Thursday, September 17, 2020   
Poll workers on Election Day will be younger -- and probably more diverse -- due to COVID-19
Thessalia Merivaki, an assistant professor in the Mississippi State University Department of Political Science and Public Administration, writes for The Conversation: Election officials are busily trying to recruit younger volunteers to staff the United States' roughly 230,000 polling sites on Election Day in November. Many of the nation's poll workers are reluctant to work during the pandemic because they are, overwhelmingly, older and at high risk of severe COVID-19 infection. Poll workers are the gatekeepers of democracy. They check people in, verify their identity and determine their eligibility to vote. If voters do not appear on the rolls, poll workers trouble-shoot the problem or offer a provisional ballot. Poll workers also explain how the machines work, answer questions about the ballot and field complaints about long lines. For all this, they are paid modestly -- US$12 an hour in Portland, Maine, or up to $280 a day in New York City. So local election officials are used to facing shortages of poll workers. But COVID-19 makes the staffing challenge greater than ever.
Hurricane Sally's Fierce Rain Shows How Climate Change Raises Storm Risks
As hurricanes go, Sally was not especially powerful. Rated a Category 2 storm when it struck the Gulf Coast on Wednesday, it was soon downgraded. But climate change likely made it more dangerous by slowing it down and feeding it more moisture, setting it up to pummel the region with wind and catastrophic rainfall. Sally was crawling at about 3 miles per hour when its eye made landfall early Wednesday near Gulf Shores, Ala., and was "inching its way inland" later in the day, the National Hurricane Center said. The slow movement, or stalling, of the storm led to staggering rain totals, with more than two feet in some areas by midmorning Wednesday and widespread flooding. "When a storm moves slower, it lingers longer over the same location," said Kimberly Wood, a geoscientist at Mississippi State University. "A rain rate of, say, an inch an hour -- that's not so bad if the rain only lasts 30 minutes. But if it lasts for half a day, that adds up quickly." Sally was not an isolated example of a stalling hurricane. "There is increasing evidence that storms are slowing down," Dr. Wood said. Climate change has also led to wetter storms, Dr. Wood said, because warmer air holds more moisture. Between the slowing speeds and increasing moisture, with storms like Sally "there's a combination effect," she said.
Starkville SMART buses strive for safe rides
With limited places to park on-campus, many Mississippi State University students find simplicity in using SMART Transportation to get them to and from class. The coronavirus forced the transportation system to find new ways to keep its passengers safe while riding the bus. SMART Transits Service Manager, Larry Graves, says the buses only allow half capacity to maintain social distancing. All riders are also required to wear a face mask and anyone showing symptoms is restricted from riding the bus. SMART workers also sanitize each bus twice a day. Graves believes this step of the process beneficial for passengers' physical and mental health. "It instills some confidence that they know that we are trying to take care of them while they're being students," Graves says. "We don't want to interrupt their day any more than we have to."
Q&A with Mississippi State Collegiate Recovery Community Program Coordinator Blake Schneider
More than 25 million Americans are in long-term recovery from substance abuse and process addictions, yet many remain unaware of the resources and tools that exist for those struggling with addiction. With September being celebrated as National Recovery Month, Mississippi State University Collegiate Recovery Community Program Coordinator Blake Schneider sat down with SDN to shed light on programs and resources on campus and in the Starkville area. The following interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Aldermen suspend recycling beginning Oct. 1
Starkville residents may soon be without a recycling service after the Board of Aldermen voted Tuesday to indefinitely suspend the city's recycling program due to increased costs. In Tuesday's board meeting, Mayor Lynn Spruill said the cost to continue with the recycling program was too high; however, she said the city was discussing the possibility of partnering with Mississippi State University to bring its campus recycling program to Starkville residents in some form. "On the agenda for consent is to suspend the current recycling program. It's indefinite and due to increased costs," she said. "But, we are also exploring an opportunity to join with MSU -- it has a robust recycling program -- to attempt to efficiently and effectively do a better job than we have been able to do through our current program."
Aldermen vote to save 'at least some' trees at Garan site
At least some of the 64 pine trees that have stood for decades at the intersection of Highway 12 and Industrial Park Road will be saved after aldermen voted narrowly Tuesday that they couldn't all be removed. The 4-3 vote declined a request from developer Mark Castleberry, who plans to build a retail center at the current Garan Manufacturing site. The board instead unanimously approved Castleberry's request to install "an attractive privacy fence" lined with shrubbery on the north side of the property and to plant 75 new, smaller trees of a variety of species throughout and around the parking lot. Garan is scheduled to move to a new location at the North Star Industrial Park in northern Starkville, and the new development by Castleberry's company, Castle Properties, will include an ALDI grocery store.
Northeast Mississippi boasts 15 National Merit Scholar Semifinalists
Fifteen Northeast Mississippi seniors were among the 142 Mississippi high school students to be named 2020 National Merit Scholarship Semifinalists. They're part of a group of 16,000 semifinalists announced on Sept. 9 across the country who will have the opportunity to compete for 7,600 National Merit Scholarships, worth more than $30 million total, which will be awarded next spring. More than 90% of the semifinalists are expected to attain finalist standing, while more than half will win a National Merit Scholarship and earn the Merit Scholar title. National Merit Scholarship winners will be announced between April and July 2021. Northeast Mississippi's National Merit Scholar Semifinalists include Katherine I. Leigh of Starkville High School.
