Monday, October 19, 2020   
Making music: Next gen musicians join the 'maker movement' and build their own
Sam Shmulsky likes rock -- Led Zeppelin, Bush, Oasis and a host of others. The Starkville High senior has been playing guitar since he was 9. When the opportunity to make his own electric guitar recently opened up, the 17-year-old jumped at it. "I love guitar," he said. "It's really an escape; it relieves a ton of stress. I love music." Sam and eight others who think a lot like him gathered Wednesday for the first of three guitar-building sessions at The Idea Shop in downtown Starkville. They are just the type of enthusiasts Jeffrey Rupp and the Mississippi State University Center for Entrepreneurship and Outreach were hoping for. Rupp is the center's director of outreach -- a musician and guitar devotee himself. The Build Your Own Guitar workshop, made possible by a grant from International Paper, was his brainchild, one imminently suited to the Idea Shop. Opened in spring 2019 and operated in partnership by the university's College of Business and School of Human Sciences, The Idea Shop is located in a 2,000-square-foot space at 114 E. Main St. It houses the Turner A. Wingo Maker Studio, a "makerspace" with design workstations, 3D printers, electronics workbench, wood, polymer and metal prototyping equipment and more. It's open to the public, and memberships are available.
Starkville could bring back recycling but currently a work-in-progress
The City of Starkville recently suspended its recycling program, but there is talk of a collaboration between Mississippi State University and the city to bring the program back. Mayor Lynn Spruill said there is no guarantee but it's a work-in-progress. Starkville officials created a proposal to bring back recycling to the city in a cost-effective way. Spruill said the proposal calls for MSU's recycling partner, Waste Pro, to work with the city as well. "We're not going to do curbside, but a place for our recycling for the City of Starkville to be dropped off and then for Waste Pro to pick it up, just like they do for the university," she said. Spruill said city officials suspended the previous recycling program due to costs. "As we got to that point, we decided that this was an expense that we did not think was an appropriate expense for the city to continue to bear without it having an obvious and extended return." However, Spruill believes recycling is an important part of the community, so she hopes the collaboration could create a more effective form of recycling for Starkville.
Possible Starkville-MSU recycling partnership starting to take shape
Starkville is considering a partnership with Mississippi State University's recycling program after the city halted its own program, which operated at a financial loss. City and MSU officials have come up with an idea of what that partnership would look like, but much is still to be decided, and it has to be both structured and financially feasible for the city, Ward 2 Alderman Sandra Sistrunk said. "We don't know yet what the hauling fees would be, but we've got more meetings (with MSU) next week," she said Friday. Aldermen voted to indefinitely suspend the city's recycling program as of this month and did not include it in the Fiscal Year 2021 budget. The city had a contract with Waste Management to haul the collected recyclables to Tupelo, and the cost went up from about $40,000 to about $60,000 this year while revenues totaled only about $24,000, Sistrunk said. Spruill said the potential partnership might include an interlocal agreement between the city and either MSU or Waste Pro USA, more likely the latter. She also said she believes they can come to an agreement that financially benefits or at least does not place a burden on the city.
Vicksburg eatery helping doctoral student with her bears research
Everybody knows bears like honey, but it seems they like donuts, too. Several weeks ago, Mississippi State University doctoral student Lucy Dolan made a stop at one of the Divine Donut shops in Vicksburg. While it may have been tempting to order up a few of the confections for herself, Dolan was there for another reason. As part of research for her dissertation, she was loading up a Tupperware bin with day-old donuts to use as a means to study black bears. Dolan said the donuts are used to attract bears, and once one goes after it, she is hoping they leave a little bit of their hair behind. Dolan said the hair is used for genetic analysis to determine how many bears are coming in from neighboring states. The project will help estimate how quickly the Mississippi population is growing. Dolan is working with her academic advisor, Dr. Dana Morin at MSU, on the research project as well as the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Forest Service. Dolan is working toward her Ph.D. in Forest Resources and this summer completed her first field season with wildlife projects.
Take steps to reduce pandemic litter
Increased littering of single-use items related to the novel coronavirus pandemic, including masks, gloves, and disinfecting wipes, has troubling consequences for the environment. When trash is not properly disposed of, it makes its way into watersheds, where it travels by water flow from rivers and streams into the ocean. Eric Sparks, assistant professor with the Mississippi State University Extension Service and director of the Coastal Marine Extension Program, said the rise in the use of protective items is natural because of health concerns. "The increase in personal protective equipment and other items, like takeout containers and bottled water, is rampant as people take precautions," Sparks said. "That makes it even more important to minimize single-use or disposable plastic items when you can and dispose of these items properly." Unlike many issues facing humankind these days, litter is one within each person's control. Sparks said research shows litter is a significant factor when people choose where they want to vacation and, importantly, spend their vacation dollars.
