Wednesday, October 28, 2020   
Scientists at work: Sloshing through marshes to see how birds survive hurricanes
Mississippi State University Associate Professor Scott Rush and Assistant Research Professor Mark Woodrey write for The Conversation: As Huricane Zeta menaces the Gulf Coast, residents know the drill: Board up windows, clear storm drains, gas up the car and stock up on water, batteries and canned goods. But how does wildlife ride out a hurricane? Animals that live along coastlines have evolved to deal with a world where conditions can change radically. This year, however, the places they inhabit have borne the brunt of 10 named storms, some just a few weeks apart. As wildlife ecologists, we are interested in how species respond to stresses in their environment. We are currently studying how marsh birds such as clapper rails (Rallus crepitans) have adapted to tropical storms along the Alabama and Mississippi Gulf coast. Understanding how they do this entails wading into marshes and thinking like a small, secretive bird.
MSU Extension Service begins webinar series on farm stress Nov. 17
The Mississippi State University Extension Service PROMISE Initiative will launch a webinar series Nov. 17 about farm stress, mental health and social structural issues affecting farmers and ranchers. Michael Rosmann, a psychologist and farmer, will present "What We Have Learned about Agricultural Behavioral Health from the 1980s to the Present Day." The webinar begins at noon CST. The Nov. 17 webinar kicks off a six-month series titled "R is for Rural and Resilient." The webinars will be held on the third Tuesday of the month from November 2020 to April 2021, from noon to 1 p.m. CST. The series is open to a national audience and will benefit agricultural producers, industry professionals, Extension agents, U.S. Department of Agriculture employees and other individuals who work in or support those in the agricultural industry. A collaboration with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the series is part of the PROMISE Initiative, an opioid-misuse prevention program focused on enhancing mental health among rural populations, especially agricultural producers. PROMISE stands for "Preventing Opioid Misuse In the SouthEast" and is led by a multidisciplinary team of Extension professionals.
Starkville aldermen likely to request state funding to relocate library
Mayor Lynn Spruill and six Starkville aldermen decided Tuesday at a special-call work session to pursue three potential projects to ask the state to fund, narrowing down a longer list of ideas from earlier this month. The board's top priority will be the potential relocation of the Starkville-Oktibbeha County Public Library from its 60-year-old building on University Drive to the stretch of Highway 182 that will be revamped in the next few years with federal grant money. The board also will look into the options of bringing a YMCA to Starkville and extending Stark and Hospital roads to connect them to state highways on the west side of the city. Aldermen will pursue cost estimates for all three ideas and vote on resolutions to bring the ideas to the Legislature, ideally by December so the local delegation can pre-file legislation with the requests, Spruill said. The city will most likely submit multiple requests and leave the rest to the Legislature as long as the mayor and aldermen are unanimous in their proposals, she said. "If the Legislature is in the mood to fund a library instead of a road or a road instead of a library, we'll be in line to do something," Spruill told The Dispatch. The aldermen started discussing potential projects a few weeks ago at the encouragement of State Rep. Rob Roberson (R-Starkville), who said at the previous work session the city should make these requests every year and stay on the Legislature's radar.
Starkville-Oktibbeha leads area school districts in COVID-19 cases
Public school districts in Lowndes and Oktibbeha counties have witnessed a total of 110 cases of COVID-19 since school started, sending hundreds of students into quarantine, according to data from the districts. Among all three districts in the area, Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District witnessed the most confirmed cases of COVID-19. Columbus Municipal School District -- the smallest district and the only one not currently holding traditional, in-person classes five days a week -- has the fewest, with only 19 cases so far this year while the other districts' cases are approaching 50. CMSD also started school 18 days earlier than SOCSD and 26 days earlier than LCSD. As of Friday, SOCSD had a total of 46 positive cases -- including 35 students and 11 staff members -- since school started Aug. 24, according to district Public Information Officer Nicole Thomas. The district saw its largest weekly spike last week, adding 17 confirmed cases among students and two among staff.
Hurricane Zeta speeds toward a storm-weary Louisiana
Hurricane Zeta was speeding toward storm-weary Louisiana with landfall expected Wednesday afternoon just south of New Orleans, where a pump system failure has raised the city's risk of floods. Life-threatening storm surge and strong winds were expected beginning around midday along the U.S. Gulf Coast, where residents were bracing for the 27th named storm of a historically busy Atlantic hurricane season. Louisiana has had the worst of it, already been hit by two tropical storms and two hurricanes. New Orleans has been in the warning area for potential tropical cyclones seven times this year, each one veering to the east or west. Hurricane warnings stretched from Morgan City, Louisiana to the Alabama/Mississippi state line, including Lake Pontchartrain and metropolitan New Orleans. The center of Zeta should make landfall in southeastern Louisiana in the afternoon, then move over Mississippi in the evening before crossing the southeastern and eastern United States on Thursday, the hurricane center said.
