Thursday, October 22, 2020   
Authorities searching for Coast student missing at Mississippi State
Authorities in Starkville are looking for a South Mississippi student currently attending Mississippi State University. According to family members, 19-year-old Nicholas Smith was last seen on Friday morning leaving his dorm at the Starkville college. Smith, a freshman who is enrolled in the university's engineering college, was seen on a security camera Friday, Oct. 16, at 8 a.m., leaving the McKee dorm, said his mother Tammy Tanner. His roommate reported him missing to university officials on Monday, Oct. 19, she said. Tanner, who lives in Biloxi, said her son graduated in 2019 from George County High. His dad, who lives in George County, last spoke with Nick on Oct. 12, she added. Both parents are now in Starkville, where Mississippi State is providing them lodging as they help campus and city police look for the young man.
MSU investigating disappearance of student Nicholas Smith
Mississippi State University is investigating the disappearance of a freshman. MSU spokesman Sid Salter confirmed Nicholas Smith is missing. Smith is a computer engineering student who lives in university housing. The MSU Police Department is investigating. Salter said MSU is consulting with Smith's family. Anyone with information about his whereabouts can call the MSU Police Department at 662-325-2121 or the Starkville Police Department at 662-323-4131.
Social media turns in scooter thieves
Just 24 hours after the Mississippi State University Police Department asked for help finding those responsible for steal a disabled veteran's scooter, the investigation ended. The department Tweeted Wednesday afternoon that "Thanks to you all, the case of the stolen scooter has been solved." The department offered no details if the people in the surveillance photos were arrested or charged with the crime. MSU took to social media Oct. 20, posting pictures of the suspects who were involved in the theft of a Hoveround Mobility Scooter from a disabled veteran at Davis Wade Stadium during the football game between the Bulldogs and Texas A&M. The security camera images show what appears to be a bearded white male wearing a MUS sweatshirt with a skull and crossbones on the back driving the scooter along a sidewalk. There is also a picture of a white couple on the same sidewalk.
Painted University Drive bridge attracts citizens' attention
The brightly colored paint on the University Drive bridge over the railroad tracks, just east of Old West Point Road, has been there for a week and is already the talk of the town, even at Tuesday's board of aldermen meeting. Mayor Lynn Spruill and a few of the aldermen have received calls from constituents wondering where the art project came from, so Spruill said at the meeting that it's one of several murals the Starkville Area Arts Council has painted throughout the city over the past few years. The board approved a program in 2017 for SAAC to approve design proposals and work on the murals, such as the one on Lampkin Street near First United Methodist Church. Bob Brzuszek, a landscape architecture professor at Mississippi State University, and two assistant artists, Anstacia Doughty and Joseph MacGown, painted the bridge. Another recent effort to beautify the city is Lights on Lafayette: 900 LED lights strung in September above the street at the block of Lafayette Street between Main and Lampkin streets, in an effort to create a space for outdoor events and enhance foot traffic in the area. The project is a collaboration among the city, which provided in-kind services to erect the lights, the Greater Starkville Development Partnership and its affiliates, Mississippi State's Carl Small Town Center and local businesses.
Southwest is back: JMAA announces return of airline to Jackson
The Jackson Municipal Airport Authority (JMAA) announces that Southwest Airlines intends to restore its legendary service to Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport (JAN) in 2021. Southwest Airlines is the largest domestic carrier with an impressive international route network, as well, and previously served JAN from 1997 until 2014. "It's great news for our city and great news for travelers throughout the region who have been missing access to Southwest's accessible flights and low fares," said Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba. "I want to applaud the JMAA Board of Commissioners and CEO for their hard work and vision. JAN has become a strong regional competitor and Southwest's return is the most recent evidence of their efforts." "The JMAA is thrilled to welcome back Southwest Airlines and I feel sure that the citizens of Jackson and central Mississippi will find this news very exciting. As U.S. travel recovers in 2021, we look forward to hosting more and more passengers at JAN," said JMAA Board Chairman Robert E. Martin.
