Thursday, October 1, 2020   
Mississippi State compresses 2021 spring semester
Mississippi State University revised its 2021 spring semester calendar to end the semester earlier than originally scheduled. Classes start on Jan. 6 and end on April 19, the university announced Wednesday. The university revised the calendar due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. MSU will not have a spring break, though. MSU will not hold classes on April 5, the day after Easter. The university will be closed to observe Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Jan. 18 and Good Friday, April 2. MSU-Meridian will hold graduation on April 29 and on the Starkville campus on April 30. "Ending the semester a week earlier than usual hopefully will give students added time to consider enrolling in a Maymester course and summer school, and planning for co-op experiences, summer work, or making up other opportunities lost to the pandemic this past year," said David Shaw, MSU provost and executive vice president.
Mississippi's sweet potato growers face challenges
This year's sweet potato harvest is ramping up, and initial reports from the field indicate an average yield for 2020. The variability in expected yield from field to field can be chalked up to location and soil moisture, said Mark Shankle, a researcher and professor with the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station at the Pontotoc Ridge-Flatwoods Branch Experiment Station. "Some fields benefited from timely rains," Shankle said, "while others either received not enough or too much." Trent Barnett, an agent with the Mississippi State University Extension Service in Calhoun County, offered a promising forecast for his area. About a third of the state's crop is planted there. For the last five years, the state's total sweet potato acreage has hovered between 27,000 and 30,000 acres. "I would say a good estimate for Calhoun County acreage would be 9,000 to 10,000 acres," Barnett said. "I am excited about what I have seen of the sweet potato crop at this time, but we are still early in the season." MSU supports the state's sweet potato industry with research plots, new variety testing and other activities. Research at the Pontotoc Ridge-Flatwoods Branch is driven by input from industry stakeholders.
Monday brings voter registration deadline ahead of presidential election
Mississippians who are eligible to vote but are not yet registered face a Monday registration deadline in order to cast a ballot during the presidential election in November. State law requires that only those voters registered by Oct. 5 will be eligible to participate in the upcoming Nov. 3 elections, which will feature races for president, congress and Mississippi judicial posts. A handful of ballot referendums will also go before voters, including one that will decide whether a new flag is approved and another that will decide the legal status of medical marijuana within the state. Circuit clerks must open their offices from 8 a.m. until noon on Saturday, Oct. 3 to accommodate eligible residents who wish to register as voters ahead of the Monday deadline. Eligible voters can register through Monday. Applicants can also return voter registration forms by mail, but the forms must be postmarked no later than Monday, Oct. 5 to ensure eligibility to participate in the Nov. 3 election.
Mississippi governor ends statewide mask mandate
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves ended a statewide mask mandate Wednesday but said he will still require people to wear face coverings in schools to curb the spread of the coronavirus. "We should not use the heavy hand of government more than it is justified," Reeves said at a news conference. "We have to tailor our actions to the current threat, and make sure that they do not go beyond what is reasonable." Mississippi's statewide mask mandate has been in place since Aug. 4. Reeves, a Republican, has chosen to extend the mandate several times since then. However, on Wednesday, he said the declining number of confirmed virus cases and hospitalizations are positive developments that call for the lifting of some restrictions. Reeves said there will still be restrictions on the number of people who are allowed in restaurants, bars and other businesses. College football games are already happening in Mississippi, and Reeves said people will still be asked to wear masks while attending games.
Gov. Tate Reeves lifts Mississippi's COVID-19 mask mandate, but there are some exceptions
Gov. Tate Reeves announced Wednesday that he will not extend the state-wide mask mandate that was originally issued in early August, but masks will still be required in schools. The new COVID-19 executive order was set to go into effect at 5 p.m. on Wednesday and last until Nov. 11, consolidating all previous executive orders into one. During his Wednesday press conference, Reeves encouraged schools closed due to COVID-19 to reopen as soon as possible. Reeves also eased some social distancing restrictions, including increasing attendance at high school football games to 50% of stadium capacity. People who are in attendance at high school football games will be encouraged to wear masks when entering the stadium and as they leave, Reeves said. Football games at college stadiums will continue to be limited to 25 percent of stadium capacity. Reeves said that the state will take the time to look at data related to attendance in college stadiums. Ole Miss hosted its first home game last week. Southern Miss has already played host to three.
Gov. Tate Reeves lifts most of Mississippi's COVID-19 mask mandate
Gov. Tate Reeves on Wednesday lifted the statewide mask mandate that was in place since early August, though face coverings will still be required in schools and certain businesses. "We should not use the heavy hand of government more than it is justified," Reeves said at a news conference. "We have to tailor our actions to the current threat, and make sure they do not go beyond what is reasonable." Even while recognizing masks were highly effective in cutting virus transmission, Reeves let the mandate expire Wednesday instead of extending it by several weeks as he has done before. Masks will still be required on school campuses under the order, as well as inside close-contact businesses such as barber shops. The order's language strongly encourages Mississippians to keep wearing masks everywhere in public, and Reeves said he would continue to do so. Earlier this week, Dr. LouAnn Woodward, leader of the University of Mississippi Medical Center, tweeted a graph showing the decrease in cases after Reeves' statewide order. "It works!" wrote the health care leader, who previously had warned her hospital could be overwhelmed without such an order.
