they return to class. Following students' return for the fall semester, both Mississippi State University and Mississippi University for Women have witnessed outbreaks on campus. School officials worry holiday travels during Labor Day weekend may further fuel the spread of the virus. Among the roughly 22,000 MSU students enrolled for the semester, the daily average number of students on campus is about 13,000, said MSU Chief Communications Officer Sid Salter. Salter told The Dispatch on Thursday university leaders are concerned about a potential jump in the number of cases among students following Labor Day weekend. "We are advocating the students, for the protection of their families and ... the university community, that they limit their travel as much as possible," he said.
MSU-Meridian announces new degree in educational psychology
Students at Mississippi State University-Meridian now can earn a Bachelor of Science degree in educational psychology. "We are constantly looking for ways we can expand opportunities for students interested in working in the educational environment, both here locally and across the state," said Kimberly Hall, head of MSU-Meridian's Division of Education. "We felt adding this degree program was a good fit." According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the market for educational psychologists is projected for 15% job growth over the next several years. Educational psychologists focus on understanding the science of learning. They are particularly interested in factors that affect student learning and achievement, such as motivation, individual differences in abilities, student exceptionalities, creative thinking and personality. Educational psychology also includes learning techniques for assessment, statistics and research methodology. Carlen Henington, professor of educational and school psychology, spearheaded the development of the program on the Meridian campus.
MSU-Meridian program gets former students back on track
"I had to put my education on hold to take care of my father," she said. "He was all that I had. I'm going to complete what I started." After he passed, Jennings decided to go back to school, enrolling in a program at MSU-Meridian called Complete 2 Compete. The statewide program is designed to help Mississippi adults who have earned college credit -- but not a degree -- complete their education. The state's eight public universities, 15 public community colleges, and the medical center participate in the program. The program started in 2017 and helps students 21 and older who have been out of school for the last 2 years. Since the program started, 1776 degrees have been awarded, 306 at Starkville and 74 at Meridian. Kristi Dearing, coordinator of advisement and transfer partnerships MSU-Meridian, said the program offers traditional and online classes.
MSU Receives Grants for Blindness Research and Solar Fuel
The National Institute on Disability, Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research recently gave a five-year, $4 million grant to Mississippi State University's National Research and Training Center on Blindness and Low Vision to fund seven research projects focused on greater employment outcomes for people with blindness or low vision. NRTC researchers will evaluate the effects of virtual interview training for youth, develop and test an interactive video to educate employers about blindness and low vision and evaluate the effectiveness of teaching job search skills through videoconferencing, a release from MSU says. Other project goals for NRTC include identifying internal and external barriers to labor-force participation, exploring employment predictors and outcomes using national datasets and evaluating the accessibility and usability of job-application websites. Also, the US Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy awarded Like Li, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Mississippi State University, with a $2.5 million grant for a project to develop a low-cost, zero-emission fuel that can efficiently store solar energy. Li is partnering with researchers at Michigan State University, Oregon State University and Purdue University Northwest on the three-year project.
In COVID-19 era, limit family visits after bringing newborn home
Parents welcoming a newborn in the COVID-19 era face potentially tough decisions regarding family visits after delivery. Newborns do not have fully developed immune systems, so they are more vulnerable to illness and serious symptoms if they get sick. A mother's immune system is likewise compromised. Alisha Hardman, family life specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said pregnant women are at an increased risk for suffering more severe cases of COVID-19. They more frequently require hospitalization and are more likely to be placed on ventilators. "Parents are being put in an impossible situation to balance the health and safety of their newborn with maintaining social and family bonds," she said. Lori Elmore-Staton, an assistant professor in the MSU School of Human Sciences, said it can be tricky to explain that people are not yet allowed to visit when they are eager to meet and hold the baby. Those who are allowed around the child should follow all safety requests of the parents. Each family will make slightly different decisions based on its current situation.
Starkville plans to suspend 'untenable' recycling program
The declining market for recyclable materials and the COVID-19 pandemic have led Starkville officials to rethink the usefulness of having a recycling program for the city. Starkville suspended curbside recycling pick-up in March as a cost-saving measure due to the pandemic and gave participants the option of dropping off their recyclable materials at the sanitation building on North Washington Street. Since then, the city has actually had to pay more than it did before to get rid of the materials, Ward 2 Alderman Sandra Sistrunk said. The city will suspend the recycling program entirely at the start of Fiscal Year 2021, on Oct. 1, a budgetary decision in response to the ongoing pandemic. Only about 10 percent of city residents have signed up for recycling, said Sistrunk, who chairs an ad hoc committee that formed last year with the goal of improving the recycling program. "It not only didn't turn a profit, it was losing money, and when the people who pick up and haul our materials away raised their rates, it just became untenable," she said.
