Wednesday, October 14, 2020   
3 ways to get your point across while wearing a mask -- tips from an award-winning speech coach
Cheryl Chambers, an instructor in the Department of Communication and head coach of the speech and debate team at Mississippi State University, writes for The Conversation: You wear your mask, keep six feet between yourself and others and are committed to safety. But the measures that help minimize your risk of COVID-19 can also have an impact on your interactions with others. As you stroll the aisle of a supermarket, you approach someone who looks familiar. To avoid an awkward exchange, you flash them a friendly smile. It's not until you pass you remember: Your smile was hidden behind a mask. Unloading your groceries at home, you see your neighbor. You excitedly ask her how she is, but when she doesn't respond, you worry your mask has muffled your voice. As the head coach for Mississippi State University's Speech and Debate Team, my job is to teach effective communication. Without question, masks have disrupted social interactions. But communication has many components. You can adjust and enhance your communication by focusing on some of the other pieces that aren't hidden behind a mask.
Why Do Abused Women Stay? Fear, Finances, Isolation, Love, Distrust and More
Megan Stubbs-Richardson, an assistant research professor at the Social Science Research Center at Mississippi State University, and H. Colleen Sinclair, an associate professor in MSU's Department of Psychology, write for the Mississippi Free Press: "I don't understand why she doesn't just leave." Have you heard someone say that in response to conversations about intimate-partner violence? The October observation of Domestic Violence Awareness Month is a charge to all of us to better understand and support those facing this very serious problem. It's important to remember that most survivors eventually leave; however, when they do leave the relationship, they're actually the most at risk for experiencing escalated violence and even death. More than half of female homicides are at the hands of current or former male partners. Furthermore, separated women are 25 times more likely to experience physical assault by former partners and are five times more likely to be murdered by them than are women who stay with them. Many women in abusive relationships know this, so it is of course one of the primary reasons they stay -- to survive.
SHS principal proposes changing grade configuration, other restructures to curb low graduation rate
The principals for Starkville High and Armstrong Junior High schools presented proposed restructuring plans at the Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District board meeting Tuesday night, after SHS Principal Howard Savage reported the district's graduation rate fell below 85 percent in 2019. "Starkville High School for the first time had under 85 percent graduation rate," Savage said. "Based on the state requirement, we had to come up with a restructuring plan on how (we are) going to rectify this." His proposal included looking at four areas to reform: behavior, course performance, attendance and the school's programs for students with disabilities. Armstrong Principal Ra'Mon Forbes, who presented his own similar restructuring plan since he said the junior high school "feeds into" the high school, said his school would follow whatever the high school did in terms of grading configurations. Both Savage and Forbes said changing the grades to put more focus on daily work in the classroom will motivate students to put in continuous effort. Right now, because the district allows students the opportunity to retake tests when they perform poorly, some of them rely on those retakes.
John Grisham Brings Back His Hero Jake Brigance for a Third Case
Hello again, Jake Brigance! You've come back at the right time. It's nice to return to the courtroom with someone we trust. It's reassuring to remember that not everyone is crazy and unpredictable, and that books, even books about crime and punishment, can help restore our equilibrium in this season of high anxiety. "A Time for Mercy" is the third John Grisham novel to feature Brigance, a small-town Mississippi lawyer specializing in unpopular, seemingly unwinnable cases. He first appeared more than 30 years ago in Grisham's debut novel, "A Time to Kill" (1989), which began with a printing of 5,000 copies but became a runaway best seller (and a movie, starring Matthew McConaughey and Sandra Bullock) after the explosive popularity of Grisham's second novel, "The Firm" (1991), which didn't feature Brigance. Thirty-one years have passed in the real world since we were first in Clanton, but only five in its fictional life. (How satisfying to see time plodding along at its own pace, back in those sleepy days before smartphones or the internet.) Jake is still living with the repercussions of the earlier murder trial.
ERDC to induct two into the Gallery of Distinguished Civilian Employees
The U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center will induct two former employees to the Waterways Experiment Station Gallery of Distinguished Civilian Employees Thursday. Dr. Bill Martin and Dr. Reed Mosher will join the ranks of more than 100 former employees whose significant career achievements left a lasting impression on both ERDC and the nation. Martin and Mosher both served as directors of laboratories at ERDC. They pioneered technologies that proved to be life-saving for American soldiers, and both left behind a remarkable legacy when they retired from federal service. Mosher retired as director of the Information Technology Laboratory in 2018. Under his leadership, the lab's staff grew by 108 percent, becoming the second-largest ERDC lab. He also oversaw the construction of a 66,000-square-foot expansion of the lab, and his vision for a new secure computing facility is currently under construction. Mosher is now the director of Mississippi State University's Institute for Systems Engineering Research, a partnership initiative with ERDC.
Delta Council to meet Nov. 12
Delta Council President, Paul Hollis of Rolling Fork, is pleased to announce that an exclusive virtual meeting of Delta Council will be held at 10:30 a.m., Nov. 12, at 10:30 in the morning. Due to State and Federal guidelines regarding the coronavirus pandemic, the traditional Annual Meeting of Delta Council has been postponed until 2021. Keynoting the meeting will be former Senators Trent Lott of Mississippi and John Breaux of Louisiana. The two will offer their perspective on the outcome of the 2020 Election (which will be held a week before) and what it means for governance going forward. "It is an unfortunate reality in 2020 that we cannot meet in person, but this format will allow for us to convey the Delta's policy and issue priorities," said Hollis, a farmer in Sharkey County. "We hope that our members and friends will join us, and we look forward to Senators Lott and Breaux's analysis of the 2020 elections."
