Monday, September 21, 2020   
Common Cause: SEC Business Deans Band Together To Spotlight Issues of Diversity and Inclusion
Amid Black Lives Matter protests this summer, the 14 college of business deans of the Southeastern Conference decided to make a joint statement in support of diversity, equity and inclusion in their programs. They are "soundly committed to fostering a sense of community that is welcoming to and respectful of all individuals -- students, faculty and staff," their statement read. After the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minnesota, "We all just said, 'we've got to do something,'" says Dr. Sharon Oswald, dean of the college of business and professor of management at Mississippi State University. "Everybody was in agreement." For schools in the SEC that are located in "small-town" Mississippi, like Oswald's, many students are first-generation college students and have never left the state before. So, she sees higher education as an opportunity to broaden their horizons and expose them to the type of diversity they're sure to find when they enter the workforce. "I don't know that enough people understand that when they get out of school, the world might look a little different than it does for you," Oswald says. "I think it's very important to prepare our students to work in the world that we work in."
Starkville's center for entrepreneurs and innovators is back
Mississippi State's Idea Shop closed the doors during the pandemic to update the interior and create more inclusive activities for everyone. No idea is left behind at the shop, where coordinators say concepts and creativity become a reality. The shop allows people to work with 3-D printers, woodwork, and learn entrepreneurial skills. Event coordinator Brooke Lammert said the shop took some time during the pandemic to rework the shop. "We really wanted to gear it towards more of the community and kids and families to give them something to do," said Lammert. While parents are learning about woodwork and technology, idea consultant Landon Casey said the kids are interacting in their own way. "We got them building some paper airplanes out there and just making civil way and make some paper airplanes and design them how you want and hopefully get them in here and get them really excited about the space, so hopefully they come back and make something awesome," said Casey. Lammert said it's easy to get kids involved in fun activities.
The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season is so intense, it just ran out of storm names -- and then two more storms formed
Kimberly Wood, an assistant professor in the Department of Geosciences at Mississippi State University, writes for The Conversation: Here's how active this year's Atlantic hurricane season has been: When Tropical Storm Wilfred formed on Sept. 18, the National Hurricane Center exhausted its list of storm names for only the second time since naming began in 1950. Within hours, two more storm had formed -- now known as Alpha and Beta. Even more surprising is that we reached the 23rd tropical storm of the year, Beta, more than a month earlier than in 2005, the only other year on record with so many named storms. The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season is far from over. With the new storms, forecasters shifted from the alphabetical list of people's names to letters of the Greek alphabet. The 2005 season had six Greek-letter storms, ending with Zeta. So, why is the Atlantic so active this year? Meteorologists like myself have been following a few important differences, including many tropical storms forming closer to the U.S. coast.
What Mississippi college presidents have to say about COVID-19 on their campuses
All eight presidents of Mississippi's public universities presented COVID-19 updates to the Board of Trustees of Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning on Thursday. During the Thursday meeting, all presidents reported on cumulative totals of active cases as well what percentage of their student body and staff have been infected with the coronavirus. Some did that based on the past two weeks, some did that based on the past month when the semester began. The presidents' updates are as follows, including Mark Keenum, Mississippi State University: Seventy percent of classes "are in some form of an in person component," Keenum said. Over the past 14 days, there have been 80 students who have tested positive. "That's a very positive trend that we're experiencing over the last two weeks. If you look at the fact that over the last two weeks we've seen the number of students who tested positive has declined by 68 percent is extremely positive for us," Keenum said. There have been five employees who have tested positive over the past two weeks.
MSU puts on outdoor theatre performances for the public
The show must go on according to Mississippi State's theatre students. Saturday afternoon, Theatre MSU put on its third outdoor performance of "The Commedia Robin Hood". Co-director of the performance, Kathryn Moore said the theatre program adopted the idea of taking the show outdoors from the traditional commedia style of theatre. "It was actually just traveling troops of poor people who wanted to be on stage and the whole forum came from that," Moore said. "So doing it outdoors and wearing masks was like perfect for this time of year, especially with COVID regulations." Keeping with tradition, actors wore masks to cover their faces. The actors also wore an extra mask on the lower half of their faces as a form of coronavirus protection. Along with wearing two masks, the school found a fun, safe way for the performers to interact with each other without physical contact. Moore said the program created "hand sticks" for each actor to allow them to safely give high-fives without physical contact.
Efforts afoot to save South's disappearing grasslands
Across much of the South, at least 90% of the native grasslands have been lost, the initiative estimates. Despite their diminished range, Southern grasslands are still home to an incredible diversity of plants and animals -- greater than the surrounding forests, which are often a top priority for conservation. One researcher documented over 90 species of bees on a single 50-acre remnant preserved under power lines in Mississippi's Black Belt. Taken as a whole, the remaining Black Belt prairie is home to more than 1,000 species of moths. Even for scientists, native grasslands still hold surprises. "In the last six years I've described 25 new species of grasshopper," said JoVonn Hill, interim director of the Mississippi Entomological Museum and professor at Mississippi State University. The first new grasshopper he discovered was in a Tennessee cedar glade near the city of Lebanon. "That's an area that's been well studied by botanists since the 1800s," Hill said. "But literally my first step, I stepped out of the car, and I saw a grasshopper jump up that looked like one I'd never seen before. Right here in the Southeast we have species we haven't found yet."