The MAX inducts five new members into its Hall of Fame
Five Mississippians who have made an indelible impact on the world of entertainment were honored Thursday with Mississippi's highest honor in the arts. Bo Diddley, John Lee Hooker, Jerry Lee Lewis, Margaret Walker and Tammy Wynette were inducted into The MAX Hall of Fame. Those legends will join 23 earlier honorees saluted in the two-story Hall of Fame rotunda at The Mississippi Arts + Entertainment Experience, better known as The MAX, in the heart of downtown Meridian. Because of COVID-19 guidelines, the induction took place at a private ceremony on the stage of the MSU Riley Center's historic theater. Walk of Fame stars extend along the two blocks of sidewalks between the Riley Center and The MAX. The 2020 stars were unveiled directly in front of The MAX itself on Front Street bringing the total of Walk of Fame stars to 32.
Families celebrate as The MAX honors 5 inductees in Meridian
When she took the stage at the MSU Riley Center Thursday evening, Zakiya Hooker-Bell performed a few of her father's songs. It's nothing she hasn't done before, but for the daughter of famous blues singer and guitarist John Lee Hooker, Thursday's performance had extra meaning: Hooker was one of five men and women being inducted into The Mississippi Arts + Entertainment Experience's 2020 Hall of Fame Class. "Like I always say, I think he should get every award in the world," Hooker-Bell said with a chuckle, "but you know it's not up to me. It's very humbling to know, to understand this man was. When I was growing up, we didn't have a concept of him being who he is. He was our father, but each award he gets I just become more and more proud of the heritage he left behind." Hooker was inducted alongside writer/poet Margaret Walker and musicians Bo Diddley, Tammy Wynette and Jerry Lee Lewis at a ceremony that began at the Riley Center and ended at The MAX, where their markers were unveiled on the sidewalk next to the museum.
5 Mississippi legends inducted into The MAX Hall of Fame
On Thursday, five Mississippi artists were inducted into The MAX Hall of Fame in downtown Meridian. Due to COVID-19 guidelines, the induction took place at a private ceremony on the stage of the Mississippi State University Riley Center's historic theater. The legendary artists will also receive Walk of Fame stars along two blocks of sidewalks between the Riley Center and The MAX, directly in front of the hall of fame on Front Street.
General Atomics adding 125 employees in $39.5M expansion
For the 12th time in its 15-year history -- and the fifth time since 2013 -- in the Tupelo Lee Industrial Park South, General Atomics is expanding. This one is the largest to date, as the San Diego-based defense contractor is adding 125 workers in the $39.5 million expansion over the course of five years. Since 2018, the company has invested $70 million in the facility; that figure does not include the latest expansion. General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems is increasing its manufacturing capacity to accommodate the addition of three national security components/technologies manufacturing projects for the U.S. Dept. of Defense. "Since 2005, General Atomics has been at the forefront of manufacturing some of the most technologically advanced components for the U.S. Navy and other military installations," said MDA Interim Director John Rounsaville. "By continually investing in its Lee County operations and creating high-skilled jobs for the region's workers, General Atomics contributes significantly to the growth of Northeast Mississippi's economy and the region's communities." The Mississippi Development Authority is providing a $1.75 million grant for the installation of cranes and $450,000 in MS Works Funds for workforce training.
Toyota Mississippi shares safety procedures with school administrators
Administrators from three Northeast Mississippi schools visited the Toyota Motor Manufacturing Mississippi plant in Blue Springs on Thursday morning to observe and discuss the company's COVID-19 safety procedures. Jerry Bailey, Senior Manager for Safety at Toyota Mississippi, showed superintendents and administrators from Tupelo, Monroe and North Tippah around the facility for a firsthand look at the company's Safe@Work COVID-19 pandemic preparedness and response plan. School officials observed a $10,000 Hikvision thermal scanner, one of six at the plant. Team members are scanned as they enter the facility and anyone with a temperature of 99.9 degrees or higher is pulled aside and has his or her temperature checked with another thermometer. If the second reading is also high, the individual is isolated and evaluated by the medical team before a decision is made to either send them back to work or home to quarantine. Besides allowing administrators to visit the plant, Toyota recently produced 12,500 face shields for distribution to six schools across three counties -- Lee, Union and Pontotoc.