Aldermen debate several potential project requests for the state
Starkville Mayor Lynn Spruill had been hoping she and the board of aldermen could come to an agreement Friday on what kind of project to request the state Legislature fund during its next session. Instead, the board and state legislators will meet again in the next couple weeks, since they discussed several possible projects -- from roads and drainage to a library and a parking garage -- at Friday's regular work session but did not agree on a particular one. State Rep. Rob Roberson (R-Starkville) said the city needs to have a general idea of how much the proposed project will cost and how much the city is willing to match the state's contribution. He suggested asking for $50 million to $60 million, even though the Legislature might not agree to that, because a large request gives the city the ability to negotiate. "I feel like Starkville and Oktibbeha County have been ignored, as far as projects are concerned, for years," Roberson said. "It feels like we've become the redheaded stepchild at times because we don't ask." Spruill's preferred project would be to extend Hospital Road west and connect it to Highway 25, but the aldermen presented several ideas that she said are also viable options.
Positive report: Corps' study says backwater pumps project should move ahead
After months of study and feedback, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released a report Friday that lays out recommendations for completion of the Yazoo Backwater Pumps Project. In the recommended plan, the Corps calls for the installation of a pump station capable of pumping 14,000 cubic feet of water per second, perpetual easements to reforest up to 55,600 acres of agricultural land and impoundment of Yazoo Backwater Area river water up to three feet higher during low water conditions. The study, part of the Draft Supplement No. 2 to the 1982 Yazoo Area Pump Project Final Environmental Impact Statement, officially breathes new life into the completion of the pumps and now will go through another round of public review and comment. Recent studies, conducted by the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency and the Mississippi State University Extension Service, on the economic impacts of the 2019 backwater flooding found that 687 homes were damaged or destroyed, the average out-of-pocket expenses for area residents was $42,160, and that it could take years to fully realize the impact the flood had on area wildlife.
Will the pumps get finished? Engineers' report bolsters proposed flood control project
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Friday published a draft of a new environmental impact statement that supports a proposal for massive pumps to drain floodwaters from parts of the rural Mississippi Delta -- a reversal of a previous federal report that said the project would hurt wetlands. The state's two Republican U.S. senators praised the new findings for a project they and other politicians have supported. Conservation groups have said, though, that the proposal to build huge pumps at the confluence of the Yazoo and Mississippi rivers would be harmful and expensive. Prominent Mississippi politicians have been pushing the Trump administration to revive and fund the project that has been estimated to cost more than $400 million. The draft published by the Corps of Engineers on Friday said new research shows that the project is "not anticipated to convert any wetlands into non-wetlands." "While this project is still far from the finish line, I am encouraged that the Corps has listened to the people of Mississippi and seen the impact of the floods on our state and our environment," Sen. Roger Wicker said in a statement Friday.
Mississippi flag: Lawmakers work together to remove Confederate symbol
In 2020, Mississippi became the last state to remove the Confederate battle emblem from its state flag. It took the work of a conservative Republican majority in both the House and Senate working alongside Democrats to see that change come to fruition. On June 28 -- a Sunday -- the state Senate voted 37-14 to approve removing the flag that had flown over Mississippi since 1894. The day before, the House voted 91-23. Passage of House Bill 1796, which also was signed by Gov. Tate Reeves, removed the current flag and started the process of picking another design. Before the historic vote, waves of protests against racial injustice arose throughout the state and calls for change from athletes, religious leaders and business groups pushed the Legislature to take a stand. House Democratic leader Rep. Robert Johnson of Natchez said the vote and the discussion that led up to it helped bridge racial divides in the Legislature. He said some of his white colleagues had begun "to understand and feel the same thing that I've been feeling for 61 years of my life." "It was something I knew in my heart for a long time was the right thing to do, and would come eventually," said Rep. Trey Lamar of Senatobia, who was among the first prominent Republican lawmakers to push for flag change legislation.
Dueling medical marijuana initiatives to appear on November ballot
Mississippi voters will be asked on the November ballot if they want to legalize the use of medical marijuana in the state, but the proposal could confuse many voters with two competing medical marijuana initiatives that will be listed on the ballot alongside one another. Despite polling that shows a large number of Mississippians are in favor of medical marijuana, division and skepticism has grown in the months leading up to the vote now that state lawmakers have placed their own alternative medical marijuana proposal on the ballot and since doctors, politicians and law enforcement officials all have different opinions on the two proposals. Mississippi's Nov. 3 election will feature three statewide ballot measures. Ballot Measure 1 will ask voters a two-part question about medical marijuana. The first question will ask voters if they wish to vote in favor of one of the medical marijuana initiatives or vote against both of the initiatives. The second question will ask voters which specific initiative they wish to vote for. Mississippians can vote for either Initiative 65, which is a citizen-sponsored proposal, or they can vote for Initiative 65A, the alternative measure proposed by the Mississippi Legislature.