Gov. Tate Reeves signs emergency declaration ahead of Zeta
Governor Tate Reeves announced on Wednesday morning that he signed an emergency declaration ahead of Hurricane Zeta. He stated that Mississippians should monitor the weather and be prepared. Reeves also said that emergency operators are working to get ready for storm surge and hard winds. Zeta is expected to make landfall in south Mississippi and into Alabama through Wednesday evening into early Thursday.
Cotton Trades Near 18-Month High
Cotton prices have reached their highest levels since before the pandemic started, lifted by poor weather in the U.S. and steady demand from heavyweight importers including China. Cotton futures traded around 70.9 cents a pound early Wednesday after settling at an 18-month high of 72.11 cents on Monday, according to FactSet data. Prices have gained about 7.7% over the past month, the largest monthly increase since April. "We have a short crop, which is causing the market to shoot higher as we move into harvest season," said O.A. Cleveland, a marketing specialist with Mississippi State University. Cotton supply is typically at its highest during harvest season, between July and November, pressuring prices. But unfavorable weather in cotton-producing regions of the U.S., one of the world's largest raw cotton producers, has weighed on production. Snow coated cotton plants in parts of Texas in recent days and Tropical Storm Zeta could curtail supply when it makes its way through the Southeast later this week, analysts said. Prices for other agricultural commodities in harvest also have climbed. Soybean prices last month hit their highest level in more than two years and corn futures topped $4 a bushel this month for the first time this year.
Voting in Mississippi: How prepared are counties for 2020 election?
Having enough poll workers, securing ballots and ensuring election workers and voters are safe from COVID-19 are challenges local election officials say they have to face for the Nov. 3 election. Officials say they're using Plexiglas barriers, recruiting poll workers through a Mississippi Secretary of State portal, supplying personal protection equipment at precincts, and voters in some counties will be given disposal pens to sign poll books and mark ballots. Social distancing will be mandated at precincts. Masks are encouraged, but won't be mandatory for voters. Madison County Election Commission Chair Julia Hodges said the county has benefitted from the poll worker portal on the Mississippi Secretary of State website seeking volunteers to become poll workers this election. When it comes to safety and security, Hodges said poll workers will wear masks. Plastic shields will separate workers and voters inside precincts. There will be constant cleaning of items and materials inside precincts on election day, she said.
Secretary of State Michael Watson talks Election Day preparedness
More than 160,000 Mississippians have already voted by absentee and more are expected to vote in-person absentee by Saturday's 5 p.m. deadline. Secretary of State Michael Watson is urging voters, who are heading to the polls on Tuesday, to confirm their polling location first. He says 14 precincts across the state have changed locations. "I'm not saying there won't be any more but it's something. You think about the tropical storm that is on its way, who knows what's going to happen there. We may have to move another one," said Watson. "But again, that's the important piece of trusted information. Make sure you're talking to your clerks and your commissioners and the Secretary of State's office so we can get that information out to the voters." Poll workers inside and outside precincts statewide are required to wear masks and enforce social distancing.
Here's what Mississippians need to know a week before Election Day, Secretary of State says
Secretary of State Michael Watson said Tuesday more than 190,000 absentee ballots already have been requested in Mississippi, which he called a record and "an incredible number." People waited in line for hours to vote by absentee ballot in Jackson County on Tuesday. And though county offices will close early Wednesday for Tropical Storm Zeta, the Circuit Clerk's office will remain open until 5 p.m. for voting. Watson said the deadline for in-person absentee is Saturday, Oct. 31. All the county clerks' offices across the state will be open on weekdays and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. For those who are disabled and can't stand in line at the polls, or those who have symptoms of the coronavirus, curbside voting will be available on Election Day. Voters should contact their circuit clerk and get a phone number to call when they get to the polls, Watson said. So far there have been zero breaches in the election and testing processes in Mississippi, he said.
USPS makes on-time absentee ballot delivery top priority
The United States Postal Service says it is doing everything it can to make sure absentee mail-in ballots arrive on time to the Mississippi Board of Elections. "It's very busy this year," said Hattiesburg Postmaster Vettra Dobbs. Dobbs said the USPS is actively working to handle absentee mail-in ballots for this year's election. It's top priority, making sure ballots are delivered on time. "We want to make sure the delivery happens timely," Dobbs said. "Our carriers receive various service talks. We want to make sure they understand the importance of it and they do. It's very important that we handle all ballots and political mail correctly. We are taking every step to make sure that takes place." Dobbs says there is a lot of speculation about the safety of sending ballots out through the mail. She explains there's nothing people need to worry about. "It's always safe to mail a ballot," Dobbs said. "If it goes in the blue box, the collection box, it's safe. It's secure, it's locked and we have a way to track it." Dobbs says thankfully there have been no issues so far, but are ready just in case.