Economy added 1.4 million jobs in August, and the unemployment rate fell below 10 percent
The U.S. economy added 1.4 million jobs in August, sending the unemployment rate below 10 percent for the first time since March, a glimmer of good news as the pandemic continues its march across the country. The unemployment rate fell to 8.4 percent, and is the latest positive economic indicator that the economy continues to slowly recover. Yet, with the number of people unemployed close to 14 million in August, there's still a long way to go, economists say. "We're finally in single digit territory -- that's a positive," said Beth Ann Bovino, chief economist at S & P Global Ratings Services. "This is a good report." The job gains were driven by hiring in government, particularly temporary Census workers, who accounted for 238,000 new jobs -- more than one out of six of the jobs added overall. Other sectors that have been hit hard by the pandemic showed signs of growth, including retail which added 249,000 positions, leisure and hospitality, which added 174,000 jobs back, mostly in restaurants, bars and other food establishments, as well as education and health services, with 147,000 jobs gained.
Judge: Absentee voting OK with pre-existing health issues
Mississippi voters with health conditions that might make them vulnerable to COVID-19 must be allowed to vote by absentee ballot, a state court judge has ruled. However, the judge rejected an argument that people without pre-existing conditions should be allowed to vote absentee if they are following public health guidelines to avoid large social gatherings. Hinds County Chancery Judge Denise Owens handed down the order Wednesday and it applies statewide. Secretary of State Michael Watson said Thursday that he is appealing Owens' order to the state Supreme Court. He said in a statement that he wants clarification so circuit clerks can know what does or does not qualify as a "temporary disability" under the state law that governs absentee voting. "We are certainly pleased that the judge has recognized the danger that in-person voting poses for people with pre-existing conditions, and we think she is right to hold that under Mississippi law they are permitted to vote absentee," Mississippi Center for Justice attorney Rob McDuff said Thursday. McDuff said plaintiffs will ask a higher court to overturn the part of Owens' order that went against them.
Elections chief to appeal ruling that allows early voting for some during pandemic
Secretary of State Michael Watson said he will appeal a ruling by a Hinds County judge that would allow early voting for people with pre-existing conditions who feel they could be at risk from COVID-19 this November. In the ruling handed down late Wednesday, Chancellor Denise Owens ruled people with pre-existing conditions that could be worsened by the coronavirus can vote early in person at the circuit clerk's office or by mail. Owens stopped short of granting a request of a group of Mississippi voters to allow all people with COVID-19 safety concerns to vote early. The judge's ruling was in response to a lawsuit filed by the Mississippi Center for Justice, the ACLU of Mississippi and the national American Civil Liberties Foundation. Owens based her ruling on a provision in state law that says people could vote early because of a permanent or temporary disability that put that person or someone else in danger at the polling place.
State law shows Gov. Tate Reeves' executive orders aren't 'suggestions,' despite what keyboard warriors say
Since Gov. Tate Reeves began issuing executive orders in response to the coronavirus pandemic six months ago, staunch social media critics have repeatedly called the orders "suggestions" and downplayed their legality, expressing concerns about constitutional violations, and called the governor a tyrant. A 3 On Your Side analysis of Mississippi law shows Reeves is authorized by statute to make such orders during a declared emergency. Furthermore, a law can take a variety of forms, according to Mississippi College School of Law Professor Matt Steffey, including Reeves' executive orders. "Mostly, it takes statutory forms if it comes out of the Legislature, [as] regulations or orders if it comes out of an executive branch like the governor, and [as] judicial decisions and orders if it comes out of a court," Steffey said. "If a court orders you not to come within 500 feet of your soon-to-be-ex-spouse, even though the Legislature didn't pass that in the form of a statute, I assure you, it's law."
Democrat Mike Espy holds first in-person rally of 2020 senate campaign
Democratic U.S. Senate hopeful Mike Espy held an outdoor rally at a Jackson church Thursday night, the first in-person rally of a senate campaign upended by the coronavirus. The rally was supposed to feature voting rights advocate and Georgia politician Stacey Abrams, but technical difficulties with a video stream made it almost impossible to hear her. More than 100 cars parked around Espy, who spoke from a stage in the middle of the parking lot of New Hope Baptist Church, akin to a drive-in movie theater. It was sweltering on the blacktop and rather than clap or cheer, supporters stayed in their cars with the air conditioning running and their radios tuned to an audio feed of the speakers. When they heard something they liked, supporters blared their horns. With two months to go before the Nov. 3 election, Espy tried to draw a sharp contrast between himself and Republican opponent Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith on issues such as the federal response to the pandemic, police brutality and taking down the old state flag. Espy framed himself as the candidate of change and progress. "We're gonna vote out the old Mississippi," he said. "We're gonna vote in the new Mississippi."