State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs: Residents not following guidelines is largest contributor to COVID-19 spike
State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said Friday that residents not following general safety precautions is likely the largest factor in the state's current spike in new cases of COVID-19. During a news conference Friday, Dobbs said the fact that so many people seem to have stopped using masks following the expiration of the governor's executive order has him concerned. "Why we would move away from that ... has me perplexed and I'm extremely disappointed," he said. Dobbs said the number of cases are rapidly growing among the populations most vulnerable to the virus, including those 50 and older. Hospitals in the state are beginning to run out of beds for new patients, and as temperatures cool, the state is headed into flu season with little capacity, he said. State epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers said the state had a virus positivity rate of 8.5% during the last week of September. In the first week of October, the rate increased to 9.5%. The state health department has been receiving more reports or people hosting indoor events and closely-packed outdoor gatherings without using masks or social distancing measures, Byers said. All of these are major factors that are increasing the spread.
With 2nd COVID-19 spike, will Coast mask mandate come from governor or local leaders?
Because of high COVID-19 spread, Harrison and Jackson counties will be prime candidates for new mask mandates if the governor decides to take that route, State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said. Dobbs and state Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers, the top public health officers at the Mississippi State Department of Health, are clearly dismayed because Mississippi's COVID-19 cases are on a dangerous upward trend since Gov. Tate Reeves rescinded a statewide mask mandate a little more than two weeks ago. Dobbs and Reeves hoped Mississippians would continue to wear masks without an executive order, but that was not the case before Reeves instituted the mask mandate in early August. Dobbs said he did not know whether the governor would re-institute a statewide mask mandate or a mandate for counties with high case increases, but Harrison and Jackson counties would be prime candidates. "To be honest, I don't really know what the governor's going to do until it happens," Dobbs said. "And a lot of times, I don't know what the governor's going to do until we sit down at the press conference."
'A Critical Piece Is Missing' In COVID Strategy, State Health Officer Warns
State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs is "gravely concerned" today about the rapid increase in transmission of COVID-19 across Mississippi, as "small family gatherings" have eliminated the improvement in daily cases, hospitalizations and deaths seen in September. The Mississippi State Department of Health announced 1,116 cases of COVID-19 today, the second consecutive day of four-digit growth in new cases. The rolling seven-day average is now 796, increasing by more than 50% since Gov. Tate Reeves allowed the statewide mask mandate to expire on Sept. 30. At a virtual press event held Friday afternoon, Dobbs acknowledged that the end of the mask mandate triggered an immediate decline in mask use, one of the key factors pushing the state toward another surge in cases. "Why we would broadly abandon something that is so simple, easy and effective just because there is not an executive order ... I'm, frankly, quite disappointed." "We are missing a critical piece," Dobbs continued. "That piece is social distancing and masking."
Coronavirus in Mississippi: 586 new cases, no deaths over 2 days reported Monday
The Mississippi Department of Health reported 586 new coronavirus cases and no new coronavirus-related deaths over the weekend. According to state records, the total number of positive cases in Mississippi stands at 110,592. The total number of deaths is 3,171. The state's highest number of deaths reported in a single day was 67 on Aug. 25. The highest number of cases reported in a single day was 1,775 on July 30. On Thursday, cases jumped to over 1,000 for the first time since mid-August, with 1,322 cases and 12 deaths. On Friday, cases also topped the 1,000 mark with 1,116 cases and nine deaths. Over the weekend, the numbers of cases reported fell to 233 on Saturday and 353 on Sunday with no deaths.
Analysis: Same names, some new dynamics in US Senate contest
Mississippi's 2020 U.S. Senate race has the same top candidates as in 2018 -- Republican incumbent Cindy Hyde-Smith and challenger Mike Espy. The world is different because of the coronavirus pandemic, which puts new emphasis on the candidates' differences over health care policies. The election dynamics are also different because this year's ballot has two items that could increase voter turnout -- a presidential race and a yes-or-no decision about a new Mississippi flag. The Senate candidates have strong differences on health care policy. Espy says he supports the Affordable Care Act that then-President Barack Obama signed into law in 2010. Espy has also said Mississippi's rural hospitals are hurting because the Republican-controlled state Legislature has not expanded Medicaid to cover working people who cannot afford private health insurance. Hyde-Smith has said she wants Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act, although she and other Republicans recently voted for a bill that would protect part of the law -- the requirement for insurers to cover people with pre-existing health conditions.
The hidden factors that could produce a surprise Trump victory
By almost every measure that political operatives, academics and handicappers use to forecast elections, the likely outcome is that Joe Biden will win the White House. Yet two weeks before Election Day, the unfolding reality of 2020 is that it's harder than ever to be sure. And Democrats are scrambling to account for the hidden variables that could still sink their nominee -- or what you might call the known unknowns. Republican registration has ticked up in key states at the same time Democratic field operations were in hibernation. Democratic turnout is surging in the early vote. But it's unclear whether it will be enough to overcome an expected rush of ballots that Republicans, leerier of mail voting, will cast in person on Election Day. "There are more known unknowns than we've ever had at any point," said Tom Bonier, CEO of the Democratic data firm TargetSmart. "The instruments we have to gauge this race, the polling, our predictive models ... the problem is all those tools are built around quote-unquote normal elections. And this is anything but a normal election."
