Friday, October 23, 2020   
Mississippi State announces in-person ceremonies for fall commencement in Starkville, Meridian
Mississippi State University announced plans for in-person fall commencement exercises to be held on the Starkville and Meridian campuses. The Starkville campus will have four ceremonies Nov. 25 in Humphrey Coliseum, and MSU-Meridian will celebrate commencement Dec. 1 at the MSU Riley Center. Multiple viewing options will be available for those who wish to watch these events remotely. The university is requiring all attendees, including graduates, guests and university employees, to wear face coverings. Sanitizing stations will be available, and special seating and distancing protocols will be in place. Attendance Nov. 25 in Starkville will be limited to four guests per graduate, and the Athletic Ticket Office will provide electronic ticketing for contactless entry. Each ceremony at Humphrey Coliseum will have a guest capacity of approximately 1,600 in the facility which, under normal conditions. Meridian campus commencement at the MSU Riley Center will be held Dec. 1 at 11 a.m. MSU-Meridian fall graduates are assigned two tickets for guest seating in the theater per COVID-19 restrictions.
MSU announces in-person ceremonies for fall commencement
Mississippi State is announcing plans for in-person fall commencement exercises to be held on the Starkville and Meridian campuses. The Starkville campus will have four ceremonies on Nov. 25 in Humphrey Coliseum, and MSU-Meridian will celebrate commencement on Dec. 1 at the MSU Riley Center. Multiple viewing options will be available for those who wish to watch these events remotely. MSU-Meridian fall graduates are assigned two tickets for guest seating in the theater per COVID-19 restrictions. Doors open at 9:30 a.m., and only guests with tickets will be allowed to sit in the theater. Attendance Nov. 25 in Starkville will be limited to four guests per graduate, and the Athletic Ticket Office will provide electronic ticketing for contactless entry. Each ceremony at Humphrey Coliseum will have a guest capacity of approximately 1,600 in the facility which, under normal conditions, seats more than 10,000.
2020 Bulldog Bash canceled in Starkville
As a health and safety precaution, this year's Bulldog Bash has been put on hold until 2021. It is the largest, free, outdoor concert in the state and draws thousands of people each year. Bulldog Bash started as a small concert featuring local musicians and grew over the decades to now attracting big performers like T-Pain. "Our annual time together at Bulldog Bash is one that the university, student body and City of Starkville look forward to celebrating," MSU Vice President for Student Affairs Regina Hyatt said. "We are disappointed that we will not be able to host Bulldog Bash this year, but we are excited to start planning in hopes that we can provide this special experience for our students and local community next year."
Update: Missing MSU student found safe
A Mississippi State University student who had been missing since Friday has been located and is safe, according to a post on MSU Police Department's Twitter on Thursday. Police and other university officials had asked for the public's help locating Nicholas Smith, a freshman computer engineering major who lives on campus, after his family reported him missing, MSU Chief Communications Officer Sid Salter told The Dispatch Wednesday. Smith was last seen leaving his residence hall on Friday, when a university camera shows he was wearing blue jeans, boots and a gray jacket and hoodie. A statement from Salter issued Thursday morning said Smith was found in Columbus, where officers from Columbus Police Department, along with other area law enforcement, had helped locate him. The MSUPD Tweet said Smith "is safe and has been reunited with his parents."
Starkville gift store closes after 35 years due to COVID-19
COVID-19 has continued to slash the retail industry since March. Giggleswick, a gift shop that's stayed open for 35 years in Starkville, is among the latest casualties in the Golden Triangle. Janet Massey, who purchased the business in 2010, said she's sad to close the store but hasn't had much of a choice. "Due to the pandemic, things have just changed so for the retail industry," Massey said. "We had such a nice, big property, but it was just not that viable in today's market. We just had a little too much room." By the end of October, Giggleswick's physical location at 200 Hwy. 12 will officially close. For those who feel they might be missing out on various gift shop items such as pottery, women's fashion, handbags and more, Massey said its online store will remain in operation. You can browse, buy and register for weddings or baby showers at "We're very saddened that we're here to this point," Massey said. "We made so many great relationships and we want to continue to offer the people around the area still. I'm probably even going to even offer gift-wrapping during the holidays."