CARES Act cited as a factor in soaring revenue collections early in fiscal year
State revenue collections through the first two months of the fiscal year are $258.7 million or 34.8% above what was collected during the same time last year. The revenue report for the month of August, recently released by the staff of the Legislative Budget Committee, details unprecedented growth in state tax collections which some say was boosted in part by federal stimulus funds. The strong revenue collections could play a factor as legislative leaders on the Legislative Budget Committee meet later this month to begin the months-long process of developing a budget for the new fiscal year, which starts July 1. Earlier this year, state leaders and economists feared a $1.2 billion decrease in tax revenue during the latter part of the past fiscal year and current fiscal year of because of the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Such a downturn would result in major cuts in state services and the elimination of a significant number of state jobs. But unless a dramatic downturn occurs in the coming months, such cuts are not likely to happen.
More than $569 million in COVID-19 related federal funds remain unspent according to state's transparency website
Nearly half of the $1.25 billion in federal funds provided to the state to help with COVID-19 relief remain unspent, according to an examination of the state's transparency website. More than $569 million remains out of the $1.25 billion provided to the state from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed in March by Congress. Only 14 percent ($33.737 million) of $240 million has been issued to eligible businesses in the Back to Business program, according to the DFA's website. Senate Bill 2772 provides $300 million in grants to businesses administered by the Mississippi Development Authority and SB 3053 is supposed to expand the eligibility requirements to allow more Mississippi businesses to participate. Before passage of SB 3053 in August, only $12.7 million had been appropriated to grant recipients by the MDA. The deadline for businesses to apply for the program was Tuesday. According to SB 2772, if there are any unobligated funds left in the Back to Business grant fund by November 1, Gov. Tate Reeves will be able to transfer them to other state agencies for eligible expenditures related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mississippi reports 701 new COVID-19 cases, 24 deaths
The Mississippi State Department of Health on Thursday reported 701 new COVID-19 cases and 24 additional deaths. Union County in Northeast Mississippi reported one new death on Thursday. The statewide total of COVID-19 cases since March 11 now stands at 91,935 with 2,780 deaths as a result of the virus. Around 78,971 people are estimated to have recovered from the virus as of September 13. Most counties in the Daily Journal's coverage area reported additional cases. The additional case counts are: Alcorn (7), Benton (7), Chickasaw (4), Clay (3), Itawamba (12), Lafayette (37), Lee (25), Marshall (8), Monroe (10), Oktibbeha (12), Pontotoc (8), Prentiss (13), Tippah (15), Tishomingo (10) and Union (3).
'Not out of the woods yet': Health officials urge vigilance as coronavirus cases drop
The state's top health officials asked the public to remain vigilant in the fight against the coronavirus -- even as cases trend downward -- and dispelled misconceptions that still exist about the new virus during a public forum Tuesday. State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs and Epidemiologist Paul Byers discussed a wide range of questions from the public about the virus and what the future holds heading into the fall and winter months. The two answered several questions during the Facebook Live video, such as the effectiveness of facial masks, testing protocols and when a vaccine might be available. But much of the discussion reverted to debunking common falsehoods about the virus that continue to pick up momentum on social media such as the theory that case numbers are inflated by state or federal agencies and that the coronavirus is no more dangerous than the flu. "It's been a pretty rough summer. We've seen a pretty significant decline in cases, some stabilization, but we're still at risk," Dobbs said. "We're doing a good job right now, but we're still knee deep in coronavirus."
Survey: Gov. Tate Reeves' COVID-19 approval rating plummets while Trump's holds steady
Gov. Tate Reeves' approval rating for his handling of COVID-19 dropped from 56% in late April to 34% in late August in an ongoing survey that shows a decline nationwide in approval of governors' management of the pandemic. But approval in Mississippi of President Trump's handling of the pandemic has remained relatively stable, at 46% in late April and 45% in late August. The 50-state survey is a joint project of Northeastern, Harvard, Rutgers and Northwestern universities. The latest survey, conducted from Aug. 7-26, is the ninth wave of the project. The project took an online survey of 21,196 people across all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The margin of error for Mississippi's results is +/- 7. In a written statement last week, Reeves said he's "done everything possible to balance freedom and responsibility" as Mississippi has dealt with the pandemic and that it has been successful. "The state is open for business," Reeves said. "And our coronavirus cases are plummeting. Our hospitals have the capacity they need today. Why? Because we've got limited, targeted interventions in place the people can realistically work within."
Among Mississippians, Gov. Reeves' pandemic approval ratings decline as President Trump's hold steady
Significantly fewer Mississippians approve of Gov. Tate Reeves' handling of the pandemic now compared to the early weeks of the crisis, a new survey shows. Some 56% of state residents approved of Reeves' performance in late April, a figure that slipped to 34% by August, according to the latest in a series of surveys about governors' performance across all 50 states. The survey project -- run by researchers from Northeastern, Harvard, Rutgers and Northwestern universities -- found while governors across the board saw their pandemic approval ratings slip, Reeves and 11 other governors had garnered "notably low" ratings. Even as Reeves' approval tied to the pandemic was dropping, President Donald Trump's COVID-19 response ratings by Mississippi voters stayed relatively stable, at 45% last month. That's much higher than his national COVID-19 approval rating of 34%, the researchers found. Reeves has received praise for frequent news conferences and updates to the public about the state's response to the virus. But he has also come under fire, at various times, both for mandating mask-wearing, or for delaying such a mandate as case counts rose.