Dr. Anthony Fauci says he was 'absolutely not' surprised President Trump got coronavirus after Rose Garden event
Dr. Anthony Fauci, a member of the White House's COVID-19 response team, said in a new interview that he was not surprised that President Trump was sickened with coronavirus after seeing him and others maskless at a White House event for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett. Fauci, who is the nation's top infectious disease expert, told CBS News in an interview that images he saw of the event alarmed him even before it was revealed that numerous attendees had tested positive for the virus. He worried that numerous people would be infected, he said. "Were you surprised that President Trump got sick?" asked CBS's Dr. Jon LaPook. "Absolutely not," Fauci responded. "I was worried that he was going to get sick when I saw him in a completely precarious situation of crowded, no separation between people, and almost nobody wearing a mask." At least 11 people who attended the Sept. 26 event, including both Trump and first lady Melania Trump, as well as numerous journalists and lawmakers tested positive for COVID-19 following their attendance.
Most US farmers remain loyal to President Trump despite pain from trade wars and COVID-19
U.S. farmers have suffered a lot in the past few years: The trade war with China, natural disasters and the COVID-19 pandemic have all resulted in substantial losses for many producers. Farmers overwhelmingly supported Donald Trump in 2016 and remain critical to his reelection in many swing states such as Iowa and Minnesota. But given the impact of all that's happened, will they stick with the president in the November elections? We've conducted extensive research on American farmers in recent years through surveys and one-on-one interviews. We've also examined the impact of the U.S.-China trade war. While the economic costs have been steep, Trump has found a way to make it up to them: record subsidies. And that's why we believe most U.S. farmers will stay loyal to Trump.
Barack Obama Will Hit The Campaign Trail In Presidential Race's Final Days
Former President Barack Obama will hit the campaign trail for his former vice president, Joe Biden, in the final weeks of the presidential campaign. Obama's first announced stop will be Wednesday in Philadelphia. The ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and the fact the Biden campaign has prioritized safety and avoided large gatherings, assures the scene will look much different from the last time Obama held a presidential campaign rally in the city. On the final day before the 2016 election, he and Michelle Obama campaigned alongside Bill and Hillary Clinton in front of thousands of supporters packed onto Independence Mall. Obama has stayed away from the presidential campaign for large stretches this year. He was finishing up his presidential memoir, which will be released next month, and also was giving Biden and other Democrats space to make their own arguments about the 2020 election. Still, Obama has made headlines when he has engaged in the race. His convention speech marked an unprecedented move for a former president: a blistering warning about President Trump, not only as a failure as commander in chief, but also as a threat to democracy itself.
China Threatens to Detain Americans if U.S. Prosecutes Chinese Scholars
Chinese officials have told the Trump administration that security officers in China might detain American citizens if the Justice Department proceeds with prosecutions of arrested scholars who are members of the Chinese military, American officials said. The Chinese officials conveyed the messages starting this summer, when the Justice Department intensified efforts to arrest and charge the scholars, mainly with providing false information on their visa applications, the American officials said. U.S. law enforcement officials say at least five Chinese scholars who have been arrested in recent months did not disclose their military affiliations on visa applications and might have been trying to conduct industrial espionage in research centers. American officials said they thought the Chinese officials were serious about the threats. The State Department has reiterated travel warnings as a result, they said. Western officials and human rights advocates have said for years that the Chinese police and other security agencies engage in arbitrary detentions.
How long can consumers keep spending?
When Jonathan White, an audio engineer at a performing arts center in Dallas, was furloughed in June, he benefited from the additional unemployment money in the federal stimulus package. "I got six weeks of the $600 stimulus, which was great," he said. "I was making about as much as I would in a 40-hour week." And he was spending -- mostly on accessories for his home office. He does some freelance work. "I was at Best Buy probably once a week picking up something stupid here or there," White said. But at the end of July, the money ran out. White started spending a lot less. And he said if there's no more stimulus from Congress, he's going to cut back on his holiday spending this fall, too. U.S. retail spending jumped by 1.9% in September, compared to the 0.7% rise that economists were expecting. It's hard to say exactly why that is. It was back-to-school season, and kids grow out of their clothes quickly -- pandemic or not. Also, auto sales are going up as people stop riding public transit and move to the suburbs. The first stimulus package propped up the economy. It gave people money to spend and allowed them to save more. But those savings have quickly been running out, according to a study out Friday from the University of Chicago and the JPMorgan Chase Institute.