Mississippi reports 876 new COVID-19 cases, 25 deaths
The Mississippi State Department of Health on Wednesday reported 876 new cases of COVID-19 and 25 deaths related to the virus. Clay, Marshall, Oktibbeha and Pontotoc counties in Northeast Mississippi each reported one additional death. The statewide total number of cases since March 11 now stands at 106,817, with 3,140 total deaths. Around 94,165 people are estimated to have recovered from the virus as of October 11. All counties in the Daily Journal's coverage area reported additional cases. The additional case counts are: Alcorn (6), Benton (2), Calhoun (4), Chickasaw (8), Clay (9), Itawamba (11), Lafayette (14), Lee (51), Marshall (19), Monroe (16), Oktibbeha (9), Pontotoc (5), Prentiss (7), Tippah (12), Tishomingo (4) and Union (4).
Bart Williams wins District 15 Senate runoff; Lynn Wright takes District 37 House seat
Bart Williams of Starkville won the runoff election Tuesday for the vacant District 15 seat in the Mississippi Senate. Williams defeated Joyce Meek Yates, of Eupora, by a 4,067-3,520 margin, according to unofficial totals. He will fill the unexpired term of longtime Sen. Gary Jackson, who retired earlier this year due to health concerns. District 15 includes portions of Oktibbeha, Webster, Choctaw and Montgomery counties. In the District 37 House race, former Lowndes County School District superintendent Lynn Wright defeated David Chism, also of Lowndes County. Wright led 1,544-875 according to incomplete totals The Dispatch obtained Tuesday night. That margin does not include absentees or affidavits from Clay County or affidavits from Lowndes, the total of which will not change the outcome. The district also includes part of Oktibbeha County.
Brookhaven attorney Jason Barrett wins Senate seat for District 39
Mississippi Senate District 39 has a new senator -- Brookhaven attorney Jason Barrett. After the majority of votes were in for the District 39 special runoff election between Barrett and Brookhaven businessman Bill Sones, Sones called Barrett to concede the election and offer congratulations. "I called Jason and conceded to him," Sones told The Daily Leader. "I congratulate Jason Barrett and his family on winning the election tonight and I pledge my support to him in any way I can." Barrett said he was grateful to be elected and appreciated the support of everyone throughout his campaign. "Thank you for the honor of electing me to serve as your next District 39 Senator for all of Lawrence and Lincoln counties, and portions of Copiah and Walthall counties. I am humbled by your support and confidence," he said in a statement on his campaign's Facebook page. Sones said he was happy with the way he and Barrett had conducted their campaigns. "Jason and I were friends before this and we'll stay friends," he said.
Councilman De'Keither Stamps Wins House District 66 Runoff
Councilman De'Keither Stamps is the winner of House District 66, defeating Bob C. Lee. Jr. Stamps and Lee had a runoff after neither candidate received 50% of the vote on September 22nd. On Tuesday, Stamps received 36.60% while Lee had a little over 26%. After the victory Stamps gave thanks to God, family, and to the voters. Last year, Stamps lost this very same race by a small margin. "When you lose by .3% and back to the whole state by 1,100 votes, it cuts kind of deep. I just want to say thank you to the good Lord for giving me strength," said Stamps. Stamps said he and Lee both pledge to work together to move Hinds County and Mississippi forward.
Mississippi poised to break absentee voting record in 2020 election
While Mississippi's early voting laws are the most restrictive in the nation this year, it appears those eligible to vote absentee in the 2020 election may be doing so in record numbers. As of Sunday, more than three weeks before Election Day and the deadline to vote absentee, 58,796 Mississippians had cast absentee ballots, according to the secretary of state's office, and 91,474 absentee ballots had been requested. In the 2016 presidential election, a total of 111,967 Mississippians voted absentee. Circuit clerks in several highly populated counties told Mississippi Today that absentee voting appeared higher than ever in 2020, a year featuring a presidential election and the closely contested U.S. Senate race between Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith and Democrat Mike Espy. "It's extremely heavy," Harrison County Circuit Clerk Connie Ladner said of early voters in the most populous county on the Gulf Coast. "We started on Sept. 21 with a line of people, and it hasn't stopped since. I've been through a lot of presidential elections, and I've never seen an absentee turnout like this."
Final briefs in lawsuit over governor's vetoes due by November 6
Final briefs in a lawsuit brought by House leaders in a lawsuit over $8 million in earmarks vetoed by Gov. Tate Reeves will be due by November 6, according to a filing with the state Supreme Court. A three-judge panel of Chief Justice Michael K. Randolph and Associate Justices David Ishee and James Maxwell will review the decision by Hinds County Chancery Court Judge Tiffany Grove in a lawsuit filed by House Speaker Philip Gunn and Speaker Pro Tempore Jason White after Gov. Tate Reeves appealed her decision. Briefs from the governor will be due by October 23 and the House leaders on October 30, with the governor's attorneys wrapping up arguments with a brief due by November 6. Groves' decision rejected the governor's arguments and nullified the governor's line item vetoes of $2 million for a closed hospital in Senatobia and $6 million for the MAGnet Community Health Disparity Program in House Bill 1782. The vetoes are still in effect for the time being since the matter is under appeal.