Gov. Tate Reeves ends statewide mask mandate, urges all schools to open
Gov. Tate Reeves on Wednesday declined to extend a statewide mask-wearing mandate as COVID-19 cases remain relatively flat, saying "we should not use the heavy hand of government more than it is justified." He also called for any schools that remain closed to in-person teaching to open, but said mask wearing will still be required in schools, and at some "close contact" businesses such as salons and barber shops. "It can be done safely -- that's been proven," Reeves said. "There is no excuse to force parents across Mississippi to continue to be full-time teachers." Reeves' decision to end the statewide mask mandate comes as similar mask mandates continue in 30 states. Reeves issued an executive order on Aug. 4 mandating wearing of masks in public after he had issued mask mandates on a county-by-county basis after COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in those areas spiked. Reeves said he believes most Mississippians will continue to wear masks in public.
Mississippi legislators to revise some virus relief spending
Mississippi lawmakers are returning to the Capitol to reconsider how the state is spending some coronavirus relief money from the federal government. The House and Senate will convene at 10 a.m. Thursday, and they are expected to remain until Friday. Mississippi, like many other states, received $1.25 billion from Congress to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. "We're looking at moving some money around," Senate President Pro Tempore Dean Kirby, a Republican from Pearl, said Wednesday. "We put too much in some places and not enough in others." Kirby said legislators could shift some money to veterans' homes, and send some to hospitals for intensive care units. He said budget writers might reconsider the $300 million they already put into aid for small businesses. Officials have said the state received fewer requests than expected for the business aid. But, some business owners have said the state has been slow to respond to their applications.
Mississippi lawmakers plan to reallocate unused COVID-19 relief money
Mississippi lawmakers are scheduled to return to Jackson once again Thursday in order to reallocate tens of millions of dollars in federal COVID-19 relief funds. "We're coming back into session, at the end of the longest session ever in Mississippi history that I can find," Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann said Monday on Supertalk Mississippi. Most of the money legislators must reallocate was originally meant to assist small businesses. Lawmakers set aside $300 million in federal CARES Act money in May for companies, with $60 million for distributed in direct payments and the remainder to be made available in grants up to $25,000 each. But several months later, only half of the $60 million had been distributed and only 1% of the $240 million in grant money had been distributed, the Clarion Ledger found. So lawmakers in August tweaked the program's rules, allowing larger grant amounts and broadening access to different types of businesses. Still, Hosemann said this week, about $60 million of the Back to Business grant money remained unspoken for, so lawmakers want to spend it elsewhere. "The ag community has suffered a good bit, and our veterans' homes have had a lot of coronavirus, and need some help," Hosemann said.
Supporters, detractors debate medical marijuana during first public hearing
Medical marijuana supporters tout the drug as a low risk and effective way to treat pain; detractors describe it as an addictive substance that can lead to a lifetime of abuse. Both arguments were presented to approximately two dozen people at the Gertrude C. Ford Center at the University of Mississippi, Wednesday night, during the first of a series of public hearings about two medical marijuana initiatives set to appear on the Nov. 3 ballot. The hearing featured a mix of speakers both for and against the citizen-sponsored Initiative 65 and its alternate measure, Initiative 65A, created by the Mississippi Legislature. Four more public hearings, hosted by the Mississippi Secretary of State's Office, are scheduled through mid-October. The next will take place Thursday at the Leflore County Civic Center in Greenwood. Mississippi State Board of Health member Jim Perry spoke against legalizing marijuana, arguing that the Constitutional amendment proposed by Initiative 65 is too broad and could have dire consequences, if passed. "For many, many people, this may sound appealing. I think many of the people for it are well intentioned," he said. "Those people who signed those clipboards didn't realize all the things that go along with this."
Dedication of new Mississippi Trade Mart scheduled
Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce Andy Gipson will officially cut the ribbon at the new Mississippi Trade Mart on the State Fairgrounds on Thursday, October 1. A building dedication will take place at 8:30 a.m. in Exhibit Hall A. Following the dedication, there will be a ceremonial ribbon cutting at 10:00 a.m. in the foyer of the new Trade Mart. The public is invited to attend. The new Trade Mart is attached to the Mississippi Coliseum, expanding the functionality and flexibility of both facilities. Approaching 110,000 square feet, the new facility includes a lobby, commercial-sized kitchen, two cafes, a reception area and three massive trade halls. The trade halls provide a large, covered space for exterior events such as the Mississippi State Fair. For large events, the Coliseum, which recently underwent a $2.2 million arena renovation, may be used as a connected fourth bay for the Trade Mart. The Mississippi Legislature authorized $30 million to build the new Trade Mart and make improvements to the Mississippi Fairgrounds. The new Mississippi Trade Mart was designed by Wier Boerner Allin Architecture, and Fountain Construction was the general contractor.
Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith meets Judge Amy Coney Barrett, confident of confirmation
U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) met with Judge Amy Coney Barrett on Wednesday as part of the Senate confirmation process following her selection by President Donald Trump to serve as an Associate Justice on the U.S. Supreme Court. Hyde-Smith issued the following statement after their discussion at the U.S. Capitol: "It was an honor to meet with Judge Amy Coney Barrett personally and to touch base on her background and judicial philosophy. Judge Barrett has a brilliant legal mind. She is a true Constitutionalist and I certainly trust her judgement and ability to interpret the law fairly and apply it accordingly. This amazing wife and mother has a servant's heart. I am confident the Senate will confirm Judge Barrett after a review of her qualifications and background. She will bring a unique and important perspective to the court and will be an amazing addition to the court. I certainly pray for her and her family during this process." At an earlier news conference Wednesday, Hyde-Smith joined Republican women Senators to discuss Judge Barrett as a jurist and role model for working women and girls, while also criticizing the double standard applied when covering women in public service.
