Tuesday, September 8, 2020   
MSU Alumni Association announces incoming leaders
The Mississippi State University Alumni Association welcomes a new national treasurer and a slate of new and returning directors for its national board. These individuals began terms July 1, representing the university's more than 149,000 living alumni and the 104 chapters and clubs of the association. Along with these officers, the association welcomes the following directors to its national board. Fred Monsour of Meridian will serve a second term as Mississippi South 1 Region Director. He is a longtime volunteer and past president of the Lauderdale County Alumni Chapter who has been influential in raising funds for the chapter's scholarship. He earned a Bachelor of Business Administration in economics in 2002 and an MBA in 2005. Jonathan Jackson of Hickory will serve as Mississippi South 1 Region Director. He is active in the Newton County Alumni Chapter as student recruiting chair and with the Alumni Recruitment Network. He also participates with the annual MSU alumni band reunion. He earned a Bachelor of Science in biological sciences in 2010.
Vicksburg's Riley Nelson named an officer of MSU Alumni Association
The Mississippi State University Alumni Association welcomes a new national treasurer and a slate of new and returning directors for its national board. These individuals began terms July 1, representing the university's more than 149,000 living alumni and the 104 chapters and clubs of the association. Riley Nelson of Vicksburg enters into a new three-year term as national treasurer. He earlier served as Mississippi Central 3 Region Director. Prior to that, Nelson held leadership roles, including multiple terms as chapter president with the Warren County Alumni Chapter. At MSU, he is a member of the Richard C. Adkerson School of Accountancy Advisory Council. He earned two degrees from the school, a 1999 Bachelor of Accountancy and a 2001 Master of Taxation. Nelson is a managing partner with May and Company LLP.
Art exhibition opens to in-person and virtual viewing
The Starkville Area Arts Council (SAAC) announces a Fall Juried Exhibit titled "The Light that Persists: Mississippi Artists in 2020 -- SAAC Juried Exhibition." This hybrid exhibition is installed in and hosted by the Mississippi State University Virtual Arts Center Gallery and will be available for virtual viewing as well. Guest Juror Turry M. Flucker, Art Collections director and curator at Tougaloo College, selected more works by local and regional artists curated from submissions to the #CDAF2020 Juried Arts Competition. "Although we were unable to host #CDAF2020, we are very excited to find a silver lining with the Juried Arts submissions in creating this exhibit," said SAAC Executive Director John Bateman. "This also gives us a chance to explore alternative programming, and Lori Neuenfeldt with the MSU Department of Art has been an extremely valuable collaborating partner in this aspect." This free exhibit is on display at the MSU Visual Arts Center, 808 University Drive in Starkville, during regular hours, 1-6 p.m. weekdays and Saturdays 1-4 p.m. A virtual version will also be available on SAAC's website through starkvillearts.net.
Area farmers in need of more sunshine to finish corn harvest
Clear skies and low humidity are at the top of Chico Williams' wish list as he works to harvest his crops. Williams, farmer with the Lakeland Planting Company in Hollandale, said they got a slow start to cutting corn and soybeans Monday. "We're really just getting started and trying to get started cutting beans as weather permits," he said. "These little showers pop up in the afternoon but other than that, we're slowly trying to get started." In Stoneville, Mississippi State University's Delta Research and Extension Service Rice Production and Soil Fertility Specialist Bobby Golden on Thursday said corn, in the Delta, is about halfway finished with the harvesting process. "We're further along with corn than rice or beans. With beans, we just barely got started, we haven't done a lot, but we're cutting corn fast," he said. Although farmers the past few years have faced planting delays due to rainfall during planting season, Golden said they are still behind a normal year's harvesting schedule due to recent heavy rains and current humidity levels.