Gov. Tate Reeves nominates 2 to state Board of Education
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves has nominated two people to fill vacancies on the state Board of Education. The governor's office announced Tuesday that Reeves has chosen Angela Bass of Jackson and Glenn East of Gulfport. Bass is nominated for a seat reserved for someone from the state's central Supreme Court district. She is executive director of the Mississippi Early Learning Alliance. Bass studied education policy and management at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She taught in the Tunica and DeSoto County schools and worked as an administrator at a charter school, the KIPP Memphis Collegiate High. East is nominated for a seat reserved for a school administrator. He is superintendent of the Gulfport School District, which has 10 schools and about 5,800 students. Nominees must eventually be confirmed by the state Senate, but they are allowed to start serving while waiting for that process.
Jackson educator among two new appointments to state board of education
Governor Tate Reeves announced two new appointments to the Mississippi State Board of Education Tuesday, including an educator from Jackson. Angela Bass, the executive director of the Mississippi Early Learning Alliance, was one of the appointees. Bass formerly served as a teacher in both the Desoto County and Tunica school districts. Glen East, the current superintendent of the Gulfport School District, was also named to the board. Gulfport's school system serves nearly 6,000 students and has previously been named as an Excellence for All district by the Mississippi Department of Education. "Mississippi's children deserve our steadfast commitment to improving education. We must continue to improve outcomes for these students without fear of upsetting the status quo," Reeves said in a statement. "I am confident that Angela and Glen will serve with honor and represent the interest of parents, teachers, and -- most importantly -- students. Their achievement has to be our top priority."
Gov. Tate Reeves appoints two new members to State Board of Education
Gov. Tate Reeves announced two new appointments to the State Board of Education on Tuesday. Reeves is appointing Angela Bass, the executive director of an education organization, of Jackson and Glen East, a superintendent, of Gulfport to fill two vacant spots on the nine-member board. Jason Dean, chairman of the state board, said Bass and East's experience and knowledge will be assets to the board. "Her (Bass') impressive background in public policy, particularly as it relates to early childhood education, will be a welcome addition to the Board's work," said Dean. Dean said he has known East and describes him as "forward thinking" in his educational leadership."He has dedicated his professional life to improving educational outcomes and, from what I can tell, he is very much forward leaning when it comes to connecting the educational expectations of parents, students and the community," said Dean. "We will be well served with his counsel on the State Board of Education." Members serve nine-year terms.
Mississippi Association of Educators endorses Mike Espy and Bennie Thompson
On Tuesday, the Mississippi Association of Educators announced its endorsements for the 2020 election cycle. MAE's political action committee, the MAE Fund for Children & Public Education, has recommended for endorsement Mike Espy for United States Senate and incumbent U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson. Both Espy and Thompson are Democrats. According to MAE, it's endorsement is a multi-step process. Candidates were asked to submit responses to a policy questionnaire and then to participate in an interview with members of its PAC. MAE's PAC includes teachers, education support professionals, higher education faculty members, and retired educators from across Mississippi. Officials with MAE said Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) was invited but did not participate in the process. "This is a critically important election. People are hurting. Our schools are in desperate need of federal relief as we continue to adjust to teaching in the time of COVID and work to provide the safe, healthy schools our communities have been promised. As always, educators are being asked to go above and beyond without being provided the tools necessary to do their jobs effectively and, as always, they're rising to the occasion -- but it doesn't have to be this way," said MAE President Erica Jones.
Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith touts President Trump's economic, 'America First' agenda
Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith allowed no political space between her and President Donald Trump during her speech at Tuesday's Lowndes County Republican Women luncheon. For the second time in two years, Hyde-Smith, a Republican from Brookhaven, will meet Mike Espy, a Democrat from Yazoo City, in a race for the U.S. Senate. Libertarian Jimmy Edwards of Grenada also is on the ballot. Hyde-Smith claimed a 7-point win over Espy in 2018 to become the state's first elected woman Senator. But in the rematch, polling suggests a much closer race. Even so, Hyde-Smith spent much of her 20-minute speech praising the record of Trump and her support for it. The website FiveThirtyEight calculated Hyde-Smith's voting support of Trump's positions at 94.5 percent. Even as Trump's polling numbers decline nationally, Hyde-Smith's support remained enthusiastic in a state where the president remains popular. Hyde-Smith touted Trump's handling of the economy, his leadership in speeding up progress on a COVID-19 vaccine and his appointments of conservative judges, including Amy Coney Barrett, who is currently facing confirmation hearings in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Hattiesburg train overpasses to become reality with federal grants
The dream of ending downtown Hattiesburg's train woes will become reality soon now that federal funding has been secured for the city to build not one, but two, overpasses to reroute motorists around the city's busy downtown switching station. Freight and passenger trains frequently pass through the downtown area or stop to switch tracks, sometimes blocking traffic for 30 to 45 minutes or longer. Sen. Roger Wicker and Rep. Steven Palazzo joined Hattiesburg officials and state Rep. Percy Watson at a news conference Tuesday to talk about one of two grants issued this year that will make the projects possible. In September, the city was notified it would receive a $13.2 million Better Utilizing Investment to Leverage Development grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to fund the west Hall Avenue project."With this round of funding, Hattiesburg residents will soon see the completion of a faster, safer downtown route along Hall Avenue," Wicker said. "I expect the completed projects will have a tremendous impact on our state."
