Friday, October 30, 2020   
Nineteen Universities Join Large-Scale Effort To Diversify STEM Faculty
Nineteen universities, including Mississippi State University and Jackson State University, have been selected to join the third cohort in an ongoing project aimed at developing more inclusive faculty recruitment, hiring and retention in STEM disciplines at universities throughout the U.S. The Aspire: The National Alliance for Inclusive & Diverse STEM Faculty program is administered by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, with financial support from the National Science Foundation. It's part of NSF INCLUDES (Inclusion Across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science), a comprehensive national initiative that focuses on diversity, inclusion and broader participation in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics at scale. Facilitated by APLU and the University of Wisconsin-Madison through the Institutional Change (IChange) Network, the Aspire Alliance receives comprehensive support, technical assistance, and partner collaboration through the network.
Starkville-MSU Symphony Association and Opera Workshop Hosting POPSpera Concert
The Starkville-MSU Symphony Association and the Mississippi State University Opera Workshop are partnering to host the Community Chorus in concert for POPSpera on Sunday, Nov. 1, at 2 p.m. on the lawn of Starkville's Greensboro Center. POPSpera will include a selection of show tunes and classic opera songs with performances by special guests from the MSU Opera Workshop. The event is free and open to the public. Attendees may bring lawn chairs or blankets and can dress up as their favorite Broadway character. Visitors must wear protective masks and follow proper social distancing procedures. The musical program will include a performance of Rodgers and Hammerstein by the Community Chorus, opera and Broadway musical selections from the MSU Opera Workshop and a medley from "Les Miserables" by the Community Chorus.
Boardtown Pizza and Pints opens in Starkville
For Tyler Klaas it's been busy lately. He tied the knot with his wife and opened a restaurant in Starkville, all in two weeks. "All during a pandemic and a hurricane," he laughed. After more than a year of planning and setbacks, Boardtown Pizza and Pints is officially open at 705 University Drive, Suite C. The new pizza restaurant had a soft opening last weekend and opened officially on Monday. You can try the new pizza, hummus, falafel, pita moz, dog bowl nachos (yes, they are served in an actual dog bowl) and more every day from 11 a.m.-11 p.m. "It feels great," Klaas said. "The nerves are still up there because we don't know what's going to happen. ... We're really hoping that the people that live here will come out and support us." Staying in Starkville, City Planner Daniel Havelin confirmed there are changes coming on Highway 12. Captain D's, which burned in April, will be moving to the former Payless Shoesource at 812 Hwy. 12. He added Sonic, located next to the Captain D's lot at 302 Hwy. 12, also has plans to build a new facility, using its current lot as well as the current Captain D's lot.
Starkville churches come together to feed those in need
The Episcopal Church of the Resurrection in Starkville is in its 12th year of serving meals to those in need. The pandemic has forced more families to attend Casserole Kitchen than ever before. These meals are provided by 17 churches within the Starkville community. Each church rotates shifts to provide meals for each week. Rex Buffington is the co-director of Casserole Kitchen. He said things have changed since the meal service started back in 2008. "For most of those 12 years, up until COVID, we had everybody come inside and sit down and enjoy the meal together," Buffington explained. "Of course when COVID hit, we had to change all of that and so we've moved to all to-go plates." Buffington said the changes created a loss for the personal side of serving the meals. "I think it's the meal, but it's also the caring that it expresses that means a lot to people because they need the help and the fact that it's so willingly provided by their neighbors who are able to provide, it means a lot," said Buffington.
Oktibbeha County supervisors to consider changes to garbage billing, vicious dog ordinance
Oktibbeha County supervisors will consider a proposed policy for collecting unpaid garbage bills at Monday's meeting after discussing it at length during a work session on Wednesday. Supervisors voted unanimously in December to bill property owners instead of renters for garbage collection services. The property owner is ultimately responsible for paying a garbage bill even if the previous owner or renter did not pay it. Board attorney Rob Roberson's proposed policy would allow anyone with a delinquent garbage bill to pay 25 percent up front and make regular payments to finish off the rest of the debt. They can still purchase a car tag as long as their payments are on schedule, Roberson said. District 3 Supervisor Marvell Howard said the proposed policy "sort of addresses all the issues we face" and only needs a few changes before the board can vote on it Monday.
Zeta soaks Southeast after swamping Gulf Coast; 6 dead
Millions of people were without power and at least six were dead Thursday after Hurricane Zeta slammed into Louisiana and made a beeline across the South, leaving shattered buildings, thousands of downed trees and fresh anguish over a record-setting hurricane season. From the bayous of the Gulf Coast to Atlanta and beyond, Southerners used to dealing with dangerous weather were left to pick up the pieces once again just days ahead of an election in which early voting continued despite the storm. In Atlanta and New Orleans, drivers dodged trees in roads and navigated intersections without traffic signals. In Lakeshore, Mississippi, Ray Garcia returned home to find a shrimp boat washed up and resting against its pilings. "I don't even know if insurance is going to pay for this," Garcia said. "I don't know what this boat has done." Hundreds of miles away in North Carolina, a highway was blocked by a toppled tree in Winston-Salem, and Wake Forest University canceled classes for the day.
Gov. Tate Reeves tours Zeta damage in South Mississippi, thanks first responders
Governor Tate Reeves is confident Hurricane Zeta's damage in South Mississippi will warrant a federal disaster declaration, and bring with it the federal assistance so many people will likely need to fully recover. If it is, it will be Mississippi's 10th federal disaster in 2020. That's more than any other year in the last half century. Reeves made stops in all three coastal counties Thursday to survey damage, and thank first responders, power crews, and all those working to help the area cleanup from the hurricane. We caught up with the governor and MEMA Director Greg Michel during a stop in Bay St. Louis at the scene of a high water rescue. Officials met with first responders who, during the height of the storm, helped rescue a family from a home that collapsed off its pilings. Two people inside the home were injured, but everyone will be okay. "You're looking at a group of people who saved lives," Reeves said of those surrounding him. "I want to thank every first responder, EOC director, who put forth effort in the last 24 to 48 hours. Their efforts truly saved lives."