Surge of young voters is expected on Election Day
The countdown is on to Election Day. A surge of young voters is expected to create waves at the polls. In fact, many have already voted early or through absentee. "I was very excited to vote in my first Presidential election." Meet Crystal Springs native Jaycee Brown. She is a 20-year-old college student at Ole Miss. She voted absentee last week because she will work at the polls on Election Day. "It has been very interesting election year and I am I think for it to be my first time voting in the presidential election, it was a little intimidating." 21-year-old Conner Smith is looking forward to voting in a Presidential election for first time. He says the presidential race is attractive to a lot of young people for many reasons, including their like or dislike for a candidate, the coronavirus and student loan debt. Smith: "Absolutely I want to leader who will stand out as an example for other people, not someone who actively ridicules and marginalized people."
Most Mississippians plan to vote 'yes' on adopting a new state flag, survey finds
A survey out Tuesday found that most Mississippians plan to vote "yes" on Mississippi Ballot Measure 3. This would adopt a new Mississippi state flag designed by the Commission to Redesign the Mississippi State Flag. Of the 507 likely voters who took the Civiqs survey, 61 percent said they would vote for the initiative while 31 percent said they would not vote for it. Eight percent said they were still unsure.
Marijuana initiatives met with pros, cons
In addition to voting for president and a U.S. Senate seat, Mississippi voters will decide on the fate of a possible medical marijuana program in Mississippi on November 3. There are two on the ballot, Initiative 65 and Initiative 65A, the legislative alternative passed by the Legislature. For either of them to become part of the state's constitution, they must receive more than 40 percent of votes cast in the election. The original initiative is supported by Americans for Prosperity, the Mississippi Sickle Cell Foundation, some physicians and politicians on both sides of the political spectrum, including state representatives Joel Bomgar, R-Madison and DeKeither Stamps, D-Jackson. It is opposed by local governments, law enforcement, Mississippi Realtors, the state Medical Board and the Mississippi Medical Association, along with former Gov. Phil Bryant, House Speaker Philip Gunn, agriculture commissioner Andy Gipson and others. Opponents say that medical marijuana will curb the rights of municipalities to tax and even decide whether they want dispensaries in their areas.
New poll shows Hyde-Smith up 8 points on Espy in Mississippi Senate race
Republican U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith has a 52% to 44% lead against Democratic challenger Mike Espy in a Civiqs poll released Tuesday morning -- one of the few public polls released in advance of Tuesday's general election. The same poll has President Donald Trump winning 55% to 41% against former Vice President Joe Biden. The pollster, which has a B/C rating from the respected FiveThirtyEight, which rates national pollsters, sampled 507 Mississippians online using a national survey sample. A poll in late September by the Tyson Group showed Hyde-Smith with just a 1 point lead against Espy, while an internal poll released earlier to Mississippi Today by the Espy campaign showed him down 5 points. A few other polls showed Hyde-Smith, running for her first full six-year term, with larger leads. She is viewed nationally as a solid favorite in the race. In the 2018 special election to replace long-time Sen. Thad Cochran, who stepped down for health reasons, Espy garnered just under 47% of the vote as Hyde-Smith became the first woman elected to represent Mississippi in Congress.
Mike Espy, in final stretch of Senate campaign, hopes to overcome long odds in 2020
Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Mike Espy, facing long odds in defeating incumbent Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith, was recently reminded during a campaign stop in Warren County that he had overcome long political odds before. During a weekend rally in the parking lot of the Greater Grove Missionary Baptist Church, Vicksburg Mayor George Flaggs recalled how a Jackson television station had first reported on election night in 1986 that Espy had been defeated in what was his history-making campaign to become the state's first African American U.S. House member since Reconstruction. "But Warren County had not been voted, had not been counted," Flaggs said. "(The television reporter) had to apologize" after Espy received enough votes in Warren County to carry him to victory against three-term Republican incumbent Webb Franklin. Of the reversal, Espy told the crowd assembled outside the church, "I'm not saying God is a Democrat or a Republican, but God is good." Flaggs intermittently led the crowd in chants of "Go vote," before adding, "We can do this. Let nothing stop you on Nov. 3."
Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith ignored advice to rehab her image. Now she's struggling to raise cash.