Amy Coney Barrett back on Capitol Hill for senators' final questions
Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett returns to Capitol Hill for a third day of confirmation hearings as senators dig deeper into the conservative judge's outlook on abortion, health care and a potentially disputed presidential election -- the Democrats running out of time to stop Republicans pushing her quick confirmation. Wednesday's session is set to be Barrett's last before the Senate Judiciary Committee. She has been batting away questions in long and lively exchanges, insisting she would bring no personal agenda to the court but decide cases "as they come." The 48-year-old appellate court judge declared her conservative views in often colloquial language, but she refused many specifics Tuesday. She aligns with the late Justice Antonin Scalia, a conservative mentor, and declined to say whether she would recuse herself from any election-related cases involving Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
Sen. Roger Wicker, Rep. Steven Palazzo speak about day two of Barrett confirmation hearings
The Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday hosted day two of confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett. U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker and 4th District U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo agree Barrett is doing well in the hearings and will be confirmed. "I think the general public watching will conclude that she's a top-notch lawyer, she's a top-notch judge, she's not coming in there with an agenda," Wicker said. "She's exactly what we need," Palazzo said. "Her last quote that I read [said] that she will interpret the Constitution and laws as written, I think that's extremely important for all Americans." Wicker and Palazzo were in Hattiesburg Tuesday to help the city celebrate the acquisition of two federal grants that will assist it in building two new railroad overpasses.
More than 100 Notre Dame faculty sign statement opposing Amy Coney Barrett appointment to Supreme Court
As Amy Coney Barrett was undergoing hours of questioning Tuesday, on the second day of her confirmation hearing for appointment to the Supreme Court, more than 100 faculty members back at the University at Notre Dame, where she had been a law professor for 20 years, were signing an online letter opposing her appointment. The petition drive came a day after retired Notre Dame law school dean Patricia O'Hara introduced Barrett before the Senate Judiciary Committee Monday as "an exceptional teacher and superb scholar." Notre Dame's president, the Reverend John Jenkins, while not wearing a mask, also attended the ceremony at the White House's Rose Garden two weeks ago where President Trump announced his nomination of Barrett to the court. The letter, in part, was meant to make the point that not all of Barrett's former colleagues at the university support her appointment to the court, said Kristin Shrader-Frechette, a Notre Dame biological sciences professor who organized the petition with three other university professors. It's not the first time those at an institution with connections to Barrett have opposed her nomination to replace the late justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Last month, more than 1,500 alumni of Rhodes College, the small Memphis, Tenn., institution where Barrett graduated magna cum laude with an undergraduate degree in English, signed a statement saying they are "firmly and passionately opposed to her nomination."
Another 'skinny' coronavirus relief bill on tap in Senate
The Senate will vote next week on a roughly $500 billion COVID-19 relief package that mirrors an earlier Republican proposal, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced Tuesday. The decision to push another "skinny" relief bill marked a new attempt to jump-start negotiations that have been stalled for months over the size and shape of the next round of economic aid for the pandemic. A $1.8 trillion relief offer last week from the Trump administration landed with a thud on Capitol Hill, as House Democrats said it was too small and Senate Republicans said it was too big. But there was little reason to think that the upcoming legislation pushed by McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, stands any real chance of becoming law. And the strategy of going narrow and "targeted," as McConnell put it, appeared to contradict President Donald Trump's own intentions. "STIMULUS! Go big or go home!!!" the president tweeted, within minutes of McConnell's announcement.
Legal challenges around voting likely to continue past election
More than 12 million people have already voted in the 2020 election. And according to the polls, most of those who haven't voted have likely already decided for whom they will vote, at least in terms of the presidency. Yet ongoing legal challenges over just who can vote and how they should be able to vote could make the difference in some swing districts, meaning the outcome of the current election could hang on rulings by various courts. The COVID-19 pandemic prompted a lot of changes to the ways we vote, with more people choosing to vote early or by mail and states sometimes adjusting rules and regulations about voter access. That has the group Judicial Watch -- among others -- busy in courtrooms all over the country. "We've got a few lawsuits to try to clean up the rolls," said Tom Fitton, president of the conservative group. According to Lynne Rambo, emeritus professor of law at Texas A&M, competitive races are more likely to attract post-election legal challenges. Rambo has written extensively on the legal challenges following the 2000 presidential election. "To the extent that you don't have close races and given state, you're not likely to have litigation in those places," said Rambo. "The kinds of contests that go to litigation are ones where it is extremely close. And/or ones where there is definitive evidence that something has gone wrong in the counting, or the balloting."
Farmers reaping U.S.-aid bounty; payouts flowing to cover losses from trade policy, virus hit
For the American farmers President Donald Trump is seen as counting on for support, the government money is flowing faster than ever. Federal payments to farmers are projected to hit a record $46 billion this year as the White House funnels money to Trump's rural base in the South and Midwest, and the gush of funds has accelerated in recent weeks. Farmers have been hit hard by the double whammy of trade policies and the coronavirus pandemic. According to the American Farm Bureau, debt in the farm sector is projected to increase by 4% to a record $434 billion this year and farm bankruptcies have continued to rise across the country. Farmers are not the only constituency benefiting from the president's largesse: He has promised $200 prescription drug cards to millions of senior citizens, approved $13 billion in aid to Puerto Rico, which could help his prospects in Florida, and he directed the Agriculture Department to include letters signed by him inside millions of food aid boxes that are being distributed to the poor. But few have gotten more help than the agriculture sector, which this year is expected to receive the largest government contribution to farm income since its previous record in 2005, according to the University of Missouri's Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute.