Cindy Hyde-Smith, in new Senate ad, works to take health care issue away from Mike Espy
Health care, which Democratic challenger Mike Espy has described as his top issue, is the focus of Republican U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith's second campaign ad in advance of the Nov. 3 general election. "As your United States senator, I've made it a priority to improve access to quality health care for all Mississippians," Hyde-Smith said in the 30-second TV ad released Wednesday. Espy has for weeks focused on health care during the campaign, saying he wanted to be known as the health care senator for Mississippi. "This is the No. 1 issue for the Espy campaign. It is the No. 1 issue in Mississippi," Espy said. Various polls have highlighted the importance of improved health care affordability and access for Mississippians with a Chism Strategies/Millsaps College poll in January, finding 70% of Mississippians were concerned about being able to afford health care. And the COVID-19 pandemic has heightened the importance of the issue.
The Lincoln Project to support Mike Espy in Mississippi Senate race
The Lincoln Project, a group of Republicans opposed to President Trump, plans to support Democratic Mississippi U.S. Senate candidate Mike Espy against incumbent Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith in the final month of a race that has otherwise seen scant national attention or outside spending. "We're going in there," said Lincoln Project co-founder Rick Wilson, a longtime Republican political strategist who was field director for President George H.W. Bush's 1988 campaign. "We're going to help (Espy) ... It's the right thing to do. Mike Espy wins the 'I don't want to be embarrassed by a lunatic' demo." The Lincoln Project has gained national attention for their brutal ads that typically call into question the character and morals of Republican candidates. Wilson said the political committee plans to run ads in Mississippi, similar to what it has done in Alaska to support Democratic Senate candidate Al Gross against incumbent Republican Dan Sullivan. The Lincoln Project has a $482,000 ad buy in Alaska, part of a $4 million campaign also supporting challengers to GOP candidates in Maine and Montana.
Joe Biden endorses Democrat Mike Espy in Mississippi US Senate race
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is endorsing Mike Espy in Mississippi's U.S. Senate race as the former agriculture secretary again tries to unseat Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, a Republican loyal to President Donald Trump. Hyde-Smith was appointed to the Senate in the spring of 2018 to temporarily succeed longtime Republican Sen. Thad Cochran after he resigned because of health concerns. She defeated Espy in a November 2018 special election to fill the rest of the six-year term that Cochran started. Espy's campaign announced his support from Biden in a fundraising email Wednesday. Mississippi is a Republican-dominated state that last had a Democrat in the Senate in 1988. The state's population is 38% Black. For Espy to win, he needs a strong turnout among Black voters loyal to the Democratic party while also gaining support from white voters disenchanted with the Trump administration. In 2018, Hyde-Smith won with 54% of the vote.
Joe Biden endorses Mike Espy in Mississippi U.S. Senate race
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden on Wednesday endorsed Mississippi U.S. Senate candidate Mike Espy. "A lifelong Mississippian, Mike Espy has spent his career working to improve the lives of Mississippi's working families," Biden said. "From his times as the first Black congressman from Mississippi since Reconstruction to his critical leadership as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture to his role helping to build a strong rural economy across the South, Mike Espy has the experience to move Mississippi forward." Espy said: "Joe Biden unites and heals. He has dignity and empathy. He is the leader our country needs right now to move forward ... I look forward to working with President Biden and Vice President Harris to increase opportunities for all Mississippians." Espy is challenging incumbent Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, who defeated Espy in a special election for the Senate seat in 2018.
At White House's urging, Republicans launch anti-tech blitz ahead of election
The Trump administration is pressuring Senate Republicans to ratchet up scrutiny of social media companies it sees as biased against conservatives in the run-up to the November election, people familiar with the conversations say. And the effort appears to be paying off. In recent weeks, the White House has pressed Senate Republican leaders on key committees to hold public hearings on the law that protects Facebook, Twitter and other internet companies from lawsuits over how they treat user posts, three Senate staffers told POLITICO. They requested anonymity to discuss private communications. And action is following. Senate Commerce Chair Roger Wicker is having his committee vote Thursday on whether to issue subpoenas to the CEOs of Facebook, Twitter and Google to testify about how they police content on their platforms. That's after the Mississippi Republican tried and failed last week to push through subpoenas that could have compelled the CEOs to testify with only a few days' notice. The congressional actions mark a sudden and dramatic escalation of efforts by Senate Republicans to revamp the legal shield -- particularly with a Congress readying for elections and embroiled in negotiations over Covid relief. But Republicans say Section 230 has allowed social media platforms to discriminate against conservative viewpoints with impunity. Tech companies deny any such bias, and the administration itself has noted there's limited academic data to back up the concerns.
President Trump signs stopgap funding bill, averting government shutdown
President Donald Trump early Thursday morning signed a short-term bill extending current appropriations through Dec. 11, buying more time for lawmakers to get through the November elections and then try to wrap up in a lame-duck session. Trump didn't get back from a campaign rally in Minnesota in time to beat a midnight deadline for funding the government. But that didn't mean agencies were winding down their activities and telling employees not to show up during daylight hours. White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows had told reporters on the plane that Trump would sign the continuing resolution early Thursday after he landed in Washington, according to a pool report. There wasn't a lapse in appropriations even though he didn't sign it quite in time for the start of the fiscal year on Oct. 1. That's because of Trump's intent to sign the measure, which the Senate cleared Wednesday on an 84-10 vote. The punt to Dec. 11 leaves a tall task for lawmakers in the post-election lame-duck session, particularly if the White House or Senate change hands.
