Friday, April 9, 2021   
Mississippi State plans broader return to in-person classes for fall
On Thursday, leaders with Mississippi State University announced the college is planning a broader return to in-person instruction and normal operations this fall. "I believe our students, faculty and staff have done a heroic job dealing with the challenges of the pandemic," said MSU President Mark E. Keenum. "Now, following evolving guidance from federal and state authorities, I believe that MSU is ready to move decisively toward a more normal college experience. If we all continue to observe sensible COVID-19 protocols on our campus and vaccinations continue to progress, the Fall 2021 semester can be the beginning of that necessary and appropriate transition to normalcy." Goals and expectations include buildings and facilities resuming normal hours and larger capacity, including dining, library, student union and recreation services, and faculty and staff returning to offices and regular workplace activities. Additionally, parking operations continuing as normal into the fall with increased capacity and improvements through a new parking lot on Stone Boulevard, north parking garage on Bailey Howell Drive, and paving of the commuter east lot behind the Industrial Education Building.
Mississippi State plans broader return to in-person classes this fall
Mississippi State University is planning a broader return to in-person instruction and normal operations this fall. MSU Provost and Executive Vice President David Shaw echoed Keenum's comments. "After COVID-19 changed almost every aspect of the Mississippi State experience for the past year, we're eager to get back to in-person educational, research, residential and extracurricular activities that are the foundation of the Bulldog family. This certainly wouldn't be possible without the students, faculty, staff, parents and alumni who have boldly faced the adversities of the past year and used their skills and creativity to get us to this point." The university said plans indicate that the level of in-person instruction will be much like that of fall 2019 when looking at course delivery and attendance. "Of course, we will continue to evaluate and aid students with individual needs, such as travel or health concerns. We also will be monitoring, as we have since last spring, public health protocols and directives as we move closer to the fall semester," said Vice President for Student Affairs Regina Hyatt.
Jason Tiffin named director of MSU ITS' Enterprise Information Systems
Longtime Mississippi State University Information Technology Services employee Jason Tiffin has been named director of Enterprise Information Systems within ITS. Since 2005, Tiffin has led ITS' web development team. The two-time MSU alumnus has worked for ITS in various capacities since 1996. In his new role, Tiffin will oversee the Enterprise Information Systems unit as it plans, implements and supports administrative information systems throughout the university. He succeeds Meredith Jackson, who recently retired from MSU after a decades-long career with ITS. "I am excited to have Jason lead our Enterprise Information Systems department," said MSU Chief Information Officer Steve Parrott. "During his tenure working in ITS, Jason has developed strong relationships with ITS personnel and also with non-ITS key stakeholders throughout campus, and is known for his liaison abilities. The department will be well served by his professional persona and leadership skills. I have full confidence he'll do an outstanding job." Enterprise Information Systems includes groups focused on application administration, web services, web development, financial systems and student systems.
SeaTrac SP-48 USV Selected for Environmental Monitoring in Mississippi
SeaTrac Systems has announced the sale and delivery of one of its SP-48 persistent Uncrewed Surface Vehicles (USVs) to a team at Mississippi State University's (MSU) Geosystems Research Institute (GRI), in Starkville, MS, USA. GRI selected the SP-48 to support a research study funded by the Army Corps of Engineers to study real time water quality monitoring and threat assessment of navigable waterways of the Gulf of Mexico region. GRI develops, operates, and maintains an increasingly integrated research and transition program, the results of which raise awareness and understanding of the Gulf region. The MSU team was attracted to the SeaTrac platform for its ease of use and versatility to navigate in a variety of waterways, as well as its ample available power to support a rich payload over long durations. The custom payload includes the following: Pro Oceanus CO2-Pro CV sensor, Seabird SBE 63 dissolved oxygen sensor, 3 Seabird ECO Triplets, AML CT Sensor and AML pH Sensor. "The team at SeaTrac is first rate; they can integrate anything and have been a pleasure to work with, pushing the envelope to fit into their boat all of our complex demands," notes Dr Robert Moorhead III, director of GRI. "Because of its versatility, we plan on deploying the SP-48 in a number of our waterways, ranging from very shallow waterbodies to the open ocean in the Gulf."
Fire damages MSU Extension Service office in Pearl River County
Leaders with the Mississippi State University Extension Service announced a fire caused major damage to the building housing its office in Pearl River County. The fire happened Wednesday night. The office moved to a temporary location, 204 South Julia Street in Poplarville. The facility is scheduled to be operational by April 16. The main office number, 601-403-2280, is still active for clients in need of assistance. MSU Extension operations in Pearl River County will take place at this location indefinitely. Pearl River County Administrator Adrian Lumpkin said the building's north side was struck by lightning. Firefighters contained the blaze before it reached the Extension office, but damage to the rest of the structure was too extensive for future use. No one was in the building at the time of the incident.