Biggest trade bailout payments went to Southern farms, GAO finds
Southern farmers received the highest payments under the Trump administration's 2019 trade bailout program, according to an official watchdog report on Monday that's fueling fresh complaints from Senate Democrats about disparities in federal aid to the industry. The Agriculture Department started sending tariff relief checks to farmers and ranchers after President Donald Trump launched a bruising trade war in 2018 that crushed agricultural exports and prices. The bailout payments -- separate from ongoing coronavirus farm relief programs -- have totaled more than $23 billion so far. Democrats and watchdog groups have long criticized how the USDA distributed the money among different sectors of agriculture. USDA officials have pointed out the bulk of the money flowed to Midwestern states like Iowa and Minnesota, but those states have far more producers. "When you look at the dollars farmers are getting per farmer, per acre, the South hit the jackpot," Senate Agriculture ranking Democrat Debbie Stabenow of Michigan said on a conference call with reporters.
Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson: Acting Secretary's Absence Should 'Appall' Congress
House Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., condemned acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf's failure to appear in response to a subpoena on Thursday. Wolf's failure to appear before the committee for the threats hearing after committing to do so "should appall every member of this committee," Thompson said in his prepared opening statement. "Insisting Mr. Wolf keeps his commitment to testifying before Congress isn't playing politics -- it's doing our job." The watchdog Government Accountability Office has questioned whether Wolf and another top DHS official are lawfully serving after months as acting leaders within the agency. Even though they have played central roles in the administration for some time, DHS now has taken the position that Wolf is a "pending nominee" before the Senate and accordingly he shouldn't talk to Thompson's panel. The department said acting Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli could testify instead. The chairman rejected that argument out of hand. There is nothing in law, he says, that would bar Wolf from talking to the House, and the acting secretary has never been reticent about talking elsewhere about his job.
Trump health officials grilled over reports of politics in COVID-19 response
Trump administration health officials were grilled by senators Wednesday about a cascade of reports on political interference in the federal government's response to the pandemic. The officials sought to defend the scientific integrity of the administration's response, while at times striking markedly different notes than President Trump, particularly on the importance of wearing masks. The Senate Appropriations health subcommittee hearing assessing the coronavirus response took place against a backdrop of turmoil in the administration, with news coming that same day that the top spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services, Michael Caputo, would be taking a 60-day leave of absence after he accused government scientists of forming a "resistance unit" to Trump and urged supporters to arm themselves ahead of the Nov. 3 election. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield explicitly defended his agency against Caputo's accusation of having a "resistance unit." "Not only is it not true, it deeply saddened me when I read those comments, because as I said in my statement, CDC is made up of thousands of dedicated men and women, highly competent. It is the premier public health agency in the world," Redfield said.
300 and counting: Push by feds to arrest in US protests
In a private call with federal prosecutors across the country, Attorney General William Barr's message was clear: aggressively go after demonstrators who cause violence. Barr pushed his U.S. attorneys to bring federal charges whenever they could, keeping a grip on cases even if a defendant could be tried instead in state court, according to officials with knowledge of last week's call who were not authorized to publicly discuss the matter and spoke on condition of anonymity. Federal convictions often result in longer prison sentences. The Trump administration's crackdown has already led to more than 300 arrests on federal crimes in the protests since the death of George Floyd. An AP analysis of the data shows that while many people are accused of violent crimes such as arson for hurling Molotov cocktails and burning police cars and assault for injuring law enforcement, others are not. That's led to criticism that at least some arrests are a politically motivated effort to stymie demonstrations.
UM professor skipped work to protest racial inequality. Auditor says he should be fired.
State Auditor Shad White said this week the University of Mississippi should fire JT Thomas, a sociology professor who participated in a two-day "work stoppage" last week. Thomas, an outspoken professor who has regularly drawn the public scorn of top statewide Republican elected officials, participated in a national walkout on Sept. 8-9 called the "Scholar Strike," in which hundreds of faculty at universities across the nation protested police brutality and other racial inequities. Thomas called it a "work stoppage" on Twitter. White, a Republican and noted alumnus of the University of Mississippi, wrote a Monday letter to university leaders arguing that Thomas had broken the state law -- state employees are explicitly barred in state law from striking -- and that the university should pursue termination. The letter was first reported by The Clarion-Ledger. "It is my responsibility as auditor to ensure that no public money is illegally spent," White told Mississippi Today. "Strikes and concerted work stoppages are illegal in Mississippi. Mr. Thomas cannot be paid for the days he did not work. Also, the penalty for striking is termination. The law is the law. He cannot act as if he is above the law."
Mississippi auditor targets professor over 'scholar strike'
Critics say the Mississippi auditor is wasting time and threatening academic freedom by investigating a tenured professor who participated in two-day "scholar strike" designed to bring attention to police brutality and other issues of social injustice. Auditor Shad White, a Republican, sent a letter Monday to University of Mississippi Chancellor Glenn Boyce about sociology professor James Thomas, the Clarion Ledger reported. Jarvis Dortch, an attorney who is executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that he does not think Thomas' participation in the "scholar strike" constitutes a strike under state law because Thomas was not demanding improvements in his own work conditions but was trying to draw attention to other issues. Dortch, who served as a Democratic state representative before going to work for the ACLU in July, also said White's investigation could threaten academic freedom. "Why is he expending taxpayer dollars on something like this?" Dortch asked.