Golden Triangle Regional Airport working to overcome loss of business travelers
As the United States comes off its busiest weekend for air travel since the start of the pandemic, the Golden Triangle Regional Airport is seeing its flow of passengers stay consistent with other airports across the country. "Initially when this started, we were getting maybe 8 to 10 passengers a day and now, with 25 (people) a flight, we're seeing a decent number of people coming back," says airport executive director Mike Hainsey. In September, the airport got just 32% of the passengers they had during 2019. Hainsey says the airport is still missing most of its most reliable demographic. "Without the business travelers in our market, they're about 80 percent of our customers," he says. "So until they start traveling, we'll stay where we are now." The airport and carrier Delta Airlines are taking every safety precaution. But the reasons those passengers are staying away are out of their hands. "A business traveler has to be sure that the ride to the hotel, the hotel, the restaurants are all following the COVID protocols or their people may be at risk," Hainsey says. Fortunately, the airport says they have been able to balance that loss with the recent up-tick in leisure travel.
State Fair vendors use extension to make up for lost revenue
Vendors are hoping the Mississippi State Fair extension can help them make up for lost revenue. The coronavirus pandemic, along with Hurricane Delta, played a part in the slow traffic, short lines and less money spent. Owner of Beer 30 Saloon, Elizabeth Gray, said that compared to previous years, she's lost 50 percent of her revenue. Mark Bradford, who is a custom jewelry vendor, said things are even more of a challenge for him because when people come to the fair, their main focus is on rides and food. "I'm not seeing people having as much disposable income to spend on a novelty item like jewelry. They may only come to ride and eat, but if they have the extra money, then they will come and patronize me," said Bradford.
Mississippi reports 795 new COVID-19 cases, 7 deaths
The Mississippi State Department of Health on Friday reported 795 new cases of COVID-19 and seven deaths. MSDH also reported 130 ongoing outbreaks in long-term care facilities. Marshall and Tippah counties in Northeast Mississippi each reported one additional death. The statewide total number of cases since March 11 now stands at 113,876, with 3,238 total deaths. Around 97,675 people are estimated to have recovered from the virus as of October 18. All counties in the Daily Journal's coverage area except for Tishomingo County reported additional cases. The additional case counts are: Alcorn (6), Benton (8), Calhoun (3), Chickasaw (4), Clay (1), Itawamba (1), Lafayette (24), Lee (7), Marshall (20), Monroe (8), Oktibbeha (15), Pontotoc (3), Prentiss (11), Tippah (8) and Union (9).
Mississippi medical marijuana vote: Initiative 65, 65A or neither
On Nov. 3, voters will decide if Mississippi will join 34 other states with a medical marijuana program. The grassroots-led Initiative 65 would require a medical marijuana program be in place by August 2021. But opponents say medical marijuana shouldn't be part of the state Constitution and believe if the measure passes it could lead to recreational marijuana use and an influx of pot shops. The fight over Initiative 65 and the legislative alternative Initiative 65A has divided the community with citizens against citizens, doctors against doctors, lawmakers against lawmakers. When voters go to the polls, there is a two prong vote process to approve Initiative 65 or Initiative 65A. Voters are asked to answer whether they vote yes or no on either initiative. If yes, then they will be asked to vote for either Initiative 65 or Initiative 65A. State Department of Health Board member Jim Perry said the board isn't altogether opposed to medical marijuana. But he said it believes "there's a better way to accomplish those goals" than the initiative's present language.
Trinity Walker buys billboards thanking husband for repaying stolen taxpayer money
After Scott Walker was chastised in federal court for spending his elderly parents' money on an "extravagant" lifestyle, his wife has paid for three billboards that thank her husband for repaying taxpayer money he stole. Scott Walker's father, 74-year-old Bill Walker, is facing 30 days in jail for failing to pay his own restitution for fraud. Both Bill and Scott Walker served prison sentences for stealing federal funds that Bill Walker controlled while he was executive director of the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources. A nonprofit organization received the money from DMR to buy a lot Scott Walker owned after Hurricane Katrina destroyed the house. The billboards are all on a heavily trafficked area of U.S. 90 in Ocean Springs. "Over $325,000 in restitution paid in FULL in only 3 years!" the billboard headline says beside a smiling head-and-shoulders shot of Scott Walker, who was chastised two days earlier in federal court by U.S. District Judge Keith Starrett. The billboard featured three hashtags, included one residents found of particular note: #Walker2021. Starrett said the state should investigate Walker for possible exploitation of vulnerable adults, namely his parents.
Rep. Bennie Thompson, Democratic kingmaker, throws full support behind Mike Espy in Senate race
There's an unwritten rule in Mississippi politics: If you're a Democratic candidate and you want to win your election, you need the blessing of Congressman Bennie Thompson. Thompson, described by a newspaper's editorial board when he was first elected to Congress as "your best political friend and worst political enemy," is the Democratic kingmaker of Mississippi. He's the party's most powerful figure, and for nearly three decades he's been the lone representative of African Americans in the Blackest state in America. That sway with Black voters is why Joe Biden, the former vice president who was working to shore up the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, called Thompson in March and asked him to host a campaign swing through the state. And it's why Mike Espy, Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in November, has hitched his 2020 wagon to the congressman. The two are working closely together in the final two weeks of the 2020 election to turn out as many Democratic voters as possible. Thompson is well aware that Mississippi has never elected an African American in a statewide election. The congressman, who calls himself "an eternal optimist," said he believes Mississippians are ready to take that historic step on Nov. 3.