Jimmy Carter endorses absentee ballots after White House cites him
Former President Jimmy Carter underscored his support of absentee ballots, pushing back against senior Trump administration officials who cited his 2005 study on mail-in-voting to question the practice in recent days. In a short statement released late Thursday by the Carter Center, the Plains resident said, "I approve the use of absentee ballots and have been using them for more than five years." Carter's comments came shortly after Attorney General William Barr referenced a bipartisan report by the Federal Election Reform Commission, which Carter co-chaired with former Secretary of State James Baker in 2005, to cast doubt on mail-in-voting. The commission concluded that "mail-in voting is fraught with the risk of fraud and coercion," Barr said in a Wednesday interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer. Carter linked back to a May statement in which the Carter Center urged federal and state governments to expand access to vote-by-mail and "provide adequate funding as quickly as possible to allow for the additional planning, preparation, equipment, and public messaging that will be required."
Why a Civil Rights Veteran Thinks the Protests Are More Like 1963 Than 1968
The summer of 2020 is certain to be included in future history books, not only for Covid-19 but also for the wave of demonstrations across the country sparked by the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police in May. But just as the pandemic is not truly unprecedented, neither is the mass movement for racial equality. Except it's not 1968 that we should compare with the current moment. According to historian Clayborne Carson, it's 1963. When it comes to the struggle for civil rights, Carson, a professor of American history at Stanford University and the director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute, knows the past better than most. He attended the March on Washington. He experienced police brutality firsthand in the 1960s. And he's studied and written about the life and legacy of civil rights activists ever since. Politico Magazine spoke with Carson this week to ask what he thinks of the current iteration of the struggle, how it compares with the previous era and what protesters today could learn from their predecessors. He's impressed by the number of young activists who have taken to the streets, and he rejects the notion that looters are representative of the movement. But he also notes the conspicuous absence of "moral leaders" who take it upon themselves to maintain a peaceful public image for the protests. "Having these people be role models for how you can do it a different way, how rage can turn into the kind of commitment that John Lewis displayed, I think that kept the movement more or less in the realm of nonviolent activism."
A president undecided: how ASB president Joshua Mannery is navigating his role as a Black student leader during the COVID-19 pandemic
When Joshua Mannery won the race for student body president in April, he knew he would play a different role than past presidents. The world had already been plunged into disaster aversion from the COVID-19 pandemic, and the University of Mississippi was in the beginning throes of managing virtual classes. In the weeks following, Mannery launched into advocacy work, marching in protests for the relocation (not glorification) of the Confederate monument on campus and leading the student discussion about how the university community would address racial issues moving forward from the murder of George Floyd on May 25. "From May 25 until probably about June 10, was a time that was very important to me," he said. "'I'm not going to bring in some sort of spiritual notion that I was supposed to be president at that time, but I think having an African-American male serving and leading a university like the University of Mississippi helped this community find its voice and its perspective about everything that's going on." However, as students have returned to Oxford and protests surrounding the university's monument have died down, Mannery has found himself questioning what responsibilities he can or should take on during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Former MDE director indicted in contract kickback conspiracy
A former director at the Mississippi Department of Education has been charged in connection to an alleged conspiracy to circumvent the state's contract procurement process and award contracts to individuals in exchange for kickbacks. Cerissa Neal, the former director of the Office of Educator Licensure, is accused of conspiring with three others to split contract requests from one contract into smaller contracts in order to avoid the required competitive bidding process. She would then allegedly award the contract to her co-defendants' businesses at an inflated price. Neal is being charged on one count of conspiracy; seven counts of wire fraud; one count of money laundering; and three counts of bribery. The federal indictment charges Neal and three Tennessee-based business owners of fraud by "bid rigging, false quotes, and altered purchase orders" in order to make money for themselves and their businesses.
Steve Bishop named President of the Mississippi Association of Community Colleges
Dr. Steve Bishop, President of Southwest Mississippi Community College, has recently been named the president of the Mississippi Association of Community Colleges. Bishop, who is beginning his tenth year as president of SMCC, will serve a two-year term chairing and representing the MACC. The MACC consists of the 15 Community College presidents from around the state. Mississippi has been consistently recognized as one of the best community college systems in the U.S. Bishop began his career at Southwest Mississippi Community College as an instructor in 1992, Vice President for Student Affairs in 2004, and became President in July 2011. He is a 1988 graduate of Southwest Mississippi Junior College, earned a B.S. degree from the University of Southern Mississippi and a Master's of Arts from Southeastern Louisiana University. He received his PhD in Higher Education Administration from the University of Southern Mississippi in 1997.