Josiah Coleman, Percy Lynchard vying for Supreme Court slot
Voters will select who will serve on the state's highest court for the next eight years when they return to the polls next month. Incumbent Josiah Coleman and Percy Lynchard are both vying for the 33-county District 3 seat on the state Supreme Court. The seat includes the bulk of north Mississippi. Coleman was elected in 2012 and is completing his first term as a judge. Lynchard is a 26-year chancery court judge in District 3, which stretches from DeSoto County south to Montgomery County. Coleman, who will turn 48 on Election Day, graduated from the University of Mississippi Law School in 1999. He clerked for a U.S. magistrate in Oxford for two years, then practiced privately, first in Tupelo and then in Oxford. During his 15 years in private practice, he focused mainly on medical negligence and insurance defense work in circuit court and federal court. In 2012, he ran for Supreme Court and picked up more than 58% of the vote to defeat Richard Phillips. "I come from a line of appellate judges," Coleman said. "My father was on the court of appeals. My grandfather was a federal judge on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals (based in New Orleans)." A native of Cleveland, Lynchard, 64, graduated from the University of Mississippi Law School in 1981 and moved to DeSoto County in 1982. He spent 14 years in private practice, handling a lot of family law and real estate. Besides civil cases, he also served as a municipal court judge in Hernando for 10 years.
Gov. Tate Reeves receives mid-level score in economic rankings of state governors' responses to COVID-19
Gov. Tate Reeves received a mediocre score in a scorecard ranking the nation's governors on economic policy performance and results during and before the COVID-19 pandemic, but the authors were quick to defend him since he's been in office for less than a year. The scorecard, by the non-partisan American Legislative Exchange Council, used 20 different economic factors to grade governors on their performance in office. Reeves was ranked 29th overall among the nation's 50 governors, receiving a 41st ranking on results and a 15th-best ranking on policy. Reeves is one of two governors who's been in office for a year or less, along with Kentucky Gov. Andy Beashear, a Democrat who ranked 32nd. The scorecard was authored by former Reagan Administration advisor Arthur Laffer (creator of the Laffer Curve), Donna Arduin, Trump advisor and economist Stephen Moore and ALEC chief economist Jonathan Williams. "As an independently elected lieutenant governor (Reeves) had a great deal of control over the state's fiscal situation and budget and scored very high marks there," said Arduin, the former budget director for several states, including New York, Florida and California. "As governor, we expect him to put those policies into place. He has a little less control now, but we'd like to see him move the state in the direction when he was lieutenant governor."
AP Road Trip: In Mississippi, Black voters face many hurdles
The old civil rights worker was sure the struggle would be over by now. He'd fought so hard back in the '60s. He'd seen the wreckage of burned churches, and the injuries of people who had been beaten. He'd seen men in white hoods. At its worst, he'd mourned three young men who were fighting for Black Mississippians to gain the right to vote, and who were kidnapped and executed on a country road just north of here. But Charles Johnson, sitting inside the neat brick church in Meridian where he's been pastor for over 60 years, worries that Mississippi is drifting into its past. "I would never have thought we'd be where we're at now, with Blacks still fighting for the vote," said Johnson, 83, who was close to two of the murdered men, especially the New Yorker everyone called Mickey. "I would have never believed it." The opposition to Black voters in Mississippi has changed since the 1960s, but it hasn't ended. But sometimes, it can seem that voting rights in Mississippi are like its small towns and dirt roads, which can appear frozen in the past.
Former President Obama endorses Mike Espy; President Trump backs Cindy Hyde-Smith
A Democrat trying to unseat a Republican U.S. senator in Mississippi said Wednesday that he has received his "biggest endorsement yet," from former President Barack Obama. "Mike Espy has a great chance to win this election for the Senate and keep Mississippi moving forward," Obama said in a radio ad and the text of a fundraising appeal. Espy was U.S. agriculture secretary under President Bill Clinton, after serving six years in Congress from a rural Mississippi district. He is challenging Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith in a rematch of a 2018 special election. President Donald Trump on Wednesday afternoon tweeted his support for Hyde-Smith, saying she "delivers" for the state. Hyde-Smith is a former state agriculture commissioner who was appointed to serve temporarily in the Senate in the spring of 2018 when longtime Republican Sen. Thad Cochran retired because of poor health. A special election was held in November 2018 to fill the final two years of the six-year term Cochran started, and Hyde-Smith defeated Espy in a runoff.
President Trump endorses Cindy Hyde-Smith in Mississippi Senate race
President Donald Trump, who helped Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith win her seat in a 2018 special election with three visits to Mississippi, on Wednesday tweeted his endorsement of her. "(Hyde-Smith) delivers for Mississippi!" Trump tweeted. "She helped us Cut your Taxes, Secure our Border, and Defend the Second Amendment. Cindy's opponent, Mike Espy, is a Corrupt Politician who will Raise your Taxes and Open your Borders! Vote for Cindy!" A Trump campaign visit to Mississippi, considered "safely red" by most politicos for both Trump and Hyde-Smith's re-election, is unlikely this cycle, with Trump's campaign focusing on larger swing states. Hyde-Smith has been one of Trump's staunchest allies in the Senate, unwaveringly supporting most of his policies and defending him during impeachment hearings. Trump's endorsement of Hyde-Smith was part of a string of 11 endorsement tweets he made on Wednesday afternoon.