Mississippi reports 749 new COVID-19 cases, 18 deaths
The Mississippi State Department of Health on Friday reported 749 new cases of COVID-19 and 18 deaths as of Oct. 29. MSDH also reported 131 ongoing outbreaks in long-term care facilities. Chickasaw, Itawamba, Marshall, Monroe, Oktibbeha and Tippah counties in Northeast Mississippi each reported one new death. The statewide total number of cases since March 11 now stands at 119,336, with 3,328 total deaths. Around 101,385 people are estimated to have recovered from the virus as of October 25. All counties in the Daily Journal's coverage area reported additional cases. The additional case counts are: Alcorn (11), Benton (1), Calhoun (2), Chickasaw (5), Clay (3), Itawamba (20), Lafayette (31), Lee (22), Marshall (13), Monroe (6), Oktibbeha (6), Pontotoc (13), Prentiss (9), Tippah (11), Tishomingo (2) and Union (4).
Doctors fear crisis as state officials criticize DeSoto County for rapid virus spread
The second wave of COVID-19 infections is here for DeSoto County, health officials warn. The county has seen a sharp increase in the average number of new cases of coronavirus reported per day. One model used by local health care professionals rates the county's risk at "critical," meaning there is an active or imminent outbreak of the virus. An intensifying spread of the virus, the return of restrictions and the arrival of cold and flu season is leaving doctors nervous about a possible crisis in the coming months. Gov. Tate Reeves, who reinstated a mask mandate for DeSoto County on Oct. 21, also signaled alarm at a press conference Monday about the worsening pandemic in the county. "DeSoto County is at a point now in which it is probably, for large counties, in as bad a position, just looking at quantitative numbers as any large county in the state has been throughout this entire pandemic," Reeves said. Reeves announced seven new counties were being placed under mask mandates on Monday. When DeSoto County was added to the executive order last week, some law enforcement officers in DeSoto County said that they were not interested in enforcing the mandate, though they noted that the mandate being in place at all has caused more people to wear masks, according to some anecdotal evidence from officers.
U.S. reported more than 88,500 new cases on Thursday, an all-time high
The U.S. recorded its highest number of coronavirus cases in a day so far, and approached nine million in total, as the pandemic's spread intensified across nearly all states. The more than 88,500 cases newly reported on Thursday, according to Johns Hopkins University, bring the total reported in the U.S. to some 8.95 million. The national seven-day moving average of daily new cases, which smooths out irregularities in the data, was 74,184 as of Wednesday, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of Johns Hopkins data. The 14-day average was 67,090. When the seven-day average is higher than the 14-day average, as it has been since Oct. 5, it suggests cases are on the rise. In keeping with the national trend, all states except Louisiana had seven-day averages that were higher than their 14-day averages as of Wednesday. The U.S. reported 971 deaths on Thursday, down slightly from Wednesday's 996 and Tuesday's 995. But the seven-day moving average of daily reported deaths has been higher than the 14-day average since Oct. 19. The U.S. death toll stands at more than 228,000. The number of those hospitalized in the U.S. has also grown, to 46,095, a 50% increase from Oct. 1.
Voter guide: What to know about the Mississippi flag ballot question
The blue, red and gold flags emblazoned with a magnolia flower already have been hoisted up flag poles and erected in front yards across Mississippi in recent weeks. But the so-called In God We Trust Flag won't be the state's official banner unless a majority of voters approve of the design on Election Day. If voters don't sign off, the Mississippi flag commission must reconvene and agree on a different design to place before voters one year from now. What's on the ballot exactly, and how does the approval process work? Voters are asked a simple "yes" or "no" on whether they think the flag design -- pictured on the ballot -- should become the official Mississippi flag. The flag question comes at the end of the ballot, along with questions about medical marijuana and change to election procedures for statewide candidates. If a majority of voters approve of the design, the Legislature still must formally enact that design into law during the 2021 legislative session which starts in January. Then, the flag would be flown at public buildings around the state shortly thereafter.
Mississippi Department of Human Services executive director gives update on progress at the agency
On the job since March, the Executive Director for the Mississippi Department of Human Services, Bob Anderson, says the agency was in a bad place. He has spent the last seven months working to restore trust, build employee morale and conduct an audit to account for millions of dollars in misspent TANF money meant for needy families in Mississippi. Six people have been indicted in the largest embezzlement and fraud scheme in state history. They include the former Executive Director of the Mississippi Department of Human Services John Davis. "When I got here I knew that this agency was in a bad place because of what had happened in the past and we needed a fresh start," Anderson said. Operation Restore Trust was one of the first steps. Anderson said, "And it was focused on the three principles of integrity, of compliance and moving this agency towards excellence." Anderson says while they don't believe the embezzled amount will be as high as $94 million, the amount that the State Auditor's office has found so far, he says the audit will detail every transaction.
Madison County Moves 2,000 Black, Hispanic Voters to Crowded Precinct With Little Warning
Steve Cunningham had expected to cast his ballot for this year's presidential election at the same Madison County, Miss., precinct where he has voted since at least 2008: the Ridgeland Recreation Center. Instead, the African American man is among about 2,550 mostly Black and Hispanic voters in southeast Ridgeland, a historic white-flight suburb outside just north of Jackson, who were quietly rezoned out of their racially mixed precinct this summer. They were placed, instead, into an already-majority non-white one. Carol Mann, a Democratic candidate for District 1 election commissioner, told the Mississippi Free Press that the voters are being moved from a location "with adequate polling stations and adequate parking to an extremely cramped polling place" and that the change will cause "chaos and confusion." Though Cunningham received a letter in July informing him about the change, several residents in Madison County's Supervisor District 1 told Mann and, later, the Mississippi Free Press, that they have not received notifications about the new location. They worry that the change is a racially motivated attempt to suppress the non-white votes.