After her closer-than-expected victory over Democrat Mike Espy in a 2018 special election runoff, Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith's political advisors repeatedly recommended she embark on what would amount to an apology tour to publicly and privately rehab her image. The idea, according to a source active in Mississippi Republican politics who asked for anonymity in order to speak candidly about the campaign, was that she visit every major media market in the state and subject herself to a sit-down interview. Her advisors wanted her to clear the air about a jarring comment she made at a November 2018 campaign event in Tupelo, when she praised a local cattle rancher by saying, "If he invited me to a public hanging, I'd be on the front row." The comment -- made by an appointed U.S. senator who represented the Blackest state in the nation, a state where more people were lynched than any other in the nation -- garnered national headlines and nearly tanked her campaign. High-profile donors fled from Hyde-Smith, and several international corporations publicly demanded she return previous contributions. The recommendations from her advisors, like the refund requests from her donors, went ignored, the source said.
Trump Allies Amp Up Fight Over Tech's Legal Shield Before Election
In September, the White House nominated a lawyer to be a commissioner on the Federal Communications Commission. One line on his resume: aiding the administration's push to limit an important legal shield for Silicon Valley companies. That same month, the Justice Department sent Congress a detailed proposal for how to change the law behind that legal shield. And on Wednesday, lawmakers will confront the chief executives of Facebook, Google and Twitter. The topic of discussion: whether that law enables bad behavior from the companies. The Trump administration and its allies have fanned out widely in Washington in recent months to attack that law, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. The law is considered sacred by social media platforms like Facebook, Google and Twitter, because it protects them from liability for content posted by their users. Increasingly, the law is criticized by politicians of both parties. Mr. Trump's executive order asked the trade commission to investigate complaints about how social media companies moderate their content, looking at whether they violate the prohibition on "unfair and deceptive" practices. At a hearing in August, Senator Roger Wicker, Republican of Mississippi, asked the agency's chairman whether it had taken action on the order yet.
Election experts doubt Supreme Court decides White House race
The 2020 presidential election probably won't end in the sort of nightmare scenario where a legal challenge or recount winds up at the Supreme Court and the justices decide who wins the White House. Probably. "Let's put the chances of that happening at about 5.2 percent," Ben Ginsberg, the prominent election lawyer who led the George W. Bush campaign's legal strategy during the disputed Florida recount in 2000, has quipped in pre-election webinars. Ginsberg bases that on the idea that only three of the country's 57 presidential elections have been contested and that the 2000 election had one state that was remarkably close and determined the outcome of the election. "That does not usually happen," he said. Other election law experts agree that a Supreme Court case to determine the 2020 election would first need to meet several unlikely conditions: a narrow Electoral College count nationwide, with a legal challenge about voting in one or more states that could determine the outcome, and those challenges would depend on federal law and not just state law. Yet this year has several reasons why legal challenges could be more likely, including a pandemic across the country, a president raging, without evidence, about voting fraud, and the potential threat of violence and foreign interference on Election Day. But there's a misconception about how likely it is that a legal challenge will get to the Supreme Court.
MAGA scrambles to repair the Hunter Biden narrative
Weeks ago, when Rudy Giuluani first threw the contents of Hunter Biden's alleged laptop online, he promised a trove of even more damning information 10 days before the election. Yet with less than a week to go, Giuliani, President Donald Trump's personal lawyer, is still moving down the conservative media food chain, looking for takers. The Wall Street Journal and Fox News have both reported finding no evidence that former Vice President Joe Biden benefited from the Hunter Biden business dealings that have drawn scrutiny. More explicitly pro-Trump media outlets --- OAN, Breitbart, Newsmax --- have mostly shied away from publishing fresher, more salacious allegations. And conservative talking heads --- pundits, politicians and loud MAGA Twitter personalities alike --- have been more focused on the meta narrative around the laptop, arguing that mainstream media, social media companies and the deep state are conspiring to prevent President Donald Trump's reelection by suppressing the story. It's not the way Trumpworld would have wanted it. As much disdain as the president's supporters have for the media, their ultimate goal was to place a story in a well-known, conservative-leaning outlet that conclusively showed Biden profiting off his son's business deals. But no A-list conservative outlet has published anything living up to those claims.
Supreme Court to Consider Mississippi's 15-Week Abortion Ban
Mississippi's 15-week abortion ban could soon make its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, with the court set to decide whether to hear it on Friday. The court announced plans to consider hearing the case yesterday evening---just as the U.S. Senate voted on a party-line basis to confirm President Donald Trump's third pick to the high court, Amy Coney Barrett. Lower courts in 2018 and 2020 found the Mississippi law unconstitutional under the precedent Roe v. Wade set in 1973. In court filings, though, Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch is asking the nation's high court to revisit and overturn one of Roe v. Wade's key holdings: that "a State may not prohibit any woman from making the ultimate decision to terminate her pregnancy before (fetal) viability." The lower courts ruled that the Mississippi law banning abortions at 15 weeks, known as "The Gestational Age Act," was unconstitutional for that reason; medical science says fetuses generally become viable outside the womb at around 24 weeks. "This Court should grant the petition, hold that it is illogical to impose a 'rigid line allowing state regulation after viability but prohibiting it before viability" and "uphold the Gestational Age Act," Attorney General Lynn Fitch wrote in a filing with the U.S. Supreme Court over the summer. The current case, Fitch wrote in a Supreme Court filing, is "an ideal vehicle to promptly resolve" questions about Roe v. Wade and the Supreme Court's position on abortion rights.