Area census self-response rates decline from 2010
Compared to 2010, Golden Triangle residents are self-responding to the 2020 census at a lower rate, data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows. The decline in area self-response rates -- the percentage of residents who respond to the census questionnaire on their own without census worker interviews -- is partly due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused delays in the census process, said Marilyn Stephens, assistant regional census manager for the Atlanta Region, which oversees Mississippi. The deadline to respond to the census either by oneself or through a worker interview, Stephens said, is Sept. 30. In the four-county area, counties have all seen a decline in self-response rates from the figures in 2010. Lowndes County has a self-response rate of 63.3 percent, which is higher than the state average but still represents a slight decline from the 64.9-percent rate in 2010. Other counties have also witnessed their self-response rates drop, with Oktibbeha's figure plunging from 61.1 to 52.3, Clay's from 63.8 to 59.5 and Noxubee's from 57.7 to 45.1, data shows. You can self-respond to the 2020 census by mailing out the response, visiting to fill out the questionnaire or calling 844-330-2020.
New damage assessments breathe new life into Yazoo Backwater Pump Project
Plans for the Yazoo Backwater Pump Project are being evaluated by the Army Corps of Engineers after months of damage assessment. Experts say around $800,000,000 worth of crops were lost in the 2019 floods, but the full economic impact may never be realized. Greg Michel, Director of the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, says 548,000 acres were flooded in the delta last year, around 200,000 of which were farmland. He says if the pumps had been installed to drain the remaining land, thousands of acres would have been spared. "So the question would be 'well why 200,000?' Because the environmental issues would be addressed with that, and 200,000 acres would flood anyways to keep the wetlands there," says Michel. "So the bottom line is potentially 300,000 acres could be spared at that time and in the future should this project come to be." The pump project has been proposed for years and would create a system of levees, drains, and pumps to mitigate flooding in the delta. But, environmental advocates say it would drain the area's wetlands, destroy the homes of thousands of wildlife, and believe adding these pumps would mostly benefit large farms. The project was later vetoed by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2008 but was resurrected because of last year's floods. Governor Tate Reeves says this new report shows the human impact of the flooding, with the loss of farms and more than 600 homes.
Ag Commissioner announces details of 161st Mississippi State Fair
On Monday, Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce Andy Gipson announced the details of the 161st Mississippi State Fair. The fair will start at 5:00 p.m. on October 7, 2020. "The show must go on," said Gipson, "but for the show to go on in 2020, we're going to have to do it social distance style. The State Fair is a tradition for many families, and we have gone to great lengths to make sure this year's fair provides fun-filled activities, while keeping our visitors safe. We are implementing CDC guidelines by limiting the number of attendees as well as observing mask and social distancing requirements. I am looking forward to welcoming everyone to this year's 161st Mississippi State Fair." "The safety and security of our guests is our top priority, and our staff has worked tirelessly to implement safety precautions with that goal in mind," said Michael Lasseter, Acting Director of the Mississippi Fairgrounds Complex. "The Mississippi State Fair is a family event that we all look forward to each year. I remember coming to the State Fair myself as a young man and the wonderful memories that I made with my family. I am excited and grateful to give that same opportunity to other families."
Loss Prevention Services moving to Natchez, creating 200 jobs
Loss Prevention Services, an industry-leading auto portfolio servicing company for financial lenders, announced Monday the company will be locating their corporate headquarters in Natchez. The project is a $2.97 million corporate investment and will create 200 additional jobs as a result of both organic and potential acquisitional growth, local economic officials said. The company provides solutions including recovery management, transportation, titling and remarketing. “Economic development is a top priority throughout Mississippi, and when companies like Loss Prevention Services choose to bring so many new jobs to our great state, it serves as a shining example of the teamwork displayed by economic developers at the state, regional and local levels in order to build stronger communities through new investment and job creation,” said MDA Interim Director John Rounsaville. “MDA is grateful to Loss Prevention Services for their confidence in our business environment and workforce, and we thank the teams at Natchez, Inc., the City of Natchez and Adams County for working to bring this project full-circle.” The new facility will be located at 321 Franklin St, consisting of 45,000 square feet and will be able to accommodate staffing needs of over 300 employees locally. There will be an extensive training program available to new staff that will help teach the precise skills required to fill these positions.
Mississippi reports 192 new COVID-19 cases, no deaths
The Mississippi State Department of Health on Monday reported 192 additional cases of COVID-19 and no additional deaths. The statewide total number of cases since March 11 now stands at 93,556, with 2,810 total deaths. 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 (2), Benton (1), Chickasaw (1), Clay (3), Itawamba (8), Lafayette (8), Lee (4), Monroe (1), Oktibbeha (4), Pontotoc (2), Prentiss (4), Tippah (3) and Tishomingo (3).
Mississippi justices: No broad absentee voting amid COVID-19
Mississippi law does not allow absentee voting by all people who have health conditions that might make them vulnerable to COVID-19, the state Supreme Court ruled Friday. A majority of justices reversed a Sept. 2 decision by Hinds County Chancery Judge Denise Owens, saying she too broadly interpreted some changes that legislators made to state law this year. "Having a preexisting condition that puts a voter at a higher risk does not automatically create a temporary disability for absentee-voting purposes," justices wrote. Rob McDuff is a Mississippi Center for Justice attorney who sued the state on behalf of people with conditions including kidney disease and diabetes. He said Friday that the Supreme Court ruling does allow absentee voting by people with conditions that are serious enough to be considered a physical disability. Most states allow early voting. Those that require an excuse for absentee voting are mostly in the South.