Cindy Hyde-Smith, Mike Espy offer competing views of the pandemic economy at Hobnob
Republican U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith and Democratic challenger Mike Espy made their pitch -- virtually -- to Mississippi's business community on Thursday, each arguing they were the best choice to put the state's economy back on track from the pandemic. "We need to dedicate ourselves to a great American comeback," Hyde-Smith said in her in-person speech at Hobnob, the annual business and political get-together in Jackson hosted by the Mississippi Economic Council. She said President Donald Trump's economic policies had put the state and country in a strong position for recovery and vowed continued loyalty to the president. "She's hurting our image as a state, and because she's hurting our image, she's hurting our economy and job prospects," said Espy, who submitted video of his speech, referencing Hyde-Smith's past controversial comments and what he says is her "glorification of Confederate symbols." Hobnob is typically the final big pitch for candidates before an election, as they hit the stage at the Mississippi Coliseum in front of some of the state's most influential business leaders. In a sign of the times, this year's event was hosted before just a few cameras and reporters at a chilly and windy Trustmark Park and streamed to the business officials around the state.
'It'll be higher than Obama': Mike Espy will benefit from record Black voter turnout in Mississippi
To have a shot at defeating Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith on Nov. 3, Democratic challenger Mike Espy needs record turnout from Mississippi's Black voters. He will get it, according to several of the state's top Democratic insiders who are working on the ground in the 2020 cycle. "I've looked closely at the data, and I think Black turnout in Mississippi will be higher than it was when we had President Obama on the ballot," said Charles Taylor, a political data consultant who is managing the canvassing effort for the Mississippi Democratic coordinated campaign this year. Espy -- who was the first African American elected to Congress since Reconstruction and has made race a central theme of his 2020 campaign -- maintains that he will win if, among other things, Black voters make up at least 35.5% of the total electorate. The highest share of Black voters in the state's modern history was 2012, when they made up 36% of the electorate. That was the year President Barack Obama was running for re-election. The record voter turnout in 2020, projected by the political insiders, would likely surpass that mark and exceed Espy's target.
Supreme Court readies for possible postelection cases
The Supreme Court has all but run out of time to deal with more legal fights ahead of Election Day on Tuesday, but its down-to-the-wire decisions from Pennsylvania and North Carolina foreshadow what issues could land at the high court after Nov. 3. The justices declined Wednesday night to decide prior to the election whether Pennsylvania can tally mail-in ballots that arrive up to three days after Election Day amid concerns that mail delivery has slowed -- but that doesn't mean the case is over. "I reluctantly conclude that there is simply not enough time at this late date to decide the question before the election," Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. wrote in a statement that went out along with the order. "That does not mean, however, that the state court decision must escape our review." The question about whether election officials can change rules to allow the counting of ballots received after Nov. 3 highlights how courts have grappled with the way states are dealing with an election with the highly contagious novel coronavirus. The case could become a big deal in an extremely close election, but could fizzle in a blowout where the tally of the late ballots wouldn't change the outcome.
More than 230 election-related federal lawsuits have been filed already
In Alabama, a Black man with Parkinson's disease and asthma asked a court to allow curbside voting but was turned down by the U.S. Supreme Court. In Florida, 700,000 felons trying to regain their right to vote were hampered by five judges appointed by President Donald Trump. In Arkansas, three judges appointed by Republican presidents told elderly residents worried about COVID-19 exposure they could sign ballot initiatives through a window. At the same time, arguments from Trump's lawyers have been shot down in several states, and the president was dealt two setbacks by the Supreme Court just before Election Day in cases that expanded absentee voting -- a procedure he has criticized as the source of ballot fraud. Those outcomes are part of a record-setting number of lawsuits that have been filed this year, with even more expected to come after polls close Tuesday. In all, more than 230 election-related federal lawsuits were filed from Jan. 1 to Oct. 23, higher than any of the past three presidential election years during the same time period, a USA TODAY analysis of federal court data found. The outcomes have been mixed.
'I view it as propaganda': President Trump's food box letters create problems in run-up to election
Food banks, schools and other nonprofits serving needy families during the pandemic are expending considerable resources in the final days of the election to remove or explain letters from President Donald Trump that are now required in millions of government food aid boxes. The USDA's $4 billion Farmers to Families Food Box Program began requiring that all boxes include a self-praising letter from the president, in both English and Spanish, a month ago -- setting off a rash of criticism that Trump is leveraging taxpayer resources to bolster his reelection campaign. But as election day nears, nonprofits distributing the boxes are becoming increasingly worried about unwittingly engaging in political activity, according to interviews with more than two dozen people involved in the program. Anxiety about the letters and the appearance of politicizing food aid runs deep in both red and blue states. Kate Leone, senior vice president of government relations at Feeding America, which represents the country's largest network of food banks, said the group's partners have been raising concerns. About half of the food banks they've heard from are removing the letters or adding their own message.
Walmart removes guns, ammunition from store displays ahead of election amid concerns of civil unrest
Walmart has pulled guns and ammunition from its sales floors ahead of the election, company officials confirmed to USA TODAY. The news was first reported by The Wall Street Journal, which said the retailer was looking to head off any potential theft of firearms if stores are broken into amid any civil unrest caused by the upcoming presidential election on Tuesday. "We have seen some isolated civil unrest and as we have done on several occasions over the last few years, we have moved our firearms and ammunition off the sales floor as a precaution for the safety of our associates and customers," Walmart said in a statement to USA TODAY. "These items do remain available for purchase by customers." Walmart sells firearms in about half of its 4,700 stores. Walmart has taken actions to curtail the sale of ammunition and guns over the years. In the early 1990s, the retailer stopped selling handguns. They're only available for sale in Alaska. In 2015, it halted sales of modern sporting rifles, and three years later it prohibited sales of firearms to anyone under 21.