Students protest university's pandemic response
Over a dozen members of Students Against Social Injustice (SASI) participated in what they called a "die-in" on the afternoon of Sept. 16. Holding signs that read "Save our health, not UMiss wealth" and "People over profits," the students gathered around the Lyceum to protest university administrators' response to the COVID-19 pandemic. "We are here for an education that we can't get because we are terrified of a virus that our chancellor could have protected us from," one SASI member said at the protest. All participants said they were "instructed not to talk to the media" by their media liaison and refused to state their names. The group carried a painted cardboard coffin inscribed with the words "We won't die for your dollars" and placed it at the Circle-facing door of the Lyceum. Some participants proceeded to move to either side of the building to chant mantras like "We have reached our boiling point. Student workers run this joint," and "Up, up, up with the workers, down, down, down with the bosses."
Researchers in Mississippi working on nasal spray to block COVID-19
A team of researchers, including faculty from the University of Mississippi schools of Pharmacy and Medicine, are developing a treatment that could be effective at preventing COVID-19. The good news is that it's something that you can easily carry in your bag. The treatment would take the form of a nasal spray that could be prescribed by a doctor and self-administered. A daily dose of this spray could make those taking it more resistant to COVID-19. The group of researchers is led by Joshua Sharp, a UM associate professor of pharmacology, and Ritesh Tandon, an associate professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. They have collaborated with a team from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute led by Robert Linhardt, professor of chemistry and chemical biology in the RPI School of Science. The use of a nasal spray came from data showing that COVID-19 establishes itself in the nasal cavity, making a spray a potentially effective way to prevent infection.
Alabama trustees to vote on changing another campus building name
A second building on the University of Alabama campus will have a renaming vote Thursday by the system's board of trustees. The agenda for the quarterly meeting includes a resolution amending the name of Morgan Hall on the Tuscaloosa campus. The home of the English department is named for John Tyler Morgan, a former general in the Confederate army later elected to the U.S. Senate and once a Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan. As a senator, Morgan proposed sending freed Black slaves to the Philippines, the northwest sections of the United States and Africa. There had been previous calls to change the name of Morgan Hall including a 2016 petition calling for it to renamed for author Harper Lee. "We're listening to all the information that's coming in a part of our strategic planning process," UA President Stuart Bell said in 2016, according to WBRC-TV. "It will probably be later in the year as we begin to look at individual decisions." Those changes didn't begin until the summer of 2020 when the board of trustees formed a subcommittee to address building names on its three campuses.
Alabama-Huntsville reaches milestone, topping 10,000 student mark as part of record enrollment
The University of Alabama in Huntsville has reached a milestone as it announced record enrollment for the sixth year in a row. The school has now topped 10,000 enrolled students for the first time, a longtime objective that school officials have been methodically working toward for years. "UAH is a leading destination for high-achieving students," UAH President Darren Dawson said in making the announcement Tuesday. "It doesn't surprise me that we have once again recruited an outstanding new class to break this enrollment record. The fact that this has been achieved in the midst of a global pandemic is a testament to the value of a UAH education." The freshman class this fall rounds out at 1,350 students, the school said. More than half the class, 52 percent, posted 4.0 grade point averages in high school and 39 percent scored a 30 or better on the ACT. UAH also touted in its announcement that it ranks first among public schools in Alabama based on the economic outcome of graduates, according to the Brookings Institution.
UAB has record enrollment for fifth straight year
UAB has set an enrollment record for the fifth straight year, as well as reaching a new level in retaining first-time, full-time students. The school's Office of Enrollment Management announced today that the school's latest count of 22,563 students is the highest ever, and a 2 percent growth over last year. The number of graduate students enrolled for the fall 2020 semester increased by 6 percent, with 7,512 students. And in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, 86.4 percent of first-time students returned this fall, a 3.3 percent increase over last year, the school said. In addition, in-state and out-of-state enrollment saw year-over-year increases, as did the professional student populations. In-state students make up 82.2 percent of this fall's freshman class, and Alabamians represent 87.7 percent of UAB's undergraduate student population.
U. of Kentucky students will not get a spring break to limit COVID-19 spread
University of Kentucky students and faculty will not get a spring break next semester, the university announced in a release Thursday. Thanks to a condensed academic calendar designed to discourage student travel outside of town mid-semester, students will get just a one-day academic holiday on March 26 to substitute for the break. Classes will also start much later than usual -- Jan. 25 -- and finals week will begin May 10. "The idea is to compress the academic calendar and to encourage students to stay on campus as much as possible, once they arrive at UK for the spring semester," the university's release stated. "More specifically, the revised calendar creates a condensed semester in which students remain engaged in coursework on campus, rather than potentially traveling to other regions and returning to Lexington, which would increase the risk of spreading COVID-19." The condensed spring calendar is similar to this fall, where students didn't have Labor Day off and didn't get a fall break.