Mississippi farmers are seeing a decrease in cotton crops
Although there isn't as much as in year's past, Mississippi's cotton crop is looking good. Farmers around the state planted about 520,00 acres of cotton. That's down about 26% from last year's numbers. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports 65 percent of the state's crop is in at least good condition. Mississippi State Extension Service Agents say northeastern Mississippi saw excessive rainfall and it is impacting the growth of cotton here. Rain and the financial markets caused farmers to plant less cotton this year. December futures are about 65 cents a pound, about the same as last year. One reason is because most cotton products are discretionary, such as clothing, and consumers started spending less during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mississippi cotton has a strong boll set nearing harvest
Mississippi has a good-looking cotton crop in most places, but acreage is down to 520,000 acres because of a rainy planting season and unfavorable market conditions. The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Aug. 31 estimated 65% of the state's crop to be in good or excellent condition. The rest is considered fair, with just 8% in poor condition. State growers planted 680,000 acres of cotton in 2019, 26% more than this year's acreage. Brian Pieralisi, cotton specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said much of the state's cotton is loaded with bolls. "This year, we were able to get most of our acres in on time, and then we entered a weather pattern of a lot of rain before it got dry again," Pieralisi said. "This pattern allowed a really good root system to develop in a lot of places and allowed growers to address most weed issues."
Starkville shops stay open on Labor Day weekend
Labor Day is the final day of summer but not everyone took the day off to soak up the sunshine. Several businesses in Starkville kept their doors open to customers for the holiday. Victoria Lindsey works at George-Mary's and she said working on this Labor Day was her labor of love to the community during the pandemic. "It's just a chance for us as a business to give back to the community of Starkville and sort of honor their achievements in whatever their respective jobs are," said Lindsey. Lindsey explained creating a normal atmosphere during the coronavirus pandemic is therapeutic for shoppers. Customers filled George-Mary's at a steady pace. Masks and social distancing was required by all customers that entered the store. "I feel like a little bit of life is being breathed back into Starkville," Lindsey said.
64 trees likely to be removed for retail center at Garan site
Starkville's landscape advisory board voted 5-1 on Wednesday to remove the 64 pine trees that tower over Highway 12 near the intersection with Industrial Park Road, where the Garan Manufacturing building will be replaced in about a year with a retail shopping center. Garan is scheduled to move to a new location at the North Star Industrial Park in northern Starkville, and the new development by Castle Properties will include an ALDI grocery store. Developers must preserve at least 50 percent of trees with a diameter of at least 10 inches at new developments, according to Section 16.7 of the city's unified development code approved in December after nearly three years of rewriting. Castle Properties owner Mark Castleberry said the development will have an underground water detention system in order to comply with Starkville's stormwater ordinance, which means the Garan site will be completely razed and the new dirt on top of the trees' roots will eventually kill them. Richard Harkess, chairman of the landscape advisory board and a member of the plant science faculty at MSU, agreed with Castleberry that the pines would not survive the disturbance to their roots and said the selection of new trees, including oaks, will be better for the environment.
Navistar investing $8 million, adding 500 jobs to West Point plant
Military vehicle manufacturer Navistar Defense LLC is adding 500 new jobs to its West Point facility as it invests $8 million to upgrade it. "Navistar Defense's decision to add hundreds of new jobs for the people of Clay County is a strong testament to our state's business climate and our dedicated, skilled manufacturing workforce," Gov. Tate Reeves said. "Our national government relies on Mississippians to keep our military and allies safe. I know these 500 Mississippians will work hard to maintain Navistar Defense's high profile within the vehicle manufacturing and defense industries, while continuing its long-standing tradition of quality workmanship in West Point." The Mississippi Development Authority is providing assistance for building improvements. "Job creation is critical to building strong economies throughout Mississippi. The addition of 500 new jobs at Navistar Defense's facility in West Point is reflective of Mississippi's outstanding capacity and workforce talent within the defense industry," said MDA Interim Executive Director John Rounsaville. "We appreciate the collaboration between MDA, the Golden Triangle Development LINK, Clay County, the city of West Point and TVA, which has proven invaluable as we've worked to bring this project to fruition."
Mississippi reports 249 new COVID-19 cases, no deaths
The Mississippi State Department of Health on Tuesday reported 249 newly identified cases of COVID-19 and no additional deaths. The statewide total of COVID-19 cases identified since the onset of the novel coronavirus pandemic now stands at 87,379 and the death toll 2,585. The majority of Mississippi residents who have contracted the disease have recovered. As of Aug. 30, MSDH reports 67,918 people presumed recovered from the virus. Most counties in the Daily Journal's coverage area reported additional cases. The additional case counts are: Alcorn (2), Benton (2), Calhoun (3), Clay (4), Itawamba (7), Lafayette (13), Lee (16), Marshall (4), Monroe (10), Oktibbeha (1), Pontotoc (6), Prentiss (6), Tippah (4), Tishomingo (2) and Union (2).