Supreme Court says Trump administration can shut down census count now, despite fears of an undercount
The Supreme Court on Tuesday allowed the Trump administration to end the 2020 Census count now, concluding a contentious legal battle over the once-­in-a-decade household count despite fears of an undercount that would fall hardest on minority groups. The court put on hold a lower-court order that said the count should continue until the end of the month, because of delays brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. The court did not provide a reason, which is common in disposing of the kind of emergency application filed by the administration. Justice Sonia Sotomayor was the only justice to note dissent. "The harms caused by rushing this year's census count are irreparable," she wrote. "And respondents will suffer their lasting impact for at least the next 10 years." The census count has vast implications for American life, affecting the distribution of federal aid and the size of each state's congressional delegation. Under President Trump, though, what has usually been a project for the nation's bureaucrats took on a decidedly partisan tone.
MUW to conduct fall graduation ceremony online
Mississippi University for Women (MUW) will hold its fall graduation ceremony virtually this year. The ceremony is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 24 at 2 p.m. The university will broadcast the graduation ceremony on its website "Our desire to recognize our graduating students with an in-person commencement ceremony remains strong, but the current public health situation will not allow it," said Dr. Scott Tollison, provost and vice president for academic affairs. "We remain committed to holding in-person commencement exercises for our spring, summer and fall graduates that have missed out on this memorable experience due to COVID-19." According to the university, 2020 graduates (spring, summer and fall) will be recognized in-person at a point in the future when it's safe to host larger gatherings.
Children's of Mississippi unveils $180M expansion to state's only children's hospital
The state's only children's hospital on Tuesday unveiled a $180 million expansion that will allow for hundreds of additional children to be cared for in the state's capital city every year. The expansion to Children's of Mississippi, the umbrella organization that includes all pediatric care at the University of Mississippi Medical Center and Batson Children's Hospital, follows the construction of a seven-story tower that more than doubles the hospital's space to care for children in the state. "I have never been more proud of being a leader at this medical center than I ever have been in this a year that has been challenging -- to say the least -- due to the pandemic," said Dr. LouAnn Woodward, vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine at UMMC. "This is a once-in-a-lifetime event." The expansion also aims to boost the state's economy by ensuring better health outcomes for Mississippi children, better research and providing additional jobs to the state, including 30 to 40 new physicians and about 50 to 75 staff positions.
Study abroad office prepares to send UM students overseas again
Many countries have now slowly begun to open their borders again with varying restrictions for students, and the University of Mississippi study abroad office is once again encouraging students to pursue opportunities overseas, despite the changing landscape. Blair McElroy, director of study abroad, wants the office to help students make informed decisions about where they want to go, as the pandemic continues to impact different countries in varying ways. She plans to accomplish this goal with a spreadsheet updated weekly on the office's website about the requirements of how to get into certain countries as well as airfare that is offered in and out of the country. "We've had (the spreadsheet) up for a while in hopes that students will maybe decide to go in the spring or the summer," McElroy said. The office also offered virtual internships and even online programs as a replacement of traveling abroad. One program that was originally located in Taiwan is now online this semester and available to the students who were originally scheduled to travel there. "We're looking for new opportunities in this changing time," McElroy said.
Auburn University announces fall 2020 commencement plans
Auburn University announced Tuesday afternoon that its fall 2020 commencement will be held on Dec. 12 in Jordan-Hare-Stadium based on its current health outlook. Spring and summer 2020 graduates will also be allowed to participate, according to the University. To reduce the number of people gathering for graduation ceremonies, the University said individual colleges and schools will lapse when they recognize graduates at designated times. Ceremonies will have a 10-minute break between colleges and schools. "Graduates must arrive no later than 20 minutes before their scheduled time," the University said. "Following brief remarks by the dean to families and guests, graduates will have the opportunity to walk across the stage, receive their copy of The Auburn Creed from their dean and pose for photographs with their name on the video board." The individual ceremonies will be livestreamed for those with health concerns or who may be unable to visit for other reasons, the University said. The University anticipates over 2,000 fall graduates this year, emphasizing the need for commencement visitors to follow health guidelines.
Auburn's business fraternities bring majors together to mirror real-world
While fraternities are normally associated with Greek life, there are many professional fraternities on campus located within several different schools that serve to further students' career opportunities. One such coeducational fraternity, Delta Sigma Pi, is located within the Herbert College of Business. Alex Charleston, junior in accounting and president of Delta Sigma Pi, shared how the organization offers memberships to a wide range of business students. "Unlike a fraternity like Beta Alpha Psi, which is just accounting majors, for example, we have any business major," Charleston said. "So for us, we just don't focus on individual majors, we focus on overall business professional development." Having multiple different focuses in their fraternity allows members to gain even more real-world experience, he said.
More students have joined 'putative' class action lawsuit against U. of Florida
A year-old lawsuit challenging the University of Florida's freshman orientation fees has gained four student plaintiffs -- making five total -- as the university and state board of governors ask for more time to review the complaints against them. The suit, filed Sept. 20 last year by the mother of a UF student, contends she and others paid more than state law allowed for freshman orientation, or Preview, and application fees. The parties want a refund, and asked for the fees to return to state law maximums. The Sun, and later a state audit, revealed earlier that month that UF charged anywhere between $75-200 per student for Preview over the last decade. UF also charged more than the $30 limit on nonrefundable fees for freshman applications. The four students added to the lawsuit in June -- Michelle Gresser, Max Chern, Jonathan Charles and Juliana Boisse -- said they paid upward of $75 or more for their orientation experiences between 2016 and 2018. In her initial filing, Lisa Browning said she shelled out $200 for Preview in 2016. Hessy Fernandez, UF's Director of Issues Management & Crisis Communications, said the university cannot comment about active litigation and would not say whether UF intends to reimburse students.