Nashville presidential debate to take on 'additional structure' after chaotic Trump, Biden exchange
The final presidential debate -- scheduled to take place in Nashville Oct. 22 -- will likely look different than Tuesday night's chaotic exchange, according to organizers. After President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden took part in their first debate in Cleveland, an event that proved to be chaotic and difficult for the moderator to control, the Commission on Presidential Debates announced Wednesday that they'll take a different approach during future debates. "Last night's debate made clear that additional structure should be added to the format of the remaining debates to ensure a more orderly discussion of the issues," the commission announced in a statement. "The CPD will be carefully considering the changes that it will adopt and will announce those measures shortly." The commission thanked Fox News host Chris Wallace, who moderated the debate. The event was intended to be divided into six 15-minute segments focused on different topics. Each candidate was supposed to have two minutes to respond to the question before an open-ended discussion would take place. But the structure didn't hold.
Moderator Chris Wallace on the wild presidential debate: 'It was revealing'
Fox News anchor Chris Wallace was surprised by the ugly contentiousness of the first 2020 debate between President Trump and his opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, on Tuesday, but he believes the clash still offered viewers plenty of insights about the two candidates. "Obviously It was not the debate I had planned for, and to that degree I was disappointed," Wallace, 72, said Wednesday in a telephone interview with The Times. "I think debates are about revealing what [the candidates] think. You certainly gained an insight into Donald Trump and what he's thinking and where he wants to take the country and how he wants to take the country there. To that degree I thought it was a success. It may not have been pretty, but it was revealing." The chaos caused largely by Trump's frequent interruptions led TV pundits and social media to describe the debate as the worst in American history. Wallace weathered criticism over his efforts to control the proceedings, although some analysts said it was a lost cause with Trump at one of the lecterns. Wallace found Trump's willingness to keep interrupting "curious" after it became apparent that Biden, prone to making gaffes in his public appearances, was not going to be rattled by the strategy. "Trump never went to Plan B," Wallace said. "He just stayed on Plan A the entire evening, and I don't think it served him especially well."
Gov. Tate Reeves condemns white supremacy, but not President Trump for refusing to do same
Gov. Tate Reeves condemned white supremacy groups Wednesday, but refused to criticize President Donald Trump's refusal to do the same. "I condemn white nationalist groups," Reeves said Wednesday in response to a question from a reporter. But he said he did not "interpret" Trump as refusing to condemn white supremacy during Tuesday's contentious debate with former Vice President Joe Biden. When debate moderator Chris Wallace asked Trump and Biden if they condemned white supremacist groups on Tuesday night, the president did not do so, and instead said, "Proud Boys, stand back and stand by. But I'll tell you what, somebody's got to do something about antifa and the left." The Proud Boys has been labeled as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center and has been accused of committing multiple violent acts during Black Lives Matter protests across the nation, In recent days, antifa has been labeled by FBI Director Chris Wray as being a movement more than an organized group. People associated with antifa often are blamed for some of the violent acts during demonstrations in cities across the nation and are often in conflict, sometimes physically, with white supremacist groups like the Proud Boys.
Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville defends President Trump's statements on white supremacists at debate
Alabama Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville, at a campaign stop in Red Bay on Wednesday, blamed moderator Chris Wallace for the presidential debate Tuesday night that at times seemingly skidded out of control as President Donald Trump and challenger Joe Biden constantly talked over each other. "It was like a football game without a referee," Tuberville said in a brief interview with following a speech to supporters. "(Moderator Chris) Wallace, he wasn't strong enough. I thought he did a good job but he just kind of lost control of it. "Myself included, I wanted to hear what they said about the issues, not argue back and forth. I guess, the first one like that, both of them were fired up, I hope the next one is more controlled and they have somebody that can control it a little bit better." Tuberville faces Democrat Sen. Doug Jones in the Nov. 3 Senate election. In speaking to about 40 people at Hotel Red Bay, Tuberville made only a passing comment about the debate. He focused his comments on his desire to "give back" to the people of Alabama as the motivation for his first foray into politics.
Layoffs still piling up as jobless claims remain stubbornly high
A cascade of new layoffs announced this week is putting pressure on an already strained labor market, as numerous large companies have said they plan to shed thousands of workers in the final months of 2020. The Labor Department on Thursday painted a grim picture of the jobs market even before these new layoffs picked up steam, saying another 837,000 initial claims for unemployment insurance were processed last week. And 650,000 people had new claims processed for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, the program for self-employed and gig workers, up slightly from 630,000 the week before. The total number of people claiming unemployment insurance ticked up slightly, to 26.5 million people for the week ending Sept. 12. There are numerous signs that the labor market is going to become weaker in the fall after several months of gains. Hopes for a swift employment recovery from the pandemic's initially devastating blow in March and April have faded, especially in certain industries. The White House and congressional Democrats are trying to negotiate another economic relief package, with talks continuing on Thursday.