During pandemic, Black families put trust in Black doctors
Dr. Janice Bacon was exactly the person Kay McField hoped to talk to when she found herself spending most of her days in bed, feeling too depressed to get up as the coronavirus pandemic threatened those around her. As she watched those closest to her test positive for the virus -- a goddaughter and her uncle, whom she cares for, among them -- McField said she was terrified that she or her daughter, who both suffer from autoimmune diseases, would fall ill. When she wasn't in bed, the 51-year-old single mother was cleaning her house compulsively. A Black primary care physician practicing in Mississippi for nearly four decades, Bacon works at an all-African American-run trio of community health centers in Hinds County, where the population is overwhelmingly Black -- and where the most coronavirus cases have been reported in the state. Research suggests Black patients have better outcomes when treated by Black doctors and nurses. Yet, only 5% of doctors nationwide are Black, and only 2% are Black women, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.
Analysis: GOP keeps control amid special legislative races
The Mississippi Legislature is already seeing some turnover just a few months into this four-year term, but it's not enough to tilt control away from Republicans. The term started in January, and two freshmen Republicans in the House stepped down just a few weeks later because of a dispute over whether they could collect their state government pensions while also serving at the Capitol. One Republican representative and one Republican senator resigned mid-year because of health concerns. And one Democratic representative and one Republican senator stepped down after taking other jobs. Republican Sen. Gary Jackson of French Camp resigned June 30 because of health concerns. Jackson had served since 2004. The district is in Choctaw, Montgomery, Oktibbeha and Webster counties. The candidates are Bricklee Miller, Levon Murphy Jr., Bart Williams and Joyce Meek Yates.
Busy September for ag spending, farm-state races
Get ready for a massive month from Congress to the campaign trail. The usual September sprint for a government funding deal comes during an unusually divisive election season and, of course, a pandemic and economic crisis that lawmakers and the White House are still struggling to confront. And there's lots at stake this month for ag policy and farm-state races, with eight weeks until Election Day. The Trump administration is expected to roll out another round of farm stimulus programs this week, even though the Agriculture Department has yet to distribute the full $16 billion in direct payments for producers stung by supply chain disruptions. (USDA has paid farmers at least $9.4 billion so far.) Congress plans to authorize billions more in agricultural aid as part of a broader economic rescue package that might finally come together this month, though there's still no clear path forward. Lawmakers will also need to extend funding for USDA and other agencies to prevent a shutdown when the new fiscal year begins Oct. 1. As part of that stopgap bill, the White House has once again asked Congress to provide flexibility for USDA to keep farm payments flowing through the Commodity Credit Corporation, which otherwise would soon run into its $30 billion borrowing limit.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announces vote on 'targeted' coronavirus aid package
The Senate could take up a slimmed-down version of COVID-19 relief legislation this week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday. "I will be moving immediately today to set up a floor vote as soon as this week," the Kentucky Republican said in a statement. McConnell said the revised measure would be introduced later on Tuesday. It wasn't immediately clear what changes, if any, would be added to an earlier version that Senate Republicans floated last month. That "skinny" plan would cost less than the $1 trillion package of relief bills they introduced in July. Senate Finance Chairman Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, told reporters on a call Tuesday that the GOP conference would discuss the legislation during a meeting on Wednesday. The legislation is unlikely to advance in the narrowly-divided Senate; Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer last week said "emaciated" would be a better term for the measure than "skinny." But voting on expanded unemployment benefits, aid to the Postal Service and small-business relief could bolster the political fortunes of endangered GOP incumbents who want to be on record as supporting more relief for their constituents.
UM External Funding for Research Surpasses $150 Million
University of Mississippi researchers secured $153.7 million in external funding for research in the fiscal year 2020, the largest university total in nine years. A total of $153,715,187 in external funding was awarded to the Oxford campus and the University of Mississippi Medical Center -- a nearly 15% increase from the previous fiscal year. "We continue to advance and expand the impact of our research at UM, and that is reflected in our steady growth of externally funded programs," said Josh Gladden, vice chancellor for research and sponsored programs on the Oxford campus. "Through the support of our traditional areas of strength, our expansion of interdisciplinary programs and our recruitment of highly talented faculty and staff, we have been able to grow our external funding by almost 35% in the last five years." The $82.3 million in external research funding for the Medical Center was the second-highest total in UMMC history.