U. of Alabama officials defend school's COVID-19 measures
Despite a rise in COVID-19 cases after students returned to classes, officials with the University of Alabama and the University of Alabama System defended their preparation and said it's likely safer for students to remain on campus. Dr. Richard Friend, dean of UA's College of Community Health Sciences, spoke with members of the media via Zoom on Wednesday, saying "Nothing has gone wrong" with the UA approach as far as testing, sanitation and distancing measures in campus buildings, and preparations for quarantine and isolation space. Later that afternoon, a news release came from the UA System office quoting Dr. Mike Saag, professor of medicine in the University of Alabama at Birmingham Division of Infectious Diseases, and UAB Senior Vice President for Medicine and School of Medicine Dean Selwyn Vickers, both members of the UA System Health and Safety Task Force. Although positive COVID-19 tests have risen in Tuscaloosa since classes resumed in mid-August, Friend said there's no evidence any viral transmission has occurred in a UA classroom, and that there are no reports of students being hospitalized.
'You don't exist': Inside U. of Alabama's COVID-19 isolation dorms
University of Alabama freshman Caleb Overstreet has been living under isolation in the university's Bryce Lawn apartment complex since shortly after he tested positive for COVID-19 at Coleman Coliseum the afternoon of Aug. 27. He first started experiencing symptoms the prior morning, but said he was only able to get an appointment for a rapid COVID test after calling the university's coronavirus hotline more than a dozen times and leaving numerous voicemails over two days. Since then, Overstreet says he has grown increasingly disillusioned with UA's preparation for, and response to, the school's massive COVID-19 outbreak. He is particularly critical of the university's student isolation regime. "They kind of pretend that once you get it, you don't exist," he said in a Wednesday phone interview from inside his isolation room. "It's like they assigned a single person to manage all the COVID cases. That's how it feels, like they pumped all of their energy into how it looks and then didn't pump any energy into what happens if COVID shows up. They're overwhelmed."
'A dream come true': First class of EAGLES students graduates from Auburn
This past year, Auburn's EAGLES program, a comprehensive transition program for students with intellectual disabilities, graduated its first class of students. Josh Greiner, Anna Moates and Bradley Basden all make up the first graduating class, and while they all went through the same program, they each have different things that they want to accomplish after graduation. EAGLES, or Education to Accomplish Growth in Life Experiences for Success, can either be a two-year or a four-year program for students. While completion of the program does not award a degree to graduates, the program aims to focus on skills that can be applied after graduation to a job or form of employment. For Moates, her experience with EAGLES at Auburn couldn't have been better. "I definitely am excited about graduating from EAGLES and about what my future has to offer," Moates said. "My EAGLES experience has definitely been such a dream true for me; I really couldn't be a part of anything better."
Black Greek plaza coming to Auburn University campus
The National Pan-Hellenic Council Legacy Plaza is in the works on the Auburn University campus. The fraternities and sororities on a college campus belong to one of three councils: fraternities are part of the Interfraternal Council, sororities are part of the Panhellenic Council and the historically black fraternities and sororities make up the National Panhellenic Council. Plans for the legacy plaza were presented and approved during the board of trustees' April meeting. The plaza will consist of ten commemorative markers, one central marker and nine individual markers to represent the nine organizations that make up the NPHC: Alpha Phi Alpha, Alpha Kappa Alpha, Kappa Alpha Psi, Omega Psi Phi, Delta Sigma Theta, Phi Beta Sigma, Zeta Phi Beta, Sigma Gamma Rho and Iota Phi Theta. The NPHC Legacy Plaza will be built in front of the university's new Academic Classroom and Library Complex, with construction set to begin in 2022.
How did an LSU student drive into the middle of the quad? It happens more than you might think.
As LSU students settled into the start of the school year, social media lit up Tuesday when somebody got lost and drove into the heart of campus. "Girl driving her car through the middle of the quad: 'Where's the nearest street?'" said a tweet from the account @OverheardLSU, with a picture of the lost motorist. "Welcome back, tigers." LSUPD helped the student escape the quad. She was not charged with anything. It's a strange place for a car to end up. Like many universities, LSU is advertised as a walking campus. Most streets are typically closed from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on weekdays to ensure the safety of pedestrians. And, even when streets are open, the quad is only accessible by walking paths. But apparently this happens more than you might think. LSU spokesperson Ernie Ballard called the incident a "common occurrence." Former LSU students on Twitter mentioned they had seen the same thing happen in their time on campus.