Supreme Court: Some with pre-existing health conditions might not be allowed to vote early
A pre-existing health condition that places a person at a greater risk from COVID-19 does not necessarily mean the person can vote early, the Mississippi Supreme Court said in a ruling handed down Friday afternoon. The state's highest court said Hinds County Chancery Judge Denise Owens erred in a ruling earlier this month when she wrote current state law "permits any voter with pre-existing conditions that cause COVID-19 to present a greater risk of severe illness or death to vote by absentee ballot during the COVID-19 pandemic." Justice Dawn Beam, writing for the majority, said current law, as amended earlier this year by the state Legislature, requires a person to be directed to be quarantined by a physician in order to vote early. "Having a pre-existing condition that puts a voter at a higher risk does not automatically create a temporary disability for absentee-voting purposes," she wrote.
Analysis: Quirky or serious, legal opinions guide officials
Can a Mississippi school district give financial rewards to students who do well on college entrance exams? Can a city government remove a dilapidated building if the owner does not do it? Is the sheriff's son allowed to work as a volunteer deputy? These are among the questions that government officials have asked Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch this year. The attorney general's staff does research and writes legal opinions to guide state and local government operations. Those opinions are posted on the attorney general's website, giving the public a glimpse at some issues that officials are considering. In a somber matter, Katie Blount, director of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, asked whether ancient Native American remains can be buried on state-owned land. The Department of Archives and History wants to create reburial sites that are optional for tribal nations that no longer own lands in Mississippi, according to the opinion summary.
GOP brushes back charges of hypocrisy in Supreme Court fight
Republicans are brushing back charges of hypocrisy as they march toward a possible vote ahead of the election that would confirm a nominee from President Trump to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court. Democrats have howled that it would be the height of hypocrisy for Republicans to confirm a Trump nominee weeks before an election after they refused to hold even a hearing for Merrick Garland, President Obama's nominee, after conservative Justice Antonin Scalia died on Feb. 13, 2016. Two GOP senators, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, have said they do not think the Senate should vote on a nominee before the election, saying a standard was set when Garland was blocked by Republicans. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) argues this time is different because it is a Republican president in the White House and the GOP holds the Senate. In 2016, McConnell says, it was appropriate to block Garland because the GOP held the Senate and a Democrat held the White House. Republicans appear to be getting behind McConnell for the most part.
Roger Wicker, Cindy Hyde-Smith want to consider President Trump's Supreme Court nominee in 2020
Sens. Roger Wicker and Cindy Hyde-Smith, the Republicans representing Mississippi in the U.S. Senate, want to confirm President Donald Trump's nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court before new elected officials take office in January. The Friday death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, an icon of the left and one of the most liberal justices on the Supreme Court, sent shock waves through the American political system, spurring debate over whether it was too close to Election Day for the Republican president to nominate a new justice and for the Republican-controlled Senate to consider the nomination. Many pundits believe that Democrats could win the presidency and control of the Senate on Nov. 3. Since Ginsburg's death, Democrats have argued that a confirmation process to replace her on the court should wait until after a new president and new Senate are elected. But Republican leaders, including Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, appear eager to use possibly their last few weeks in power to nominate a new conservative-leaning justice. Wicker and Hyde-Smith publicly agreed with McConnell's approach over the weekend.
Why Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death is unlikely to shake up the presidential race
While Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death will go down as yet another historic event in 2020, it's unlikely to change the fundamental trajectory of the elections. In the middle of huge breaking news stories, it can be hard to remember that the country is incredibly polarized and the race between President Donald Trump and former vice president Joe Biden has been remarkably stable. After a series of other historic events -- impeachment, a global pandemic, an economic crisis, the national conversation about racism and high-profile instances of violent protests -- Biden's 7-point national advantage is about the same as it was six months ago, according to Inside Elections' latest Presidential Snapshot in Time series. That means when it comes to analyzing the electoral impact of events, it's best to assume that nothing matters until proved otherwise. It's a difference between historic events and political game-changers. It's easy to imagine a Supreme Court vacancy as the great interruptor, particularly to a group of journalists, analysts and politicos looking for a fall surprise. But it's less clear exactly how it will move a significant number of voters in a different direction.
Mike Espy breaks single-day fundraising record as Dems appear galvanized by RBG's death
Galvanized by the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the U.S. Senate's role in replacing her, Democratic donors are giving in droves to Mike Espy, the Democrat challenging incumbent U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith in November. Espy has raised nearly $200,000 since Ginsburg's passing was announced on Friday evening, according to Espy campaign sources. That total -- a single-day fundraising record for Espy this cycle -- is close to one-third of what he raised from April to June. While a fundraising advantage doesn't translate to votes, an influx of cash 45 days from Election Day could loom large for Espy, who has acknowledged his need to reach more Mississippi voters during the COVID-19 pandemic and has largely been ignored by national Democrats. Ginsburg's death -- and the debate over whether the Senate should confirm a President Donald Trump nomination to replace her before Election Day or before the new Senate is sworn in on Jan. 3, 2021 -- brings into focus the importance of the U.S. Senate races this fall. Because senators must confirm a presidential nominee to the Supreme Court, Democrats across the nation are giving in record amounts to Democratic Senate campaigns.