President Barack Obama endorses Mike Espy in Mississippi Senate race
Former President Barack Obama endorsed Democratic Mississippi U.S. Senate candidate Mike Espy on Wednesday, and the Espy campaign announced Obama's endorsement message will be broadcast statewide in a radio advertisement. "Mike Espy has a great chance to win this election for the Senate and keep Mississippi moving forward," Obama said in his endorsement statement. "You were finally able to change the flag. Now, you can change your senator, too. Mike Espy for Senate and Joe Biden for President. It's your time to be heard." Obama encouraged Mississippians to make a plan to vote, check their polling place and bring identification. A hallmark of Espy's 2020 campaign strategy is to get nearly 100,000 Black Mississippi voters who have not turned out since Obama's first presidential win in 2008 to vote on Nov. 3.
Mike Espy endorses medical marijuana initiative. Could it be a boon to his campaign?
Democratic Senate candidate Mike Espy is officially coming out in favor of the state's medical marijuana legalization initiative, telling Mississippi Today that he believes sick patients should be entitled to what amounts to medicine. "I support Initiative 65 because it provides a well-regulated treatment option to those that need it," Espy said in an emailed statement. "Medical marijuana can provide relief for many Mississippians who suffer from nausea during chemotherapy, arthritis, the effects of autoimmune illnesses, post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic pain, anxiety, and many other conditions." The comment marks Espy's first confirmation to a news organization about the reasons he is in favor of Initiative 65 since its supporters gathered enough signatures and submitted it September 2019 to be on the ballot this November. Espy is using a four-to-one cash advantage to try to unseat Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith. Hyde-Smith's campaign did not reply to a request seeking comment on her stance on medical marijuana. Hyde-Smith, though, told WJTV on Oct. 16 that she opposes Initiative 65 and that regulation of marijuana should be left up to the federal government.
Senators eschew debates in final campaign stretch
Debates can often produce some of the most memorable moments of a campaign. But just two weeks before the Nov. 3 election, four states are unlikely even to hold debates on whom to send to the U.S. Senate. The debate about the debates is playing out in three red-leaning states -- Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi, where GOP Sens. Bill Cassidy and Cindy Hyde-Smith plus Republican Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville are not planning to debate their opponents. Candidates typically don't agree to debates when they're so confident they'll win that they don't think it's necessary. Debating with an opponent also opens up the possibility of a fatal gaffe. Meanwhile, Sen. Cindy Hyde Smith (R-Miss.) will also skip debating, prompting her Democratic opponent, Mike Espy, to accuse her of "disrespecting her voters." When asked about the incumbent Republican's decision, a spokesperson for her campaign said in a statement that "Mississippians care about what Sen. Hyde-Smith is getting done in the job they elected her to do."
Senate Judiciary sends Amy Coney Barrett nomination to the floor with no Democratic votes
The Senate Judiciary Committee advanced the Supreme Court nomination of Amy Coney Barrett on Thursday as the panel's Democrats boycotted the hearing, setting up a final confirmation vote on the Senate floor as early as Monday. The 12 Republicans on the committee voted to report Barrett's nomination favorably to the Senate floor, while Democrats did not vote because they were absent. "We did it. We did it. Judge Barrett is going to the floor," Chairman Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said to the Republicans there. "I hope you look back on this time on the committee and say, 'I was there when it mattered.' And you were." Instead of attending, committee Democrats set up large photos on their chairs of constituents they say will be harmed if Barrett is confirmed. They have accused Republicans of violating panel rules in a rush to complete the process in time for Supreme Court oral arguments Nov. 10 in a case where the Trump administration is asking the justices to wipe out the full 2010 health care law. Graham moved forward with the vote, blaming Democrats for starting the Senate down a procedural path on judicial nominees over the years that led to this vote.
GOP power shift emerges with President Trump, Senate Majority Leader McConnell
A subtle power shift is emerging on Capitol Hill as Republicans face a possible future that might no longer include President Trump. The shift has been most apparent in the dynamics surrounding negotiations on a new coronavirus relief package. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has sought to avoid a vote on a massive stimulus package that would badly divide the Senate GOP conference right before Election Day, even as Trump urges Republican senators to "go big." McConnell told Republican colleagues at a lunch meeting Tuesday that he warned the White House against a vote on a massive stimulus package before election day. He quipped that he knew his message that was delivered in a private meeting would get out to the public very quickly. "He made his statement prefaced by 'this will probably be on Twitter in a few minutes,'" said a GOP senator recounting Tuesday's meeting. A majority of Republican senators oppose a bigger coronavirus relief package, even as Trump pushes for one. "Mitch understands his troops," the senator said. "He's made the calculation that it's not helpful to bring it to the floor because it would show we're not on the same page as the president. There would be a lot of Republican no's." It's just one of the emerging differences between the two pillars of GOP power in Washington.