Fraternity members ignore safety guidelines on bid day at U. of Mississippi
Health guidelines issued by the university and the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life's #MaskUpFSL campaign did not stop fraternity members from hosting several in-person bid day events without following mask and social distancing guidelines. In photos obtained by The Daily Mississippian, members of Kappa Alpha, Sigma Chi, Sigma Pi, Delta Psi and Phi Kappa Psi gathered in large groups in front of their respective houses. The university's Interfraternity Council (IFC) released guidelines in August outlining virtual recruitment, which state that there is "zero tolerance for any social gatherings violating university and Oxford policies..." In one of the photos, there are close to 50 members packed in front of the Sigma Pi house, but only around 10 are seen wearing masks on their faces. Many others have them gripped in hand or have no mask at all. Though bid day is normally when thousands of students and their families visit campus, this year was the first in which the entire recruitment process was officially moved online. Many sororities celebrated virtually with Zoom parties, and new members even received virtual bid cards via email.
A year after an Instagram photo of Ole Miss frats hoisting guns in front of a bullet-riddled Emmett Till sign went viral, questions remain
A year has passed since an Instagram photo went viral of Ole Miss fraternity students hoisting guns in front of a bullet-riddled sign for civil rights martyr Emmett Till, and authorities still have not questioned those involved. The FBI balked at investigating, concluding there had been no violation of federal law. "That these three young men never were held to account for their racist exhibition and then actively publicized it on social media sends exactly the wrong message," said Davis Houck, co-author of the book, Emmett Till and the Mississippi Press. The photo, obtained by MCIR and ProPublica, shows an Ole Miss student named Ben LeClere holding a shotgun while standing in front of the bullet-pocked sign. His Kappa Alpha fraternity brother, John Lowe, squats below the sign. A third fraternity member, identified by fellow students as Howell Logan, stands on the other side with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle. The photo appears to have been taken at night, the scene illuminated by lights from a vehicle. Asked recently about its handling of the matter, Provost Noel E. Wilkin and Shawnboda Mead, the university's interim vice chancellor for diversity and community engagement, told MCIR that Ole Miss officials reached out to "address the hurt that the image caused in our community," sponsored a forum on Till and met with his family to "discuss impact and opportunities for future collaboration."
Auburn Board of Trustees approves STEM and Agricultural Sciences Complex
The Auburn University Board of Trustees approved the construction of a STEM and agricultural sciences complex at its Sept. 4 meeting proposed by the Office of the Provost. The complex aims to serve as a combined facility for the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, the Department of Geosciences and the College of Agriculture. It will replace each department's previous facilities that have "exceeded their useful lives and are inadequate in terms of size, accessibility and modern functionality," according to Simon Yendle, University architect. The University will receive $36 million in state bond funding to complete the project after submitting a proposal to Alabama's state government in December 2019. The Department of Mathematics and Statistics will relocate from Parker Hall, the Department of Geosciences will move from Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum and departments of the College of Agriculture will relocate from Funchess Hall. The University also anticipates the facility will be financed by Public School and College Authority Funds, college reserves and gifts and university bond funding with debts paid by University General Funds.
Auburn University approves $1.48 billion budget for 2020-21
Auburn University's 2020-21 budget looks a lot like the 2019-20 budget. Kelli Shomaker, vice president for business and finance and CFO, told university trustees Friday that the $1.48 billion plan is up almost three percent over 2019-20 -- running slightly ahead of inflation -- with little new spending. "As the COVID-19 pandemic has created some uncertainty surrounding these proposed revenue budgets, permanent expense increases were kept to a minimum for the FY21 budget," Shomaker said in prepared remarks. "No money has been allocated for merit increases. Salary and wages expense was budgeted an increase of $5.3 million for job family and faculty promotions and some new faculty and staff positions." No layoff or furloughs were mentioned in Shomaker's remarks. The board unanimously approved the 2020-21 budget, which goes into effect Oct. 1. Shomaker said budget revenues should be up modestly across the board. State aid is up $9.1 million to $288.7 million, up from $279.6 million last year. Tuition and fees are expected to increase by $14.4 million to $688.5 million, up from $674 million.