Mask-Wearing Is Up In The U.S., But Young People Are Still Too Lax, CDC Survey Finds
More Americans may be wearing masks than early last spring, but other recommended behaviors to stop the pandemic's spread haven't kept pace, according to a new federal survey. And young people are the least likely to take needed steps to stop the virus, the data suggest. The proportion of U.S. adults reporting wearing face masks increased from 78% in April to 89% in June, according to the nationally representative survey released by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Tuesday. But the survey found either no change or a decline in other behaviors aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus, such as hand-washing, social distancing and avoiding public or crowded places. "Interesting data," Dr. Carlos Del Rio, a professor of global health and epidemiology at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University, wrote in an email to NPR. Del Rio was not involved in conducting the survey, which appears in this week's issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. "Results are encouraging," he says, "but I wish they were better -- especially among younger people."
UM professor talks nature, education and inclusion in Mississippi writers series
On Tuesday, Mississippi Today hosted a conversation with former Grisham writer-in-residence and current UM English professor Aimee Nezhukumatathil in the third installment of its Mississippi Writers on Mississippi Politics series. Brittany Brown, a graduate student in the Southern studies program and Mississippi Today reporting fellow, focused her discussion on the importance of diversity in a politically divided Mississippi. Nezhukumatathil has a passion for nature, education and inclusion. She loves her family and is proud of her Asian American heritage, but she said she struggles with raising a family in a racially charged time. She emphasized the need for diversity among college students today. "When I look at social (media) pictures, or who they hang out with or who they have dinners with and I don't see anybody with skin my color, their actions speak louder than words," she said. "If you don't have someone who's different than you in your circle of friends, in the people who are supposed to be giving you advice, that speaks louder than any sort of statement that you could possibly be making."
Guyna 'Gee' Johnson named to JSU Development Foundation
Jackson State University has appointed Guyna 'Gee' Johnson as the new Vice Chairman of the JSU Development Foundation, Inc. Johnson's love for Jackson State University started while growing up in Clarksdale. Both of her parents, Walter L. and Dorothy Madlock Johnson, graduated from JSU ('68, '65 respectively). Guyna proudly carried on the tradition, graduating cum laude, with a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics. While attending JSU on a full academic scholarship, she was initiated into the Delta Pi Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Guyna is a member of the JSUDF Board of Directors and Executive Committee, and Lifetime Member of the JSU National Alumni Association.
Auburn University's new Research and Innovation Center opens to the public
The Auburn University Research and Innovation Center is the newest addition to the Auburn Research Park. Since it opened on Sept. 15, the new center has been a great tool for students and faculty to come together to work, learn and grow, said Bill Dean, executive director of the Auburn University Research and Technology Foundation. "The park's Research and Innovation Center brings first-class minds to a first-class facility," Dean said. "Designed to promote creative collisions between and among talented faculty, students and knowledge-based businesses, the Research and Innovation Center is a true convergence zone. These are spaces that bring people together to ignite innovation." The new center broke ground in spring 2019 and was under construction for 17 months. It is one of seven buildings that make up the research park, including East Alabama Medical Center's Health Sciences Center, which is currently under construction. The new center is a five-story, 105,877-square foot building featuring office and accelerator space, an event center and an Amsterdam Cafe.
'The world needs more Volunteers': U. of Tennessee chancellor on the year, COVID-19 and racial justice
The last time Chancellor Donde Plowman gave her annual flagship address about the state of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, the world was a different place. One year later, through a pandemic, calls for racial justice and changing how classes are taught at UT, Plowman said she hopes the university will emerge through the uncertainty as a leader. "For 226 years, our university has served the people of this state -- through wars, through civil unrest, through natural disasters, and yes, through pandemics. We have always been the standard-bearer for what it means to be a Volunteer," Plowman said Tuesday in her livestreamed address from the Howard H. Baker Center for Public Policy on campus. Last year, during her first Flagship Address and investiture as chancellor, Plowman said UT "would be an institution of courage." "I told you we would have the courage to take risks in our teaching and in our research," Plowman said. "That we would have the courage to care and the courage to lead. Little did we know then that four months later, our university, our country, our world would face a public health crisis unlike anything we have seen in our lifetimes."