The Tech Issues You Won't Hear About at Tonight's Debate
The 2020 presidential election is technological warfare. President Trump and Joe Biden are spending millions to deploy algorithms and target potential voters with their messages. The campaigns are more dependent on databases, math models, and video calls than ever, in part due to the pandemic. One thing mostly missing from this electoral techno-clash: substantive discussion of technology policy. Thursday night's debate seems unlikely to veer into detailed tech talk, although the Department of Justice's antitrust case against Google has a good shot at a mention. Don't expect to hear much about broadband or research spending or immigration policy for high-skilled workers. That's a shame, because technology shapes every facet of American life, and the pandemic makes tech issues even more pressing. It also may create an opportunity to reset US tech policy, if a vaccine quells the coronavirus and Congress passes a post-viral stimulus. Rob Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, says one priority should be to reverse the slump in government support for the research needed to keep America great at inventing new technologies.
Mission impossible? NBC's Kristen Welker on tap to moderate second debate
This fall's presidential debates have chewed up moderators. President Donald Trump steamrolled Chris Wallace with constant interruptions in the first one, a performance that cost the Republican incumbent support in the polls. Susan Page struggled to make the vice presidential candidates adhere to time limits their campaigns had agreed to in advance. Next up: Kristen Welker. The NBC News White House correspondent is scheduled to moderate Thursday's second and last session between Trump and Democrat Joe Biden. It's hard not to feel trepidation for her. Both of her predecessors came into the assignments with more experience. While Welker was one of four questioners at a Democratic presidential debate last fall, this is by far the 44-year-old journalist's biggest stage. Trump and his supporters have already tried to get in her head by attacking her in advance. The Philadelphia-born Welker has been with NBC News since 2010, after local news stints in Redding, California; Providence, Rhode Island; and her home city. A former intern at the "Today" show, she now hosts the program's weekend edition. She's the first Black woman to moderate a presidential debate since Carole Simpson in 1992.
U.S. Jobless Claims Fell to 787,000 Last Week
New applications for unemployment benefits this month fell to the lowest levels since March, when the coronavirus pandemic derailed the economy, showing a sign of improvement for the U.S. labor market. Weekly initial claims for jobless benefits fell by 55,000 to a seasonally adjusted 787,000 in the week ended Oct. 17, the Labor Department said Thursday. Claims for the prior two weeks were revised lower, reflecting new data from California. The revised level of claims for the week ended Oct. 3 -- 767,000 -- was the lowest since the March 14 week, when less than 300,000 new claims were filed. "The labor market continues to grind toward recovery," Jefferies LLC economist Thomas Simons wrote in a note to clients. Before the revisions, claims data was "hinting that the labor market had hit a pothole in its recovery. That no long seems to be the case," he wrote. The number of people collecting unemployment benefits through regular state programs, which cover most workers, decreased by 1 million to about 8.4 million for the week ended Oct. 10, also the lowest since March. That is consistent with many employers recalling workers furloughed earlier this year, and some, such as online retailers and logistics firms, adding staff.
Farm profits will drop without climate adaptation, experts say
Climate change has become more and more real for Americans over the past few decades. Sea level rise has been a problem on the East Coast, wildfires have been getting more intense on the West Coast. And weather in the Midwest and South has been getting more extreme. This has major implications for American agriculture. Change is not just coming; it's here. Agricultural researchers have modeled the impacts of climate change on barley, rice, wheat, soy, cotton and corn over the next 30 to 50 years. "Without any changes in what farmers are currently planting, the total profits across the six major crops we looked at in the United States would drop by about 30%," said James Rising, a research fellow at the London School of Economics and Political Science's Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment. And yet, farmers are already adapting, and you can see it on the map. "You have over the last several decades seen the corn belt shift north," Lilliston said. "There are parts of Minnesota, for example, where corn is grown where it was more traditionally wheat." Still, straight up switching crops is not very common. More often, farmers and suppliers are adapting in less drastic ways.