Old Main Music Festival relocated to Lee Hall's Bettersworth Auditorium April 9
Due to projected inclement weather, Mississippi State's Old Main Music Festival will take place in Lee Hall's Bettersworth Auditorium today [April 9]. Doors open at 6 p.m. Those who have already purchased tickets should check their MSU NetID email for information about event access. Due to this location change, the previously announced road closures near the Swamp Parking Lot will not be in effect. For more information or questions, contact the Center for Student Activities at 662-325-2930.
Kevin Daniels takes lead in Ward 4 alderman Republican primary
Kevin Daniels has taken a two-vote lead in the Republican primary for Ward 4 alderman after picking up two affidavit votes Thursday morning. Daniels now leads Austin Check 94-92. The two candidates were tied after in-person and absentee ballots were counted Tuesday. The candidates met with city election commissioners and Republican Municipal Election Committee members Thursday to process four affidavit ballots. Of those, two were accepted and both were cast for Daniels. Two were rejected because the addresses where the voters claimed to live were outside the ward. City Clerk Lesa Hardin said the election won't be certified until 4:30 p.m. April 13. Five absentee ballots sent to permanently disabled residents have not yet been returned. Those must be postmarked by Monday of this week and received by April 12. Hardin said the absentees for the permanently disabled were mailed automatically, rather than by voter request, six weeks ago. She said it is likely none of the outstanding five for that ward will be returned. "When I decided to run, this was in no way the road I thought we'd go down," Daniels told The Dispatch after the affidavits were processed. "I'm excited about the win. Assuming everything stays the same, the general election campaign starts today." Check, however, said Thursday he is not quite ready to concede.
COVID case count increases slightly in Golden Triangle, still no new deaths
There were 62 new COVID-19 cases in the four-county area between March 31 and April 7, but no new deaths, according to the most recent data from Mississippi State Department of Health. Lowndes County saw the highest number of new cases of the virus -- 31 -- bringing its total number since the coronavirus pandemic began in March 2020 to 6,248. There have been 144 deaths from the virus, none of them in the last two months. In Oktibbeha County, there were 21 new cases reported, bringing the total to 4,545. Oktibbeha has had 97 deaths from the virus. Statewide, there have been 306,851 cases since March 2020, with 7,082 deaths. Vaccinations have also drastically increased, with 25,461 doses of the vaccine administered in Lowndes County alone, where 10,849 people have been fully vaccinated. In Oktibbeha County, there have 23,883 doses administered, with 9,016 people having been fully vaccinated. Statewide, nearly 1.4 million vaccine doses have been administered, and 581,440 people have been fully vaccinated against the virus.
Strong storms, some tornadoes expected across parts of South
A storm system taking aim at the South could bring the threat of damaging winds and tornadoes to the region, forecasters said. At least a few tornadoes are expected Friday in parts of northeast Louisiana and Mississippi, according to the national Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma. The threat will continue into the overnight hours, forecasters said. Nearly 1.6 million people in a region that includes parts of Louisiana and Mississippi will be at greatest risk of severe storms on Friday, the Storm Prediction Center said in its outlook for Friday. The area includes Jackson, Hattiesburg and Vicksburg in Mississippi; and Monroe in Louisiana. Large hail will also be possible in parts of eastern Texas and Oklahoma and western portions of Arkansas and Louisiana. Baseball-sized hail will be possible in a large part of Mississippi, the National Weather Service said.
Mississippi broadband internet expansion 'pedal to the metal' as federal money flows
The state Public Service Commission this week has awarded $268 million to local electric cooperatives across the state to hook up more than 102,000 homes and businesses to broadband internet. Mississippi's expansion of internet services, fueled by $570 million in federal money with more on the way, promises to be as life-altering for rural Mississippi as electricity was in the 1930s, PSC Northern District Commissioner Brandon Presley said. Mississippi has ranked near the bottom -- as low as 49th in some studies -- among states for access to broadband internet services, with about 40% of the state lacking access. "I will not stop on this mission until the last house at the end of the most rural road is connected," said Presley, who has championed expansion of broadband to rural areas before lawmakers in Jackson and Washington. "... Our state is expanding connections at an unprecedented pace. I have a co-op here in the Tupelo area making about 50 connections a day -- that's more than anywhere else in the country ... I assure you Mississippi has the pedal to the metal with broadband right now."
Will the Yazoo Pumps ever get finished?