Unemployment benefits: Racial disparity in jobless aid grows as Congress stalls on COVID-19 stimulus
President Donald Trump asserted in Thursday's final presidential debate that his administration recorded the "best Black unemployment numbers in the history of our country." To be sure, the jobless rate for Black workers dropped to a record low of 5.4% in August 2019. The worst global pandemic in a century, however, has undone years of gains. As millions of people lost jobs in the coronavirus-induced recession, the extra $600 in aid from the federal government began chipping away at a longstanding gap between the jobless benefits received by Black Americans and white Americans. But with Congress at a monthslong impasse over a new relief package that would renew the $600, which expired in late July, that gap is widening again just as household financial distress, particularly for Black workers, is increasing. The $600 weekly bonus helped narrow historic income inequality between Black workers and white workers that worsened early in the health crisis, when layoffs largely affected people in low-paying jobs disproportionately held by Blacks and Latinos.
Russian Hacks of U.S. Government Networks Prompt Election Warning
Russian government hackers have targeted dozens of state and local government and aviation computer networks since last month and stolen data from at least two servers, actions that could presage efforts to undermine the election, two federal agencies said Thursday. The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency said in a security alert that while there is no evidence that any election data has been compromised, the attacks may present "some risk" to election information housed on state and local government networks. CISA's top official, Christopher Krebs, said that the alert about Russian activity described a broad cyber campaign. "Our theory is that there's broad scanning looking for vulnerabilities," Mr. Krebs said. He added: "It's an opportunistic activity. We don't have any reason to believe they were looking for election infrastructure, election-related information. They just found themselves there." The warning is the latest in a drumbeat of government alerts about possible election threats and comes a day after U.S. officials said that Iran and Russia are acting to influence public opinion during the presidential election.
Analysis: Debate is brief interlude of normalcy in 2020 race
The second and final presidential debate, it turns out, was actually a debate -- a brief interlude of normalcy in an otherwise highly abnormal year, and a reprieve for voters turned off by the candidates' noxious first faceoff. President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden spent 90 minutes Thursday sparring over their approach to the coronavirus pandemic, the future of the nation's health insurance system and who is best positioned to de-escalate nuclear tensions with North Korea. There were heated clashes but far fewer of the angry interruptions and crosstalk that made the opening debate nearly unwatchable. A mute button mandated by the debate commission helped enforce decorum, clearing the way for Trump and Biden to make their closing arguments to the nation less than two weeks from Election Day. Both men have argued with pride throughout the campaign that there is little overlap between their visions for America, and that was abundantly clear in Thursday's debate.
Nashville bustles again as Trump, Biden clash in final presidential debate of 2020
For a day, Nashville was bustling again. President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden arrived to the city with fanfare, taking the stage at Belmont University Thursday night for their final face-to-face matchup in the 2020 presidential election. More than 70 million viewers were expected to tune into the 90-minute Nashville debate, the second time the two presidential candidates stood side-by-side to discuss issues ranging from the coronavirus and economy to immigration and racial justice. The debate was drastically different than Trump and Biden's first exchange weeks ago in Cleveland, which proved chaotic as the moderator struggled to maintain order. But on the Belmont stage, the candidates largely observed new rules to prevent them from interrupting each other while moderator Kristen Welker of NBC News required each candidate to answer follow-up questions in an organized manner. "I think the mute button was a win for voters tonight," said John Koch, director of debate at Vanderbilt University. "It let us get more information out. It allowed us to hear more from the candidates." While crowds and activities surrounding the debate Thursday paled in comparison to the 2008 debate at Belmont, the arrival of a sitting president and a former vice president in the same day brought a wave of energy to the city that Nashville had not experienced in months.
What would delayed election results mean for the economy?
It's likely we won't know who won the presidency on Election Day this year, and some people are concerned about the possibility of a contested election. Last week, Fitch Ratings wrote in a report that it will be watching the election for "any departure" from the U.S.'s history of accepting election results and the orderly transition of power. If there's any departure from this norm, it could affect the country's AAA credit rating, which influences the interest rate the U.S. pays on its national debt. All the uncertainty surrounding this presidential election could affect the economy in other ways, too. "Marketplace" host Kai Ryssdal talked with Wendy Edelberg, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and director of its Hamilton Project, about what might happen.