Ole Miss Bike Shop: Getting Bikes Back in Business
Located behind Lester Hall on the Kennon Observatory loop, the Ole Miss Bike Shop operates and serves the cycling needs of students, faculty and the Oxford community. The shop was established in 2014 following the Office of Sustainability's efforts to create Rebel Pedals, a bike-share program. The program began with only 30 donated bicycles at their disposal, but today, The Bike Shop has a fleet of over 150 refurbished bicycles for rent. The store has become so popular, it often racks up waiting lists up to three pages long. "The Bike Shop is a strategic priority for our department", said director of the Department of Parking and Transportation Samuel Rea Patterson. "Biking provides excellent first and last mile solutions for students, faculty, and staff. Along with our O.U.T shuttles, biking is an important aspect of our mobility initiatives across campus." Once awarded a Bronze Award as Bicycle Friendly University in 2015 by the League of American Bicyclists, Ole Miss is still an avid promoter of active transportation modes. "Our campus is very much bike-friendly, but user-awareness remains a concern", said Valliant.
U. of Alabama to hold winter graduation with COVID-19 limits
The University of Alabama on Wednesday announced plans for winter commencement, with a number of safety measures in place because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Four separate graduation ceremonies will be held Dec. 12 at Coleman Coliseum on the UA campus, according to a news release. A total of more than 2,000 graduates are expected to participate in the four ceremonies, with each graduate limited to inviting up to four guests. UA canceled May graduation exercises in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. On July 31 and Aug. 1, UA held combined spring and summer graduation ceremonies, with masks required and limits on the number of people who could attend. Most of the safety measures put in place during the summer ceremonies will again be used for the Dec. 12 ceremonies, officials said. Four ceremonies will take place throughout the day with a maximum of 530 graduates participating in each, in an effort to maintain physical distancing guidelines.
Auburn University Senate briefed on building names progress
During Auburn University Senate on Tuesday, Oct. 20, members of the University administration spoke to faculty about the Auburn Board of Trustees' task force for buildings and monuments. The task force formed in June in the wake of racial demonstrations over the summer. Jon Waggoner, corporate secretary to the Board of Trustees, said the task force has been "very busy" regarding actions it can take to improve experiences of Auburn students from diverse backgrounds moving through college. Action items the task force is considering are planned for the immediate future, which Waggoner said are priority, and for the University's long-term outlook. One way the board hopes to achieve more diversity, equity and inclusion on campus is through the National Panhellenic Legacy Plaza, a project under construction that aims to honor the history of traditionally Black Greek life organizations. The trustees approved the project at their July 9 board meeting. "That will be built here soon right in the middle of campus, and it'll be a nice feature in recognizing the contributions of the traditionally Black fraternities and sororities," Waggoner said.
Auburn professors speak up about spring semester teaching plans
Auburn University administrators and faculty appear to be at loggerheads again over how much, or how little, discretion professors should have to teach their classes during the COVID-19 pandemic. The university's chapter of the American Association of University Professors sent a letter this week to university leadership regarding teaching plans for the Spring 2021 semester. "We have had almost 10 months since the pandemic began, which is plenty of time to meaningfully partner with faculty for decision-making and planning. This has not adequately happened and must now occur. Faculty should be trusted to do what we know how to do best -- teach -- without interference and micromanagement by administrators," the letter stated. Provost Bill Hardgrave announced previously that most instruction would return to classrooms full-time in the spring. Any faculty member who wants to teach their class online or use a mix of in-person and online methods would need the approval of their college dean. The complaints echo concerns expressed by faculty members over the summer.
As LSU leader search starts, John Bel Edwards supports unified job; Jay Dardenne won't apply
A day before an LSU search committee was set to take up whether to split up the top post at the university into two jobs -- a president and a chancellor -- Gov. John Bel Edwards on Wednesday said he prefers a single leader for the flagship university system. And Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne, who has expressed interest in taking over as head of the system, said he's no longer planning to apply because it appears the university will not hire two candidates and is staying with a combined president/chancellor. Dardenne, a Republican who crossed party lines to endorse Edwards in the 2015 election after losing in the primary, hadn't formally thrown his hat in the ring. In an interview, Dardenne said he was interested in becoming president of the system, a job he envisioned as having a "modest" staff and a focus on fundraising, external relations and coordinating the finances of the entire system.
U. of South Carolina will not offer pass-fail grade option for all online classes despite student protests
Some University of South Carolina students want the option of pass-fail grades for all fall coronavirus-disrupted classes like the state's largest college offered in the spring. But USC administrators have no plans to change grading as students take a combination of classes in-person and online this fall to help slow the spread of COVID-19. More than 2,300 signatures were collected on a petition hours after it went online Wednesday requesting the choice so students' grade-point averages are not harmed by bad marks from key virtual classes. MaryCarson Dowis and Emma-Grace Yarborough, a pair of sophomores, helped start the petition because they are worried about their grades in classes they must do well in to continue in the nursing program. Despite student protests, USC is sticking with traditional grading after finding no deviation in marks from previous semesters, spokesman Jeff Stensland said. USC also did not want to offer all-inclusive pass-fail because few other colleges are offering the option. The decision was made by a group of faculty, staff and students when plans were drawn up for the fall semester.