The Yazoo Backwater Project which will help prevent flooding in a vulnerable area of the Mississippi Delta has a history stretching back to its origins in the Flood Control Act of 1941 Three of the project's four components were completed by 1978 and are in place north of Vicksburg where the Yazoo River flows into the Mississippi River. There are levees to keep backwater from entering the South Delta, a connecting channel to bring water to a pumping plant and drainage structures that are opened or closed depending on water levels. The final piece is a set of 12 pumps that form a pump station that will evacuate heavy rainfall and prevent Delta flooding when the gates are closed against floodwaters from the Mississippi River. "Think of the backwater as a bathtub, and the pump is where the stopper is in the tub," said Kent Parrish, senior project manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Vicksburg District. What's filling that "tub" is the large drainage area from Memphis to just north of Vicksburg, some 4,039 square miles. "Any time it rains in Clarksdale or Greenville, that water has to flow south and with the gates at the Steele Bayou Control structure closed, it congregates in the backwater area until the Mississippi River drops down," Parrish said.
Amazon Workers in Alabama Vote Against Forming a Union Inc. employees in Alabama voted not to unionize, according to a Wall Street Journal tally, handing the tech giant a victory in its biggest battle to date against labor-organizing efforts after the contest fueled national debate over working conditions at one of the nation's largest employers. With 72% of ballots counted, about 71% of the Bessemer, Ala., warehouse workers voted against joining the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, according to a Wall Street Journal tally of votes. The number of votes against a union exceeds 1608, the total needed to reach a majority of the 3,215 mail-in ballots sent in by workers. The National Labor Relations Board continues to count the votes live on a broadcast and hasn't yet declared an official winner. Each side has about a week to contest results before the NLRB certifies the outcome, and the union is expected to appeal the vote and accuse Amazon of violating legal restrictions governing unionization campaigns. Amazon has said it followed the law in its communication with employees before and during the election. The Bessemer facility employs fewer than 1% of the roughly 950,000 Amazon employees in the U.S., but the vote emerged as a watershed moment for a company that hired at a faster pace than almost any private corporation in history last year.
Revenue reports $91.7 million over March estimates
Total revenue collections for the month of March FY 2021 are $91,714,842 or 23.69% above the sine die revenue estimate. Fiscal YTD revenue collections through March 2021 are $592,028,578 or 15.57% above the sine die estimate. Fiscal YTD total revenue collections through March 2021 are $384,069,345 or 9.58% above the prior year's collections. The FY 2021 Sine Die Revenue Estimate is $5,690,700,000. March FY 2021 General Fund collections were $45,613,738 or 10.53% above March FY 2020 actual collections. Sales tax collections for the month of March were above the prior year by $12.6M. Individual income tax collections for the month of March were above the prior year by $42.9M. Corporate income tax collections for the month of March were below the prior year by $19.6M.
How public education fared during the 2021 legislative session
Before Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann finished his post-legislative session press conference on April 1, education advocates and politicos rapidly fired off texts to one another and to reporters, opining about an assertion he made. "This year education had its best year since, probably since William Winter," Hosemann said early in the press conference. Hosemann was harkening back to the 1982 session, when former Gov. William Winter ushered one of the state's most transformative legislative education packages. It increased teacher pay, established public kindergarten and compulsory school attendance, and created a statewide testing program for performance-based accreditation of public schools. The change Winter led in 1982 demonstrated a shift in thinking about public education. It signaled to the nation that Mississippi cared to think critically and act boldly about its future. This year, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to magnify wide educational disparities and years of legislative under-funding of public education, lawmakers failed to match the transformative action of Winter. Lawmakers this year spent about $100 million more on education than last year. Half of that amount went to a modest $1,000-per-year pay raise for teachers. They also doubled funds for the state's early childhood programs and increased the teacher classroom supply fund by $8 million, to $20 million.
Arguments to be heard April 14 at the state Supreme Court in lawsuit seeking to overturn Initiative 65
The fate of Mississippi's medical marijuana program will be a step closer to resolution after the state Supreme Court hears oral arguments on April 14. On October 26, the city of Madison filed a lawsuit to overturn the Initiative 65, which would create a medical marijuana program in the state. If the court decides for the city of Madison, it would overturn Initiative 65, which received 57.89 percent of the vote statewide. More than 61 percent of voters cast a ballot for 65 and the legislative alternative, 65A, on November 3. Each side will have 30 minutes of time to make their case before the justices. The court will broadcast a livestream of the oral arguments. In addition to the city of Madison, the state Department of Health, the state Sheriffs' Association and the Mississippi Municipal League, which is the advocacy group for municipalities statewide have all filed briefs in support of an overturn. The lawsuit utilizes a unique reading of Section 273 of the Mississippi Constitution. The city of Madison says in its lawsuit that the ballot initiative is unconstitutional since there are four congressional districts (there were five when the amendment was added to the state constitution) and the number of signatures submitted from at least one of the four districts exceeds the one-fifth of the total number required.