Trump executive order strips protections for key federal workers, drawing backlash
President Donald Trump has issued an executive order that would remove job protections for many federal workers, in a move that unions and other critics denounced as an attempt to politicize the civil service. The order, signed Wednesday evening, targets workers that are involved in developing policy. It would reclassify workers "in positions of a confidential, policy-determining, policy-making, or policy-advocating character" that are "not normally subject to change as a result of a Presidential transition" into a new category called Schedule F, according to the text. Under the new schedule, they would be exempt from protections that apply to most federal workers -- allowing agencies to hire and fire them more easily and quickly. The Senior Executive Service, which consists of those serving in high-level positions just below presidential appointees, is exempt from the order, according to an emailed statement from the White House. The order comes less than two weeks before a presidential election in which Trump is fighting hard to win a second term. It blurs the line between political appointees and career employees: If Trump wins, the change would make it easier to remove civil servants who do not agree with his administration's policies. If he loses, it could, in theory, make it easier for political appointees to transition into civil servant roles, allowing them to stay beyond the transition.
Shooting on UMMC campus leads to arrest
A man is in custody in connection with a shooting on the University of Mississippi Medical Center campus, hospital officials said. An altercation took place late Wednesday night in the street between the hospital and Garage B in the southwest corner of the campus, hospital officials said. A man, who was sitting in a car, fired a shot that struck the victim, authorities said. The man got out of his car and shot the victim again before leaving the scene, according to Marc Rolph, with UMMC. The victim was treated at the hospital and released, Rolph said. The suspected shooter, 23-year-old Nelgen Wilson, later turned himself in to the UMMC Police Department, Rolph said. Wilson was arrested and charged with aggravated assault and discharging a weapon. He was transferred to the Hinds County Detention Center.
JSU's Sonic Boom of the South marching band partnering with YouTube
Jackson State University announced that its Sonic Boom of the South marching band is partnering with YouTube for a livestream event called "HBCU Homecoming 2020: Meet Me on the Yard." The two-hour event is a collaboration with Jesse Collins Entertainment and Live Nation Urban. "Meet Me on the Yard" will include celebrity guests, Greek step shows and a performance by the Sonic Boom, as well as content from students, alumni and YouTube creators. The purpose of the show is to celebrate the excellence of HBCU culture and its traditions, a release from JSU says. The YouTube Original show is part of a series created from YouTube's $100 million #YouTubeBlack Voices Fund. The show will raise funds for the United Negro College Fund, which will split proceeds with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund. "Meet Me on the Yard" will take place on Saturday, Oct. 24, beginning at 8 p.m.
William Carey organizing Pine Belt alumni chapter
The William Carey University Alumni Association is forming a Pine Belt chapter, and the organizational meeting will be held virtually on Monday, Nov. 16. The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m., and details on how to participate can be found at Graduates and friends of the university are invited to participate. Joshua Wilson, a 2012 and 2014 graduate of the university, is one of the founders of the chapter, and he said he is hoping for a strong turnout. "There are so many people in the Pine Belt region who have close ties to William Carey, and we certainly want all of them to be involved," Wilson said. "It's difficult to organize an in-person event during the COVID-19 pandemic, so we decided a virtual meeting will be the best way to kick off the chapter and involve as many people as possible." Ben Burnett, executive vice president and dean of the School of Education at William Carey, will present an update on current activities and projects at the university, and Pamela Shearer, director of alumni relations, will provide details on how to connect with the alumni association.
America's School Funding Crisis: Budget Cuts, Rising Costs And No Help In Sight
Back in May, school funding experts predicted a looming financial disaster for the nation's K-12 schools. "I think we're about to see a school funding crisis unlike anything we have ever seen in modern history," warned Rebecca Sibilia, the founder of EdBuild, a school finance advocacy organization. "We are looking at devastation that we could not have imagined ... a year ago." But those warnings, like everything else that happened in May, feel like a lifetime ago. Where do things stand now? First, a little good news: "So we're not looking at a disastrous year this year," says Michael Griffith at the Learning Policy Institute. He says the CARES Act, signed in March, helped states avoid a short-term school funding disaster. Remember: Schools get about half their funding from state tax revenues, which have taken a big hit in the pandemic. States were facing budget cuts in the 20-30% range, Griffith says. But thanks, in part, to those federal CARES Act dollars, it's just "a bad year," he explains -- "between 15 and 20%." The bad news is: Those cuts are still pretty deep.
In LSU hazing case, questions remain: Who hurt and who helped a hospitalized freshman?