U. of Mississippi creates new dashboard to track asymptomatic testing on campus
The University of Mississippi has launched a new dashboard to track data from the COVID-19 asymptomatic testing program on campus. The dashboard is located on the same webpage as the original COVID-19 dashboard, but it will only be updated each Friday. Currently, the dashboard shows that most students, faculty and staff who were invited to participate in the asymptomatic testing program did not respond. The university sent 6,000 total invitations to students, faculty and staff. 74% of those invited did not respond to the email invitation, and 11% opted out of the program. Of the 5,088 students who were invited to participate, only 588 chose to receive a test. The other 3,958 did not respond, and 542 opted out of the test. Jean Gispen, a physician with University of Mississippi Employee Health Services, wrote a letter to The Daily Mississippian editor on Sept. 13 urging university community members to participate in the free testing. "We need to know what the percentage (of asymptomatic people who have COVID-19) is on our campus, so students, faculty and staff can adjust their behavior accordingly," Gispen wrote in the letter. "This knowledge empowers us to take measures that will get us back to normal as quickly as possible."
Delta State's Jackson Alumni Chapter honors three scholarship recipients, preps for online auction fundraiser
The Jackson Alumni Chapter of the Delta State University National Alumni Association recently connected virtually for its annual chapter meeting to receive campus updates, honor three scholarship recipients and discuss final plans for its upcoming online auction in support of DSU students. The virtual meeting, which was well attended by Jackson area alums, was highlighted by presentations from President William N. LaForge and Director of Athletics Mike Kinnison. Jackson Chapter President Melissa Love ('04) said the meeting was a great opportunity for members to receive University updates and learn about opportunities to support DSU students. "I truly appreciate hearing from President LaForge and Coach Kinnison -- always informative and entertaining," said Love. "Our virtual meeting was a great chance to connect with Jackson alumni, and discuss our upcoming online auction." The online auction is slated to run Oct. 3-10 and will include various fun and unique items to bid on in an effort to raise money for the chapter's scholarship fund.
East Central Community College president visits diesel school
The new president of East Central Community College visited the Diesel Equipment Technology program facility in Philadelphia on Monday to see how the facility will impact future students interested in diesel mechanics and truck driving. "Our program provides the opportunity to offer classes that other community colleges don't have, so you can get a first-rate education on being a diesel mechanic," said Dr. Brent Gregory. "We are one of just six community colleges in the state that offer this." Gregory said the overall size and newness of the machinery are just not commonplace across the community college system. "There were different projects going on in every room," he said. "The more hands-on experience you get, the better off you will be. It was great to see all the work going on over there." Gregory said he's looking forward to future East Central partnerships. "We're extremely excited about the partnerships we have. Philadelphia is the hub for East Central opportunities," he said. Community Development Partnership President David Vowell saw Dr. Gregory's visit to the facility as a good way to strengthen the relationship East Central has with Neshoba County.
William Carey, Mississippi National Guard partner for tuition discount
Members of the Mississippi National Guard can add another university to the list of institutions offering them discounted tuition. William Carey University will be allowing members to attend classes at $250 per credit hour. "If we can offer an opportunity for a soldier to get a good education at an institution like William Carey, that benefits that soldier, it benefits that soldier's family, it benefits us," said Maj. Gen. Janson D. Boyles, Mississippi's adjutant general. Boyles said the men and women the National Guard bring to the table will be quality students for William Carey. "We bring young men and women who are self disciplined, they're self starters and they're motivated to get a good education to be a real contributor to society," Boyles said. William Carey is the eighth Mississippi school to partner with the Mississippi National Guard for a tuition program.
U. of Alabama cancels spring break for students
The University of Alabama has canceled spring break in an effort to minimize the risk of spreading the coronavirus through travel. A Wednesday news release from UA said that eliminating spring break will lead to a later start to the spring semester. Classes for the spring semester are now scheduled to begin on Jan. 13, a week later than previously scheduled. Classes will be canceled on March 15 for a mid-semester wellness/study day. UA says it plans to continue in-person instruction and provide students with on-campus residences for the spring semester. The news release said that the established public health policies will continue to be in effect at UA, including wearing masks and practicing social distancing. The majority of classes will have an in-person component and online options if a student or faculty member is required to be in quarantine or isolation because of COVID-19.
U. of Missouri enrollment up more than 1,000 over 2019
An increase in the number of transfer, graduate and professional students along with a record retention rate helped the University of Missouri notch a second consecutive year of enrollment growth. The official enrollment figure for the fall semester, 31,105, is 3.5 percent above the 2019 enrollment, another step on recovering from the crash in attendance that followed the 2015 Concerned Student 1950 protests over racial issues on campus. The retention rate -- which measures the percentage of freshmen who return after their first year in college -- was 89.4 percent, up 1.5 percentage points from the record rate set 2019. "We've created a lot of supports to try to move those numbers up," university spokeswoman Liz McCune said Wednesday. "When you see change like this, it is not by accident, it is by design." Figures provided by the university show that there were 5,318 first-time college students enrolled this fall, down from 5,432 in 2019. That decline, however, is more than offset by 257 more transfer students, 217 more graduate students and 60 more professional students.