NAACP to focus on Black mental health at UM
Typically, college chapters of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People focus their efforts on promoting social justice protests, advocating for voter registration and educating students to protect against voter suppression. While this year's leaders of the University of Mississippi NAACP chapter agree that these efforts are important, president Demetrius Harris and vice president Savannah Avery want to bring a new focus to the university's Black community: mental health. "I feel like we always work on things like prison reform and big stuff like that, but we don't really focus on the Black community as individuals, like their mental and physical health," Avery said. "(Mental health) is something that's very thrown under the table with the Black community, and I feel like when kids get to college, they realize how emotional they are, and they don't really know how to deal with their emotions because the Black community doesn't show us how to do that as we're growing up." In her time at the university, Harris said she has seen great advancements and events come from previous NAACP leadership, but she has not seen the education on mental and physical health that she thinks UM needs.
U. of Southern Mississippi polymer scientists receive $2.64 million NASA grant for research
A team of students and polymer scientists at the University of Southern Mississippi received a portion of a $5.7 million NASA grant to enhance the speed of aircraft production. James Rawlins, professor in the School of Polymer Science and Engineering at USM, said each grant has multiple universities involved. USM is part of a team with the University of South Carolina, Boise State University, Benedict College and multiple industry partners, Rawlins said. "The funding for Southern Miss specifically -- which is really unique in our field -- is for four years of performance simultaneously," Rawlins said. "We will have incremental parts of what ends up being $2.6 million over the course of four years." The mission of the grant is to expedite the rate to produce thermoplastic aerospace parts. Currently, airplanes are put together with rivets and fasteners, which takes a lot of time and costs more, Rawlins said. "We are trying to develop technology platforms that would allow each of the parts to be assembled in a rapid manner much like the automotive industry," Rawlins said.
Picayune foundation awards grant to Southern Miss Children's Center
The Lower Pearl River Valley Foundation of Picayune has bolstered its support of The Children's Center for Communication and Development at the University of Southern Mississippi with a $40,000 grant. In 2019, $30,000 in funding was awarded to the center by LPRVF to send therapists to Pearl River County to provide in-home therapy for children with disabilities. This funding ensures the 19 children in Pearl River County currently receiving evidence-based therapy at no cost to their families will continue to do so. The increase in funding for 2020 will allow four new children in the area to be enrolled and help cover the costs of any increases in therapy needs for the children already receiving assistance. Since 1974, The Children's Center has led Mississippi in early intervention services for infants, toddlers and preschoolers with significant disabilities. Over 130 children are currently receiving services, representing a range of disabilities, such as Down syndrome, hearing impairment, cerebral palsy, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Rett syndrome, traumatic brain injuries, aphasia, apraxia and conditions related to premature birth.
A conversation with Rev. Dr. Joey Shelton on work at Millsaps College
The Rev. Dr. Joey Shelton, age 60, is dean of the chapel and director of church relations at Millsaps College. Originally from the Hattiesburg area, he graduated from Millsaps in 1982, earned a law degree from the University of Mississippi in 1985 and practiced for 10 years in Hattiesburg. In 1994, he and his wife, Connie, left their jobs to earn master of divinity degrees at Duke University. They achieved that goal and continued their education and received doctor of ministry degrees from Columbia Theological Seminary in 2006. Ordained as United Methodist ministers, the Sheltons were appointed in 2008 to serve Galloway Methodist Church. The Rev. Dr. Connie Shelton then became director of connectional ministries for the Mississippi United Methodist Conference and the Rev. Dr. Joey Shelton continued at Galloway for an additional four years before beginning work at his alma mater in 2017. Sun Staff Writer Nell Luter Floyd recently spoke with him.
$5.4 million of governor's emergency education funds issued statewide
A total of 24 day cares, nonprofits, churches and other organizations from across the state received a total of $5.4 million in funding this fall to care for and educate children under 5-years-old during the pandemic. Gov. Tate Reeves issued the first round of allocations from the Governor's Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund in recent weeks. The purpose of the money, a part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, is to enable governors to decide how best to meet the needs of students, schools and other education-related organizations impacted by COVID-19. Mississippi received a total of $34.6 million. The largest amount in the first allotment of funding was to, a Utah-based education nonprofit that has been piloting a virtual program for pre-kindergartners in Mississippi for several years. The group received nearly $2 million to expand its existing program to nearly 2,500 preschool-aged children. The next largest awards were to the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Gulf Coast for around $870,000, and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Mississippi for about $436,000.
Auburn's Office of Sustainability scales down for safety
The Office of Sustainability serves as Auburn University's resource for building a more environmentally friendly and sustainable campus. The office hosts a multitude of events to provide resources and raise awareness of their goals. When the University closed in April because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the office canceled the events it had planned. For this semester, it has adjusted events to follow social distancing regulations and provide a safer environment. Jennifer Morse, the Office of Sustainability's outreach and communication manager, works with organizations to plan outreach events and develop more sustainable options across campus. The office has already held two events for the fall semester. The first was their Welcome Week event, which the office scaled down from a what the event was last year -- a large sustainability picnic with 25 supporting organizations -- to an informational event, with four organizations focusing on waste reduction and recycling. "So, I mean it was a huge event, and we scaled it down to four tables," Morse said.
UGA cancels 2021 spring break, citing COVID risks
University of Georgia students won't get a spring break next year, the university announced Thursday. Instead, UGA is building three "instructional breaks" during its 2021spring semester -- on Feb. 17, March 12 and April 8. Spring break had originally been penciled in for March 8-12. The university will also delay the opening of spring semester by two days. UGA students will begin classes Wednesday, Jan. 13 instead of Monday, Jan. 11. The changes will not affect the university's spring final exam schedule, nor its planned graduation date of May 14. How graduation is conducted is yet to be determined and "will follow guidance from public health officials," according to the university's announcement. The reason for the change is to "promote the health and safety of the University of Georgia and local communities" in the continuing COVID-19 pandemic. UGA classes end Dec. 9 this year. Fall graduation ceremonies are scheduled for Dec. 18. Fall graduation is customarily in the university's Stegeman Coliseum, but this year it will be virtual, the university announced last week.