Mike Espy in Tupelo urges supporters to vote for 'a new Mississippi' in November
Mike Espy, the Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate, hosted an in-person campaign event Saturday in Tupelo and pledged that, if elected, he would always make himself available to constituents and help find solutions to what he described as Mississippi's dire health care issues. Espy spoke to a crowd of around 100 masked supporters and local Democratic officials gathered at Fairpark in front of Tupelo City Hall. He told attendees that as a senator, he would work across the aisle to formulate good public policy, but would ultimately look to voters to keep him accountable. "No one can tell me how to vote whether it's Chuck Schumer or anyone else," Espy said. "I'm a Democrat, and I'm happy to be such. But I'm independent. The only folks I'm going to listen to concerning a vote will be you." With around six weeks left until Election Day, the former U.S. congressman and U.S. secretary of agriculture attempted to draw a stark line between himself and his opponent, incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, on their availability during the campaign, their approach to racial issues and plans for health care access.
Sen. Hyde-Smith ducks questions at rare public event
After a rare, brief public appearance on Friday, incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith quickly ducked out, refusing to answer questions about her campaign or any other matters. With less than a month-and-a-half left before Election Day, Hyde-Smith has done little campaigning or advertising, provided virtually no public access in-person or online, and has so far refused invitations to debates or forums with her opponent, Democratic former Congressman Mike Espy. Hyde-Smith on Friday afternoon appeared briefly at a press conference with Gov. Tate Reeves and state Agriculture Commissioner Andy Gipson. The three briefly discussed the years-long push for a Yazoo Backwater pumping project to alleviate chronic flooding that has devastated the Mississippi Delta. The incumbent senator took no questions at the press conference. Afterward, when she was asked by a Mississippi Today reporter if she would answer few questions about campaign, she did not acknowledge the reporter. An aide told the reporter she had another appointment to make. With an apparent lead in polls, Hyde-Smith's campaign has laid low, and she has so far done little public campaigning in person or virtually amid the pandemic.
USDA readies $14B more in payouts to farmers
The Trump administration will begin paying farmers and ranchers a new round of coronavirus aid starting on Monday, which will include money for certain wheat growers who were left out of the first round of payments. The additional $14 billion is on top of the roughly $20 billion in agricultural aid programs that have been underway since May. The money again stems from the stimulus package that Congress passed in March. The Agriculture Department said that payments to farmers will be calculated by various methods depending on the commodity. For instance, farmers of oats and peanuts will receive a flat rate while corn and soybean growers will be paid based on losses. Poultry farmers will receive payments based on 75 percent of their 2019 production for broilers and eggs. Reimbursement for cattle, hogs, lambs and other livestock will be pegged to the farmer or rancher's maximum inventory on a date selected by the producer between April 16 and Aug. 31. More than one-third of farm income this year is expected to be from federal payouts. Agricultural economists have warned that the industry is becoming overly reliant on government payments, and that the massive aid programs will be increasingly difficult for Washington to unwind in future years.
Some Protests Against Police Brutality Take a More Confrontational Approach
Nearly four months after the killing of George Floyd by the Minneapolis police, some protesters against police brutality are taking a more confrontational -- and personal -- approach. The marches in Portland are increasingly moving to residential and largely white neighborhoods, where demonstrators with bullhorns shout for people to come "out of your house and into the street" and demonstrate their support. These more aggressive protests target ordinary people going about their lives, especially those who decline to demonstrate allegiance to the cause. That includes a diner in Washington who refused to raise her fist to show support for Black Lives Matter, or, in several cities, confused drivers who happened upon the protests. But the tactics are dividing supporters of Black Lives Matter, with some worried that the confrontational approach will antagonize people who would be otherwise be receptive to the message, or play into conservatives' critique of the protests, which have been largely nonviolent nationally. Others, frustrated that little has changed since Mr. Floyd was killed, say that sitting idly and watching a protest without participating nowadays is to show tacit support for racism.
UM's food bank struggles to meet demand brought on by pandemic
The Ole Miss Food Bank, which recently changed its name to Grove Grocery, has struggled to meet the demand from students as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Demand for Grove Grocery's services has grown exponentially in recent months. Economic downturn has left many students, especially those working in the service industry, struggling to afford basic necessities like food. Grove Grocery director Chloe Grant said the influx has stretched the Grocery thin. "We spend roughly $2,500 every month at Kroger just buying groceries to stock the food pantry, and even with that amount of spending, our supply is very limited," Grant said. "So many more people are using the food pantry than normal because of the pandemic. In the past, not a lot of people knew the food pantry existed, so it's great that more people know about it, but we're going through our supply a lot quicker." Between January and March, Grove Grocery distributed an average of 140 meals per week. From March 6 to May 10, the average grew to 425 meals per week, nearly three times greater than before classes moved online last semester.
U. of Alabama reports second straight drop in weekly COVID-19 positives
The encouraging trends for University of Alabama COVID-19 testing continued for a second week. A total of 119 students came back positive from Sept. 11-17 after 294 caught the virus the previous week. That pushes the UA total to 2,302 since classes began Aug. 19. In terms of isolation/quarantine space, the school reports 3.88% occupancy. Numbers also remained low at UAB (18 positives) and UA-Huntsville (19 positives). There was a slight increase in positive cases among faculty and staff in Tuscaloosa. There were 17 positives this week after 13 last week for a total of 51 since classes started. University of Alabama System Chancellor Finis St. John spoke Thursday at the trustees meeting about the response to the COVID-19 outbreak on campus. "We also faced worrisome trends on our campuses, but the difference is we were prepared," St. John said Thursday.