Student visa shift drawing criticism in Arkansas
A proposed federal rule setting two- and four-year time limits on student visas has drawn strong opposition from some academic leaders in Arkansas and national education organizations. The proposal aims to "encourage program compliance, reduce fraud and enhance national security," according to a statement last month from the federal Department of Homeland Security. Students would be allowed to apply to extend their stays. Several colleges in Arkansas and elsewhere have reported recent declines in the number of international students. Opposition to the rule from education leaders in the state and elsewhere cites how a change would result in uncertainty for students and unwarranted barriers to enrollment. Imposing fixed time limits on student visas is "completely impractical for longer degree programs, such as PhD programs and medical training programs in the United States," states a 16-page letter dated Monday from the Presidents' Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration. University of Arkansas, Fayetteville Chancellor Joe Steinmetz is one of 14 university leaders on the group's steering committee. UA saw its international enrollment decline to 1,211 students this fall from 1,408 in fall 2019, even as overall enrollment held almost steady despite the ongoing pandemic, according to preliminary data.
UF's fourth Greek Life group under COVID-related suspension
Another University of Florida fraternity has recently been placed on interim suspension, making it the fourth Greek Life organization on campus to face COVID-related disciplinary action. According to UF's Interfraternity Council website, more than 50 individuals were seen by law enforcement on Beta Theta Pi's property at 409 Fraternity Row with "several tables of beer pong" and loud music. The attendees were not physically distanced, the incident description said, nor were they wearing masks. They also had no event permit. UF officials would not say what specific policy was violated, saying the conduct process is still underway. The chapter's activities are suspended pending a future hearing. Beta Theta Pi is the third UF fraternity that's been placed under interim suspension for reportedly violating the university's COVID safety guidelines this fall. Fraternities Theta Chi and Phi Delta were placed under interim suspension. Sorority Delta Gamma is under a "limited activity" directive after being accused of hosting a big sister/little sister reveal with a mask-less crowd.
Citing COVID-19, U. of Kentucky to have online commencement for December grads
This year's University of Kentucky graduates will not get an in-person commencement ceremony any time soon thanks to worries over the potential spread of the COVID-19 virus at an event, the university said in an email to students Tuesday afternoon. In lieu of the traditional December ceremonies at Rupp Arena for fall semester graduates, UK will have an online ceremony for 2020 grads on Friday, Dec. 4 at 2 p.m. Students who graduated in May and August are also invited and should email to register. The online ceremony is "not a replacement for the traditional UK Commencement," a release stated. UK still plans on having an in-person ceremony that honors May, August and December 2020 graduates "at an appropriate time, when it can be done in a safe and healthy way." The virtual ceremony will include many of the same elements as an in-person commencement, UK said. Graduates will be recognized, President Eli Capilouto will speak and a student speaker will address the class. Applications to be the student speaker will close on Nov. 6 at 5 p.m.
U. of Memphis says diversity training should be suspended to comply with President Trump's executive order
The University of Memphis has recommended that all diversity training scheduled for the fall semester be suspended, citing a recent executive order by President Donald Trump. Signed in late September, the "Executive Order on Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping" takes aim at trainings that are "rooted in the pernicious and false belief that America is an irredeemably racist and sexist country; that some people, simply on account of their race or sex, are oppressors; and that racial and sexual identities are more important than our common status as human beings and Americans." U of M said the order is applicable to the university because it is a federal contractor and receives federal funding. Universities began reckoning with the order in early October and some, like U of M, suspended diversity programming. Others have doubled down on diversity efforts, Inside Higher Ed has reported.
Temporary college presidents face unique challenges leading through pandemic
It's a tough time to be a president in higher education, experts and onlookers said last spring when the COVID-19 pandemic sent colleges spiraling. The job is even tougher this fall, as colleges work to keep students, faculty and staff healthy; sort out rocky finances; prepare for a divisive election; and address structural racism at their institutions. Amid all of this, some colleges are also in the middle of leadership turnover. With little warning and no time to prepare, interim presidents have stepped in to lead numerous colleges through one of higher education's most difficult years. Jim Borsig, interim chancellor of Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, Ark., is also managing a merger. The public liberal arts university last year announced it would become part of the Arkansas State University system, following financial trouble. After suspending a chancellor search last spring, the Arkansas State system Board of Trustees found Borsig through The Registry, an organization that helps place interim presidents, chancellors and other C-suite higher education professionals. Borsig had experience as a college president. From 2012 to 2018, he served as president of the Mississippi University for Women, a coeducational public university. Unlike many other interim presidents, Borsig was an outsider when he arrived at Henderson. Establishing his credibility was important. "You have to be visible, and you have to listen," he said. It frustrates him that he can't be more physically present on campus, but through Zoom calls and small, socially distant events, he's working to familiarize himself with faculty, staff members and students.