U. of Missouri Faculty Council votes to keep spring break
University of Missouri students will have spring break as planned, the MU Faculty Council decided on Thursday. Members cited the mental health of students and faculty in keeping spring break, despite the potential risk of spreading COVID-19. Spring break is scheduled for March 27 to April 4. The faculty council sets the university's academic calendar, and the registrar needed the information by Nov. 1. A motion to have five days off spread through the semester instead of the planned spring break failed. The vote total wasn't announced in the Zoom webinar. "People were primarily concerned about the mental health of our students and the value of that," said law school professor Dennis Crouch of his survey of law school faculty and students. Other arguments against eliminating the planned spring break were that random days off would throw off lab schedules. It also would put MU out of synch with Columbia Public Schools, which scheduled its spring break at the same time as MU's.
Historically Black Colleges and Universities see record enrollment
Historically Black Colleges and Universities, or HBCUs, have been molding the minds of Black students since the days of segregation, Jim Crow, and "separate but equal." They've never really gotten equal funding or recognition. But they've persevered, and today many are experiencing record enrollment. "My mom went to Spelman and was like 'I'm really going to challenge you to look at some HBCUs,'" says North Carolina A&T senior Courtney Baskerville. Aggie Pride is real. "It's the perfect fit. I can't see myself anywhere else," she says. And it runs deep. "Both my parents went here," says senior Brenda Caldwell. According to researchers at Rutgers University, over the past three years HBCUs have seen record applications and enrollment. They point to an increase in race-based harassment on predominantly white campuses and the overall racial climate in America. "There is the constant question around why is there a need for HBCUs today," says Chancellor Harold Martin. Chancellor Martin says HBCUs have to defend their worth in a way other schools do not. But the results, like record enrollment for the fifth straight year and rising national rankings, speak for themselves.
Moody's Forecasts Widespread Drop in Tuition Revenue. Here's Why That Matters.
People looking for clues about higher education's future fiscal health saw reasons for worry in a new report by Moody's Investors Service. The bond-rating agency announced on Wednesday that, for the first time in the 12-year history of its annual tuition survey, both private and public colleges are likely to lose net tuition revenue in the 2021 fiscal year. Private institutions are expected to experience a median 3-percent decrease in net tuition revenue, while public institutions are expected to see a median 1-percent decrease. Last year's report projected slight, softening growth for both sectors, due to tough competition for students in an increasingly challenging environment. This year's report is comparatively bearish. So what does this mean? Why do such small changes in this nerdy-sounding number make a critical difference for colleges, and bode ill for higher-ed finances for years to come? Much attention has focused in recent weeks on whether enrollment is up or down, as if the number of students sitting in class is the key indicator of a college's financial health. That matters, but the more granular -- and more important -- indicator is net tuition revenue: how many tuition dollars actually come in, minus how much financial aid goes out.
Long-term COVID-19 symptoms have implications for colleges
While college administrators and decision makers have stressed that they are taking the COVID-19 pandemic and its attendant health and safety concerns very seriously, there has been an underlying assumption: students -- if they catch the disease -- will be fine. "At least 80 percent of our population is made up of young people, say, 35 and under. All data to date tell us that the COVID-19 virus, while it transmits rapidly in this age group, poses close to zero lethal threat to them," Mitch Daniels, the president of Purdue University, said in a letter to campus in April, expressing an intent to reopen. "Literally, our students pose a far greater danger to others than the virus poses to them." New information released in the months since then has complicated that picture. Increasing evidence suggests that some portion of people who are infected with COVID-19 will continue to experience symptoms of the illness weeks -- or even months -- later, even if they are young or have a mild case of the virus. Though persistent COVID-19 symptoms have been written about anecdotally in news media and personal essays, the nitty-gritty that would usually make up scientific and medical knowledge about this condition is still being figured out.
How Colleges Can Prevent Covid-19 Spread When Students Leave for Thanksgiving
Colleges should urge students to be tested for Covid-19 before they leave for Thanksgiving, be ready to quarantine and isolate students over the holiday break, and make sure that no one travels home while sick, the American College Health Association recommended in guidance issued on Thursday. Campuses that plan to resume in-person classes after Thanksgiving should strongly discourage students from traveling and instead promote the idea of celebrating virtually with their families, the association said. In addition, "institutions should plan to provide on-campus meals and encourage staying in place for 'Friendsgiving.'" The recommendations come as Covid-19 cases are spreading rapidly across the country. National health experts have warned colleges that sending students home in the midst of a pandemic could have disastrous public-health consequences. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has also warned that traveling increases the risk of spreading or contracting Covid-19. At the same time, many colleges have already announced that they'll end in-person classes right before Thanksgiving, and students have already made travel plans.
Jerry Falwell Jr. sues Liberty University alleging defamation, breach of contract
Jerry Falwell Jr. on Thursday sued Liberty University alleging defamation and breach of contract, saying the religious institution damaged his reputation after it forced the evangelical leader to resign. Falwell stepped down as president and chancellor of the school in August following a string of scandals, including a stunning allegation he and his wife, Becki Falwell, had a yearslong sexual affair with a now-estranged business partner. In a 29-page complaint filed in Lynchburg Circuit Court, Falwell claims Liberty's board pressured him into resigning before properly investigating the accusation by Giancarlo Granda, a former pool attendant who first met the couple in 2012. Robert Raskopf, an attorney for Falwell, said in a statement he was forced to file the lawsuit on behalf of his client after Liberty's new leadership refused to meet with him to discuss defamation allegations. A Liberty University spokesperson was not immediately available for comment. Falwell's suit was filed on the same day Liberty's 30-member board met for a scheduled meeting, in part to discuss the university's search for a new president.