U. of South Carolina temporarily halts saliva tests on campus after key lab employee falls ill
The University of South Carolina Thursday temporarily halted saliva testing -- touted as a faster, cheaper and more comprehensive way to contain the school's COVID-19 outbreak -- for students and faculty after a key staffer at its testing lab fell ill. The suspension of the free testing program comes amid skyrocketing case counts on campus. Nearly 1,200 students and employees at the state's largest college tested positive for COVID-19 last month, giving USC one of the highest case counts of any college in the country. USC expects to resume saliva-based testing next week after working with West Columbia-based Nephron Pharmaceuticals and the state Department of Health and Environmental Control to beef up lab staffing. The school said the lab employee who became sick this week was essential to its testing operation. USC did not disclose the employee's name or the illness that shut down its lab. USC was one of only a handful of colleges in the United States to develop saliva-based tests for its students and employees. But the rollout has been bumpy so far.
Anita Hill to speak to U. of Florida virtually at first Accent event of the semester
Anita Hill, lawyer and Brandeis University professor, will speak to UF Sept. 10 during a virtual event hosted by Accent Speakers Bureau and the Women's Student Association. The 6:30 p.m. event will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the passing of the U.S. Constitution's 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote, but for years did not apply to Black women. "Dr. Hill will bring a diversity of knowledge to the UF community, including how the 19th Amendment explicitly excluded women who were not white – particularly Black women – and we need to remember that when discussing the 19th Amendment," WSA President Elizabeth Lossada-Soto wrote in an email. The event will be a 45-minute virtual conversation between Hill and moderator Debra Walker King, a UF English professor, followed by a 15-minute student Q&A session, Accent chairman Steven Wolf wrote in an email. Up to 3,000 attendees can attend the hour-long Zoom discussion.
COVID-19 cases among students continue to rise as U. of Kentucky begins new forms of testing
Positive COVID-19 cases continued to rise among University of Kentucky students -- making up nearly half of the city's cases newly reported cases on Friday. Of Lexington's 111 new cases, 50 were among UK students,the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department reported. Since Aug. 29, the department has reported nearly 399 new cases among students and 856 cases since Aug. 3 when UK began its initial testing strategy. According to UK's COVID-19 dashboard -- which lags behind health department data -- there are 463 active student cases and 323 recovered cases as of Monday. The university reported 85 students in isolation, with 60 of them residing in the on-campus isolation dorm and another 25 fraternity and sorority students isolated in their houses. Isolation dorms were at 36 percent capacity. The university began its initial tests for wastewater screening of on-campus residential facilities this week, UK President Eli Capilouto announced in an email to campus on Thursday. In addition to that the university will also be maintaining an outdoor testing facility on the lawn between The 90 dining facility and the William T. Young Library where asymptomatic students can get tested.
Texas A&M names 17-person committee to search for next president
Texas A&M University has formed a 17-person committee to search for the university's next president, A&M System Chancellor John Sharp announced Thursday. A&M is searching for a new president at its flagship university after current president Michael K. Young announced Wednesday he would retire at the end of May 2021 and return to teaching and lead the new Institute for Religious Liberties and International Affairs within the Bush School of Government and Public Service. The search committee will recommend a minimum of three candidates to Sharp who will refer one of them to the Texas A&M University System Board of Regents. The committee includes two Texas A&M System regents: Chairman Elaine Mendoza and Vice Chairman Tim Leach. "Selecting a university president for this great institution, particularly in these challenging times, is of paramount importance," said Sharp in a statement.
U. of Missouri leaders to request campus as site for new saliva-based test
University of Missorui leaders will meet with Gov. Mike Parson on Friday to request that the university become one of the state's first sites for saliva-based COVID-19 testing, UM System President and MU Chancellor Mun Choi said Thursday as the virus continues to spread through the campus. MU's testing process and communication with the campus community -- including messaging to undergraduate students and publicly available data -- also came under scrutiny from MU's Faculty Council in the body's first meeting of the academic year. Stevan Whitt, an infectious disease doctor at MU Health Care, said the university's task force for testing, contact tracing and quarantining determined early on that mass testing would not prevent the spread of the virus. Instead, MU would opt to emphasize behavioral prevention -- such as social distancing and mandated face coverings -- while testing symptomatic members of the community. Some universities chose to perform mass testing prior to or immediately following students' arrival on campus this fall. Choi pushed back on that decision, saying that testing could "give a false sense of security," and disagreed with a characterization of MU's testing process as "minimal."