'This Is Not an Entitlement Program': Ballot Initiative Seeks to Expand Medicaid Coverage
Hundreds of thousands of Mississippians could receive expanded Medicaid coverage from a newly created ballot initiative. Recently incorporated nonprofit Healthcare for Mississippi filed Ballot Initiative 76, which would expand Medicaid coverage to those under 138% of the federal poverty limit. Mississippians face the worst or near-worst health outcomes of any state in the nation. Mississippi State Department of Health data show these outcomes are even worse for those vulnerable populations and those who have been historically marginalized in the state. "The result is a disproportionate burden of disease and illness that is borne by racial and ethnic minority populations and the rural and urban poor," MSDH says on its website. "Health disparities not only affect the groups facing health inequities, but limit overall improvements in quality of care, the health status for the broader population, and results in unnecessary costs." In a Tuesday interview, Mississippi Hospital Association President and CEO Tim Moore detailed why he says the initiative is necessary. "Our small hospitals, our large hospitals, our universities have all worked tirelessly to take care of friends, neighbors, family, whoever comes through the door that was faced with COVID or non-COVID illness, they were taken care of," Moore said. Moore expressed his frustration with the Legislature’s failure to include Medicaid expansion in this latest session.
A Generational Fix: Medicaid Initiative Backers Step In After Legislature Refuses Expansion
For Mississippi Hospital Association President and CEO Tim Moore, the 2021 Mississippi Legislative session was a breaking point. "I'll be honest with you," he told the Mississippi Free Press in a Tuesday interview, "I felt deep in my heart that with the peak of the pandemic, and us getting all these (federal) subsidies, that the legislators would step up and pass some version of Medicaid expansion. But that didn't happen." The Mississippi Legislature's latest refusal to expand Medicaid access forced a decision that had long been brewing in the minds of public-health leadership across the state: to bypass the gridlocked Legislature entirely and put Medicaid expansion on a ballot initiative directly to the people. Moore, alongside public-health expert Dr. Nakeitra Burse and Hattiesburg pediatrician Dr. John Gaudet, last week incorporated "Healthcare for Mississippi," an advocacy nonprofit intended to shepherd the new initiative through the signature gathering process in time for 2022's national midterm elections. "After 10 years of giving the Legislature an opportunity to take action and to represent this portion of the population that can't get coverage," Moore said, "to represent our hospitals that have been here for over a year now, serving their friends, family, neighbors, whoever comes through the door . . . you have to take the next step."
Legislature faces deja vu after ballot initiative for Medicaid expansion is filed
Medicaid expansion may be the topic at hand, but for Mississippi legislators, Medical Marijuana may be on their minds after Hattiesburg pediatrician John Gaudet filed a proposal for a ballot initiative that would allow voters to decide whether to expand Medicaid, something the state Legislature has steadfastly declined to do for more than a decade. Gaudet filed the motion with the Secretary of State's office on Feb. 17. A petition signed by 106,000 registered voters is required before the measure -- called Initiative 76 -- is put on the ballot, most likely as part of the 2022 midterm elections. As part of the filing process, Gaudet, who filed on behalf of the national advocacy group The Fairness Project, was required to include a section on how the expansion would be funded. That section does not require Medicaid enrollees to pay a portion of the health care cost, something Medicaid expansion in other states -- most notably Indiana -- requires. Under Initiative 76, residents between ages 18 and 65 whose income does not exceed 133 percent of the federal poverty rate would be eligible for Medicaid health benefits. Various estimates indicate the expansion would extend coverage to anywhere from 200,000 to 300,000 Mississippians who do not currently have health care.
High court won't block Mississippi school disparity lawsuit
The U.S. Supreme Court said Thursday it will not get involved, for now, in a lawsuit that says Mississippi allows grave disparities in funding between predominantly Black and predominantly white schools. Southern Poverty Law Center sued the state in 2017 on behalf of low-income Black women who said their children and other Black children attended schools that were in worse condition and had lower academic performance than some wealthier, predominantly white schools. U.S. District Judge William H. Barbour dismissed the suit in 2019. A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals revived it in April 2020. Mississippi officials, including Gov. Tate Reeves and state Superintendent of Education Carey Wright, asked the full appeals court to reconsider the ruling by the three-judge panel. The appeals court voted 9-8 in December to reject that request. The state then asked the Supreme Court to get involved. The Supreme Court's order Thursday said there are other grounds for dismissal of the lawsuit that have not been resolved at the district court level. The case has been reassigned to U.S. District Judge Henry T. Wingate. One of the attorneys representing the families, Will Bardwell, said of Thursday's decision: "It's a very strong indication that the Supreme Court is going to allow the case to move forward."