Auburn Student Center to be dedicated to Harold Melton, first Black SGA president
The Auburn University Student Center will be dedicated to Chief Justice Harold Melton of the Georgia Supreme Court. Melton is a 1988 Auburn graduate in international business who was the first Black president of Auburn's Student Government Association from 1987 to 1988. Trustees James Pratt and Elizabeth Huntley announced the dedication to the University Board of Trustees on Friday, Sept. 4. Pratt and Huntley co-chair a trustee task force that proposed the dedication. "This naming is an important and historic step in our long-term effort to strengthen Auburn by demonstrating we value diversity and inclusion," Pratt said. "We also honor a fine man who has achieved much both here at Auburn and in his professional career and life." Melton ran for SGA president at a time in which fewer than 5% of Auburn students were people of color, according to Pratt. An in-person dedication will be held at a future date where Ada Ruth Huntley, a senior in global studies who is the current SGA president and daughter of Elizabeth Huntley, will name the facility. Pratt noted that Ada Ruth is the first Black female SGA president.
LSU reports 123 new coronavirus cases, student government president says he tested positive
On Friday, LSU reported 123 new coronavirus cases between Sept. 2-3, according to a tracker on the university website. Student government president Stone Cox said he tested positive for the virus in a video posted by the university on Twitter. Cox said in the video that, after filling out LSU's TIGER Check Daily Symptom Checker, he realized he needed to get tested. He got tested at one of LSU's testing locations and the result came back positive. "Thanks to carrying out my daily symptom checker and going to get a test very quickly and isolating, I was able to slow the spread of coronavirus," Cox said in the video. LSU offers free coronavirus testing daily at the corner of Tower Drive and Free Speech Alley in front of the Student Union. The university is asking students, faculty and staff to use their app daily to check for symptoms and report cases.
The U. of Georgia Trained Students as Contact Tracers. But It Didn't Hire Them.
The University of Georgia spent the summer training more than two dozen students to be Covid-19 contact tracers -- equipping them with a unique skill set that is in high demand. An assistant dean in the college of public health created the eight-week, online course, and students loved it. One pre-law student told The Chronicle she was shocked by how much she suddenly cared about contact tracing. But university leaders collectively shrugged. The university did not hire any of the 28 students who completed the course. In fact, the University of Georgia doesn't hire contact tracers at all, even though the rate of new infections in the surrounding Athens-Clarke County community is now among the highest in the state. The job of contact tracing, the university contends, belongs solely to the state. The county is averaging 128 cases per day, a stark increase from two weeks earlier, when it averaged 35 cases daily. Pilar Sofia Corso, the pre-law student who was inspired by attending the contact-tracing class, took it upon herself to get hired by the Georgia Department of Public Health for a job that will put her new skills to use.
U. of South Carolina to resume saliva COVID-19 testing Tuesday, but capacity is limited
The University of South Carolina plans to resume saliva coronavirus testing Tuesday, albeit with less capacity than before. USC announced Thursday it was pausing saliva testing on campus because a "key lab staffer" became sick. Before that person became sick, USC was able to process 1,200 saliva tests in a day and return the results within 24 hours. When testing resumes Tuesday, USC will be able to test roughly 200 students, which is one-sixth of the original capacity. USC President Robert Caslen said last week testing wouldn't likely resume at full capacity. USC is borrowing staff from Nephron Pharmaceuticals and the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control to process tests. Last week, College of Pharmacy Dean Stephen Cutler referred to saliva testing, in part developed by USC's College of Pharmacy, as a "game changer" because it can return test results quickly, affordably and with the same accuracy as a COVID-19 nasal swab test, Cutler said.
Faculty wage increases unlikely this year, U. of Florida says
Despite years of salary increases, the University of Florida will not be implementing any this year. That's placed faculty in a bind. UF President Kent Fuchs stated during his State of the University address on Aug. 25 that, due to budget cuts incurred by the COVID-19 pandemic, the administration was forced to reconsider salary and wage increases for faculty and staff. "Although we have worked hard to protect the jobs of our staff and faculty, it is unlikely we will be able to fund salary and wage increases this year," Fuchs said. Paul Ortiz, the president of UF's United Faculty of Florida chapter and a UF history professor, looked at the lack of increases as a necessary evil. However, he would like the administration to consider faculty's efforts to transition to remote learning. "We've proven our commitment," Ortiz said. "We would like them to respect our work and commitment to the university." UF plans to negotiate salaries and furloughs with the administration over the Fall semester for the next fiscal year, Ortiz said. Until then, he believes salary increases are needed to solidify UF's public school ranking.