Auburn University's McCrary Institute to host discussion on election security
Many voters and officials, with Election Day just weeks away, have expressed concern about the security of the process relating to cyber threats, voter registration databases and COVID-19. Auburn University's McCrary Institute will host a virtual event to address those concerns at 9 a.m. Tuesday with special guest Matt Masterson, senior advisor for election security for the Department of Homeland Security's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. The event, which will be livestreamed at, will begin with remarks from Masterson on federal plans to strengthen election security. Those remarks will be followed by a moderated discussion. Masterson and the panel will discuss topics ranging from cybersecurity tools and efforts to better prepare state and local governments for the upcoming November election, strategies for increased protection of voter registration databases, collaborations to recruit more election poll workers and approaches for ensuring voter safety amid COVID-19.
Auburn instructors report diminished face-to-face class attendance
It has now been a month since Auburn University began its fall 2020 semester and started to have a significant number of on-campus classes for the first time since March. Plenty of Auburn staples have also returned to campus including fall sports practices, SGA Senate meetings and long afternoons of brutal sunshine turning concourses into gridels. However, amid all of this, one thing seems to be missing. Actually, it seems to be about 20,000 things. Even though many professors are offering classes either fully or partially in-person, much of campus remains devoid of students. No one expected concourses, classrooms and dining facilities to be packed to their pre-pandemic levels, but even some professors have been surprised by the dearth of students. Chris Vickers, associate professor of economics, is one of those professors. "It mildly surprises me that there isn't more demand for in-person classes," Vickers said. Of the 70 students Vickers is teaching this semester, he said about 15 actually come to campus for class. "It doesn't bother me either way -- people can do whatever they want -- but it is true that, given the option, most people are choosing not to attend in-person classes," he said.
COVID-19 spread at U. of Tennessee coming from social events and friends, not classes
As the number of active COVID-19 cases at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville is beginning to decline, the university has traced most of its cases to student activity outside of the classroom. UT's contact tracers have found that most of the spread on campus is coming from social events or gatherings, Dr. Spencer Gregg, director of the Student Health Center, said during Friday's livestream update. "What they've identified is that the greatest number of positive cases and close contacts are not occurring in controlled settings such as the classroom," Gregg said. "Rather, it's occurring in the extracurricular environment. These are primarily related to social circles or friend groups, and in turn, the infection is then taken back to their residence." Once an infected or asymptomatic person returns to their dorm or residence, the virus is easily spread to those they live with, Gregg said. Asymptomatic spread of COVID-19 is "our Achille's heel," Gregg said.
U. of Missouri puts acrylic case around Jefferson headstone
There was a new addition Saturday to the security surrounding the Thomas Jefferson relics and statue at the University of Missouri -- a $20,000 acrylic case for the third president's original gravestone. University employees installed the case over the obelisk that was originally erected at Monticello in 1833. After it was replaced in 1883, it was given to MU and unveiled on July 4, 1885. It has been in various locations near the Chancellor's Residence and the granite obelisk now sits on a concrete base adjacent to Francis Quadrangle. The new acrylic vitrine, one-half to three-quarters of an inch thick, was installed in response to vandalism to the statue of a seated Jefferson placed nearby and graffiti written on the sidewalk during the summer, a university spokesman said Sunday. "This is Jefferson's original tombstone that was entrusted to the university and we have a responsibility to insure that it is preserved appropriately," spokesman Christian Basi said.
2020 Survey of Admissions Leaders
The process of building a class to educate has never been easy. In recent years, community colleges and nonelite liberal arts colleges have had great difficulties. But this year, fear and anxiety spread throughout higher education, according to the 2020 Inside Higher Ed Survey of College and University Admissions Officials, conducted by Gallup between Aug. 6 and 30. "These results confirm that 2020 will be a year that all of us in college admission will be happy to get through in one piece," said David Hawkins, executive director for educational content and policy at the National Association for College Admission Counseling. "The struggle to recruit students was already intense, and it is evident that colleges' existing concerns about meeting enrollment goals will only get more intense. Our hope is that we can make use of this crisis to change course in our public policy to view education as a public good, rather than a private good. It is clear that as a country, we are not optimizing our capacity in higher education to meet student demand. If we were to refocus on treating higher education as an adequately funded public good, this never-ending cycle of enrollment-driven anxiety -- along with the accompanying side effects of intense competition -- would be disrupted and alleviated, at least to a degree."
Colleges make plans for spring, cancel break
With the fall semester now in full swing, college planning has moved on to the next challenge: the spring. A number of colleges and universities have made announcements about their plans for the upcoming term. For the most part, those proposals look very similar to the ones they put in place for the fall. For the upcoming semester, eyes have shifted toward spring break. Many institutions have now canceled or altered the traditional vacation week. Spring planning is also going on, albeit a bit more tentatively, at universities that have sent students home this semester. "Our goal for campus activities is to reduce density over the fall, continue to practice the three Ws (wear masks, wait six feet apart, wash hands frequently), expand surveillance testing, and increase isolation/quarantine capacity on our campus," said Ron Mitchelson, interim chancellor of East Carolina University, via email. The administration switched to remote instruction Aug. 23. Mitchelson said plans have not been finalized, but the university intends to offer fewer in-person classes, with lower classroom density in each, using caps of 35 percent capacity or 50 students. Faculty and programs will have greater choice in teaching modality, and residence halls will be single occupancy instead of the double occupancy that was offered in the fall. There will be a limit of 2,000 students living on campus, a later start and no spring break, he said.