The W will hold fall commencement virtually
Mississippi University for Women will recognize fall graduates during the 2020 Virtual Fall Commencement Exercise set for Tuesday, Nov. 24 at 2 p.m. "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 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." Spring 2020, Summer 2020 and Fall 2020 graduates will be recognized in-person at a point in the future when it is safe and appropriate to conduct larger gatherings. The ceremony will broadcast from a link on the university's homepage,, the afternoon of the online commencement. Graduates are encouraged to share their celebratory photos through The W's social media channels with #TheBlueForYou and #LongBlueLine hashtags.
Grant allows MUW's Child and Parent Development Center to provide free tuition
Thanks to an emergency relief grant, Mississippi University for Women's Child and Parent Development Center will cover all tuition and CPDC fees for families impacted by COVID-19. The CPDC recently received $145,606 from the Governor's Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Grant fund. Priority 1 of GEER funding covers essential emergency educational services specifically for the early care and education of very young children age 0-5. The main goal for CPDC during this first round of funding is to assist young families during the pandemic. "The bulk of our families were hit hard by the pandemic. They were out of work and unpaid and they are still catching up. Then their lower-cost provider didn't reopen when they went back to work, so they had to make hard choices to switch caregivers. We were able to help them as a CCAIR site with their first 90 days of childcare fully paid and now we have GEER to cover the next 90," said Penny Mansell, CPDC director. The grant was written and will be managed with the assistance of Melinda Lowe, director of Outreach and Innovation at The W.
ICC, NEMCC adult education programs continue despite COVID-19 challenges
As the COVID-19 pandemic rolls on, the adult education programs at both Itawamba Community College and Northeast Mississippi Community College have continued to educate students despite necessary changes the virus has caused. Julia Houston, ICC's Adult Education Director since 2014, said the program typically serves between 800 and 1,000 students per year. They operate on an open entry and open exit basis rather than by semester, so students can start and finish high school equivalency (GED and HiSET) and other adult education courses on their own schedule. "People could start today and finish in two weeks," Houston said. "They could start at 2 in the afternoon and finish whenever. We GED test every day, one night a week and one Saturday a month." Laurie Kesler, NEMCC's Director of Adult Education, said the college's adult education program typically serves around 1,200 students each year.
COVID-19 cases remain low at U. of Alabama
Two weeks after hosting the first home football game, COVID-19 testing numbers remained low at the University of Alabama while UAB saw its second week of increases. There were 34 positive tests on the Tuscaloosa campus from Oct. 9-15 after recording 45 a week earlier. That brings the semester total to 2,453 after cases spiked in late August and early September. UAB had 64 positive tests and 49 were diagnosed a week earlier for a semester total of 222. And at UA-Huntsville, three additional cases this week brought the semester total to 78. The sentinel testing that draws from a random sample of students, faculty and staff also brought encouraging news. None of the 498 tested in Tuscaloosa came back positive while the two of 608 at UAB and one of 256 at UA-Huntsville were positive. In terms of isolation space, 2.51% of the rooms (13 of 518) are being used in Tuscaloosa along with 19 of 100 in Birmingham and one of 87 in Huntsville.
Auburn to study pandemic in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi
A new study will look at how the pandemic is affecting poor communities in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi. An announcement from Auburn University said the yearlong research will examine how leaders can get people in low-income, vulnerable communities to take collective action during a crisis. The study will look at how health messages are received in such places in the three states, said research team leader Kelly Dunning. "Specifically, we will analyze the effectiveness of science-based messages, how influential various sources of the messages were and the perceived trustworthiness of the institutions delivering COVID-19 information in low-income communities, compared to their wealthier counterparts," she said. The study is funded by a $150,000 grant from the National Science Foundation.
Auburn University exchanges properties with USDA
The Auburn University Board of Trustees has voted to approve several land exchanges between the University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service. The deal was made in a specially-called meeting Friday morning. The University will acquire 6.29 acres of land at the southeast corner of the intersection of West Samford Avenue and South Donahue Drive where the USDA's National Soil Dynamics Laboratory is currently located. In exchange, the University will convey five acres of land in its Auburn Research Park; 42.6 acres of land of its Longleaf Field Laboratory; and its 53.5-acre South Auburn Fisheries Research Lab on Lee County Road 27. The ARS already leased use of the South Auburn Fisheries Research Lab before the deal was made, according to the University. Dan King, Auburn's associate vice president for facilities, said the deal means the University will be regaining the 6.29 acres the USDA owns for the laboratory, which it currently uses as a tillage farm. The property was initially leased by the USDA in 1934 before the University donated the land in 1961 to receive federal research funding, according to King.
Student COVID-19 testing participation drops at the U. of Tennessee
New information from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville shows that student participation in COVID-19 has dropped below 50%, concerning administrators. In the weekly campus livestream, Chancellor Donde Plowman encouraged students who live on campus to continue providing saliva samples if they are asked. Participation last week was around 48%, down from nearly 65% the week before. Students who are living in the residence hall signed an agreement to participate in testing, Plowman reminded students. "As a reminder, if you live in our residence halls, or sorority or fraternity housing, you are required to participate," Plowman said. "And this testing will be going on throughout the next spring semester." Saliva testing in dorms is part of the university's testing strategy to identify any large outbreaks or clusters before they occur. The more students who participate, the more asymptomatic cases can be identified, said Dr. Spencer Gregg, director of the Student Health Center.