This much is settled: an LSU freshman wound up in the hospital with alcohol poisoning after a night of partying with his fraternity brothers, and police opened a criminal hazing investigation. But the case is far from clear cut, particularly because some of the freshman's own frat brothers helped him seek medical attention. As investigators interview Phi Kappa Psi fraternity members about that night, they're sorting members into different groups: Those who potentially put the freshman's life in danger, and those who tried to rescue him. It's another wrinkle in a case that has left LSU steeped in tragedy this week. The freshman visited another student's apartment before being hospitalized. She died by suicide just hours later. Both are from the New Orleans area; the young man is a Jesuit graduate, and the student who took her own life is a Dominican grad. East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III said Thursday that a few fraternity members have declined to be interviewed thus far, but said that most have cooperated. The freshman has also been released from the hospital.
Pandemic has cost the U. of Tennessee System $147 million
The coronavirus pandemic is estimated to cost the University of Tennessee System $147 million, the Board of Trustees reported Thursday. The biggest hit for this fiscal year comes from UT Athletics' lost revenue and not being able to host large events on campus. On top of that, universities in the system had additional safety costs to open in person this semester, including cleaning supplies, personal protection equipment and creating isolation spaces. However, reduced expenditures, grants and other factors combined to help bring the final total down to $62 million, said David Miller, the UT System's chief financial officer. Despite not raising tuition this year, higher enrollment contributed to an increase in tuition revenue as well. For each campus, the financial impact has been different. The pandemic cost UT Knoxville $117.6 million, UT Chattanooga $18.1 million, UT Martin $5.9 million and the UT Health Science Center $5.3 million. At UT Knoxville, changes to the football season resulted in a $40 million loss, according to the board meeting agenda. The athletics department currently has a $15.6 million gap in its budget, UT Knoxville Chancellor Donde Plowman said.
U. of South Carolina cancels spring break in hopes of avoiding possible COVID-19 spike
The University of South Carolina decided to cancel an annual college rite, spring break, to avoid a potential COVID-19 outbreak from thousands of students returning to campus after traveling. The week of days off, usually scheduled in March, will be sprinkled throughout the spring semester, the state's largest college announced Thursday in an email to parents and students at its main Columbia campus. USC is calling the days off "wellness days" with many scheduled midweek that will limit opportunities to travel. "I certainly understand your disappointment with this announcement," USC Provost Bill Tate said in the email. "However, I, and the medical community, firmly believe it is the right thing to do in light of the unprecedented worldwide pandemic." Losing spring break is just another adjustment students have needed to make amid the pandemic. USC has not decided whether to hold commencement, planned for May 7-8, in person or virtually, school spokesman Jeff Stensland said. USC said at least eight other colleges in the Southeastern Conference have canceled spring breaks that public health officials fear could bring infected students back to campuses.
Clemson announces it will finish fall semester online-only after Thanksgiving break
Clemson University will switch back to online-only classes after its Thanksgiving break, and the school is urging students not to return to campus when it does, it announced Thursday. The break, which begins Wednesday, Nov. 25, will now be followed by two weeks of virtual learning and exams ending Dec. 11. The reason for the switch, university officials said in an email sent to students, is the need for COVID-19 quarantine and isolation that would be required following the Thanksgiving break. Officials said they estimated at least 200 students would have needed to quarantine or isolate upon returning to campus, and subsequent testing and contact tracing could have kept students in quarantine space on campus into the winter break. For the moment, university officials said, they still plan to return to on-campus, in-person instruction for the spring semester. The two weeks of virtual instruction to close the fall, they said, will help them prepare for that. The university said it is "strongly encouraging" students not to return to campus after Thanksgiving, but students will be able to request an exemption to stay in residence halls. Those who don't return will receive credits or refunds for the unused portion of their housing and dining contracts.
LGBT-focused Living Learning Community coming to U. of Florida
LGBTQ students looking to live on campus will soon have access to the University of Florida's first gender-neutral housing in a new Living Learning Community. The Marsha P. Johnson LLC could come by Fall 2021, said former Student Government Senator Ryan Wilder who was on the task force lobbying for the LLC. Living Learning Communities are groups in UF's dorms that students can join to participate in activities and have access to course offerings and resources related to their LLC theme. "I think it would be a concentrated area, a one stop shop of resources for LGBT students," he said. "They can go into their college experience and not have to worry about, 'Oh no, what if my randomly assigned roommate isn't an ally." Some of the 16 LLC's on campus are the Arts LLC in Reid Hall, the Black Cultural LLC in Graham Hall and the Engineering LLC in East Hall. UF Housing and Resident Education gives LLCs between $500 and $1,000 each academic year for their activities and resources, according to a call for LLC proposal from UF Housing and Residence Education. Wilder hopes 100 students will be a part of the LLC when it begins.