President Biden seeks huge funding increases for education, health care and environmental protection in first budget request to Congress
President Biden on Friday asked Congress to authorize a massive $1.5 trillion federal spending plan in 2022, seeking to invest heavily in government agencies to boost education, expand public housing, combat the coronavirus and confront climate change. The request marks Biden's first-ever proposal for discretionary spending, a precursor to a fuller, annual budget slated later in the spring that will also address programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. The president's early blueprint calls for a nearly 16 percent increase in funding across non-defense domestic programs, reflecting the White House's guiding belief that bigger government -- and spending -- can close the country's persistent economic gaps. Many of the agencies Biden seeks to fund at higher levels are programs that now-former President Donald Trump had unsuccessfully sought to slash while in the White House. In a further break with Trump, Biden's plan also calls for keeping military spending relatively flat. Combined, the budget would increase all federal discretionary spending by roughly 8 percent in 2022. The education dollars include new boosts to Pell Grants, which offer support to low-income college students, though the $400 increase the president has proposed is smaller than he initially endorsed on the campaign trail.
Joe Biden has a new point man on guns. He faces a steep hurdle in the Senate.
Joe Biden's choice to lead the federal agency that will play a crucial role in his firearms policy is a gun owner and longtime law enforcement official. But David Chipman, whom Biden nominated Thursday as director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, has also pushed for a litany of firearms restrictions. And that's likely to spark a brutal nomination fight, making it an early test of the president's commitment to pushing his gun policy agenda. Chipman supports banning assault weapons, limiting high-capacity magazines, expanding background checks and ending the fairly broad liability shield that firearms manufacturers enjoy. And he has called for ATF, where he worked for more than two decades, to increase inspections of federally licensed gun dealers and use other tools to help curb what he calls a national epidemic. Chipman's numerous interviews, statements and testimony has earned him praise among advocates who have long pushed for firearms restrictions, as well as ATF veterans, who described his nomination as historic. But those same attributes seem destined to cause difficulties in the Senate, split 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans, which will consider his nomination. Chipman, likely realizing that, recently made his Twitter account private. In previously archived tweets, Chipman retweeted criticisms of former President Donald Trump and former New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte, specifically on firearms issues.
In Mississippi, 73,000 Vaccine Slots and Few Takers
When it comes to getting the coronavirus vaccine, Mississippi residents have an abundance of options. On Thursday, there were more than 73,000 slots to be had on the state's scheduling website, up from 68,000 on Tuesday. In some ways, the growing glut of appointments in Mississippi is something to celebrate: It reflects the mounting supplies that have prompted states across the country to open up eligibility to anyone over 16. But public health experts say the pileup of unclaimed appointments in Mississippi exposes something more worrisome: the large number of people who are reluctant to get inoculated. "It's time to do the heavy lifting needed to overcome the hesitancy we're encountering," said Dr. Obie McNair, an internal medicine practitioner in Jackson, the state capital, whose office has a plentiful supply of vaccines but not enough takers. Though access remains a problem in rural Mississippi, experts say that the state -- one of the first to open eligibility to all adults three weeks ago -- may be a harbinger of what much of the country will confront in the coming weeks, as increasing supplies enable most Americans who want the vaccine to easily make appointments. The hesitancy has national implications. Experts say between 70 percent to 90 percent of all Americans must be vaccinated for the country to reach herd immunity, the point at which the virus can no longer spread through the population.
Governor Tate Reeves discusses year two in the fight against COVID-19
We're past the one year mark of dealing with COVID-19. And we've been checking back in with key players in the fight against the virus. Governor Tate Reeves is encouraged by the trends. "I do believe that we've turned the corner," explained Governor Reeves Thursday. "I think that we're not at the end of the road, but we can see the end of the road. And when you start getting numbers down in the levels that were seeing, particularly with respect to hospitalizations." The Governor lifted most restrictions two weeks before he opened up vaccine eligibility to those 16 and older. We asked if he considered holding off till more were able to get their shots. "We put that into our calculation," he said. "Ultimately, I came to the conclusion that given where the appointments were, we were very near opening it up. At that point we had well over 50% of those over the age of 65 had gotten their vaccine. It was time." Reeves suggests that vaccine hesitancy is now less of a political or racial divide and more of an issue of urban versus rural. But what about the national conversation that more white Republican men were pushing back on getting the shot? "A lot of them are working at least an 8 to 5 and a lot of times longer than that...," noted Reeves. "So you've got to think of ways to continue to make it easier for those individuals." He says one way they plan to tackle that is by partnering with local hospitals to take the vaccines directly to them at work.