U. of South Carolina to export 'game changer' COVID-19 tests to Clemson, other SC colleges
The University of South Carolina will be exporting its rapid saliva testing for coronavirus to other colleges in the state including its cross-state rival Clemson University, the school announced Wednesday. The testing expansion, made possible by $16.7 million from state and federal grants, is still early in the development process. For example, it's unclear how many colleges will take USC up on its offer, but USC will expand saliva testing to all of its two-and four-year campuses throughout the state. Several historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) are also interested in saliva testing, USC spokesman Jeff Stensland said in a text message. It's also unclear how many tests will be distributed to each campus and when saliva testing will start at locations throughout the state. "We look forward to expanding our program to help other institutions throughout our state," USC College of Pharmacy Dean Stephen Cutler said in a news release. "As South Carolina's flagship research university, we are dedicated to serving all South Carolinians. Community service is part of our mission."
U. of Florida administration develops app exclusively for online students
University of Florida online undergraduate students can now interact on a new app. The UF Online app launched last month acts as a mobile hub for UF events, student organizations and connections for online students. The 4,000 or so students can reach out to others with similar majors and interests, communicate with professors, join organizations and attend virtual events. Any business major, for example, looking to create study groups or ask questions for an upcoming exam can do so on the app, said Josh Steele, the UF online associate director for academic strategies. Online students in the Gainesville area can also message each other and meet in person, he said. "It can be really hard to find your peers when you're all broken up geographically," he said. "We needed a place in which there was an opportunity for students to interact and engage with each other." UF Online administrators developed the app to create a digital, hands-on experience for online students, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Steele said.
Texas A&M celebrates 13th annual Sustainability Day virtually
Texas A&M University's 13th annual Campus Sustainability Day is taking on a new, virtual format this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but it's keeping the same core goal of increasing people's awareness. A&M typically celebrates Sustainability Day on the third Wednesday of October, which was yesterday, but this year expanded it to a month of digital festivities, said Kelly Wellman, director of sustainability for the Office of Sustainability. Instead of filling Rudder Plaza with a couple dozen tables where members of different organizations talk about how they are striving to be sustainable, the Office of Sustainability's Facebook and Instagram pages were filled Wednesday with such information from entities including the city of College Station, Aggie Replant and the university's dining services. Today, the celebration continues with a film screening of the documentary Seadrift and a webinar Q&A session. On Friday, community members can log in to presentations from Office of Sustainability officials.
Mun Choi admits mistake in not reading U. of Missouri tenure recommendations
Mun Choi didn't apologize, but he did admit to a mistake in not noticing a folder with recommendations of the Campus Promotion and Tenure Advisory Committee when making decisions on faculty promotion and tenure. The comments from the University of Missouri System president and MU chancellor were made at Wednesday's virtual general faculty meeting, which also included discussion of treatment of student protesters, racism on campus and the Thomas Jefferson statue. "It was my mistake in not recognizing there was not a folder" for the committee recommendations, Choi said. "I did not realize. Of course, going forward, I will read the letter." It was an oversight and unintentional, he said. The Thomas Jefferson statue offends and upsets Black students, said Claire Syler, assistant professor of theater, who described herself as a fifth-generation Missourian and white. "As we contextualize the Thomas Jefferson statue, how will we acknowledge that this is a racist symbol for some?" Syler asked. There are many stakeholders that need to be considered, Choi said. Jefferson needs to be recognized for his important contributions to American democracy and higher education, but his failings as the owner of people as slaves need to be recognized as well.
Students Push for Canceled Classes on Election Day
Aditya Jhaveri and Sun Woo Park, student government leaders for the Emory University College of Arts and Sciences in Atlanta, have been working for the past two years to get university administrators to cancel classes on Election Day and allow students time to vote and participate in the political process in other ways. Their efforts, so far unsuccessful, have been driven by students at the university who say instruction and assignments on Election Day are a barrier to political participation. Jhaveri, the council president, and Park, a fourth-year legislator for College Council, are determined to change this. They are working with Time Off to Vote, a national coalition of students who are spearheading letter-writing campaigns and petitions asking college administrators to make Election Day an official holiday on their campuses, or to at least ask professors not to hold classes or schedule exams that day. The students' effort is part of larger project led by Every Vote Counts, or EVC, a student-led, nonpartisan organization with chapters on about 50 campuses to increase voter access and turnout nationwide. It is also encouraging corporate leaders to give employees at least two hours of paid time off to vote on Election Day.