U. of Missouri donor info taken in data breach
Personal information from donors to the University of Missouri's four campuses was stolen during a May data breach at Blackbaud, a company that provides fundraising software for not-for-profits and educational institutions. In a statement sent to donors and released to the Tribune on Friday, the Columbia campus stated it was informed of the data breach in late July and that hackers gained access to personal data stored in the company's cloud-based system. No credit card numbers, bank information or Social Security numbers were exposed because MU did not provide that data to Blackbaud, the university stated. "However, data such as names, street addresses, date of births, phone numbers and email addresses, as well as wealth holdings and net worth, could have been accessed during this incident," the statement read. In an email, Eric Stann of the MU News Bureau stated that the university had conducted an investigation of the incident and "shared this information as appropriate to their respective audiences."
Campus influencers part of Missouri's plan to spread COVID-19 safety messaging
Freshman Caleb Poorman has enjoyed being on Instagram and using his platform to spread positive messages. Now, he and four other University of Missouri students have jobs using their social media platforms to help spread COVID-19-related safety messaging to the campus community. Influencers have the power to affect buying or other action decisions of the people who follow them online through platforms such as Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube. "Social media in general is a very powerful tool for communication," Poorman said. "If used properly and correctly, you could do a lot of things with social media. "With mine, I try to display positivity," he continued. "The fact that I was given an opportunity to be an influencer through the University of Missouri was a special opportunity that I really wanted to jump on." They identified themselves on Instagram using the hashtag #Mizzou_Ambassador on Wednesday and will continue posting content, encouraging the MU community to follow COVID-19 safety guidelines such as wearing a mask, practicing social distancing, using the #CampusClear app and staying updated with MU policies.
Three weeks in, U. of Memphis students adjust to virtual class as leaders look toward gradual reopening
After three weeks of school at the University of Memphis, freshman Lauren Adamson still doesn't know what a college classroom looks like. She goes to class in her dorm, decorated in pink and grey, or on campus at outdoor tables or the library. Still, though, the native of Cleveland, Tennessee is glad she made the five-and-half hour drive to become a student at U of M and live on the campus she never toured. Students began class on Aug. 17, but only 500 or so of the university's 22,000 students were enrolled in classes that had the chance to meet in-person. Later this month, though, more courses may be eligible to meet in person, university officials recently announced. President M. David Rudd announced in late July that the fall semester would begin with "predominantly virtual and remote" coursework, save for some science, engineering and fine arts courses. At the time, he cited negative trends in community coronavirus data. Reopening, he said, would be gradual and data-driven. Tom Nenon, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, polled faculty about their desires to voluntarily return to campus for class. He anticipates responses soon after Labor Day.
Covid-19 Outbreaks Spell Trouble for Student-Housing Owners
A wave of Covid-19 outbreaks at universities is adding to the challenges facing the student-housing sector. In August, a number of major universities said they were moving to remote learning after the first days of classes led to a spike of infections in and around campus. That is bad news for the investment firms that buy and rent out student housing in college towns, some analysts say. The share of nongovernment-backed mortgage bonds secured by student housing that are delinquent rose to a peak of 13.7% on July 1, according to Trepp LLC. That is up from 9.7% at the beginning of March and the highest figure since at least 2005. The worst fears that faced the sector earlier this year proved to be overblown. Leasing held up relatively well at many universities that are attempting in-person classes. Some landlords may see more demand as on-campus dorms close. But on balance, the new surge in Covid-19 infections at universities is hurting student housing, according to a recent report by John Pawlowski, a senior analyst at Green Street Advisors.
Reservations, takeout and food tents: Dining traditions change as campuses attempt to curb virus
The days of packed dining halls are, for now, over. When close gatherings can spur an outbreak of a potentially life-threatening disease, dining on campus this semester will hardly be normal. The traditional breaking of bread in crowded dining rooms -- before class, after a night out, in the middle of the day for lunchtime -- is another college tradition students will miss this year as campuses enact measures to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. Buffet-style dining at the University of Maryland at College Park has been replaced with carry­out meals. Students under a two-week quarantine at Catholic University in Northeast Washington picked their meals up from food tents pitched across campus. Freshmen at CU spent a recent afternoon sitting outside in Adirondack chairs -- spaced about six feet apart -- and eating cheeseburgers with pasta salad. Just like classrooms and dorms, dining halls are prone to crowding.