Army scientists hope their COVID-19 vaccine will be a universal booster shot
Army scientists are testing whether their new COVID-19 vaccine candidate, which entered human trials this week, can serve as a universal booster shot for all other available coronavirus vaccines. Nearly 20% of Americans have already been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 using one of three authorized vaccines. But with public health experts and government officials anticipating the need for booster shots down the line, scientists at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research are examining whether their vaccine candidate can "mix and match" with the others to enhance and prolong protection. The Walter Reed vaccine -- called SpFN -- may boost the duration and breadth of immune responses in combination with other vaccines, which are made using different technologies, Dr. Kayvon Modjarrad, director of Walter Reed's Emerging Infectious Diseases Branch, said in an interview with McClatchy on Thursday. "This is something that we actually started planning before the whole field started looking at this, but the rest of the field of SARS-CoV-2 vaccine development is now coming to look at these issues as well," Modjarrad said, using the technical term for the novel coronavirus.
CDC Director Declares Racism A 'Serious Public Health Threat'
Racism is a scourge in American society. It's also a serious public health threat, according to the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In a statement released Thursday, Dr. Rochelle Walensky pointed to the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on communities of color, as seen in case numbers, deaths and social consequence. "Yet, the disparities seen over the past year were not a result of COVID-19," Walensky said. "Instead, the pandemic illuminated inequities that have existed for generations and revealed for all of America a known, but often unaddressed, epidemic impacting public health: racism." "What we know is this: racism is a serious public health threat that directly affects the well-being of millions of Americans," she added. The result, she says, are stark health disparities that have mounted over generations. So what does it mean for the agency? Walensky has charged all of the offices and centers under the CDC to develop interventions and measurable health outcomes in the next year, addressing racism in their respective areas. And she's made clear that is a priority for the entire CDC.
Mississippi has an adult literacy problem. Here's what advocates are doing to curb it.
When 64-year-old Carl Plessala first moved to Mississippi seven years ago, he wanted to start a new life. He stumbled upon a pamphlet that advertised classes at a community college. The idea intrigued him, but there was one problem: He was among the thousands of Mississippi adults who couldn't read or write. Plessala grew up in Louisiana, and he didn't take school seriously. He called himself "a class clown," which he said was a way to mask his low confidence in reading and writing skills. He entered the workforce and never learned to read or write. "I thought I didn't need much education because school was boring and riding tractors was fun until I got older," he said. "Then, I realized riding tractors was a whole lotta work." So after he moved to Mississippi, he enrolled in a program at Hope Adult Learning in Harrison County and was matched with a tutor there. After three years in the program, Plessala's initial 3rd or 4th grade reading level rose to a 10th grade level. Today, Plessala says that learning how to read made him "feel like somebody," and he plans to share his story with churches and other organizations. There are many similar stories in Mississippi, where 16% of the adult population lacked proficient reading and writing skills in 2003, according to the National Education for Statistics. That year is the last time conclusive data on the state's literacy rate was collected, though more recent studies and interviews with experts across the state indicate not much has changed. By all measures, Mississippi's adult literacy rate is among the lowest in America.
U. of Mississippi supplies Greek organizations with Narcan
Early last month, the university gave Greek organizations on campus doses of Narcan, the over-the-counter drug meant to reverse effects of opioid overdoses. Members also received training on how to administer the drug. Having the drug in every sorority house was a part of an Associated Student Body initiative with the goal of preventing drug overdoses in the university community and destigmatizing discussions around student substance abuse. Substance abuse has been a growing issue in the United States over the past few years. In June 2020, the CDC stated that 13% of Americans reported starting or increasing substance abuse to cope with stress caused by the pandemic. Its effects have even been felt here in Oxford, with a recent increase in DUI and drug overdose rates. Still, effects on the college community are often overlooked. "I think that we have to be reactive, and ideally, we want to be in a place that's proactive, so that's why we ended up with the Narcan initiative," Gabby Hunter, outgoing ASB Judicial Chair, said. "It was spurred by events in Oxford that were very close to the university's hearts, but we wanted to make sure that we were preventing any other deaths or any other harm to students in the future as much as we could."