Dr. Anthony Fauci Urges Colleges Not to Send Students Home
As some colleges close residence halls and send students back home to communities, Dr. Anthony Fauci is expressing concern about inadvertently spreading the virus. "It's the worst thing you could do," Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Wednesday on NBC's Today show. "When you send them home, particularly when you're dealing with a university where people come from multiple different locations, you could be seeding the different places with infection." Fauci is the second high-ranking public health official to urge colleges not to send students, who could be infected but asymptomatic, back into communities. As reported by The Daily Beast, Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House's coronavirus response coordinator, told governors in a call Monday to urge college presidents to keep students on or near campus. "Sending these individuals back home in their asymptomatic state to spread the virus in their hometown or among their vulnerable households could really recreate what we experienced over the June time frame in the South," Birx reportedly said. "So I think every university president should have a plan for not only testing but caring for their students that need to isolate."
If Joe Biden Wins, Who Could Be the Next Secretary of Education?
With election season very much upon us, a question is on the minds of higher education leaders. If former Vice President Joe Biden wins the presidency, who would he choose for secretary of education? Last year, Biden promised his pick would be an educator. "First thing, as president of United States -- not a joke -- first thing I will do is make sure that the secretary of education is not Betsy DeVos," he said at a National Education Association forum for presidential candidates. "It is a teacher. A teacher. Promise." As the election draws closer, speaking with education scholars about Biden's possible picks feels a lot like playing fantasy football. Dr. James Earl Davis, the Bernard C. Watson Chair in Urban Education and professor of higher education at Temple University, even broke down his list of hopefuls into seven different categories: experienced policy leaders, "new kids on the block," legislators, academic leaders, philanthropists, progressive policy thought leaders and more. Suffice to say, there are a lot of names floating around the higher education world.
College Activists Aren't Backing Down
This summer, protests broke out across the country and even the globe over the killing of George Floyd by police officers in Minneapolis. As the fall approaches, student protesters are contemplating how to bring that activist energy to campus. Compounding the challenge is, of course, the uncertain strictures of the Covid-19-era college, where much learning is remote and where large gatherings present a new kind of risk. Last month The Chronicle convened a virtual event to talk with several student activists, at different kinds of colleges and with different political leanings, about their goals and concerns for the coming year.
U. of Michigan faculty say administration has not been transparent
When the University of Michigan made its decision to reopen campus for the fall, things were looking good. The administration released a plan in June, when case counts were low and hospital beds open. In the time since that announcement, university leadership has been the subject of serious distrust, concern and speculation by faculty, staff and students. With the Faculty Senate currently considering a vote of no confidence in the administration and the graduate employees union considering a strike-authorization vote, there is now significant frustration among employees. Top of mind for several staff members is what they see as a severe lack of transparency from the administration. "It's just a pattern of a kind of theater of consultation," said Silke-Maria Weineck, a professor of comparative literature and German studies at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. Public relations experts have continuously stressed that the key for any administration to maintain trust during a reopening is to be communicative and transparent about a plan and the foundation it's based on. Some staff say the university has taken the opposite approach.
How Covid-19 Exposed the Cracks in a Public-Private Housing Deal
Julia Depuy loved staying in Paca House during her freshman year at Towson University. So when it came time for her to decide on a place to live as a sophomore, her family signed a lease in February to put her back in that building -- in the very same room, in fact. Then the pandemic hit, and she was sent home with a refund for the rest of the spring semester. In July, even though the Maryland campus still planned to reopen for the fall, she knew that all of her classes would be online, so she and her family sought to cancel the lease. The university doesn't own Paca House, so the Depuys approached Capstone On Campus Management, a private company that runs Paca and other college housing, which denied their request. As they called around, they learned that a quasi-public economic-development corporation, not Capstone or the university, actually controlled the Paca leases, with extensive obligations to bondholders. In the months since, Depuy, his wife, and his daughter have spent countless hours figuring out the highly complex world of higher education's public-private partnerships.
US investigations of Chinese scientists expand focus to military ties
Scientists with ties to the Chinese military have been visiting the United States for years, says Brad Farnsworth, vice-president of the American Council on Education in Washington DC -- but only now are officials "really looking very carefully at the background of the people who come here, particularly from China". Exactly how the FBI and the US Department of Justice are focusing their investigations remains unclear, but literature analyses -- including one from Nature -- are beginning to illuminate how widespread links are between US researchers and Chinese scientists with potential military ties. The lack of concrete information from US authorities has triggered concerns that some scientists might be unfairly accused of espionage. Many of the top hospitals in China, for example, are affiliated with the military, says Mary Gallagher, a political scientist who studies US-China relations at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. "And so by default, if you're a doctor at one of those hospitals, you're going to have an affiliation with the Chinese military." That affiliation doesn't automatically mean that if you're collaborating with a US researcher you're engaging in espionage, she says.