College Town Economies Suffer as Students Avoid Bars, Football Tailgating
College students came back to Blacksburg, Va., last month, but so far many remain reluctant to fill the restaurants, shops and other local businesses that have helped insulate this southwestern Virginia town from past downturns. It is a bad sign for Blacksburg and other college towns that rely heavily on spending by students, alumni and their families. The coronavirus pandemic, which emptied out Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University along with hundreds of other U.S. colleges in March, still weighs on these local economies. The students' return, seen as crucial to the region's recovery in the spring, so far hasn't had the impact many expected. Virginia Tech football, with home games that draw hundreds of thousands of visitors to Blacksburg each year, is back, but attendance is limited and tailgating prohibited. Officials postponed the team's Sept. 19 home opener against in-state rival University of Virginia following a rise in coronavirus cases. Virginia Tech brings about $1.2 billion in annual income to Blacksburg, or more than half of the town's economy, according to Anna Brown, a researcher at Emsi, a provider of labor-market analytics. One of every two jobs is supported by the university, its students and visitors, Emsi said.
Covid-19 Pushes RAs to the Breaking Point: Some Are Striking. Others Quit.
As a resident adviser for the past two years at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, Soneida Rodriguez was trained to help students navigate a maze of complex problems: Racial slurs. Debilitating depression. Date rape. Even so, she felt unprepared for the crises she's facing this fall: Panicked calls from a student whose friend tested positive for Covid-19 and who worries she'll be next. News this week that Rodriguez herself might have been exposed to someone with the coronavirus and needed to be quarantined and tested. "We are on the front lines at the end of the day," said Rodriguez, a 21-year-old senior. "We'll be the first to suffer if there's an outbreak in our community." This fall, the already-heavy load on RAs --- typically 19- to 21-year-olds with a few weeks of training --- is becoming unbearable for a growing number of them on campuses across the country. The life-or-death stakes of the pandemic have pushed some to strike and others to quit, threatening the public-health measures at colleges that rely heavily on RAs to enforce the rules.
FSU threatens suspensions for students flouting COVID-19 guidelines
Florida State University President John Thrasher has an ultimatum for students flouting the university's COVID-19 precautions: Do it again and you're suspended. "I want to reiterate that violations to our health and safety protocols, both on and off campus, are subject to serious disciplinary action," Thrasher said Friday in a campus message. "Students who endanger the community with actions such as hosting or attending a large party or gathering will be subject to suspension." He also announced new policies regarding football game days would be forthcoming. That comes after scores of what appeared to be student fans were caught on camera maskless during last Saturday's Georgia Tech game. The FSU Police Department, the Tallahassee Police Department and the Leon County Sheriff's Office are partnering to monitor bars, restaurants and off-campus residences where federal and university guidelines are not being followed, he said. Law enforcement also will be targeting residence halls and Greek housing.
Wait, Can They Still Study Shakespeare?
When news broke that the University of Chicago's English department would only admit graduate students next year who are "interested in working in and with" Black studies, it was greeted with both applause and raised eyebrows. Leaders of English and African American-studies departments at other institutions called it "an impressive commitment" and a "bold, edge-cutting" position. But the move also attracted derision, including from some sources who don't typically weigh in on graduate-school admissions policy decisions. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas tweeted that studying authors like Shakespeare, Chaucer, and Austen was "presumably not acceptable" under Chicago's arrangement, and others criticized the move as "racist" and "anti-intellectual." Thomas Chatterton Williams, a contributing writer at The New York Times Magazine and a columnist at Harper's Magazine, tweeted: "I am obviously interested in black literature. But being strong armed into studying it??" Faculty members at Chicago said on Twitter that the department had received hate mail. The decision carries extra resonance coming from an English department that is among the most high-profile in the country and at a university that has traditionally declined to take institutional positions on questions of social justice or politics.
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was advocate for equity
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died Friday, was known for her strongly worded dissents. But she wrote several decisions that set precedents and policy for higher education. The decision for which Ginsburg is best known came in 1996, when the Supreme Court ruled that Virginia could not maintain the Virginia Military Institute for male students only. The commonwealth maintained that the "adversative" system at VMI was appropriate only for men. Ginsburg defined the system this way: "Cadets live in spartan barracks where surveillance is constant and privacy nonexistent; they wear uniforms, eat together in the mess hall, and regularly participate in drills. Entering students are incessantly exposed to the rat line, 'an extreme form of the adversative model,' comparable in intensity to Marine Corps boot camp. Tormenting and punishing, the rat line bonds new cadets to their fellow sufferers and, when they have completed the seven-month experience, to their former tormentors." But Ginsburg rejected the idea that only men could benefit from the system.
Broken promises, record deficits, and surging debt
Syndicated columnist Bill Crawford of Meridian writes: Well, if COVID-19 hadn't come along the "greatest economy ever" would be well on its way to keeping President Donald Trump's promise to balance the budget and eliminate the national debt. No, budget deficits and the national debt have increased every year since he took office. What? The year before Trump took office in 2016 the deficit was $585 billion and total debt was $19.6 trillion. After Trump's first year, 2017, the deficit grew to $666 billion and debt hit $20.2 trillion. In 2018 and 2019 the deficits increased to $779 billion and $984 billion and debt increased to $21.5 trillion and $22.8 trillion respectively. Then, for the first six months of this fiscal year before COVID, the deficit reached $691 billion and debt topped $23 trillion. The deficit was on track to hit $1.2 trillion by year-end and the surpass $24 trillion. Well, Trump was doing better than Obama. No, Trump more than doubled Obama's biggest deficit. What?