U. of Memphis eyes more on-campus offerings for Spring 2021
The University of Memphis plans to offer more on-campus classes this spring, Provost Tom Nenon said Thursday. The university is planning for students to know when they register this November for classes whether the course will have an on-campus component or be fully remote. The additions would place daily campus density at about 30% of traditional on-campus population, which would account for about twice as many students as are on campus now, Nenon said. He estimates that about half of all course sections would have at least some sort of on-campus component -- classifying them as a "hybrid" course of sorts -- but that many of those are smaller courses that would not account for half of all students to be on campus on any given day. "At this point we're able to plan. We now have experience at that, students know how it works, they know what their preferences are -- and they're fairly informed preferences ... When the students sign up, we want as much as possible for them to know what the mode of their class is going to be. This time, we're going to be able to do that, when they sign up in advance," Nenon said. "When they sign up for the class, they're going to know."
For student loan borrowers, the differences between a Trump and Biden presidency
Whether Donald Trump or Joe Biden wins the presidency may have a significant impact on the country's 42 million student loan borrowers. Student loans have outpaced credit card and auto debt as a burden to Americans, and each year 70% of college graduates start off their lives in the red. The average balance is around $30,000, up from $10,000 in the early 1990s, and many borrowers owe $100,000 or more. The typical monthly payment is $400. There's a clear desire for change: More than half of Americans say student debt is "a major problem" for the country, according to a Politico/Morning Consult poll. Here's what the different views of the candidates may mean for borrowers.
COVID-19 is pushing these college students to drop out: That could devastate the economy and their lives
Jasmine Justice hit her breaking point during the last week of September. Overwhelmed at the juggling act of three full-time gigs -- as a community college student, an employee and a mom -- Justice crumbled. She ignored reminder emails from her instructors to send in her assignments. "I wasn't comprehending what I was reading. I was looking at diagrams that made no sense." On Zoom work meetings, she noted her pale complexion and dark under-eye circles. Her appetite disappeared. She snapped at her 17-year-old daughter, Josiah, a high school senior also cooped up inside their small apartment. "Being a community college student, it's a balancing act," says Justice, 39, a student at Pierce College in Lakewood, Washington, about 50 miles south of Seattle. "And at any moment, the scales could tip." Race- and class-based gaps already rampant in college achievement could grow to a gaping chasm, experts fear, long after the virus is under control. "We've never experienced anything like (the pandemic) in our lifetime. ... The majority of our students are lower-income earners, and if faced with, 'How am I going to put food on the table?' versus 'How am I going to take a class at community college?' we know what one they're going to pick," says Martha Parham at the American Association of Community Colleges. "We already see evidence that the gap is widening -- but how do you plan for that when you're building the plane in flight for the students you have?"
No More Clery Act Handbook
The Education Department says it was trying to make it simpler for institutions to report crime and campus safety statistics required by the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act. But experts in the law's reporting requirements said the move -- eliminating a thick department handbook guiding administrators -- will cause even more confusion for institutions, and possibly more work. Eliminating the Handbook for Campus Safety and Security Reporting does address complaints by colleges and universities that it required too much of administrators. But replacing the 265-page document with a 13-page addendum to another handbook, on administering financial aid, goes too far, said S. Daniel Carter, president of Safety Advisors for Educational Campuses. The consulting company advises institutions on the law's requirement that federally funded institutions disseminate an annual security report to employees and students with statistics of campus crime. "Instead of taking the time to correct the guidance, the department decided to throw the baby out with the bathwater," said Carter, who published a blog post on the change.
Progress, and Finger Pointing, on Student Transfer: A Survey
Given the environment surrounding higher education and the workforce, it seems like this should be transfer's moment. Transferring from one college to another has historically been harder than it should be, with impediments at many points along the way. The incentives for institutions and students to smooth out the process right now are greater than ever before, given the current and pending declines in traditional college-age students, the likelihood that COVID-19 will scramble students' college-going patterns, and the societal push for racial equity that is increasing pressure on colleges to diversify their student bodies. A new survey from Inside Higher Ed, however, underscores some of the attitudes and practices that have historically impeded the path for transfer students -- and identifies perceptual gaps between administrators at two-year and four-year colleges that could be difficult to overcome. Roughly three-quarters of administrators at two-year and four-year colleges alike agree that students who transfer from one institution to another perform as well as or better at the receiving institution than do students who began at that institution.