Liberty University's Falkirk think tank pushed the boundaries on political messaging, but nonprofit restrictions remain murky
Viewed solely as a political advertisement on social media this election year, it would be largely unremarkable. A tightly framed photo shows President Donald Trump, eyes closed, hands folded. Several people lay hands on his shoulders. Text above the photo cites the Bible -- the First Epistle of Paul to Timothy -- and reads, "Pray for Our President." But the advertisement is unusual because of the organization purchasing it. That organization is the Falkirk Center, a subsidiary of the private nonprofit Liberty University. And it is highly irregular for nonprofit colleges or universities to purchase advertisements that come even close to the appearance of endorsing specific candidates for office. In part, that's because the portion of the tax code under which most private universities are registered as nonprofits forbids backing political candidates for office. It's also a question of public relations, reputation and norms. "Most institutions are very skittish about playing too closely in the political realm," said Bob Brock, president of Educational Marketing Group, a marketing agency. "The country is so strongly divided that you can easily offend a number of your target audiences by taking positions."
International Students Can't Vote. But the Stakes Are Personal.
When Yi Xuen Tay opens up her social-media accounts, she is hit with notifications: Don't forget to vote! Are you registered to vote? Yi Xuen, who is studying for a master's degree in student affairs at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, cares passionately about many of the issues in this year's election. She would like to vote. But as an international student, Yi Xuen, who grew up in Malaysia, is on the sidelines. Getting to see American democracy up close often fascinates international students, many of whom come from countries where citizens have little or no say in how they are governed. The current presidential election, however, has personal stakes for the one million students from overseas on American campuses. The Trump presidency has been a challenging one: More-restrictive student-visa policies have made it tougher to come to study in this country. The prevailing America First political environment can make students feel unwelcome when they do. While Yi Xuen can't vote, she encourages her American friends and classmates to get to the polls. "Even if I don't have the power to vote," she said, "I still have a voice."
With Many Campuses Closed, Will College Students Turn Out To Vote?
Despite a legacy of low turnout, college students -- and young people in general -- could be a decisive voting bloc in this election. Already, nearly 5 million Americans, ages 18 to 29, have cast early votes, a far higher number than at this point in 2016. But will this fall's pandemic campus experience upend optimistic projections for a college student turnout? "This election year is just incredibly important," says Annie Rosenow, a senior political science major at the University of Rochester, who's been working on campus voter outreach. "For me and many of my peers, it's our first time voting in a presidential election." She's part of a broad upward trend in college students and young voters in recent years: College students more than doubled their rate of voting between the 2014 and 2018 midterm elections, according to research from Tufts University. The unknown variable, of course, is the coronavirus pandemic and how it has disrupted the academic year. More than 40% of U.S. colleges are fully or primarily online for the fall semester, and that could have a big impact on turnout, says Nancy Thomas, director of the Institute for Democracy & Higher Education at Tufts. She says campus closures, plus the attempts to suppress the college vote by limiting polling places, could dampen the growth in voting rates researchers were expecting.
Student Voting Surges Despite Efforts to Suppress It
With many campus quads resembling ghost towns and childhood bedrooms serving as lecture halls, politically active college students have moved their get-out-the-vote efforts online, hosting debate watch parties on Zoom, recruiting poll workers over Instagram and encouraging students to post their voting plans on Snapchat. Young voters, traditionally a difficult group for politicians to get to the polls, are showing rare levels of enthusiasm in this election, even as college students have faced new obstacles to casting their ballots -- some stemming from the coronavirus pandemic, and others from elected officials seeking to impede college voting. At Bard College in New York State, students sued to bring a polling station to campus. Residential advisers at the University of Pittsburgh used Zoom to register new voters. And at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, students have signed up as poll workers to help their fellow Badgers navigate some of the nation's toughest voter identification laws. Despite the difficulties, efforts to mobilize the youth vote, along with greater accessibility through early-voting hours and mail-in ballot options, appear to be paying off, with potentially significant implications for races nationwide.
Can even an 'Obama-like' turnout turn Mississippi blue?
Alan Lange writes at During the 2020 cycle, there's been a storyline peddled by a fawning press and paid Democratic pollsters alike, both dedicated to pushing every Democratic storyline imaginable, that has gone something like this . . . Mike Espy can beat Cindy Hyde-Smith with an "Obama-like" turnout of black voters and the ability to pick up enough suburban white voters who are disaffected by Trump. However, as we look to next Tuesday and what leading indicators we have at this point, there doesn't seem to be a huge amount of data leading us to the likelihood of that. So, let's look at the numbers. First, to the core of the argument. Former President Obama when he against a pretty weak conservative Republican candidate in Mitt Romney in 2012, still lost Mississippi by a wide margin. He garnered 562,949 votes (43.79%) to Romney's 710,746 votes (55.29%) with a total of 1.285 million voters. In 2016, Donald Trump put up a huge number of votes (700,714 or 59%) over Hillary Clinton (485,131 or 41%) with voter turnout at 1.185 million voters. Even if Obama got 100% of his vote out in 2016, the top of the Democrat ticket would have still been underwater by 138,000 votes. In 2018, Cindy Hyde-Smith, while not running a masterful campaign by any stretch, still handily beat Mike Espy by 68,000 votes (54% to 46%). Now the real question is for 2020, with COVID and other dynamics, what will be the turnout in Mississippi?