Black administrators are too rare at the top ranks of higher education. It's not just a pipeline problem.
Black and African American employees make up less than 10 percent of higher education professionals, according to the latest data from the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources. The annual survey includes demographic information for midlevel college employees in academic affairs, athletics, external affairs, facilities, information technology and other areas. White employees account for more than three-quarters of all higher education professionals. Among administrators and executive leadership, this disparity is even greater. CUPA-HR's report shows that less than 8 percent of administrators are Black or African American, and more than 80 percent are white. Higher education professionals and faculty do not reflect the overall population of undergraduates or the shifting demographics in the United States. Fewer than a quarter of faculty members are nonwhite, and only 6 percent are Black, according to 2017 data from the National Center for Education Statistics, or NCES. The data show that 14 percent of undergraduates are Black, more than double the percentage of Black faculty members and still greater than the percentage of Black professional employees. More than 13 percent of the United States population is Black, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates from 2019. Still, studies show the pipeline problem is not the sole answer to the lack of diversity in higher ed. Flooding the pipeline -- hiring people of color and admitting people of color into Ph.D. programs -- doesn't necessarily change the demographics at the top.
Student loan debt adds to racial wealth disparities, research finds
While the pandemic has forced some to take a break from college to reduce expenses or save money, the burden of growing student debt was an issue long before COVID. And research suggests there is a growing racial inequality problem with student debt. Fenaba Addo is a professor of consumer science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and has researched this student debt gap. The following is an edited transcript of her interview with "Marketplace Morning Report" host David Brancaccio.
Complex laws and a pandemic create obstacles for students seeking to vote
Less than a week before the elections, voting groups and administrators at universities say they are not seeing widespread problems in students being able to cast their votes. And indeed, Tufts University's Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning & Engagement said on Monday that five million 18- to 29-year-olds have already voted this year, and that in 13 battleground states, the number of those who have already voted about a week before the election exceeds the number who voted early in the 2016 election. Still, myriad issues have been arising on campuses around the country, sending university administrators, voting groups and students scrambling. Many involve the complications of holding an election during a pandemic. A University of Michigan professor was dismayed to learn just 10 days ago that mail, including absentee ballots, was not being delivered to hundreds of students in quarantine or isolation. Trying to deal with its own students being kept away from other students, the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee administration has hired a taxi company to take quarantined students who want to vote from their residence halls to a drive-by early polling station to fill out their ballots. Long-standing laws in some states have also threatened to discourage college students from voting.
As Freshmen, They Voted for Donald Trump. Has College Changed Their Minds?
They went to college in surreal times, bookended by a brutal election in which a reality-TV star upended American politics, and a global pandemic that derailed their in-person graduation plans. They were all college freshmen when Donald Trump was elected president, and they all supported the businessman in 2016. Bobby Gannon, a physics major at North Central College, in Illinois, thought Trump's trolling of liberals was funny. Kayla Bailey, from Liberty University, lamented Trump's personal conduct but felt he was the best candidate for her beloved West Virginia, a state torn by poverty and drug abuse. Regan Stevens, from the University of Northern Iowa, traveled to Trump's inauguration, the prize for working full time knocking on doors for the long-shot candidate. And Rebecca, who graduated from Ohio State University and asked, for professional reasons, that her last name not be used, voted for Trump partly because she thought Hillary Clinton was "extremely corrupt." Many of these students came from Republican households, in conservative areas, where supporting the GOP was what most people they knew had done for as long as they could remember. So after four years or so of college, have their views changed?
After the election, health care looms as the same irresistible force, immovable object
Syndicated columnist Sid Salter: When the electioneering bandwagons roll back into the barn and our new leaders assume their duties -- regardless of the party in power -- health care remains as the immense force on the nation's political horizon. With a growing, aging U.S. population living longer and a health care system struggling under a century of temporary programmatic fixes, there are no magic wand solutions. ... Since 2011, every single day, more than 10,000 Baby Boomers reached age 65 – and that growth will continue each day until the end of 2030. All 78 million Boomers in the U.S. are legally entitled to Social Security and Medicare. American population growth and our entitlements are only one concern. Health care prices are a significant piece of the health care puzzle as well. ... But population growth, entitlements, and health care prices don't tell the whole story, either. Health care management is an incredibly volatile.

Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame announces 2021 inductees
The Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum has announced its 2021 class consisting of six inductees--- three basketball greats, a football star, a tennis player and a golfer. The class is made up by Delta State women's point guard Debbie Brock, Murrah High, Jackson State and NBA star Lindsey Hunter, Mississippi State and NBA standout Erick Dampier, Ole Miss lineman Terrence Metcalf, Ole Miss and ATP tennis great Dave Randall, and golf icon Randy Watkins. "We are very proud to introduce our Class of 2021. This group will stand the test of time with the other great classes that represent the State of Mississippi," Bill Blackwell, Executive Director of the Hall of Fame and Museum, said. "Entrance into this Hall of Fame is very difficult to achieve, and to have representation from tennis, golf and women's basketball is gratifying. We welcome this class and hope we will soon be able to celebrate with a proper induction." Due to COVID-19 concerns, no date for the celebration has been set.
Erick Dampier Garners Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame Selection
Former Mississippi State men's basketball and NBA standout Erick Dampier can add Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum inductee to his impressive list of career accolades as the organization announced its class of 2021 on Tuesday. Mississippi State amassed 66 victories and earned three postseason appearances during Dampier's career, highlighted by 1996 NCAA Final Four and 1995 NCAA Sweet 16 trips under head coach and fellow Mississippi Sports Hall of Famer Richard Williams. He was named MSU's SEC Basketball Legend in 2014. Dampier was a two-time Associated Press (AP) All-America Honorable Mention pick and two-time All-Southeastern Conference (SEC) First-Team selection during his junior and senior seasons. He ranks among Mississippi State's top 10 in total blocks (249 - 2nd), blocks per game (2.68 - 2nd), field goal percentage (58.7 - tied 3rd), rebounds (859 - 6th) and rebounds per game (9.2 - 8th). Dampier piled up 1,231 career points which ranks eighth among three-year players and 25th overall at Mississippi State. He registered double figures in 74 of his 93 career appearances, fueled by nine efforts of 20-plus points. Prior to Mississippi State, Dampier prepped at Lawrence County High School in Monticello, Mississippi where he led his team to two straight state championships.
Austin Peay names Southern Mississippi's Scotty Walden as football coach
Austin Peay has named Southern Mississippi interim football coach Scotty Walden is new coach, the university announced Tuesday. The university is scheduled to have a press conference at 1:30 p.m. Monday at the Dunn Center to introduce Walden as the program's 21st coach. Contract details were not announced. Austin Peay had initially offered the job to Memphis defensive coordinator Mike MacIntyre but the Tigers assistant turned it down. Austin Peay will move on from interim coach Marquase Lovings who took over the program in early July after the resignation of Mark Hudsepth. Walden took over at Southern Miss, Sept. 7 after Jay Hopson resigned. The Golden Eagles are 1-4 this season and 1-3 under Walden. Walden, 30, was the youngest coach in FBS. "We are excited for Scotty and his family as they begin this new journey and we wish them nothing but the best," Southern Miss AD Jeremy McClain said in a school release.
Par 3 Contest out, 'College GameDay' in at different Masters
The Par 3 Contest is out at the spectator-free Masters in November. ESPN's "College GameDay" is in. Augusta National announced Tuesday more changes to a Masters tournament that will be unlike any of the previous 83. The most unusual of all is ESPN's popular college football pregame show taking place on a stage that overlooks Ike's Pond and the ninth green of the Par 3 course. "When exploring ways to showcase a fall Masters, we were drawn to the concept of hosting 'College GameDay' at Augusta National to introduce the tournament to a new audience and provide even more anticipation and excitement to the event," Augusta National Chairman Fred Ridley said. It helps that ESPN is a broadcast partner of the Masters and will televise the opening two rounds. So much about this Masters is different because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which shut down golf on March 13 and led Augusta National to postpone the Masters until Nov. 12-15, without spectators for the first time.
Learfield IMG College, Electronic Arts Launch Largest Official Collegiate Esports League in History
Today, Learfield IMG College, the nation's leading media and technology services company in intercollegiate athletics, and Electronic Arts (NASDAQ: EA) a worldwide leader in interactive entertainment, announced Level Next, The College Esports League. This multiyear partnership between Learfield IMG College and EA will feature at least one of EA's esports franchises and acts as the official home for EA's collegiate esports champions. Level Next will be the largest intercollegiate esports league, supporting more than 2,500 schools, and will also be the first supported by official school branding. Level Next kicks off first with the Fall Champions Series featuring EA SPORTS Madden NFL 21. Competition begins on November 9, with registration open to all college students currently attending a four-year accredited university. The competition will follow an eight-week format comprising a regular season, playoffs and a championship, where one talented team will become a national champion for their school. The Fall Champions Series will have the largest-ever collegiate esports cash prize pool --- $150,000, more than $30,000, which will be awarded directly to campus esports programs through a social marketing competition.

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