U. of Arkansas, Fayetteville taps interim provost to take post permanently
Charles Robinson has been named the top academic officer at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville effective immediately after serving in an interim role since July, the university announced Wednesday. He is also continuing on as UA's top student-affairs leader, a position he's held since 2016. Robinson, 54, is the first Black provost at UA. "My feelings about being the first African American in this role at the university are mixed. I am grateful that my university is inclusive enough to allow for a person of color like me to occupy this extremely important position, but I am disappointed that it has taken so long for this historical moment to come," Robinson said in a statement to the Democrat-Gazette. Robinson is among the first Black provosts at a Southeastern Conference university. The SEC Provosts group earlier this year in a statement described Robinson and William Tate, provost at the University of South Carolina, as the first Black members of the group.
LSU students, alumni remember 'Ms. Joyce,' beloved dining hall worker, in social media outpouring
Many LSU students who walked into The 5 Dining Hall within over the last few years were greeted by an enthusiastic "Hey baby!" from Joyce "Mimi" McKnight. McKnight -- known affectionately to thousands of students as "Ms. Joyce" -- died Wednesday, Sept. 2, at 78 years old. She worked at LSU for 22 years, according to her online obituary. News of her death stirred an outpouring of praise on social media from past and current students. "This woman made sure plenty of broke college kids ate," said Ashley Spinelli on Twitter. "When a parent sends their kid off to college....she was one of the angels that you hope they meet while away from home. I hope she ran into God's arms at full speed." Several former LSU football players, like Super Bowl champion safety Tyrann Mathieu, national champion long snapper Blake Ferguson and former kicker Colby Delahoussaye, tweeted their condolences. McKnight's granddaughter, Dominique McKnight Zenon, said the outpouring "made her day." The woman she called "Mimi" loved the students who came through her job, Zenon said. "She loved working at LSU and you all made her so happy," she posted on Twitter.
U. of Florida now requires face-coverings while outdoors
The University of Florida updated its mask policy to require face-coverings outdoors on UF and UF Health property, effective immediately. "If two or more people are within 6 feet of each other outdoors they must wear a mask or cloth face covering," the policy states. The only exceptions to the policy are private offices, workspaces and outdoor spaces where a physical distance of 6 feet can be maintained at all times, according to an email from UF Public Affairs sent to all UF students Monday afternoon. UF's previous policy mandated face-coverings inside of all UF buildings, on shuttles and RTS buses, at all times, with an exception for children less than 2 years old. These requirements are still in effect.
UGA positive COVID cases decline overall, surveillance positivity rate down 1.5%
The number of University of Georgia students reporting positive COVID-19 tests fell significantly last week, the university reported Wednesday. The university reported a total of 421 positive tests for the week of Sept. 7-13. Almost all (404) were students. The previous week, the university recorded 1,412 COVID-19 infections through its "DawgCheck" reporting system, which relies primarily on voluntary reporting. Of those, 1,402 were students, one was a faculty member and 14 were staff. DawgCheck is based on data from four sources: surveillance testing at Legion Field, for people without symptoms; testing done at the University Health Center, for people who do have symptoms; reports from medical providers; and other reports. UGA workers and students are required to report when they test positive for COVID-19.
Where does UGA on-campus voting stand?
The University of Georgia is considering alternate voting locations, such as Stegeman Coliseum, after previously confirming on-campus, in-person voting in November at the Tate Student Center had been canceled. UGA Votes, a student-led voting rights group, released a statement Wednesday saying the university would not allow on-campus voting for the 2020 presidential election, citing social distancing and other COVID-19-related concerns. UGA held on-campus voting, including early voting, at Tate in 2016 and 2018. The decision was met with social media backlash and criticism from public figures. Many critics pointed to the university's previous decision to allow fans to attend football games in Sanford Stadium this fall. "Between the Stegeman Coliseum, Ramsey Student Center, Dan McGill Tennis Complex, and indoor football facility, I believe there is a sufficient amount of space to safely conduct student voting," former UGA football player Arthur Lynch tweeted.
Mizzou Arena open for voters on election day
Missouri athletics and the Boone County Clerk's office announced Wednesday afternoon that Mizzou Arena will serve as a polling location for the 2020 election on Nov. 3, making it one of the largest voting centers in the state of Missouri. The facility will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. on election day. The deadline to register for in-person voting in Missouri is Oct. 7. "It's vital that we ensure everyone has the ability to exercise their right to vote," Missouri head men's basketball coach Cuonzo Martin wrote in a statement. "We're thankful to be able to open the doors of our home and commit to making sure the Columbia community has that opportunity."
U. of Missouri Center for Race, Citizenship and Justice to be named for Mike Middleton
The University of Missouri will have a new Center for Race, Citizenship and Justice, and it will be named for former Deputy Chancellor and UM System Interim President Michael Middleton pending final approval by the UM System Board of Curators. The board's Academic, Student Affairs, Research and Economic Development Committee approved the two items together Wednesday. The vote was 3-1 with curator Greg Hoberock dissenting. "I just fundamentally do not believe that we should name something prior to its creation," Hoberock said during a conference call. The subcommittee met in advance of the full board meeting Sept. 24. Middleton is an MU graduate and civil rights lawyer, as well as deputy chancellor emeritus and professor at the MU School of Law. He served as interim system president after Tim Wolfe stepped down in November 2015 in the midst of campus protests. Middleton later served as interim president of Lincoln University in Jefferson City. His life is the subject of the 2019 documentary "Only The Educated Are Free: The Journey of Michael A. Middleton."