'When World War II ended, it wasn't as big a headline as we had today': Revisiting Mississippi State's 1980 upset of No. 1 Alabama
On the morning of Nov. 1, 1980, it had been 770 days since a Bear Bryant-led Alabama team lost. It had been even longer since they fell to Mississippi State, a streak that dated back to the Eisenhower administration. But the Bulldogs had turned a corner under second-year head coach Emory Bellard. A native of Luling, Texas -- a dot on the map 59 miles northeast of San Antonio -- Bellard spent 21 years coaching high school football in the Longhorn State. He later parlayed a five-year stint as the offensive coordinator at Texas into a seven-year spell as the head coach at Texas A&M. On the practice fields, Bellard constantly reminded onlookers of his Texas roots. "He had this old Texas way of doing things," former MSU equipment manager Paul Fullerton said. A pioneer of the wishbone formation that made Bryant's teams at Kentucky, Texas A&M, and, ultimately, Alabama so successful, Bellard felt his 1980 squad had the pieces to contend against the sport's juggernaut. "We've got the horses to really stop (Alabama)," he told his team, then 6-2. "... I know what I'm talking about, because I'm the only one that knows how to stop it, because I invented it." Forty years to the week from Bellard's proclamation, MSU's 6-3 win over No. 1 Alabama marks the only time the Bulldogs defeated Bryant in his 25-year tenure in Tuscaloosa. And while the grainy film, aging newspaper clippings and fleeting memories of the 1980 victory grow fainter by the day, those who were there are constantly reminded of the afternoon David defeated Goliath.
'Bulldog nation is behind you': How Mississippi State fans fight cancer together
Shaina Parker waited in the emergency room at the University of Mississippi Medical Center last December. She sat silently as her husband, Nathan, underwent several lab tests. The silence was ominously obstreperous during such a trying time. The couple was especially speechless when doctors discussed the diagnosis. Nathan had acute myeloid leukemia, a type of cancer that stems from a mutation in a patient's bone marrow that affects the production of blood cells. The five-year survival rate is 27.4%, according to the National Cancer Institute. Terrified and unsure how to react, Shaina took to Twitter in an attempt to erase the emptiness and replace it with empathy from others. "Please read," she tweeted. "We are sitting at the hospital where my husband just received a diagnosis of acute leukemia. We have 3 toddlers at home. He is our world. I'm not asking for prayers. I'm begging for them." That tweet changed the Parkers family's lives. Shaina estimated she had 25 or so Twitter followers when she sent the tweet on Dec. 28, 2019. Now, she has over 1,100. The tweet has nearly 30,000 likes. One moment of weakness turned into many months of strength as the Mississippi State community rallied around Nathan's impending fight against cancer.
How Mississippi State's top-ranked defense matches up against Alabama's No. 1 offense
Mississippi State versus Alabama presents a college football scenario you don't see every Saturday. It's not often the team at the top of the SEC West standings gets together with a team toward the bottom and two of the conference's best units are pitted against each other, but that's the case Saturday night in Tuscaloosa. No. 2 Alabama (5-0) has the SEC's best offense. Mississippi State (1-3) has the league's best defense. Something has to give. Oddsmakers at BetMGM are banking on the Bulldog defense caving in as the Crimson Tide is favored to win by over 30 points. But Alabama coach Nick Saban said it isn't going to be that easy. Preparing for MSU coach Mike Leach's offense is always unique given Leach's distinctive style of play, but Saban said gearing up to go against Mississippi State's defense is going to be just as unusual. "Defensively, they've really played well this year," Saban said. "They're one of the top defensive teams in the league. Play hard. Very physical. Got a little different kind of scheme. This is really going to kind of be a little bit different kind of preparation for us on both sides of the ball relative to what we normally see. So it'll be very challenging for the players, and we definitely need to do a great job of getting them prepared for what they're going to see in this week's game."
No. 2 Alabama, minus Jaylen Waddle, hosts Mississippi State
Mike Leach's Air Raid offense has put up some big passing numbers, just not nearly as big as those produced by Nick Saban's Alabama team. A few years ago, saying a Saban team is putting up bigger numbers than one coached by Leach would have been unthinkable. But quarterback Mac Jones and the second-ranked Crimson Tide have been prolific offensively while Leach's first Mississippi State team enters Saturday night's game at Bryant-Denny Stadium with an uncertain quarterback situation. "I think they have a lot of weapons on offense," Tide linebacker Christian Harris said. "They can throw the ball 70 times a game. They have a great offense." Alabama (5-0) has been even better offensively then the Bulldogs (1-3), especially at converting all those yards into points. It remains to be seen if Jones and his seemingly unstoppable group of receivers can sustain the huge numbers minus star Jaylen Waddle, who is expected to miss the rest of the season with an ankle injury.
Rare Halloween game poses dilemma for Alabama football fans
Halloween has a tough opponent this year in Tuscaloosa. Costumed ghosts, goblins and zombies will have to battle for attention with the University of Alabama's football team, which has a home game scheduled to kick off at 6 p.m. Saturday with ESPN televising. That means the game will be played during prime trick-or-treating time. UA football games on Halloween have been a rare occurrence in the Nick Saban era and even before Saban's arrival in Tuscaloosa, with the last such game played in 1998. The coach's birthday is also on Oct. 31 and UA has traditionally scheduled an open date during the week leading up to Halloween. But COVID-19 caused the SEC to re-arrange schedules and the Alabama-Mississippi State game was moved to Oct. 31, pushing the Crimson Tide's open date back to the week of Nov. 7. When ESPN decided to televise the game, that set up a Halloween night matchup between the Tide and the Bulldogs. The Halloween vs. football clash also poses a dilemma for fans: How can you watch the game while trick-or-treaters keep knocking on your door? Or do you just turn out the lights and hide from trick-or-treaters while watching the game?