UF overhauls COVID-19 dashboard, now displays daily totals
The University of Florida changed its COVID-19 dashboard Tuesday afternoon to display daily totals of tests and positive cases. It previously didn't do either. A new chart at the top of the dashboard displays the total number of tests and positive cases recorded every day instead of a cumulative count since May. The chart displays tests from all testing sites as one number. UF Health's spokesperson Ken Garcia said the new dashboard better represents daily trends. The former dashboard used to display the total percent positivity rates since May, rather than the daily rates. Tests completed at the Student Health Care Center were previously reported separate from those that weren't, due to it testing mostly symptomatic students. The student positivity rates were split by those tested at the Student Health Care Center and those who weren't after UF Health's dashboard displayed a 25% positivity rate among students in July. This number only accounted for symptomatic students tested at the Student Health Care Center, said UF Health Screen, Test & Protect Director Michael Lauzardo.
Email accident: New U. of South Carolina law school dean releases confidential bar exam results
In a digital age slip up, the new dean at the University of South Carolina School of Law sent an email to law school students containing a file with the confidential bar exam grades of recent graduates, including those who passed and those who failed. Almost instantly he realized his error, said law school Dean William Hubbard in a Tuesday interview, and quickly sent out another email trying to undo that first email. Hubbard's second email read, "Please delete the message I just sent about bar passage. It was sent with the wrong attachment for which I am very sorry. Please do not open and, if opened, do not reveal any information in that attachment to anyone." In the Tuesday interview with The State in a conference room at the School of Law, Hubbard, 68, whose long legal career has been marked by one distinction after another, including being a former president of the American Bar Association, appeared devastated at the mistake he committed, barely two months after assuming one of the most prestigious academic posts in South Carolina: dean of the 153-year-old law school.
Ed-tech veterans launch Zoom challenger Engageli
Ed-tech innovators and investors haven't missed faculty members' widespread frustration with current videoconferencing tools' limitations -- frustration that's only grown as the global pandemic drags on and many classes continue to be delivered online or in hybrid formats. Start-up company Engageli announced today that it has raised $14.5 million in seed funding to develop a new platform for remote instruction. It's an impressive sum for a company that is just a few months old. Unlike popular videoconferencing tools such as Zoom, the Engageli platform will be built from scratch specifically for higher education use. It will "seamlessly integrate hybrid, synchronous and asynchronous online instruction all in one platform," said Dan Avida, CEO of Engageli. Avida's wife, Daphne Koller, is one of the co-founders of online learning platform Coursera. The couple were inspired to build Engageli after witnessing their daughters' transition to remote learning in March due to COVID-19. "I noticed that they weren't always fully focused on the teacher or class and were clearly missing the social engagement, so we decided to find and recommend to their school a better tool than the conferencing software that the school was using," said Avida.
Did the Pandemic Worsen the Campus Mental-Health Crisis? Maybe Not, Data Show
As the pandemic disrupted collegiate life, mental-health experts feared a worsening crisis. Some worried that counseling centers would be overwhelmed by demand, leading to longer wait times and less effective treatment for students who were struggling and at risk of dropping out. But early data from campus counseling centers challenge the idea that colleges are on the brink of a mental-health disaster. The Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors recently surveyed 144 colleges, asking them to compare the first four weeks of this semester with the first four weeks of fall 2019. The survey found a 29-percent decrease in the number of students seeking counseling services. Sharon Mitchell, senior director of counseling, health, and wellness at the University at Buffalo and president of the association, cautioned that the data reflect a snapshot in time, and that the survey didn't dig into the reasons for the decrease. But the data stand in contrast to several other surveys this year suggesting that rising distress could lead to a flood of students needing therapy.
A look at the stakes for science in the presidential election
In a normal presidential election year, analysis of the role of science in the presidential campaign might focus on the nuances of the candidates' competing priorities for the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation and other federal scientific agencies. Nanoscience versus neuroscience, say, the moon versus Mars. This is clearly not a normal election year. Former vice president Joe Biden's plans and President Donald Trump's records on research funding are a part of the picture, of course, and of utmost importance to many academics and higher education leaders. But many scientists believe a more fundamental issue -- respect for science in government -- is at stake in this election. The magazine Scientific American recently endorsed Biden despite never before having backed a candidate in its 175-year history. "The evidence and the science show that Donald Trump has badly damaged the U.S. and its people -- because he rejects evidence and science," the editors wrote in an editorial. Similarly, The New England Journal of Medicine took a step unprecedented in its 208-year history of condemning one candidate and endorsing, at least by implication, another.
Separation of powers: Attempts to 'pack' the Supreme Court has a long history
Syndicated columnist Sid Salter writes: Depending on one's partisan leanings, the latest national furor over so-called "court-packing" started with the failed 2016 Supreme Court nomination of U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Chief Judge Merrick B. Garland. Former President Barack Obama nominated Garland as the successor to the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Or, partisans from across the aisle say, it was begun by the current Supreme Court nomination of U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit June Amy Coney Barrett by President Donald Trump in an attempt to fill the seat vacated by the death of the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Like everything else in our country these days, there's are decidedly partisan sides to the court-packing debate.