Racism fuels poor mental health outcomes for Black students
Black students at many predominantly white colleges have long complained of the racial hostility, subtle and blatant, that they regularly encounter on their campuses. Whether victims of constant microaggressions or outright verbal or physical assaults, many have stories of being called a racial slur directly or seeing it scrawled on a campus wall, viewing racist posts by classmates on social media, or sitting through a presentation by a classmate professing a white supremacist conspiracy. The incidents were the focal points of protest movements and demands for change for several years, but the calls for action seemed to reach a crescendo this year as Black students at colleges across the country repeatedly called for college administrators to condemn and address racism on their campuses. The national racial justice movement fueled by outrage over the police killings of George Floyd and other unarmed Black people has given the students' cause momentum and forced college administrators to act more forcefully and urgently to speak out against racism and implement diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. But even as the students welcome that they are finally being heard, their efforts have come with a heavy price.
A new Education Department spirit under Joe Biden?
Talk to higher education experts about what the Education Department could do under a Biden administration, and they expect, at the least, another volley of the match that would stretch through three presidencies. The Obama administration enacted regulations making it easier for people who had been defrauded by for-profit colleges to have their student debt forgiven and to hold institutions, particularly for-profits, accountable if graduates do not find jobs that pay well enough to repay their student debt. U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos canceled both the so-called borrower-defense and gainful-employment rules, as well as another Obama administration guidance telling colleges to crack down on sexual harassment on campuses. But if Biden, Obama's vice president, wins the election, now barely more than a week away, he's expected to bring those rules back. In a call with education reporters Thursday, Stef Feldman, the Biden campaign's policy director, seemed to downplay what actions he might take through executive order, noting instead that he has a "strong record of working across the aisle to get action done ... I'm confident Vice President Biden will be able to get big, bold legislation passed."
Student Interest in the Election Is High. So Are the Barriers to Voting.
Thirty years after the Rock the Vote movement promised to "engage and build political power for young people," it's clear that college students have gotten the message. Students are showing a deep interest in the contentious 2020 election, lobbying administrators to make Election Day an academic holiday on their campuses and creating viral "Tok the Vote" videos on TikTok to encourage others to cast their ballots. Polling for the November 3 contests is already underway in many states, and participation among the 18-to-24 crowd could break records, if recent history is any guide: Turnout among college-age students doubled in 2018, compared with four years earlier. More than 40 percent of students cast a ballot in the last midterms. Countering that enthusiasm is a brewing anxiety that some would like to see students' collective voice silenced. In state after state, an array of complex and punitive voting laws -- coupled with the raging pandemic and its disorienting impact -- threaten to complicate the electoral process, and even disenfranchise potential first-time voters.
Student advancement: Age vs ability
Angela Farmer, an assistant clinical professor in the Shackouls Honors College at Mississippi State University, writes: The traditional school acceleration schedule for students from first through 12th grades was originally crafted to allow students from around 6 years old to 18 years old to have organized instruction while demonstrating predictable academic progress. Nearly 50 years ago, kindergarten formally became an integral component of this educational process in most states. While this 13-step model allows orderly advancement for most students, allowing for a graduation around age 18, it does not fit all. In particular, it has been found to be at odds with the students recognized as gifted or talented in select disciplines. For these students, parents and educators alike must often create an academic acceleration plan that allows the students to advance at their own pace versus the one utilized for a traditional student.

Mississippi State Baseball Set for Fall World Series
After a competitive fall session, the Mississippi State baseball program will wrap up its 2020 on-field efforts with a five-game Fall World Series, beginning on Friday, Oct. 23 at 4 p.m. Each game of the series will be broadcast by Jim Ellis on In accordance with COVID-19 protocols, fans will not be allowed to attend any games in person. The Diamond Dawgs will throw the first pitch of the series at 4 p.m. on Friday (Oct. 23) and follow that with a Noon start on Saturday (Oct. 24). After the 1 p.m. first pitch on Sunday (Oct. 25), MSU will take Monday off, before throwing 3 p.m. first pitches on Tuesday (Oct. 27) and Wednesday (Oct. 28). All five games will be played regardless of outcome, with assistant coaches Kyle Cheesebrough and Jake Gautreau heading up Team Queso and Team Goat, respectively. Team Cheese will be the home team in games one, three and five, with Team Goat owning the home dugout for games two and four.