Mississippi State Soccer Heads to South Carolina to Face #9 Gamecocks
The Mississippi State soccer program heads east to take on No. 9 South Carolina on Friday night in Columbia, with kick set for 6 p.m. at Stone Stadium (SEC Network+). MSU (2-1-3) looks to find a win against the second cross-divisional opponent of the season in the Gamecocks (5-1-0) under the Friday night lights. The Bulldogs tied with Missouri in the last match, finishing in double-overtime at 1-1. The last time the Gamecocks and Bulldogs faced off, it was an overtime thriller in Starkville, with Mississippi State coming away with the 2-1 win in September of 2018. With a record-breaking crowd on hand, then-freshman Zakirah McGillivary helped the Bulldogs knock off No. 13/6 South Carolina. After receiving a short pass from Brooke McKee, she shot from 25 yards out and found the upper-left corner of the net. In regulation, both teams had scored on penalty kicks to tie it up.
Former MSU golfer Ally McDonald has birthday to remember, edges out win at LPGA event
Ally McDonald never questioned her ability. But there were times, she said, that she questioned whether or not she could win on the LPGA. Feelings of relief poured out when it was over as she hugged her parents, enjoyed a champagne celebration and told Golf Channel viewers how she had to settle down her heart rate after Danielle Kang charged late at the LPGA Drive On Championship. McDonald made it a 28th birthday she'll never forget. "It just feels like a long time coming," she said with the glass trophy by her side. Many fans first got to know McDonald when she subbed in for an injured Stacy Lewis at last year's Solheim Cup. McDonald, who was a two-time All-American at Mississippi State, still has an impact on the program. McDonald is now the first MSU player to win on the LPGA, and her heart hasn't moved far from the program either. On May 30 she married Charlie Ewing, the men's assistant coach at Mississippi State, in West Point, in a pared down gathering of 50 people. Her former coach, Ginger Brown-Lemm, introduced the couple. McDonald said Ewing once joked that he would never date a golfer, and here he is now married to an LPGA winner. Since their relationship started, McDonald said, he has poured positivity into her life and boosted her self-belief even higher.
LSU athletics lays off employees, reduces pay, cancels coaches' bonuses as revenue falls
LSU athletics laid off employees Thursday and announced high-ranking members took pay cuts as ongoing budget constraints affect the department, continuing a trend across sports related to the coronavirus pandemic. In a statement, the LSU athletic department said it expects to lose $80 million in revenue. As a result, LSU announced department-wide reductions in compensation. Staff earning above $80,000 are subject to a 5% salary decrease in 2021; the athletic department won't give bonuses to coaches and staff for one year; and LSU will only approve new positions, promotions, salary adjustments and position replacements in "essential situations" through June 30, 2023. Coaches and other employees with contracts have been asked to voluntarily reduce their annual salary by 5% next year. Robert Munson, LSU's senior associate athletic director of external communications, was among the layoffs, multiple sources said, as was Emmett David, senior associate athletic director of facilities and project development. Jason Suitt, LSU's assistant athletic director of fan engagement, is among the former employees who announced the elimination of their positions on social media.
ESPN 'College GameDay' analyst tests positive for COVID-19, will do show remotely
There will now be two members of ESPN's "College GameDay" doing the show Saturday remotely. On Thursday, Desmond Howard announced he has tested positive for COVID-19. The ESPN college football analyst posted a message from his room at home. Howard will be a part of "College GameDay" and will broadcast remotely. Co-host Lee Corso has been broadcasting remotely since the started as a precaution. "College GameDay" will be broadcasting from State College where Penn State host Ohio State in a Big Ten matchup. Howard said his symptoms include throat irritation and muscle soreness but no fever. "The reason I'm doing this, I'm in a different location, I'm quarantining," Howard said on video. "I'm quarantining in my room....Yesterday, I tested positive for COVID. My symptoms are this. I don't know if you ever had that itchiness in your throat where you feel like you're kind of coughing to clear your throat...that's one of my symptoms. A little soreness in the muscles, little soreness. But thank God I haven't had a fever so thats a good sign. I'm drinking a lot of fluids. but you know me, I'm always drinking a lot of fluids and getting some rest."
Clemson's Trevor Lawrence tests positive for COVID-19
Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence has tested positive for COVID-19, coach Dabo Swinney confirmed Thursday night. It's unclear if or how many other Clemson players might have tested positive. No. 1 Clemson's biggest game of the season is in nine days on Nov. 7. Any ACC athlete who tests positive must isolate for at least 10 days. Lawrence spoke to reporters Tuesday afternoon. Clemson tests players on Sunday, Wednesday and Friday every week. No. 1 Clemson hosts Boston College on Saturday. "Trevor has authorized us this evening to announce that he has tested positive for COVID-19 and is now in isolation," Swinney said in a statement. "He is doing well with mild symptoms but will not be available for this week's game against Boston College." Lawrence, a Heisman Trophy contender, is 135-of-191 passing (70.7 completion percentage) for 1,833 yards and 17 touchdowns with two interceptions this season. He's also rushed for four touchdowns.
Former Packers quarterback Brett Favre endorses President Donald Trump days before election
Former Packers quarterback Brett Favre officially threw his support behind President Donald Trump on Friday, just hours before Trump will visit Green Bay to rally supporters in a key battleground state. "My Vote is for what makes this country great, freedom of speech & religion, 2nd Amnd, hard working tax paying citizens, police & military," Favre said on Twitter. "In this election, we have freedom of choice, which all should respect. For me & these principles, my Vote is for @RealDonaldTrump." Favre's endorsement came months after the Hall of Fame quarterback played golf with Trump at one of the president's golf clubs in New Jersey. Favre told USA Today he would've accepted the invitation from any president and said he empathized with Trump's role in managing the COVID-19 pandemic. Favre is not the first former Packer to insert himself into the presidential race. Mike Holmgren came out in support of Democratic nominee Joe Biden last month, contending Trump failed to adequately manage the pandemic and hurt communities like Green Bay that rely on the NFL for their economy. One home game typically brings in an estimated $15 million, but the Packers have so far not allowed fans at Lambeau Field.

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