Working adults increasingly interested in postsecondary education but more skeptical about its value
Working adults enrolled in record numbers this summer at the University of Washington Continuum College, where roughly 51,000 students last year attended continuing education and professional development programs. "We're hearing from a lot of adults with increasingly complex lives," said Rovy Brannon, vice provost for Continuum College, noting that many feel they need to get through the fall before deciding whether to enroll next year. "They want at least one certain thing in their lives." Brannon's observations line up with the latest polling data from the Strada Education Network, a nonprofit focused on pathways between education and work. The nationally representative Public Viewpoint poll conducted by Strada's Center for Consumer Insights found growing interest in postsecondary education or training among aspiring adult learners (25 to 44 years old, without a college degree but seriously considering enrolling in additional education programs), with 42 percent of respondents saying COVID-19 has made them more likely to enroll, compared to 21 percent who say the pandemic makes them less likely to do so. However, aspiring adult learners also were less confident in the value of additional education than they were in a corresponding poll Strada conducted one year before this one, which surveyed respondents this month and in August.
Low-income students dropping out of college this fall in alarming numbers
In August, Paige McConnell became the first in her family to go to college --- and the first to drop out. McConnell, 18, could not make online classes work. She doesn't have WiFi at her rural home in Crossville, Tenn. The local library turned her away, not wanting anyone sitting around during the pandemic. She spent hours in a McDonald's parking lot using the fast-food chain's Internet, but she kept getting kicked off her college's virtual classes because the network wasn't "safe." Two weeks after starting at Roane State Community College, she gave up. "At my high school graduation, I told all my family I would go to community college. I was trying to better my future," McConnell said. "But the online classes really threw me for a loop. I knew I couldn't do it." McConnell's situation is playing out all over the country. As fall semester gets into full swing in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, schools are noticing a concerning trend: Low-income students are the most likely to drop out or not enroll at all, raising fears that they might never get a college degree.
A Grad Strike, a Court Fight, a No-Confidence Vote: U. of Michigan Struggles Over Its Campus Reopening
The University of Michigan at Ann Arbor faculty has flirted with voting no confidence in its president a few times in the institution's 200-year history. In 1954, faculty members wrist-slapped President Harlan H. Hatcher's handling of the dismissal of a trio of professors for their alleged Communist affiliations. Most recently, in 2002, they threatened a no-confidence vote over a faculty grievance process. But it appears they always stopped short of using the ultimate -- albeit symbolic -- faculty admonishment tool. That changed on Wednesday -- well, maybe. During a meeting attended by more than 2,000 faculty members -- an eye-popping number that's the product of both inflamed passions and the ease of attendance in the Zoom era -- 957 faculty members voted in favor of a motion of no confidence in President Mark S. Schlissel for his handling of the university's reopening, narrowly edging out the 953 who voted against it. But it was unclear on Wednesday night whether the motion had passed, because 184 faculty members abstained. If an abstention counts as a negative vote -- and that's how a senate secretary said it works, to the uproar of many faculty members -- the motion failed because it didn't get majority support.
Town-gown connections strained amid U. of Wisconsin reopening in Madison
At the end of August, nine days before students started class at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, more than two dozen local elected officials sent a letter to university administrators urging them to significantly alter their plan to bring students back to campus in the fall. The officials asked for three changes to the university's "Smart Restart" plan. First, they asked that it take instruction fully online, with very few exceptions. Second, they asked that it limit dormitory living to students without safe alternative housing options. Finally, they asked that the university publicly disclose a trigger point at which it would cancel all in-person instruction for the semester in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak. The officials didn't have much input in the university's decision. The only thing they could do was implore the administration to reconsider their plans, said Yogesh Chawla, a supervisor for District 6 on the Dane County Board of Supervisors, the county in which Madison is located. "They didn't do that," he said. University chancellor Rebecca Blank has defended the decision to reopen, saying that the university wanted to bring students back because in-person instruction was more effective and that many students would wind up living in the Madison area no matter what the university did.
What Does the Education Department's New Final Rule Mean For Religion and Free Speech in Higher Education?
Last Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Education issued its final rule on religious liberty and free inquiry, which details protections for faith-based institutions and religious student groups at public universities and seeks to bolster campus free speech. The rule reflects -- and sometimes contradicts -- a fraught, growing body of case law about religion and free speech in higher education. The final rule, which came after 17,000 public comments, requires universities to give equal treatment to religious student groups, which means equal access to university facilities, recognition and funding from student fees, among other things. Meanwhile, public universities find themselves in a "very difficult position" with the impending threat to federal funding, according to Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) President Peter McPherson. Freedom of speech on campus is an "area of continuing difficulty [and] conflict within the law," he said, and different circuit courts interpret Supreme Court decisions on it differently. He thinks the fear of losing education department grants will force public universities to do one of two things: immediately fold to whoever files a free speech lawsuit against them or pour resources into fighting them because the financial stakes of losing a case are too high.
Fall of the frat house: Students target Greek life amid America's racial reckoning
Since first emerging in the 18th century, Greek life has been a cornerstone of college campuses, surviving for generations despite public outrage over high-profile sexual assaults and hazing deaths. But now, inspired by the nation's racial reckoning and accelerated by the pandemic-induced social isolation, students once affiliated with Greek life have built a new movement calling for its abolition. The movement, however, has met resistance from national organizations, university administrators and some students, who have pushed for change and increased efforts to expand diversity as an alternative to dismantling Greek life altogether. The result is a confrontation increasingly familiar on college campuses: establishment leaders and students who support them believe they can help create change from within, while other students are determined to dismantle the institutions they say have failed them. "We are in a climate where traditionally White institutions are being targeted, and there is nothing more traditional and White and elitist than fraternities on a college campus," said Alan Desantis, author of the 2007 book "Inside Greek U" and a longtime fraternity adviser. The current movement against Greek life singularly targets organizations built on a history of Whiteness, as opposed to other facets of the system such as historically Black sororities and fraternities that formed in the 20th century.