Many college presidents are leaving but say the pandemic isn't driving them out
Dozens of college presidents have announced that they will retire or otherwise step down before or at the end of June 2021, the close of the current fiscal and academic year. The pandemic provides an unusual backdrop for leadership transitions, although many retiring presidents have said the pandemic was not the primary reason for their departure. The apparent flood of retirement announcements makes perfect sense, said Rod McDavis, managing principal at AGB Search, a higher education leadership search firm. Many presidents who would have announced their departures in the spring held off. Instead, they're sharing their plans this September, alongside other planned fall announcements. "Because of the pandemic, I think most presidents who were planning to step down simply didn't want to make an announcement, because you don't want to make that type of announcement with a crisis occurring," McDavis said. Some presidents delayed not only their announcements but also their actual retirements. The future of some college presidencies was a talking point last spring.
On the road with Operation Warp Speed, the U.S. COVID-19 vaccine effort
A hospital at the University of Cincinnati sits on a street named after Albert Sabin, who famously developed a vaccine against polio that has helped rid most of the world of this once widely feared disease. A unit at the hospital now has a similarly ambitious goal as it participates in the U.S. effort to find a vaccine against COVID-19. Last week, on 25 September, the leaders of Operation Warp Speed -- the Trump administration program that has committed $10 billion to this vision -- flew in from Washington, D.C., for a tour. After learning that the hospital had in about 3 weeks enrolled 130 participants in the multisite phase III efficacy trial of one experimental vaccine, the first question Warp Speed's scientific director, Moncef Slaoui, asked was, "Do you have a good representation of diverse populations?" The nationwide efficacy trial, which compares a COVID-19 vaccine made by Moderna with a placebo, struggled at first to enroll Black and Latino participants, in part because the contract research organizations that make up three-fourths of the nearly 100 trial sites had few contacts with those communities. But the UC site and others at academic centers, which are part of the COVID-19 Prevention Trials Network (CoVPN) organized by the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), have a long history of working with minority communities to recruit participants for clinical trials.
Many lower-income students are abandoning higher education due to COVID-19
Desteny Lara is 18, and she goes to California State University, East Bay. Like many college students in America, she recently had to leave campus and move back home --- she's from South Central Los Angeles. For her, moving back means living in a two-bedroom apartment with 10 family members and grappling with how to keep her focus. "When it comes to concentrating and doing work, I normally do it at night, because everyone's asleep. Everyone's quiet, and it makes me focus more," Lara says. Still, it's getting challenging. And she says she wonders how much longer she can do this for: "Sometimes I think to myself, is school really worth it?" This is exactly what educators and experts are worried about. COVID-19 and the ensuing economic crisis is putting even more pressure on low-income and first-generation college students. It's starting to show: So far, there's been a decrease in students applying for financial aid -- especially from low-income students. Around 100,000 fewer high school seniors completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, to attend college this year.
Teletherapy platforms extend reach of college counseling centers
As the coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the ongoing and exacerbated mental health challenges that students face, it has also opened the door to virtual counseling companies at colleges wanting to meet a serious and growing need to provide services to increasingly anxious and stressed-out students. Telehealth applications and web platforms marketed specifically to colleges as a way to provide students teletherapy or tele-mental health services have gained renewed attention as campus counseling centers get increased requests for mental health services and conduct significantly more therapy sessions virtually. In general, these platforms allow students to use their computers or phones for remote appointments with licensed therapists and are either directly funded by colleges or through student health services fees. The teletherapy platforms can cost colleges anywhere from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars depending on the services provided and size of the institution.
'A Family Affair': Others Often Chip In To Help Pay Off Student Loans
Many people with student loans aren't carrying the burden of their debt alone. The mountain of debt weighs down their families, too. "Student loan repayment is really a family affair," says Fiona Greig, director of consumer research at the JPMorgan Chase Institute. The number of people 60 and older with student loan debt has been increasing, with many of those loans taken out by parents and grandparents to help younger family members pay for college. Now a new study by the JPMorgan Chase Institute says nearly 40% of student loan payers are helping someone else pay off their student loans. And 27% of these helpers hold no student loan debt themselves. "The promise of a student loan in a very specific way is: I go to school, I get a degree, I get human capital in my brain, which allows me to earn more in the future," Greig says. Under the CARES Act for pandemic relief and a subsequent extension by the Trump administration, interest and payments have been suspended on federal student loans through Dec. 31.
Common App to stop asking students about their high school disciplinary history
Admissions staff members have grappled for years with whether applicants should be required to disclose their high school disciplinary history when applying to college. The Common Application, a nonprofit organization that offers the most widely used college admissions tool in the U.S., announced yesterday that its answer is no. The Common App will no longer ask college applicants to share whether they got in trouble in high school as part of its standard application process. Common App members, of which there are more than 800 -- including all eight Ivy League institutions -- may still request this information as part of a supplementary process. "It's time to evolve the application. Eliminating disciplinary reporting requirements is a necessary step to creating a more equitable admissions process -- and, in turn, a more just economy," reads a statement on the Common App website. Removing the discipline question is something the Common App has considered for several years. But discussions around racial injustice this summer and increased capacity to analyze application data spurred the decision to act, said Jenny Rickard, CEO of Common App.
We run Cornell. Here's how we've kept low covid-19 rates on campus.