Daye Dearing selected as director of Alcorn's upcoming Women's Business Center
Daye Dearing will serve as the director of the Women's Business Center (WBC) on Alcorn State University's campus. Dearing, a Natchez native, began her career at Alcorn in 2005. She became the coordinator of Internships and Grants for the School of Business, where she worked with students to secure internships. In September 2020, the U. S. Small Business Administration announced grant funding for new SBA Women's Business Centers. The WBCs will be hosted in rural and underserved markets and widen the footprint and partner with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Alcorn's Center will be funded for up to five years annually at $150,000. The Center will offer essential services that Dearing believes will prepare entrepreneurs in the southwest region to be the best in business. "Alcorn's WBC will provide training in finance, management, marketing, and the Internet, as well as offer access to all of the SBA's financial and procurement assistance programs. The classes and services provided will focus on providing grassroots, from the ground-up model to ensure long-term successful business development. Counseling, training, workshops, and classes will strategically present successes and challenges for the rural and underserved entrepreneur."
Belhaven University Names Vice President for Student Development
Belhaven University has appointed Shelley Smith, Ph.D., as vice president for student development. Since being named assistant to the president for coronavirus management on Dec. 1, 2020, Smith has made an enormous impact on the Belhaven campus, earning the respect of her peers. The university initially hired her for a short-term position because of her Ph.D. in chemistry and her project management experience in industry. Those skills have allowed Belhaven to test the entire campus weekly for COVID-19, keeping the infection rate below half percent for the semester. Belhaven University President Dr. Roger Parrott said, "During this time, Shelley has displayed exceptional administrative gifts, organizational outlook, problem-solving ingenuity and community-building commitment, along with steady optimism, boundless faith in Christ, high-capacity energy, warm collegiality with campus faculty and staff and deep care for individual students." Smith will report directly to the president and will serve as a member of the administrative team. If the university needs to test for COVID-19 in the fall, she will continue to oversee Belhaven's COVID-19 Testing Center as well.
Hinds Community College offering 12 hours of free courses
If you're a student enrolled in any high school, college, or university, Hinds Community College is offering you free credit courses this summer, including tuition, fees, and books. Summer registration is now open for current students and opens on April 12 for new students. The free courses are open to current Hinds students, dual-enrolled students, high school graduates, transfers from other colleges and universities. The courses include both face-to-face and online courses. Students should meet admission requirements and then register for summer classes. The free courses are made possible with funding from the federal Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act/Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund.
East Central Community College to hold two on-campus commencement ceremonies May 7
East Central Community College will hold two on-campus Commencement ceremonies Friday, May 7. Both ceremonies will be held in Huff Auditorium on the main campus in Decatur. Due to COVID-19 precautions, no guests will be allowed for either Commencement ceremony. Only those students who have been approved as candidates to graduate and who signed up in advance to participate in Commencement and faculty and staff who are assisting with the ceremonies will be allowed into Huff Auditorium on May 7. Both ceremonies will be live steamed. "We did not want the COVID-19 situation to prevent us from having a Commencement ceremony for the second straight May," said ECCC President Dr. Brent Gregory. "The ability to live stream both ceremonies for the benefit of the families of our students was a top priority in our decision to hold Commencement on campus. The technology infrastructure and technology support we have on campus is more convenient and conducive to a successful live stream production for this year."
Alleged scam: Nancy New's school claimed to treat hospitalized kids
Nancy New and her son Zach, owners of several for-profit and nonprofit organizations, were well on their way to building an education empire in Mississippi. Their private schools, called New Summit, had been gaining acclaim, especially for catering to nontraditional students and those with disabilities -- the only type students the state can pay private schools to educate. "School choice" -- the concept of allowing tax dollars to follow a student to a private school -- was becoming a rallying cry in the Republican-dominated state Legislature. Lawmakers were shorting public schools hundreds of millions of dollars annually according to state law, including for special education. And apparent holes in oversight at the Mississippi Department of Education were going ignored or unnoticed. This was the landscape in 2016 when Nancy and Zach New allegedly began defrauding the state out of millions of public school dollars. To be sure, Nancy New's schools have for years provided meaningful services to the small number of Mississippi families they serve. Her lobbying efforts and connections to powerful politicians such as former Gov. Phil Bryant and current Gov. Tate Reeves only served to further legitimize her companies, gaining them unfettered access to the public trough.