'He's a problem': How Columbus' Kylin Hill and the Mississippi State running backs fit into the air raid offense
It's almost assured Mississippi State running back and Columbus native Kylin Hill won't lead the Southeastern Conference in rushing this fall, but for what he'll lack in carries, he'll more than make up for through the air. Leading a running back room that could go as many as five deep in 2020, there's reason to believe Hill is primed for perhaps his most complete season since arriving in Starkville as the No. 14-ranked running back in the 2017 class according to the 247 Sports composite rankings. "Y'all know his big play ability," senior linebacker Erroll Thompson said Wednesday. "He's an (New Orleans Saints running back) Alvin Kamara type of guy. He can get it in space, throw it to him, but he can also run it. He's a problem." Hill has flashed big-play potential in the passing game before, sure. He took a screen pass from former quarterback Keytaon Thompson 53 yards for a score on MSU's first play from scrimmage in its season-opening blowout of Stephen F. Austin in 2018. Hill also darted past an Abilene Christian defender down the seam in the second-to-last week of the 2019 regular season, taking a touch pass 88 yards to the house. But with Hill's experience in offenses that leaned toward the run, first-year head coach Mike Leach's air raid should prove a stark contrast for his dynamic skill set and function as a measuring stick for his professional prospects.
Raised in Guam, Olivia Simpson brings speed, athleticism to Mississippi State soccer
Olivia Simpson likes to dance. Before each match the Mississippi State soccer team plays, Simpson grooves to the music streaming out of the speakers as she limbers up for the contest. The freshman hasn't played for the Bulldogs long -- an early enrollee, she joined the team for its spring season before COVID-19 put an end to it -- but she's already established herself as one of MSU's most outgoing players, not to mention one of its most talented newcomers. For Simpson -- who came to MSU from Kingsland, Georgia -- Starkville is just the latest stop. She lived in Santa Rita, Guam, from age 2 before leaving for Pensacola, Florida, prior to fifth grade. That meant a lot of introductions throughout her childhood, but the bubbly Simpson never had a problem. "I think I was always open to making new friends, so I was just kind of the girl who walked in and would just be like, 'Hey, we're besties now,'" Simpson said. "It was never really hard." Mississippi State coach James Armstrong said Simpson's adjustment to college has been similarly easy. The freshman is sociable, hardworking and devoted to her studies. "She's really added to our team culture in the classroom and off the field," Armstrong said. Couple that with Simpson's tremendous impact on the pitch, and the Bulldogs are happy to have her in the fold when their eight-game, Southeastern Conference-only season begins at 6 p.m. Friday at Auburn.
Auburn soccer steps into spotlight hosting SEC's first game in pandemic play
Auburn soccer fired up the scoreboard the other day. Its dim screen sparked to life. Coaches put time up on the clock. The players bounced around to pregame music, heard blaring once again over the team's once-quiet corner of the Plains. It hasn't been much longer than a 'normal' offseason, from whistle to whistle, but this offseason has been anything but normal in so many ways. It's only been six months since the sports world went on pause in March, but nearly every aspect of life here has changed since the last game at the Auburn Soccer Complex. And even though this recent scrimmage was designed to tune up the players and not the facilities, it must have been a relief to see all the lights come back on, too, for the first time in what's felt like forever. Auburn soccer is scheduled to host the SEC's first game in pandemic play on Friday when the Tigers meet Mississippi State in Auburn at 6 p.m. on SEC Network. Outside of some cross country running on Thursday, soccer is the SEC's first sport to come back for virus-adjusted action, and Auburn is the home team for SEC soccer's first game. Auburn's game with Mississippi State is the conference's only game Friday before the rest of the league kicks off on Saturday and Sunday.
Jackson State AD: New football coach expected to be announced in 5-6 days
Jackson State is expected to name its new leader on the gridiron within the next week. The Tigers' athletic director Ashley Robinson announced Wednesday night that the program will name its new football coach within the next five-to-six days. Robinson made the announcement on an ESPNU re-air virtual watch party of the 2019 MEAC-SWAC Challenge on Twitch. Names rumored to be in the running have been T.C. Taylor, Jay Hopson and Deion Sanders. JSU has previously denied the Hopson and Sanders rumors, but ESPN's The Undefeated named Sanders as a rumored candidate again Wednesday night. Taylor was named the interim head coach of the program after its decision to part ways with John Hendrick. Taylor is a JSU alum and former quarterback who re-joined the program as a quarterbacks coach in January 2019. Earlier this offseason, the Tigers promoted Taylor to offensive coordinator. JSU previously dawned Taylor "the top guy" after initially denying the Sanders rumors.