Iowa Universities Are Caught Between Covid-19 and Politics
In opening their campuses this fall, the presidents of Iowa State University and the University of Iowa have tried to perform a sort of balancing act. They have had to appease politicians and trustees who demand face-to-face instruction while also protecting faculty, staff, and students who are at risk of getting and spreading a highly contagious disease. They have sought to meet the needs of those who want to be on campus, as well as the needs of those who show up because they must. And they have strived to choose between the comforts -- and revenues -- of a somewhat normal semester on campus and the disruption and financial losses that come with sending students home, as happened in the spring. But the coronavirus is threatening that delicate balance: The University of Iowa and Iowa State have become homes to some of the worst outbreaks of Covid-19 in the nation. Leaders at the state's two largest universities have said that the procedures on their campuses are sound and that students' off-campus gatherings are to blame for the sharp rise in coronavirus cases. But a growing number of students and faculty members are calling for both institutions to take control of the situation and end face-to-face instruction for the rest of the term.
Cross-Campus Comparisons on COVID Aren't Easy
Illinois State University has conducted more than 6,000 COVID-19 tests and reported more than 1,300 positive tests among students since the start of the semester. Southern Illinois University has reported fewer than 50 cases, but university officials acknowledge the data provided by county health officials are incomplete and say they will be building up their own testing capacity later this month. Meanwhile Northern Illinois University, which has reported 77 positive tests since Aug. 17, began surveillance testing of asymptomatic students chosen at random last Wednesday. Comparisons across colleges, even within a single state, are complicated because colleges differ greatly in their testing capacity and reporting practices. But the experiences of several public universities in Illinois -- which ranks fourth nationally among states for number of new COVID cases over the last seven days -- provides a glimpse into the various ways they're trying, and succeeding or failing, to keep their campuses safe.
When will Mississippi's economy recover?
Syndicated columnist Bill Crawford of Meridian writes: As the $3 billion stimulus impact provided by Congress winds down, businesses spend out their Paycheck Protection Program loans, and the extra $600 in weekly unemployment payments ends, is Mississippi's economy ready to go it alone? Both the president and the Congress agree more stimulus money is needed to keep the national economy going, but they cannot agree on how much. Lacking another big stimulus, Axios.com reports that economists see rising permanent layoffs, increasing long-term unemployment, and the increasing number of men losing jobs as indicators another recession looms. Gov. Tate Reeves, apparently, agrees additional stimulus is needed. He announced a temporary plan in late August to continue paying higher unemployment benefits, up to $300 a week for some recipients. "We will see how it works for the next few weeks," he said. ... As pandemic numbers ebb and escalate in Mississippi and additional federal stimulus funding stalls, what lies ahead for the state's economy?
Gov. Tate Reeves bemoans, sometimes, what he says is politicizing of coronavirus
Bobby Harrison writes for Mississippi Today: Gov. Tate Reeves, who says his primary goal is to take steps to lessen the impact of COVID-19 in Mississippi, recently lamented how some people try to politicize issues surrounding the pandemic, such as mask wearing. ... Yet Reeves, who for weeks has begged and cajoled Mississippians to wear a mask to combat the coronavirus, opted to forego wearing a mask as Donald Trump accepted the Republican nomination to run for a second term as president. Reeves was among the about 1,500 people in attendance sitting shoulder to shoulder on the White House lawn for the president's acceptance speech. Reeves said he went maskless for only a short time at the event. For months, Trump has been lukewarm at times and downright hostile at other times regarding the wearing of masks. Some would argue there have been occasions when the president has made the issue of wearing a mask political. So was Reeves making a political statement when he joined the president and his supporters in collectively choosing not to wear a mask at the most public and most political of events?

Mike Leach: Mississippi State had 'the best' practice in Saturday scrimmage
Mike Leach is starting to get some clarity. For the better part of three weeks, Mississippi State's coach couldn't confidently answer some questions about his team. Then the Bulldogs scrimmaged at Davis Wade Stadium for the first time during training camp Saturday, and some things got much clearer. "I was more on a search for where we were at when all this started," Leach said. "But I guess I feel like as an entire team, this was one of our best practices we've had in camp. Probably the best one." For starters, the quarterback competition is narrowing down. Leach said graduate transfer K.J. Costello and freshman Will Rogers impressed him the most at that position. It appears one of those two will start Sept. 26 at No. 6 LSU, leaving sophomores Garrett Shrader and Jalen Mayden all but out of the race. "It's still kind of open, but less open than it was," Leach said. Leach again spoke highly of Costello and Rogers, a developing theme throughout camp.