MSU Men's Tennis Set To Host Bulldog Challenge This Weekend
After ushering in the 2020 fall campaign two weekends ago in Baton Rouge, La., Mississippi State men's tennis is back in action at home to host the Bulldog Challenge this weekend (Oct. 23-25). The event will be held at both State's A.J. Pitts Tennis Centre and State's newest addition -- the Rula Tennis Pavilion, MSU's six-court indoor facility. The Bulldogs will be joined in the round robin competition this weekend by players from fellow SEC programs -- Alabama, LSU, Tennessee and Ole Miss. In accordance with COVID-19 protocols, fans will not be allowed to attend any matches this weekend in person. However, live video and stats will be available for all matches at The weekend will kick off with Alabama and LSU Friday at 9 a.m. CT in Session 1, followed by Mississippi State & Tennessee at 2 p.m. for Session 2. On Saturday, LSU and Mississippi State will highlight the 9 a.m. session, followed by Alabama and Tennessee in the afternoon slot. Sunday's play will conclude with LSU and Tennessee at 9 a.m. and the weekend will conclude with Alabama and Mississippi State at 2 p.m. in Session 2. Players from Ole Miss' roster will be mixed into the round robin sessions each day.
State Women's Tennis To Conclude Fall Slate At SEC Challenge #2
Mississippi State women's tennis is set to compete in its final event of the 2020 fall slate at the SEC Challenge #2, beginning Friday in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. In addition to host Alabama, Auburn, LSU, and Ole Miss will join the Bulldogs in action. The tournament will be held at the Alabama Tennis Stadium as well as indoors at UA's Baumgarnder Tennis Facility if needed. On Friday, State will commence doubles action at 10:30 a.m. CT against players from Ole Miss and Auburn, with singles to follow. The Bulldogs will compete against players from Ole Miss and LSU on Saturday, also beginning at 10:30 a.m. Live video will be available from Alabama for matches held both outdoors and indoors. "We are looking forward to competing again this weekend," head coach Daryl Greenan said. "It will be the third weekend in a row playing exclusively SEC opponents. So far, we have seen Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Alabama and Ole Miss. Auburn and LSU will be at this event so we will have seen half of the teams from our conference in less than a month. The competition has been challenging and I think our girls have held their own quite well. They have worked hard and I have seen improvement in their games, which is very important in the fall tournament season."
Bulldogs To Don Throwback Uniforms For Homecoming
For its homecoming matchup against Vanderbilt on Nov. 7, Mississippi State is bringing back a historic mark: The Flying M. Worn over a six-year period in the late 60s and early 70s, the Flying M logo was born out of State's close ties to the United States' space program and America's drive to land the first man on the moon. Aerospace and aeronautics research is a major pride point for the university. Today MSU is part of the FAA Center of Excellence for Unmanned Aerial Systems, continuing the tradition of national excellence in flight. "I think that for guys that actually wore the uniform back in 1966-71, to see it again in 2020 will bring back a bunch of memories," Preston "Stick" Rogers, director of football equipment, said. "To be able to relive that, to bring that history back and showcase it in the modern era, will be huge." The helmet is the centerpiece of uniform, featuring a white shell with a grey facemask. The Flying M appears in maroon on both sides with a bold maroon stripe down the center. In an effort to remain true to the era in which it was worn, the back of the helmet displays larger two-inch player numbers.
Richard Williams joining USM men's basketball
A familiar name in Mississippi basketball circles will be bringing his expertise and experience to the University of Southern Mississippi men's basketball program. Former Mississippi State University basketball coach Richard Williams has been hired as a volunteer "special assistant" on USM head men's basketball coach Jay Ladner's staff. "To be able to add someone of Coach Williams' stature to our staff is exciting to say the least," said Ladner, who is in his second season at the helm of the Golden Eagles. "He had incredible success at Mississippi State. He strengthens an already strong staff of assistants. I feel we have the right staff in place to help us achieve our goals and vision." Williams served as the Mississippi State head coach from 1986-98, which included a Final Four appearance in 1996 after capturing the Southeastern Conference tournament title. That squad featured Mississippian Erick Dampier, who went on to play in the National Basketball Association. "I'm looking forward to the opportunity to help Coach Ladner and his staff," Williams said. "I've known Jay a long time, and I have a tremendous amount of respect for the way he coaches basketball, the kind of person he is and how he cares about his players.
How Hugh Freeze deals with Southern Miss coach speculation on game week
In a season where Southern Miss hosted the first FBS game of the season, departed ways with its head coach the following Monday, promoted the youngest FBS interim head coach, gave up its most points in a single game since 1928 and a performance that had NFL great Frank Gore tweeting multiple times about, this Saturday is perhaps the most interesting game to date. After having back-to-back games postponed because of COVID-19, the Golden Eagles head to Virginia to face Southern Miss graduate Hugh Freeze and his Liberty Flames. Freeze has been a name brought up as a potential candidate for the Golden Eagles' head coach position by the likes of Paul Finebaum and Brett McMurphy, among others. During Monday's media availability, Freeze said he'll have zero problems focusing on the game this week despite the homecoming speculation. "I want to beat Southern Miss," Freeze said. "I have great respect for them, but I want our kids to finish this first [part of the] season with another win to go 6-0 going into the [bye]."