Filling the virtual bookshelf
Angela Farmer, an assistant clinical professor in the Shackouls Honors College at Mississippi State University, writes: One of the best ways for students to improve their reading levels, word comprehension, and fluency is to read, and frequently. One of the easiest ways to nurture this skill regularly is to visit one's local library. Unfortunately, with the world of COVID it may be difficult to schedule these visit the library or the local bookstore with the frequency previously afforded. Furthermore, it is expensive to frequently purchase books for children's reading leisure. Fortunately, there are a variety of other options, many of which may be unfamiliar to a number of consumers. In addition to accessing e-books from one's local library, there are hundreds of free access books available if the family subscribes to Amazon Prime. Typically, a subscription allows the reader to check out up to 10 titles, which can be downloaded to a Kindle, a tablet, a computer, or even a smartphone. However, there are a number of other options which are less well-known sources for readers.

What Mike Leach said about Mississippi State quarterback competition
Not so fast. If you thought all K.J. Costello had to do to earn the starting quarterback job at Mississippi State was show up on campus after transferring in as a graduate from Stanford, then think again. Coach Mike Leach said Costello is still battling freshman Will Rogers and sophomores Garrett Shrader and Jalen Mayden as Week 3 of training camp continues. Leach added some insight into the competition during his first appearance on "Dawg Talk" Thursday. "You know I'm kind of waiting for those guys to separate themselves," Leach said. "I guess that's been a little frustrating. I guess that's good because they're competitive. Sometimes they're competitively good and sometimes they're competitively inconsistent." Costello wins in a runaway on paper, but football isn't played on paper. It's played between the white lines. Leach said Costello is ahead of the others, but he's still waiting for him to definitively "rise to the top."
'It's different, but I guess it's still football season': Southern Miss falls to South Alabama as FBS football returns
It's been 28 years since Billie and Billy Roberts first called section H, seats No. 1 and 2 home on Saturdays in the fall. Both 1969 graduates of Southern Miss, the pair met during their junior years in Hattiesburg -- dating for one quarter, separating for five and getting together for their final few months on campus before marrying on May 1, 1970. Living in nearby Biloxi and, more recently, in Gulfport, following a three-year spell in Johnson City, Tennessee and a one-year stint in Asheville, North Carolina due to Billy's work as a kinesiotherapist for the U.S. Department of Veteran's Affairs, the couple has spent the better part of the past four decades making the hour-and-15 minute trek in their decked out mobile home for game days. Having retired their tailgate on wheels two years ago with their ages creeping past 70, Billie shook her black and yellow tinged pom-pom viciously, while Billy hunched over a walking cane courtesy of the full hip replacement he endured 67 days ago Thursday night. Five days since FCS foes Austin Peay and Central Arkansas quelled the rabid palettes of college football faithful with their season opening showdown last weekend in Montgomery, UAB became the first FBS team to officially kick off its year just an hour prior to the festivities in Hattiesburg.
SEC creates voter education program to stress the importance of voting
Two weeks after a league-wide council dedicated to racial equity and social justice was launched, the Southeastern Conference has created a voter education and participation program for the league's schools. The SEC announced Thursday morning that its Voter Education and Participation Program will support engagement of the league's players, coaches and staff in the November general election and other local, state and federal elections. The program will stress the importance of voting, and it requires every SEC athletic department to provide educational sessions, resources and access to campus or community experts. According to the SEC's news release, the NCAA Division I Council is considering a recommendation to boost encouragement for voting by designating the first Tuesday after Nov. 1 of each year as a mandatory off day from countable athletically related activities. The SEC said it is also discussing whether to hold athletic activities on Nov. 3, the scheduled date for the 2020 general election.
Mizzou Black Student Athlete Association rises to meet community needs
The genesis of the Mizzou Black Student Athlete Association didn't come as a response to Jacob Blake's shooting, nor the murder of George Floyd. Although the idea started being floated around during the national wave of racial injustice protests in the aftermath of Floyd's death, it was more to fill a void in the Tiger community. Cason Suggs, the MBSAA's first president and junior track and field sprinter, asked athletes who attended other schools to see if organizations like the one he wanted to help create existed. He found out the answer was yes, and after networking through MU athletics, it was time to erect the MBSAA. The organization's first event was Wednesday night's MU student-athlete peaceful march to bring awareness to social justice issues. After the end of the 1.3-mile march from the columns on Francis Quadrangle to Memorial Stadium, the around-600 event-goers staged a sit-in from the venue's bleachers while MBSAA leadership spoke to the crowd from Faurot Field. The sit-in began with five minutes of silence while MBSAA officers all knelt, including MU football's Kobie Whiteside, who took a knee where he'll play defensive tackle this fall.

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