College students struggle to spot misinformation online as 2020 election approaches
Don't fall for the premise that young people, otherwise known as "digital natives," are immune to misinformation. That's the message from Stanford University researchers who say their new research provides further evidence that college students are prone to being deceived online. The new study from the Stanford History Education Group shows that 2020's first-time voters often struggle to sort fact from fiction despite their technical prowess on smartphones and social media. The researchers found that most sophomores, juniors and seniors were easily fooled by misinformation, even when they were given the time and resources to fact-check the material. The study adds to "a mountain of evidence that students struggle to evaluate the content that streams across their devices," said Joel Breakstone, director of the Stanford History Education Group and co-author of the study.
Mississippi voters are the least persuadable in America. What does that mean for Mike Espy?
Bobby Harrison writes for Mississippi Today: Mississippi is nicknamed the hospitality state, but when it comes to voting, it is the state of entrenchment. Mississippi is the most inelastic state in the nation when it comes to voting, according to a study by the FiveThirtyEight political blog. In simpler terms, the hospitality state has fewer persuadable voters per capita than any state in the nation. Only the nation's capital, Washington, D.C., a Democratic stronghold, has fewer persuadable voters, based on the updated study. The lack of persuadable voters highlights the obstacles faced in Mississippi by Democratic candidates and Mike Espy, specifically, in his race against Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith. In a sense, all the momentum appears to be on Espy's side. He has raised far more money than Hyde-Smith this year and is dominating the television airwaves across the state. Yet the Cook Political Report, a national political website that forecasts elections, ranks the Mississippi Senate race in the "solid Republican" category. The aforementioned FiveThirtyEight gives Hyde-Smith a 91% chance of winning.
Good soul Martha Allen goes the extra mile
Syndicated columnist Bill Crawford of Meridian writes: Extra Table feeds the hungry across Mississippi by stocking food pantries and soup kitchens with wholesome, nutritious food. The charitable non-profit was founded in 2009 by restaurateur and culinary writer Robert St. John. Today it is exceeding his highest expectations, something he attributes to Extra Table executive director Martha Allen. Extra Table got off to a good start, said St. John, but then ran into problems. So, in 2018 he went searching for a new director and found Martha Allen. "She is a true good soul of strong character and an engaging force of nature with intelligence and foresight," he said. "Since Martha took over, growth and fundraising have skyrocketed." Extra Table now serves pantries and kitchens in 50 counties, giving St. John hope that his goal to provide nutritious food in all 82 Mississippi counties can be attained. His view of Allen is shared across the state.

MSU volleyball home opener sees changes amidst the pandemic
The coronavirus has changed the look, but not the feel of volleyball in Starkville. The Mississippi State University volleyball team hosted its season opener against Arkansas on Saturday. As fans entered Newell-Grissom Arena, 'Mask Required' signs hung throughout the complex and sanitizer was available at every entrance. Seats were sectioned off in the bleachers allowing a maximum of four people seated together in one location. Even with the spacing, volleyball dad James Robinson said the atmosphere was untouchable. "Even though we were spaced out, it looked as if we had a lot of people in the gym," said Robinson. "The gym was on fire. It was packed. We were making noise. I was excited. I'm ready for tomorrow." Even with all the major changes, Robinson said the pandemic cannot change the grit of a Bulldog. "Couldn't feel a difference. The girls brought the energy. Fans bringing the energy. We were packing the Griss out," said Robinson.
Should Mike Leach make Will Rogers Mississippi State's starting QB?
Mike Leach doesn't have a whole lot at Mississippi State right now. He doesn't have a winning record. He doesn't have an offense that looks like the ones he had success with at Texas Tech and Washington State. Heck, he doesn't even have a solidified starting quarterback. But he has a spark. Amid a whole lot of nothingness after a third consecutive loss, this one, a 28-14 defeat to No. 11 Texas A&M, that sure seems like something. The spark, Leach said, is true freshman quarterback Will Rogers. "That drive that Will had, when you consider the quality of team (Texas) A&M has, that drive Will had was maybe as good as I've had a freshman, especially a true freshman at his age, have before," Leach said. It was a drive that looked a lot like the ones Leach roamed the sidelines for and monitored in Lubbock, Texas and Pullman, Washington. It was a drive quarterbacked by a player who's never started a college game but in that moment looked like someone who has started plenty.
Dallas Cowboys enter new territory in first game without Dak Prescott
The buzz was palpable. Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott was back at the Star for medical treatment early Thursday morning, just a few days after surgery for a compound fracture and dislocation of his right ankle. Teammates and coaches were thrilled to catch a smile on the face of the player whom they'd last seen carted off the field of AT&T Stadium, his ankle in a sterile splint, tears streaming down his face. "The reaction everybody has that he's here ... speaks volumes about him as a man and just the electricity that he brings to our football team," coach Mike McCarthy said Thursday. "You can never take for granted the presence and the command of Dak Prescott." Then Prescott left the Star for a post-operation visit with his doctor. The Cowboys resumed their practice schedule, the quarterbacks opening with their usual series of indoor drills that McCarthy calls "quarterback school." Andy Dalton cycled through footwork, target practice and two-minute drills. Rookie Ben DiNucci followed. No. 4 was missing. "It was definitely noticeable," McCarthy said.