Martha E. Pollack and Michael I. Kotlikoff, respectively, president and provost of Cornell University, write for The Washington Post: Universities are often depicted as giant covid-19 petri dishes -- places where unruly 20-somethings become infected, spread the disease widely and are likely to power a second wave of infections in college towns and cities. That portrait has some truth to it. We've already seen the coronavirus grip university communities this fall, forcing some to halt in-person instruction and migrate to online-only classes. And we've seen many universities decide not to open for in-person instruction at all in an attempt to avoid these nightmare scenarios. Less dramatic, however, but all the more noteworthy are the stories of campuses getting in-person instruction right -- those institutions using science and technology to keep their students and neighbors safe, all while advancing their educational missions. These stories show not only that universities can remain safely operational during this pandemic but also that they can deploy their scientific knowledge and resources against a fast-spreading virus that threatens their communities. They demonstrate how to control the spread of covid-19 and permit more normal activity during this era of extreme uncertainty and challenge.

Inside the development of Mike Leach's viral bandwagon and the marketing team that brought it to life
Mike Leach, five Famous Maroon Band seniors and a wagon enter Davis Wade Stadium. This isn't the beginning of another corny joke from your parents. Rather, it's an idea that started as a joke in a text chain between MSU Senior Legal Administrator and Director of Licensing Duski Hale, Associate Athletic Director of Creative Strategy Daniel Watkins and Deputy Athletic Director of External Affairs Leah Beasley that has since morphed into the latest viral sensation featuring MSU's affable head football coach. "That was fairly athletic if I do say so myself, getting on top of that wagon," Leach said at his Monday press conference just hours after the video dropped on social media. "They're pretty creative here and did a good job putting it together." Following a string of texts in which Hale, Beasley and Watkins quipped about bringing Big Ten and Pac-12 fans temporarily into the MSU fanbase on the heels of the conferences' since-reversed cancellations of their respective seasons amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Hale had a scheduled meeting with Leach to sign apparel in his office. Broaching the idea of bringing his former fans at Washington State fans into the MSU support bubble, Leach told Hale he was all in -- and ensured one other group was included. "Hey don't forget about my Texas Tech fans," Leach said at the time. "They're so down for that."
Why Mississippi State football coaches aren't satisfied with win over LSU
One line said it all. Toward the end of Mississippi State defensive coordinator Zach Arnett's press conference Wednesday night, the moderator asked if anyone had another question to ask Arnett on the Zoom call. After a few seconds of silence, Arnett laughed and said, "You can tell I'm cheery today." The sarcasm was well-received, even through a computer screen. Arnett was not cheery. He was anything but that. His defense led the SEC in sacks with seven in an upset victory over then-No. 5 LSU, but Arnett didn't sound satisfied at all. Let him speak for his self. "By no means were we perfect," Arnett said. "There were quite a few busts out there that could have and should have led to points, but thank goodness they didn't. But we got a lot of things to clean up." "All of our opponents watching that film, they're chomping at the bit to play us on defense," Arnett said. "They see a whole bunch of opportunities out there for big plays and points." It wasn't all bad for the Mississippi State defense, though.
QBs K.J. Costello, Kyle Trask set pace with big numbers in SEC openers
Southeastern Conference fans expecting defenses to be ahead of offenses could not have been prepared for the big passing games from Mississippi State's K.J. Costello and Florida's Kyle Trask to open the season. Trask and Costello were the league's biggest opening week surprises as they showed they are quarterbacks to be watched in 2020. Trask completed 30 of 42 passes for 416 yards and six touchdowns in a 51-35 win at Mississippi. The biggest shocker came in Baton Rouge, when Costello, a Stanford transfer, passed for an SEC record 623 yards and five touchdowns as the Bulldogs beat No. 6 LSU 44-34. In his first game with Mississippi State, Costello blew past the conference's passing record that stood for 27 years. Georgia's Eric Zeier threw for 544 yards against Southern Mississippi in 1993. Costello and No. 16 Mississippi State will test the "Air Raid" attack against Arkansas this week.
What Sam Pittman said during radio show previewing Mississippi State game
Arkansas coach Sam Pittman received a token warm reception for the start of his radio show at the Catfish Hole on Wednesday. A couple of minutes into the show, Pittman received a loud ovation after radio play-by-play man Chuck Barrett complimented Pittman by saying, "Your team competed and I think that's what people were proud of as they watched your team in the first half." The effort shown by the Razorbacks -- in particular on defense -- in their 37-10 loss to No. 4 Georgia has been roundly noted in the days since the season-opening game. Perhaps the biggest takeaway and an observation that was uttered on more than one occasion by Pittman on Wednesday: the Razorbacks must learn how to win. "We just have to learn how to finish games," Pittman said. "We have to learn not to panic. Defense will give us a chance. "The first 2 1/2 quarters did build confidence for our football team. We can build confidence off that game." Arkansas will carry a 20-game SEC losing streak into its 6:30 p.m. matchup with No. 16 Mississippi State on Saturday in Starkville, Miss. Arkansas must slow down an explosive Mississippi State offense led by quarterback K.J. Costello, who passed for an SEC-record 623 yards in a 44-34 victory at LSU last week. Costello passed 60 times in the Bulldogs' first game running new coach Mike Leach's Air Raid offense. Pittman said Costello was "incredible" at LSU, but said an important key for the Razorbacks this weekend will be to stop running back Kylin Hill, a senior who led the Bulldogs in rushing last season.