DHS Arrests International Students, Threatens College Leaders for 'Willful Ignorance' of Student-Visa Program
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security Wednesday announced the arrest of 15 international students as part of an investigation into fraud in optional practical training, or OPT, the work program for international graduates. Another 1,100 will lose their work authorizations. And some college officials will likely have their certification to administer student visas on their campuses revoked as part of the investigation, which is dubbed Operation OPTical Illusion. Kenneth T. Cuccinelli, the acting deputy secretary of homeland security, stopped short of calling college administrators complicit, but he said they exercised a "willful ignorance or a level of negligence" that would lead to their termination as what are known as "designated school officials" in the student-visa program. Participation in OPT has soared in recent years, in part because of changes made under the Obama administration to expand the program and in part because of the value foreign students put on gaining American work experience. But the Trump administration has long expressed interest in limiting OPT, arguing that permitting international students to work takes jobs from Americans.
Federal Investigation Targets Foreign Student Work Program
Department of Homeland Security officials sent a clear message Wednesday that they are scrutinizing foreign students' and colleges' compliance with the rules of a program that allows international students to stay in the U.S. to work for one to three years after they graduate in a job directly related to their field of study. Officials announced that they had arrested 15 international students who claimed to be employed by companies that don't exist. The arrests resulted from an ongoing Immigration and Customs Enforcement investigation, termed Operation OPTical Illusion, targeting fraudulent use of the OPT, or optional practical training, program. Ken Cuccinelli, the senior official performing the duties of the DHS deputy secretary, said during a press briefing that officials had identified more than 1,110 students who were violating the terms of their immigration status and that work permits for about 700 of those students were being revoked. He said permits for the other approximately 400 students are due to expire within the next two months.
Foreign Students Could Buoy Cash-strapped US Universities
International students might be a boon for many colleges and universities to offset losses during the coronavirus pandemic, say experts. "U.S. education is an extremely valuable service export, roughly equivalent to total exports of wheat, corn, coal, and natural gas," according to the Global Migration Center at the University of California, Davis. International students contributed 458,290 jobs and $41 billion to the U.S. economy in the 2018-2019 academic year, according to the nonprofit Association of International Educators (NAFSA). Additionally, when international students pay full rates for college or university, domestic students benefit. "Full-sticker price tuition revenue from international students helps to provide more subsidies for American students," the Global Migration Center explained. "International students also help universities buffer against declines in government funding that have occurred for several decades." Schools say it's not only through revenue that foreign students contribute to the college or university community. They also "contribute to the intellectual vibrancy and diversity of our campuses," wrote the Presidents' Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration to the Department of Homeland Security earlier this year, when the coronavirus began to send students home and shut campuses.
Empty Dorms Put Squeeze on Colleges to Bail Out Billions in Debt
Empty dorms are putting pressure on U.S. colleges to help investors in the approximately $14 billion student housing debt market, adding to the strain on schools already reeling from the pandemic. West Virginia State University, already hit with a 10% enrollment drop, plans to give money to a school foundation so it can meet its bond covenants for residence hall debt. A community college in Ohio is using part of a $1.5 million donation for a financially-strapped student housing project. And officials at New Jersey City University, which serves largely first-generation and lower-income students and has recorded years of deficits, are prepared to shore up a dorm there. The squeeze on university finances arrives at the worst possible time. Some debt sold for student housing requires the schools to assist. Other colleges are chipping in even without that requirement to ensure dorms are available when campuses fully reopen. On top of that, enrollments are dwindling and cash flow from athletics, dining halls and parking has disappeared. Investors have billions of dollars relying on the outcome.

Mississippi State men's basketball notebook: Bulldogs start practice, COVID-19 challenges, schedule update
There's COVID-19 safety protocols, a gargantuan roster turnover and schedule uncertainty all popping up rapidly on Mississippi State men's basketball coach Ben Howland's plate, but he doesn't mind. As long as his team remains on track for its season opener against Nov. 25, he'll gladly take any challenge thrown his way. "I'm excited about our team," Howland said. "We have a good group. Team bonding, I think the team has never been closer. You have no one else you can be with, but your own team and your teammates. Basically, if you're following protocol, you're not out there socializing and hanging out and seeing a lot of people if you're smart." After a period of time working out eight hours a week on the court, MSU has ramped up its workload after officially starting practice late last week. Each member of the team is being tested for COVID-19 once a week, and that number will increase to three when games start. While the optimism surrounds the start of the season considering the lack of students on campus, coaches around the Southeastern Conference are sweating letting players go home for a few days for Christmas. So much so, that some have opted to keep their athletes on campus through the holidays, according to Howland. Safety protocols state that if players leave campus for the holidays, upon return to school, they must be tested before being cleared to practice. SEC teams are scheduled to start an 18-game conference schedule in late December. The sixth-year Mississippi State coach is trying to find a window for his players to get a break, though.