Mississippi State chasing defensive 'identity' as its production ranks among the nation's best
Zach Arnett isn't one to mince words. There's a brutal honesty to Arnett's verbiage day to day. In press conferences, he's gruff but poignant. He tells it how it is. He's unafraid to call out his group for a lack of effort or that a performance wasn't up to snuff. "(We) did some good things, did a nice job there during the fourth quarter getting off the field, getting third down stops and forcing punts -- got a turnover in there," Arnett said following MSU's Week 2 loss to Arkansas. "But obviously there were some mistakes that cost us points." While Arnett's concerns over said mistakes -- coverage breakdowns and missed tackles -- were valid, his defense, on paper, has been close to perfect compared to expectations heading into the fall. Just two years removed from a unit that boasted three first-round NFL draft picks, this year's group under Arnett's guidance is perhaps more impressive. The Bulldogs had to replace seven starters from last season but have improved in their absence. Transitioning out of Bob Shoop's 4-2-5 defense into a 3-3-5, MSU's defenders have felt more freedom in the way they attack offenses, particularly in the trenches. In Shoop's scheme, the Bulldog defensive line was tasked with man responsibilities, compared to the gap assignments seen in Arnett's approach.
Mississippi State Volleyball Announces Match Day Information For Newell-Grissom Building
Mississippi State volleyball announced Tuesday (Oct. 13) the capacity restrictions and safety guidelines in place for the four home matches this fall at the Newell-Grissom Building. State opens its season with a two-match home series against Arkansas, Saturday and Sunday, October 17-18. For the safety of fans, student-athletes and team staff, capacity at The Griss will be limited to 25 percent, allowing for a maximum 479-person attendance. Marked spaced seating will be available in socially distanced groups of four, and all spectators are required to must wear a face covering over their nose and mouth at all times unless actively eating or drinking. MSU volleyball matches will continue to be free for all fans, and no tickets are needed for entry. However, entry to matches will be allowed on a first-come, first-served basis, and the maximum capacity cap will be strictly enforced. MSU Athletics' new concession partner, Proof of the Pudding, will make its debut at The Griss this fall under the east tunnel of the facility. The concession menu will include the following: smoked pork sandwich, Country Pleasin' smoked sausage, hot dog, nachos, Bavarian pretzel, chips, candy, Coca-Cola products, Dasani water, and for the first time at The Griss, domestic beer will also be sold.
Richard Williams is back in coaching biz, takes job as special assistant to USM's Jay Ladner
Mississippi sports columnist Rick Cleveland writes: Richard Williams, the 74-year-old Mississippi Sports Hall of Famer who remains the only coach ever to take a Mississippi team to the NCAA men's Final Four, will coach again. Williams has taken the job as special assistant to the head coach at Southern Miss, where he will work for Jay Ladner, who considers Williams a mentor. "What an incredible addition this is for Southern Miss basketball," Ladner said Tuesday morning, when he confirmed the hire. Williams apparently will receive no state compensation in his new position, one that he turned down a year ago because he had committed to another year as the color analyst on the Mississippi State basketball radio network. Williams excelled in that capacity for the past six seasons. "I enjoyed the radio work, and you know my love for Mississippi State University," Williams said. "I have so much respect for Neil Price (State's radio play-by-play broadcaster) and have really enjoyed working with him and learning from him. But I just have missed really being involved with a team. I've missed coaching. I'm really looking forward to working with Jay again. My plan in all this is to do whatever Jay wants me to do."
Jackson State marketing value increases $19M in football coach Deion Sanders' first 9 days
The financial impact from the hiring of football coach Deion Sanders by Jackson State is already reaping value. From the official announcement on Sept. 21 and through nine days, the Tigers' athletic department's marketing and promotional value increased by an estimated $19 million, JSU communications and marketing representatives told the Clarion Ledger. Sanders, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame who was known for marketing himself as a player and calling himself "Prime Time,", has an endorsement deal with Subway and an apparel deal with Under Armour, among others. His agency is also reportedly in talks of developing a reality television show following him at Jackson State. The news of Jackson State's increased market value came with the announcement of the athletic department ranking first among non-FBS programs in terms of social media engagement for the month of September. "There was definitely a Coach Prime effect with that," said Dennis Driscoll, associate athletic director for sports media. "However, with that being said, when those rankings come out each month, Jackson State is consistently in the top 10 of those rankings. Being in those rankings is nothing new, this is the first time we've ranked No. 1, and that's just a great testament to our fan base. It just continues to exceed the expectations of an FCS program."
Texas A&M AD Ross Bjork shares update on Aggies after positive tests at Florida
Florida became the latest program to have shut down all football activities due to multiple COVID-19 testing results. In UF's announcement, athletic Scott Stricklin shared that he had been in touch with officials at Texas A&M, Florida's previous opponent, and LSU, Florida's Week 4 opponent. Tuesday afternoon, Texas A&M athletic director Ross Bjork issued a statement to media outlets saying that, at this time, the Aggies have not been impacted by the cases on the Florida football team: "We have been in touch with officials at the University of Florida and have also reviewed the available data from the Kinexon contact tracing system deployed by the SEC. At this point, there has been no impact within our football program, but we will continue our regular testing regiment this week and stay diligent with all of our safety protocols." Texas A&M is scheduled to play at Mississippi State on Saturday.
Florida suspends athletic activities due to coronavirus spread; LSU game in jeopardy
The University of Florida has suspended athletic activities due to an increase in positive coronavirus tests among football players this week, the university announced Tuesday afternoon. The Gators will not practice Tuesday, and, depending how far the outbreak reaches, it could jeopardize the possibility that LSU will play Florida on Saturday in Gainesville at 3 p.m. The Independent Florida Alligator, Florida's student newspaper, reported that 19 football players tested positive for COVID-19 -- a report that was confirmed by the Associated Press. Florida announced earlier on Tuesday that five additional football players have tested positive for coronavirus, a boost from its one reported positive case a week ago. A total of 19 positive tests -- depending on which players and the numbers of those who will have to quarantine -- could potentially reduce Florida's roster size enough to warrant canceling Saturday's game. Team activities were suspended "out of an abundance of caution," Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin said in a statement, which said Gators head coach Dan Mullen has been in communication with football players and their parents.