'I don't feel like any progress has been made.' On the past, present and future of Black coaches in positions of power in the SEC
On a weekday summer morning, Sylvester Croom puts aside the regular chores he does around his house in Mobile, Ala. These days, his main activities consist of house projects, reading, going for walks around the neighborhood, spending time with his wife and the occasional phone call. He's no longer consumed by the profession that he spent 40 years in, but he still watches the NFL and SEC football. Sixteen years after he became the first Black head football coach in SEC history at Mississippi State, Croom is retired. For the better part of the next 40 minutes of a phone call, though, Croom isn't the same relaxed 65-year-old retiree. He's frustrated by a subject matter that he's all too familiar with -- the lack of diversity in positions of power on SEC coaching staffs. "I don't feel like any progress has been made, to be honest with you," Croom says. "To think that 16 years later, it's the fact that we're still having this conversation." There are certain numbers that Croom already knows. For example, he's well aware that including him, there have only been 5 Black head football coaches in the SEC (59 non-interim coaches have held the title of "SEC head coach" in the 21st century). Croom, Joker Phillips, James Franklin, Kevin Sumlin and Derek Mason are the 5 members of that fraternity. "It's pretty hard to forget anybody," Croom says with a chuckle. Other numbers are met with a different reaction.
Sanderson Farms golf tournament won't have fans, but some gators will be in attendance
Fuzzy might be near the bottom of a list for words that would describe an alligator. But not in Jackson. Fuzzy became the only named alligator at The Country Club of Jackson according to the Head Golf Professional Jason Prendergast ahead of this week's Sanderson Farms Championship. "One of my assistants was out giving a junior golf lesson, and they ran into [an alligator], and he named it 'Fuzzy,'" Prendergast said. "So that's the only alligator that I'm aware of that's been ever named out here." Prendergast, who started at The Country Club in 2004, spotted his first gator within two years. Now, about 10 gators occupy the bodies of water at the course. "The members certainly look for [gators] as they're playing," Prendergast said. Signs warn golfers not to stand near the ponds' edges. According to Prendergast, a large alligator looms on the left side of No. 16, and another large gator on the left side of No. 17, and hole No. 2 on the Cypress Nine. "Sometimes you have to be a little nervous when you walk over by a pond's edge to just make sure that there's not one -- just out of sight," Prendergast said.
UF's Scott Stricklin named 2020 Athletic Director of the Year at Sports Business Award Show
The University of Florida's Scott Stricklin was named the 2020 Athletic Director of the Year during the annual Sports Business Award show, which was held virtually Wednesday evening. Stricklin was one of five finalists, along with Boise State's Curt Apsey, Texas Tech's Kirby Hocutt, Oregon's Rob Mullens and Baylor's Mack Rhoades. The 2020 nominees and winners are being recognized for the period of March 1, 2019 through Feb. 28, 2020. During that time period, the Gators captured six conference championships and finished third in the 2018-19 Learfield IMG College Directors Cup. "I can't imagine a more deserving recipient of this award than Scott Stricklin," said UF President Kent Fuchs. "He is an exceptional athletic director who has guided UF's student-athletes to new heights athletically and academically, significantly strengthened our athletic program and is proving remarkably adept at leading the Gators in overcoming all the difficult challenges of COVID."
Texas A&M: Good start, but room to improve COVID-19 precautions before second football game
Months of planning culminated Saturday evening in the biggest event in Bryan-College Station since the start of the pandemic: A Texas A&M home football game at Kyle Field. Plenty of positives were seen from an operational and logistical standpoint, A&M officials said, as the Aggies defeated Vanderbilt 17-12 in front of a limited capacity of 24,073 fans -- but improvements will be made as A&M moves forward with hosting four more football games this fall. "Most of us are glad that we got one underneath our belt and the fear of the unknown is kind of dissipated, which helps a lot," said Michael Thompson, A&M's deputy athletic director. "We have an example that we can go back to. We did some things we're excited about, and we can improve on those." The item atop A&M's improvement list: Ensuring fans wear face coverings at all times inside Kyle Field, including while sitting in their seats. "Everywhere else, it seemed to be strong, but we will for the next game take a real strong interest in communicating ahead of time that face coverings are required throughout the game, no matter where you are," Thompson said. "As long as you're not eating or drinking, you need to be using your face covering."
First College Football Playoff rankings pushed back week to Nov. 24
The first College Football Playoff selection committee ranking has been pushed back a week to Nov. 24, executive director Bill Hancock told ESPN. The date was moved from Nov. 17 after all 10 FBS conferences announced their intentions to play a fall season. The 13-member selection committee will announce its fifth and final ranking on Selection Day, Dec. 20. It will be the fewest number of weekly rankings during the playoff era because of the coronavirus pandemic. "Now that we know all conferences' starting dates, this change will allow the committee to analyze another week of games," Hancock said. "There will be four rankings before Selection Day. The committee members have been studying teams and watching video, and I know they're looking forward to rolling up their sleeves and getting together."
Election 2020: Sports team owners support Republicans with millions
USA TODAY Sports reviewed the political contributions of 183 owners from 161 teams across MLB, MLS, the NBA, the NFL, the NHL and the WNBA. The filings show that owners have collectively given at least $14.6 million to federal candidates during the 2019-20 election cycle so far -- with nearly 86% of those funds going to Republican candidates and causes. USA TODAY Sports found that owners have directed more than $3.7 million to political action committees directly aligned with President Donald Trump, who has said he does not support the Black Lives Matter movement and does not believe that systemic racism exists. Other Republican candidates have echoed Trump's positions or declined to contradict them. In contrast, owners have given a combined $1.35 million to Democratic candidates and causes during this election cycle, including roughly $334,000 to presidential nominee Joe Biden. While more owners have given directly to Biden than to Trump, the donations generally have been in much smaller amounts.

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