Contract details revealed for Jackson State football coach Deion Sanders
New Jackson State football coach Deion Sanders won't be making the same amount of money as a coach as he did as a Hall of Fame cornerback. But he'll still make a hefty sum. According to documents obtained by the Clarion Ledger, Sanders will make $300,000 annually beginning Dec. 1 and ending on Dec. 1, 2024. Sanders will net $1.2 million from his base contract. Sanders also has ticket sales provisions in his contract. For any home game that Jackson State sells more than 30,000 tickets, Sanders will be paid 10% of the revenue from those sales. Sanders will also be paid 10% of the season ticket revenue if Jackson State sells more than 10,000 season ticket packages for a season. Sanders, Jackson State president Thomas Hudson and athletics director Ashley Robinson all signed the contract on Sept. 18, 2020. Sanders was officially announced as Jackson State's head coach on Sept. 21.
SEC schools that break COVID-19 protocols can be fined up to $1 million
SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said Friday that conference schools can face a cumulative penalty of $1 million as the league continues to enforce COVID-19 sideline protocols and hold head coaches accountable for wearing masks during games. While Sankey acknowledged that some teams have done well in complying with sideline protocols during games, he compared the overall response to a report card marked "Needs improvement." Multiple SEC schools have already violated the mask-wearing rule and will lose money from their conference revenue distribution, sources told ESPN. The first offense is $100,000, followed by $200,000, $300,000 and $400,000 for a fourth violation. Sankey said he has focused on "head coaching compliance," but declined to say which schools have already been fined and how much. "My premise is, our head football coaches are leaders, the most visible people in their programs," he said. "They set the tone. They have that responsibility in this environment."
NCAA transfer rule: How new policy impacts Academic Progress Rate
In light of impending changes to the transfer policy, the NCAA will explore adjustments to the Academic Progress Rate and expects conferences to align their own transfer policies with the governing body's new legislation. Earlier this week, the Division I Council agreed to move forward with legislation that will grant athletes the freedom to transfer and play immediately at least once in their college careers, eschewing the penalty requiring athletes of five sports (football and basketball included) to sit out a year. Grace Calhoun, the Penn athletic director and chair of the Division I Council, believes a change to the APR is "reasonable," and she expects the Division I Committee on Academics to examine the APR's penalty structure. Implemented in 2003, the APR is a four-year rolling average score designed to hold schools accountable for academics, even penalizing them for poor performance. Presuming a spike in transfers given the more open policy, various college administrators told Sports Illustrated they believe the formula needs an adjustment to avoid significant dips in scores. Under the current APR formula, each player earns one point for staying in school and one point for being academically eligible. Transferring players would cost a school the retention point.
College athletics departments cut budgets, teams amid COVID
The budgets of many college athletics departments have taken a serious hit amid the pandemic. And as a result, many schools have had to make cuts. Departments are also dealing with pay cuts, furloughs and layoffs. Almost all of that money came from ticket sales, concessions and TV contracts associated with football and men's basketball. "So those revenue streams are huge," said David Berri who teaches sports economics at Southern Utah University. Berri said that, yes, football and basketball help pay for lacrosse, gymnastics and tennis, but for the most part, football and basketball revenues go to football and basketball. "They primarily go in the pockets of coaches, administrators, and then to facilities," he said. Home football games for the Texas Longhorns are being played in front of only a 25%-capacity crowd. The university hasn't said how much money it's losing as a result, but in 2018, ticket sales alone for those games brought in $67 million. So, now, UT's athletics department is trimming back. It laid off 35 people and said another 35 vacant positions would be eliminated. Even the football coach is taking a 15% pay cut. All in all, Texas cut about 6% from its sports programs.
NCAA executive: Sports' COVID-related woes could linger into 2023
While some college sports administrators are hoping that the large-scale financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic will be a one-year proposition, an NCAA senior executive says the struggles probably will linger into 2023. Chief medical officer Brian Hainline's cautionary predictions about the future included making no assumptions that NCAA championships --- including basketball's Final Four -- will be held as currently scheduled. He also addressed prospects relating not only to athletics but also to higher education in general. He said 20% to 30% of the NCAA's Division III schools may close entirely. In addition, he indicated that -- as in other parts of society -- athletics programs that have the money to carry out COVID testing will be able to move forward while those that do not will have difficulty doing so. And while he hopes NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision schools will remain philosophically committed to maintaining the current minimum sport-sponsorship requirement of 16 teams (the requirement for Division I membership is 14), financial issues may prompt the membership to enact a reduction. "It's not going to be easy" for schools to maintain their current numbers of teams, Hainline said. "I mean, these economic realities are --- they're stark."

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