Left, right find biblical common ground on Mississippi sentencing reform
Bobby Harrison writes for Mississippi Today: It is not at all uncommon for Mississippi politicians to quote the Bible to bolster their arguments. Still, it was a little unusual this week when an official with the American Conservative Union, perhaps the nation's best known conservative advocacy group, and a Democratic state senator turned to the Bible to make their arguments during a legislative hearing regarding proposed bill that would decrease incarceration rates in Mississippi prisons. What made it even more unusual is that they were on the same side of the argument. The issue of making changes to the criminal justice system to decrease incarceration rates has long been advocated by progressives. But in recent years, the issue has been embraced by many conservatives.

SEC official offers insight into COVID-19 adaptations in college football
Stan Murray's fall Friday nights over the past 33 years are nearly identical. Murray, a former Mississippi State football player and veteran Southeastern Conference football official, gathers with his officiating crew, orders pizza from whatever college town his gray Ford F-150 pickup has carried him to that weekend and gathers the group around a table to prepare for the following day's game. But that's set to change. After enduring an on-site COVID-19 test, referees head straight to their hotel rooms this year. Their weekly meetings are now to be held over Zoom, rather than in person. The SEC has also suggested officials refrain from group dinners. "COVID-19 has affected everything and will continue to do that," Murray told Columbus Exchange Club members Thursday at Lion Hills Center. In nearly 40 years as a high school and college football official, the Columbus native has seen plenty of changes to the game and in protocol. But the ongoing pandemic is a new notch on his belt of experiences. Beyond COVID-19 protocols, there will be on-field changes, too. Players who are dinged with targeting penalties are no longer required to vacate the sidelines and be accompanied to the locker room. Instead, they'll be allowed to remain on the sidelines.
Mississippi State softball honors Alex Wilcox with Geaux Teal Virtual Walk for ovarian cancer awareness
Carter Spexarth didn't know much about ovarian cancer before she lost a teammate and friend to the disease. Spexarth grew up in The Woodlands, Texas, where she knew a couple people around her age who had leukemia. But ovarian cancer was viewed as an "old lady disease" and never really crossed Spexarth's mind. Then she joined the Mississippi State softball team in the same recruiting class as Alex Wilcox, a Brantley, Alabama, standout who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at age 16. The disease sapped Wilcox's strength, though never her fun and lively spirit. On June 25, 2018, it took her life. Ever since, Mississippi State has honored Wilcox and has done its best to spread awareness of ovarian cancer. The Bulldogs retired Wilcox's No. 8 on Sept. 15, 2018. They wear teal, a color associated with ovarian cancer awareness, during their midweek games and adopted the slogan "No One Fights Alone." But they missed out on the opportunity to honor Wilcox and promote knowledge this spring because of COVID-19. Mississippi State was set to participate in the Geaux Teal Ovarian Cancer Awareness Walk on March 21 before a game against LSU in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. All weekend, all 13 Southeastern Conference teams were scheduled to wear teal uniforms in Wilcox's memory. Just a week before, though, the pandemic forced the rest of the 2020 season to be canceled.
Bulldogs Battle with Tigers to a Double-Overtime Draw in Season Opener
Mississippi State soccer fought tooth and nail with the Auburn Tigers but came away with a 1-1 draw in the first game of the Southeastern Conference soccer season on Friday night. "The coaching staff is really proud of the fight the team showed and how we grew into the game," head coach James Armstrong said. "It's always tough to play on the road in the SEC, particularly with it being the first game of the season. We were grateful for the opportunity to play and we will look forward to getting back to work tomorrow." Junior Niah Johnson tied the game on a penalty kick in the 75th minute. The school record holder is now 5-for-5 from the dot in her career. Newcomers Hannah Telleysh and KK Pavatt made big impacts for the Bulldogs. Pavatt played 94 minutes in her first collegiate action, while Telleysh took three shots in 97 minutes. State will host Alabama on Friday, Sept. 25 for the first Mississippi State sporting event held on campus for the 2020-21 athletic year. Kick-off is set for 6 p.m. and will be broadcast on the SEC Network.
Auburn ties 1-1 with Mississippi State in season opener
In what was not only the first sport back on campus but also the first SEC soccer game of the season, Auburn and Mississippi State tied 1-1 on Friday at the Auburn Soccer Complex. The Tigers and Bulldogs were all tied up at one apiece heading into the overtime periods, but neither team scored in the two 10-minute overtimes that were played. "In a lot of ways, it was a typical opening game, we get the opportunity to play some exhibitions, play some non-conferences before we get into conference," head coach Karen Hoppa said. "You could see some first-game jitters and little mistakes." The Tigers played with a more passive attack than the Bulldogs, only having three shots on goal compared to Mississippi State's nine. After a scoreless first half, Auburn's Sydney Richards scored off an assist from Kori Locksley in the 55th minute to help the Tigers go up 1-0. The Bulldogs responded with an equalizer in the 77th minute scoring off a penalty kick by Mississippi State's Niah Johnson.