Alabama AD Greg Byrne says he was symptomatic last week
University of Alabama athletics director Greg Byrne said Thursday that he was symptomatic after his positive COVID-19 test last week. Byrne made the announcement on the SEC Network's "Finebaum" show with Paul Finebaum. Alabama announced Byrne's positive COVID-19 test last Wednesday at the same time it announced that UA football coach Nick Saban had also tested positive. Saban was asymptomatic and was later found to have received a false positive. Byrne, however, was symptomatic. "The first couple days I felt bad and had a pretty constant fever." Byrne said. "The chills and the body aches went away, and after 10 days I shouldn't be contagious anymore, but this has gone on longer than anything I've dealt with before." Byrne said he was in his office at the Mal Moore Complex last Wednesday. "I was by myself and I started getting chills," Byrne said. "It wasn't long before Jeff Allen (Alabama's associate athletics director for sports medicine) came to tell me that I had tested positive and that Coach Saban tested positive as well. I immediately went home, talked to Regina (his wife) and went into isolation."
Rick Barnes, Kellie Harper take paycuts for Tennessee athletics budget
The University of Tennessee-Knoxville will assist the athletic department during a budget shortfall amid the COVID-19 pandemic, UT Chancellor Donde Plowman indicated Thursday at a Board of Trustees meeting. Plowman said UT-Knoxville will cover several annual costs that the university typically charges the athletic department, including academic services and parking fees. The university also will loan the athletic department any necessary money if assistance is unavailable from the SEC. The athletic department is instituting a tiered salary-reduction plan for employees earning more than $50,000 annually effective Nov. 1 through the remainder of the fiscal year. The pay cuts, which were communicated to athletics staff in September, are expected to save up to $1.6 million over the eight-month period with reductions to annual compensation. For the university to reduce a contract employee's pay, that employee must agree to the pay cut and sign an amendment to accept the reduction, UT spokesperson Tom Satkowiak said. Vols basketball coach Rick Barnes and Lady Vols coach Kellie Harper already signed amendments accepting a pay cut, Satkowiak told Knox News. The cut will be taken from each's total compensation.
As Big Ten football returns, mayors worry their cities are being used as test cases
As a telltale weekend nears, seven college towns gird. They're Midwestern cities ranging in hubbub from Minneapolis and Columbus to East Lansing and West Lafayette. They're about to double as test cases, with mayors sleepless or curious or both. They're staging home games for the return of Big Ten football, even if this "staging" will lack audiences. Stadiums accustomed to heaving droves in normal times will conduct games in hollowed quiet during a pandemic, because the 14-school league that sprawls from New Jersey to Nebraska opted for zero fans, where conferences such as the SEC have welcomed fractions of capacity. One head coach, Purdue's Jeff Brohm, will not coach, having tested positive for the novel coronavirus and gone into isolation, having experienced symptoms from chills to chest-tightening, and having said, "It's unfortunate and it's not ideal timing, but that's the way the world works today." When a misshapen college football season well underway in other regions finally hatches itself in the Big Ten, it will do so on Friday night in Madison, which tops many a list of favorite college towns for its bacchanal. Yet when Wisconsin hosts Illinois, the stadium area will go hushed while the gates go opened only for the following: players and coaches, essential public safety professionals, stadium operations personnel and limited media.
Trailblazing SEC football ref Hubert Owens wore the referee's white cap, and it fit him perfectly
Mississippi sports columnist Rick Cleveland writes: See the man with Nick Saban in the photo above? Recognize him? If you follow Southeastern Conference football, surely you do. In recent years he has played a huge role in many of the most important and most watched games in SEC history. You may not know his name, but you know his face. You probably know his voice. He's the guy in stripes who always wore the white cap, which differentiates the referee from the other officials. He's the guy who blew the whistle to start the games. He's the guy who stood back behind the quarterback, the guy who reached down around his belt and turned his microphone on so that he could tell 90,000 people and millions across the country who committed a penalty and how many yards it would cost his team. In the storm of emotions that often is college football, he was the calm. He ran the show. Quite simply, he's the guy who controlled the games until his retirement after the 2019 season. He is 62-year-old Hubert Edward Owens and he grew up in Yazoo City, and his is a story worth telling.

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