Mississippi State football notebook: Bulldogs host scrimmage, quarterback update, COVID-19 good luck
When Mike Leach arrived at fall camp, the first year Mississippi State head coach had no predetermined expectations. He simply wanted to see where everyone was at, good, bad or ugly. On Saturday, MSU had its first team scrimmage of fall camp. The result left a favorable impression on the former Washington State and Texas Tech coach, as Leach said the practice was one of the best the Bulldogs have had in camp, and perhaps even the best one. He praised both the secondary and the offensive line position groups for their performances. "A positive about the scrimmage, and why it's hard to say, is everything was contested," Leach said. "All sides, both offense and defense, had plenty to be pissed about. And that's usually pretty good news for a competitive team, as long as it wasn't a slopfest and it was not. There were some well-executed things out there. And there were a lot of plays that either side won by just a couple of inches. So, the competitiveness I was very pleased with."
Southern Miss' Jay Hopson out as coach; Scotty Walden takes over
Southern Mississippi coach Jay Hopson said Monday that he has stepped down and co-offensive coordinator Scotty Walden will take over as interim coach. The school announced the coaching change Monday afternoon in a news release, ending Hopson's tenure one game into his fifth season. The Golden Eagles lost at home to South Alabama in Thursday's season opener. In statements, Hopson described the decision as the result of a "mutual agreement" with athletics director Jeremy McClain, while McClain said Hopson approached him after last week's loss. "I am in total agreement with this change in leadership and truly believe it is in the best interest of the players, coaches and this entire program," Hopson said. Southern Miss hosts Louisiana Tech in Conference USA play on Sept. 19.
Southern Miss football coach Jay Hopson resigns after season-opening loss
Southern Miss football coach Jay Hopson has resigned his post just one game into the 2020 season, USM announced on Monday. Hopson's Golden Eagles struggled on their home field in the season opener, losing 32-21 to South Alabama on Thursday night in the first meeting between the two football teams. Co-offensive coordinator Scotty Walden, who is 30 years old, will serve as the interim head coach. The loss to a program that has yet to record a winning season since it was first established in 2009 drew plenty of heat from Golden Eagle fans. The USM and USA campuses are separated by about 90 miles and the two programs consistently recruit the same area. As the lowest paid coach in Conference USA, Hopson was making $500,000 a year. Walden served as the youngest head coach in the NCAA in 2016 at Div. III East Texas Baptist at the age of 26, leading the team to a 7-3 season. He is regarded as an up and coming offensive mind.
Ole Miss announces cardboard cutout program for fans
With college football stadiums operating at 25% capacity due to an executive order from the governor, you can still be in the stands for every Ole Miss sporting event, including football, this fall...sort of. Ole Miss Athletics announced Friday that, for $55, fans can purchase a cutout to be placed inside Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, the Gillom Athletics Performance Center and the Ole Miss Soccer Stadium. Similar cutouts have been seen since the beginning of the Major League Baseball season. According to a news release, photos of fans will be required to feature Ole Miss attire. Additionally, commercial advertising, political logos/statements, offensive or negative comments on photos will not be approved. The first 500 orders will be placed in "high-visible locations" behind the field goal posts inside the football stadium with the remaining cutouts being placed throughout the lower bowl.
Alabama athletics reducing operating budget 22 percent
The University of Alabama athletics department is reducing its operating budget by 22 percent and has imposed a hiring freeze for positions other than countable coaches, among other cost-cutting measures. UA Director of Athletics Greg Byrne outlined the measures to Tide Pride members in a letter sent via email Thursday evening, a copy of which was obtained by The Tuscaloosa News. The letter said due to the 80 percent reduction on seating capacity at Bryant-Denny Stadium and fewer home football games, "the athletics department is facing a potential $75 million revenue shortfall." Other cost-cutting measures outlined in the email include "expenditures limited to essential purchases only," and, "implementation of multiyear staff reduction and compensation containment plan." Byrne said in the letter, "These steps have resulted in budget reductions in excess of $16 million with further savings planned."

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