MSU Cross Country Finishes Fourth at SEC Preview
The Mississippi State women's cross country team claimed a fourth-place finish at the SEC Preview held at the University Club on Saturday morning to begin the 2020 campaign. Sylvia Russell paced the Bulldogs, crossing the line eighth with a personal-best time of 17:28.6. Russell has been State's top finisher in all six races she has competed in in her career at MSU. Russell was one of five Bulldogs to set new career bests in the season opener. Honiotes earned a 23rd-place finish after shattering her previous personal best by 1:08 with a mark of 18:17.4. Also setting personal bests were Ashley Melcherts (19:08.4), Caroline Mattox (19:53.8) and Savannah Schwab (19:53.9), who finished 37th, 43rd and 44th, respectively. Arkansas took the team title with 15 points and six top-10 finishers. The Bulldogs will prepare for their next challenge at the FSU Invite hosted by Florida State on Oct. 2.
It's official: Deion Sanders named Jackson State's head football coach
Prime Time is coming to the Mississippi capital. Pro Football Hall of Famer Deion Sanders has signed to be the 21st head coach of Jackson State football he announced on his podcast 21st and Prime Sunday night. "God called me to Jackson State," Sanders said on the first episode of the podcast. Many people congratulated Sanders on the move during the podcast including Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. "I can't tell you what an honor it is to be on right after this big announcement for you," Jones said. "You are special, and you're going to have a lot of young people benefit from that. I mean it. It's a great move." Jackson State Acting President Thomas Hudson and athletic director Ashley Robinson also joined the podcast. Hudson called the move a result of the grace of God and history of Jackson State football. "It's very big for Jackson State University," Robinson said. "Not only for Jackson State University, this is very big for the country right now. Very big for the state of Mississippi. To Coach Prime, Jackson State University -- a blue blood program full of Hall of Famers -- it's just a great time."
SEC announces COVID-19 football cancellation policies
The SEC's cancellation procedures for the COVID-19 era are official. Per an announcement from the league office Friday, SEC football teams will need 53 active scholarship players to be able to play football games this fall. This requirement includes a minimum of seven offensive linemen, four defensive linemen and one quarterback. With approval from commissioner Greg Sankey, schools that do not have enough players to play can request a game be rescheduled for a later date or declared a no-contest. Teams may also elect to play with fewer than the number of scholarship players with league approval to do so. Even if a school has more than 53 scholarship players but doesn't feel it is properly prepared to play a game, it may request a rescheduling or no contest. Sankey alone has authority to judge in such situations. The 2020 SEC football season begins on Sept. 26. The SEC has built in a universal bye week on Dec. 12 between the end of the regular season and the SEC Championship Game, where rescheduled games can likely be put.
UGA football to display equality patch, share moment of unity with Arkansas before season opener
From their warmup shirts to their game jerseys, UGA football players will be sending a message when they take the field next Saturday at Arkansas. Their jerseys will have a patch attached that says "Together Equality" across the outline of the state borders with the Georgia G logo inside. All SEC teams will wear warmup shirts for their first game with the message: "Together It Just Means More," according to Arkansas athletic director Hunter Yurachek who said he also expects a show of unity between Bulldog and Razorback players prior to the 4 p.m. kickoff on Sept. 26 in Fayetteville. Arkansas coach Sam Pittman was hired off Kirby Smart's Georgia staff after four seasons. "I know Coach Pittman and Coach Smart with their relationship have gotten together," Yurachek told the Athens Banner-Herald. "I think they've got leaders from each of their teams together and I expect there to be some show of unity that would be collective."
Gamecock athletics facing $58 million shortfall due to coronavirus
It's like playing the stock market. Projected revenues aren't actual money in hand until the stock is sold. They're just numbers on a page that could change, for better or worse. So when South Carolina athletics director Ray Tanner gravely told the Board of Trustees last week that USC could be $58 million short of its projected $127 million revenue this year, it wasn't definite. It was just a number in the air that could change all the way to the point where it becomes real. But everyone knows how drastically the pandemic is affecting USC, and that no amount of sunny optimism affects a shortfall of $58 million that much. "The budget outlook before us is more serious than any the university has faced since the Great Recession, and the loss of revenue next fiscal year could surpass the recession in terms of a single-year impact," school president Bob Caslen said in a message to the student body, reflecting the school's estimated $165 million loss. "It will require a new level of creativity and shared sacrifice from our entire campus community."
The Cop, Lawyer and Walmart Executive Who Took on College Football
In 2017, an attorney named Thomas Mars was driving around Mississippi listening to an audiobook called "The System: The Glory and Scandal of Big-Time College Football." He knew almost nothing about college football. He knew even less about how much the book's title would soon come to define him. Three years later, Mars has become the unlikeliest rabble-rouser in the sport. One of the few guys in the South who never bothered to watch college football on weekends has developed a potent legal practice helping players and needling the sport's most powerful institutions. Mars's work led to coach Hugh Freeze leaving Ole Miss amid an embarrassing scandal. His assistance to players has made him the only person beloved by fans at both Michigan and Ohio State. He's a private sounding board for many of college football's most powerful coaches and administrators -- the same people who one day could be on the other side of one of his legal attacks. In recent weeks, his cause célèbre was the Big Ten's decision to postpone its football season because of the pandemic. Mars, 62 years old, represented the families of players who wanted to reverse course -- which the conference did last week when it said its season would begin in October.

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