NCAA men's and women's college basketball seasons can start Nov. 25
The 2020-21 men's and women's college basketball seasons can start Nov. 25, the NCAA Division I Council said Wednesday. The council, following its vote, said no exhibition games or scrimmages can be held before that date, which is the day before Thanksgiving. "The new season start date near the Thanksgiving holiday provides the optimal opportunity to successfully launch the basketball season," NCAA senior vice president of basketball Dan Gavitt said. "It is a grand compromise of sorts and a unified approach that focuses on the health and safety of student-athletes competing towards the 2021 Division I basketball championships." The past couple of weeks, discussions centered on waiting until Nov. 21-25 to begin the season. Gavitt said last week on a webinar with athletic directors and other college sports officials that Nov. 25 was under consideration because campuses around the country would be ending their fall semesters then. With general students home for the month of December and the early part of January, there is at least a six-week window for the college basketball season to get underway.
Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.): Allowing college athletes NIL pay is 'huge mistake'
The fourth congressional hearing this year on how to allow college athletes to earn money from their names, images and likenesses came Tuesday with a stern warning from one senator. "I think this is a huge mistake," Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said. The U.S. Senate Committee of Health, Education, Labor & Pensions held a hearing on compensating college athletes as the NCAA changes its rules to allow athletes to profit from their fame. University of Wisconsin Chancellor Rebecca Blank and Utah State athletic director John Hartwell were among those who testified along with Ramogi Huma, a former UCLA football player and advocate for college athlete rights, and Ohio State director of track and field Karen Dennis. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), chairman of the committee, opened the hearing by defending the NCAA and its model for amateurism. He suggested athletes should have to share any money they earn with their athletic programs. Alexander also said Congress should protect the NCAA's right to make rules regarding NIL compensation. "If they prefer to keep the money for themselves, let them become professionals," he added.
'60 Minutes' on Ed Orgeron: LSU's coach to be featured in news show's season premiere
Ed Orgeron is no stranger to ticking clocks counting down for an hour, but this week it'll be a bit different. LSU's head football coach will be featured on the season-opener of "60 Minutes" this Sunday, according to a social media post from the show's official account. The episode will kick off the weekly news program's 53rd season, and can be seen live Sunday at 6:30 (CST) on CBS. The episode will also feature a segment on former national security advisor and retired Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, and another diving into mail-in voting. "Gravel-voiced and Louisiana Cajun tough, Ed Orgeron got the head coach football job at LSU a few years ago and ran with it," reads the episode's description. "Now the Tigers are the national college champions, but can Coach O call the right plays to win in a pandemic?" Orgeron made headlines this week with his statement that "most" of LSU's players had already caught coronavirus. "Hopefully they won't catch it again, and hopefully they're not out for games," he said.
Shelby County Health Department reports 46 active COVID-19 cases in Memphis Tigers athletics program
There are 46 active COVID-19 cases among University of Memphis athletics programs, according to the Shelby County Health Department. Of the cases, 42 are related to one cluster, which the department has said is related to the football program, Chip Washington, spokesperson for the health department, said Wednesday. The health department first announced the cluster Tuesday in a news conference. Memphis football coach Ryan Silverfield has issued a team policy of not discussing COVID-19 numbers, but he told The Commercial Appeal on Wednesday that "the football program does not have 42 positives." He did not provide any additional comments. The other four cases are among U of M's pom and cheer squad, Washington said, representing the second cluster the department confirmed Tuesday. "This will no doubt change as new information is gathered as the investigation from our team is continuing," Washington said. The pom squad holds practices at an off-campus facility.
Big Ten reverses decision and will play fall football
For several weeks, it appeared that the Big Ten Conference would weather waves of criticism from athletes, parents, football coaches, state governors and federal officials and stick with its original decision to postpone fall sports because of the pandemic and consider spring competition instead. But the league announced Wednesday that it would instead begin football competition in October, a reversal that college crisis analysts and athletic experts found surprising and potentially damaging to the conference and its institutions' reputations. The Big Ten announcement of the return to play only set a timeline for the resumption of football and not other fall sports, which the league said "will be announced shortly." The delay on an announcement about women's fall sports raises questions about compliance with Title IX. In order to remain in compliance with Title IX, institutions must provide equitable opportunities for women and men to compete in athletics, and institutions could be out of compliance if women's fall sports are not played at all, said Audrey Anderson, counsel at the law firm Bass, Berry & Sims and former general counsel for Vanderbilt University. Title IX violations could occur if women's and men's sports were receiving disparate treatment "to the extreme" when it comes to COVID-19 testing protocols, Anderson said.
Big Ten Football's New Leader Rides Out Firestorm
Kevin Warren spent the fall of 2019 shadowing Jim Delany, the Big Ten's soon-to-retire commissioner of more than 30 years, in advance of taking over the job himself. One year later to the day, Warren, a 56-year-old former NFL executive, presided over a decision unlike any that had faced his long-serving predecessor. Thirty-six days after the Big Ten postponed college football and other sports until 2021, Warren announced that the conference's chancellors and presidents had decided to play this fall after all. For Warren, the announcement capped perhaps the most intense introduction imaginable to his new job governing in a college football landscape that often seems ungovernable. Warren, the first Black commissioner of a major college athletic conference, took over on Jan. 1, just before the world was overtaken by the coronavirus pandemic. When conference leaders changed their minds, Warren took the brunt of the firestorm, much as Roger Goodell would take the heat for NFL owners. It's now up to Warren to unify the fractured conference. "It reiterated the importance of alignment," said Warren of what he learned during the month of turmoil in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. "And that there's no such thing as overly communicating."

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