Mizzou AD Jim Sterk still confident about finishing season
Missouri athletic director Jim Sterk knew there was a chance of this weekend's homecoming football game against Vanderbilt being postponed. But it all came to fruition quickly Monday. Sterk was aware of how the Commodores played South Carolina last Saturday with 56 scholarship players available, just three above the Southeastern Conference's COVID-19 threshold for a minimum active roster. The Missouri athletic department didn't receive its first sense of confirmation the game would be postponed from conference leadership, however. The tip-off Monday came in a roundabout way: from a local bus company that would have handled Vanderbilt's transportation to Faurot Field. Tigers head football coach Eli Drinkwitz said he first heard of the potential postponement through the company, after Vanderbilt had canceled its bus service for the weekend. "Columbia is a small town. So if the Vandy folks were trying to be preemptive and get things done, we hear about it," Sterk said, echoing Drinkwitz's narrative. "We heard the same way at first blush, but then the SEC was right after that."
U. of Tennessee's homecoming Spirit Week is still happening
While there may not be a Homecoming parade at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville this year, there are other ways to celebrate this week. Instead of the usual homecoming events, UT is hosting Spirit Week with events for students and Vols fans who can't make it to campus. Events started on Monday and continue through the week with something for everyone. "Although this year will be different with program offerings, we wanted to host a week that would still bring that same excitement to campus," said Meghan Woodward, homecoming committee chair. "Our hope is that this week will bring the campus closer together to celebrate as Volunteers." Events like the homecoming parade and game-day activities have been postponed until next year, with the focus on COVID-19 safe events this year. Each day will have a different theme, with virtual and in-person events hosted. The events lead up to the home game against Kentucky on Saturday, which has a noon kickoff. Home games also look different this year: There is no university-sponsored tailgating on campus, and seats have been limited in Neyland Stadium. Those who are attending will be required to wear a mask in the stadium, and seating in the stadium is spaced apart.
Anger over 'The Eyes of Texas' song threatens to engulf Longhorns
Things have somehow reached a point where Texas coach Tom Herman started his weekly press conference Monday by reading a statement about the school song. It's a nuclear bomb that nobody at Texas can disarm. "I do want to address something I know that continues to be a point of conversation out there, which is 'The Eyes of Texas,'" Herman said. Fan anger about the players' desire to get rid of "The Eyes" was already boiling. The pot spilled over Saturday when quarterback Sam Ehlinger was standing front and center, all by himself, with his Horns up after a four-overtime loss to Oklahoma. The fact that Herman led his press conference with "The Eyes" shows it trumps anything to do with his 2-2, unranked football team. Going forward, Herman will "encourage" players to stay on the field after games but it will not be mandatory. A few other players remained on the field Saturday. But dozens of photos taken from the stands posted online show only one -- the senior who accounted for six touchdowns in a five-hour loss -- standing up for school pride. The rest of the team had already left the Cotton Bowl field. As part of Herman's prepared text, the coach noted that Texas President Jay Hartzell asked professor Richard Reddick to chair a committee that will compile an official school history of the song. The committee is expected to complete its work by January.
Pac-12 football may be back, but not all the revenue will be
The return of football isn't likely to make a dramatic dent in the losses athletic departments across the Pac-12 will ultimately incur because of the coronavirus pandemic. Faced with large budget shortfalls, most schools in the league have already resorted to layoffs, furloughs, and cutting some sports entirely. At Utah, football coach Kyle Whittingham and basketball coach Larry Krystkowiak took salary cuts to help offset up to $60 million in projected losses. Athletic director Mark Harlan said the Utes are still dealing with "significant financial challenges." One reason: as of now, none of the Pac-12 football games will have fans in attendance. That said, any help -- like television revenue -- is welcomed. "Obviously, we have a chance to have more revenue than maybe we would have thought of a few weeks ago. So we're going to continue to adhere to our budget and into all the policies that we put in place to manage our way through this, knowing that there could be a light here at the end of the tunnel that we'll have more revenue that we weren't necessarily counting on," Harlan said.
Saints exploring playing games at LSU's Tiger Stadium since fans aren't yet allowed in Superdome
The New Orleans Saints are meeting with LSU athletics officials on Tuesday to discuss potentially playing home games at Tiger Stadium, officials for the Saints and LSU confirmed to The Times-Picayune | New Orleans Advocate. The Saints prefer to host their games at home, said Saints senior vice president of communications Greg Bensel in a statement, but fans have been disallowed for the time being at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome to this point due to New Orleans' coronavirus restrictions. "LSU has been gracious and enthusiastic regarding hosting our future games and we very much appreciate their partnership," Bensel said in the statement. "We have also discussed the possibility of moving our home games to LSU with the NFL and they are aware of our exploring this option." An LSU official confirmed that the discussions were indeed happening. LSU is allowing fans at 25% capacity in Tiger Stadium, and announced that 21,124 people were attendance at their lone game of the year so far against Mississippi State on Sept. 26. LSU's next home game is on Oct. 24. The Saints have been pushing to have the Superdome at 25% capacity for a while now.

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