PETA spokesperson: Activists arrested at MSU football game drawing attention 'the best way they knew how'
Three seconds into the second quarter of Mississippi State's 28-14 home loss to Texas A&M Saturday, Caroline Serrano, 28, of Powder Springs, Georgia, and Jenna Upchurch, 28, of Mount Airy, North Carolina, snuck onto Scott Field at Davis Wade Stadium and raced around the playing surface. Armed with posters that read "TAMU: Stop Cruel Dog Tests, PETA," Upchurch and Serrano scampered around the MSU logo on the 50-yard line before being apprehended by the Mississippi State University Police Department and state troopers. Upchurch attempted to run away from a state trooper, who then tackled her to the ground. They were later charged with trespassing and disorderly conduct. A report from the Dallas Morning News in September 2019 said the testing at Texas A&M began eight years ago when the veterinary school hired Dr. Joseph Kornegay, a leader in this particular type of canine research, to study a similar type of degenerative condition that occurs naturally in golden retrievers in hopes of finding a cure for the human form. However, this research has come with a cost, requiring scientists to breed sick dogs and, in some instances, euthanize them. "What this is is a philosophical divide among those who do not believe in any animal research and those of us who devote our lives to animals, and realize that at this point animal research is still necessary," Dr. Eleanor Green, former dean of the Texas A&M School of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, told The Dallas Morning News at the time. "One day, maybe we won't need it. And it's becoming less and less, but until that day comes, we believe it's necessary."
LSU Football Self-Imposes Penalties, Bans Odell Beckham Jr. from Facilities for Two Years
LSU is self-imposing penalties for rules violations and hoping the NCAA doesn't levy more. The school is docking itself eight football scholarships over a two-year period and reducing recruiting visits, evaluations and communication after a nearly two-year investigation uncovered booster payments to the father of a football player, sources tell Sports Illustrated. The school is banning from its facilities for two years ex-LSU receiver and current NFL star Odell Beckham Jr., who distributed $2,000 worth of $100 bills during a wild scene that unfolded on the field following LSU's win over Clemson in the national championship game in the New Orleans Superdome. LSU officials notified the NCAA of its self-imposed sanctions earlier this month, sources said. But the question lingers: Will it be enough to satisfy the NCAA? According to previous correspondence between the school and NCAA, LSU believes its violations are Level 1 in nature, which is the most serious of the NCAA's infraction ladder. However, there are three degrees within Level 1.
How college football is handling its COVID-19 protocols one month into the season
This has been a college football season unlike any other. The coronavirus pandemic forced the sport to reimagine everything about how it is conducted. From mask-adorned coaches on the sidelines, to the fan game-day experience, to extensive team testing protocols -- and even how the sport is officiated -- everything is different. Now more than a month into the season, ESPN reporters Heather Dinich, Sam Khan Jr., Ivan Maisel and Alex Scarborough spoke to people in and around the sport to assess how COVID-19 protocols are impacting college football so far. Much of what makes college football unique is the game-day experience: the fans, the band, the student section, tailgating. All of that has been drastically altered. Stadiums are a quarter or one-third full. There are no more marching bands at halftime. Student sections aren't packed like they used to be. Tailgating, in many places, is nonexistent. "That was a tough one emotionally," Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione said, "because tailgating around Oklahoma games is huge."
Less pageantry, less noise, few fans, no partying: Here's what Big Ten football game days will look like in 2020
The sounds of horns and a squealing saxophone piped into Camp Randall Stadium at the end of the third quarter begins one of the most raucous traditions in the Big Ten. Wisconsin's playing at every home game of "Jump Around," the 1990s hip-hop hit, inspires fans to follow instructions, hopping rhythmically and so enthusiastically on their seats that the press box sways. This season, "Jump Around" will be played, but nobody will be there to jump. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic and safety precautions, only a limited number of family members of players and coaches will be permitted into Big Ten stadiums this season, which was postponed after conference presidents and chancellors initially ruled it unsafe to play this fall before backtracking. Wisconsin usually packs its 85,000-seat stadium. But with positive cases surging in the state, not even family members will be in attendance when the Badgers kick off the season against Illinois on Friday night in Madison. It's just one of many Twilight Zone-like scenes to be expected in what promises to be one of the most unusual Big Ten seasons in history.

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