U. of Alabama System trustees consider slight tuition increase for medical, dentistry, optometry students
The University of Alabama System trustees are considering a 1% tuition increase for in-state medical, dentistry and optometry students for the next academic year. During a finance committee meeting Thursday, trustees considered class size and tuition adjustments in an effort to right-size the numbers of health care professionals entering the field. The system is proposing a 1% increase in tuition rates for in-state medical and optometry students while leaving rates unchanged for non-residents. The University of Alabama at Birmingham is proposing a 1% tuition rate increases for all dentistry students. Tuition at the UAB Birmingham School of Medicine and the University of Alabama College of Community Health Sciences would increase from $29,702 to $29,998 per year for residents and remain $62,714 for non-resident students. For the UAB School of Dentistry, tuition for Alabama residents would increase from $14,742 per semester to $14,891 per semester and increase from $34,363 to $34,710 per semester for non-residents. The school this fall also will add 21 slots to its yearly class size after receiving approval from its accrediting agency, according to Thursday's presentation. The school sought the increase in class size to help address a shortage of dentists in the state, UAB Provost Pam Benoit said. The board chose last year to leave rates unchanged for in-state and out-of-state students as it faced pandemic uncertainty.
Auburn University adjusts outdoor campus mask policy
Auburn University has announced that it will no longer require people on campus to wear masks outdoors, adjusting its face covering policy following Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey's new Safer Apart Order. The announcement was made in a campus-wide email to students, faculty and staff on Thursday afternoon. The University said it will continue to encourage the usage of masks outside but will rescind the requirement beginning at 5 p.m. on Friday, April 9 "until further notice." "Face coverings are strongly encouraged outdoors, although not required, when physical distancing is not feasible," the University said in the email. The change in policy also extends to those attending athletic events when seated, though the University still requires the use of masks when entering and exiting sports venues and when in public areas like restrooms, walkways and concession lines. Masks will still be required indoors "on the Auburn University campus or other property controlled by Auburn University," according to the face covering policy. The University will make exceptions like when alone in a private office or residential space or in designated areas.
U. of Tennessee will not require COVID-19 vaccines for students or staff this fall
The University of Tennessee will not require students at any campus to get the COVID-19 vaccine. The policy is a change in course from last summer when a requirement was considered. In June as worries about a double pandemic appeared, the university's board of trustees passed an emergency rule making the flu vaccine a requirement for all students and employees. If one was developed, administrators said at the time, the COVID-19 vaccine would be a requirement, too. Now, the emergency rule has expired and the vaccine is simply strongly encouraged. After meeting with members of the UT community in recent months, System President Randy Boyd and members of the board of trustees decided against a vaccine mandate. That decision was based factors like availability of the vaccine and the emergency use authorization, UT spokesperson Jennifer Sicking said. Sicking also said some people "may have medical or religious reasons" for opting out of the vaccine. "In the interest of public health, we strongly encourage all faculty, students and staff to receive the vaccine as soon as they are eligible," Sicking said.
With no-shows from LSU officials at key hearing, attorney answers for their absence
Lawmakers directed their frustrations and questions about LSU's handling of sexual misconduct cases at the university's top attorney for nearly two hours in a state Senate committee hearing Thursday -- a public meeting in which the lawmakers had expected to question 10 university officials who mostly sent in written statements instead. Winston DeCuir, LSU's general counsel, testified before the Senate Select Committee on Women and Children. He repeated his explanation that the invited officials were absent because the university is facing a lawsuit from an athletic department employee over issues they would have talked about at the hearing. Associate athletic director Sharon Lewis filed that lawsuit on Thursday morning, claiming she had been retaliated against for years after trying to report sexual harassment allegations that she received from students involving former football coach Les Miles. The lawsuit is going to be a "messy affair," DeCuir said, adding that "I believe we can defend it successfully." But lawmakers pushed back on DeCuir's explanation of the LSU leaders' absence. They tried to nail down which LSU officials had not intended to attend even before the university learned that a lawsuit was coming.
As lawmakers blast LSU, Gov. Edwards still finds university punishments reasonable
While lawmakers met at the Capitol Thursday to discuss LSU's repeated Title IX compliance failures, Gov. John Bel Edwards was a few floors above, being quizzed on the same topic during his weekly news conference. Edwards previously said he was "mortified" when he read the Husch Blackwell report, which was released last month, but has signaled his support for the limited suspensions of two athletics administrators cited repeatedly in the report as having failed to follow both federal law and university policy in reacting to sexual harassment and sexual assault of students or by students involved in LSU sports. Miriam Segar was suspended for 21 days and Verge Ausberry was suspended for 30 days when the report was released. Both have returned to work. When asked whether Ausberry, the executive deputy athletic director, should be fired for failing to properly report Title IX violations, most notably those involving former LSU football player Drake Davis, the governor seemed to cast most of the blame on Ausberry's superiors. "I accept that he didn't properly report, but there's reason to believe he reported the way he was told to by his supervisor, by the person he worked for," Edwards said. Edwards has repeatedly said he believes the people most responsible for LSU's Title IX failures no longer work at the university.
U. of Kentucky mistakenly sends acceptance emails to more than 500,000 students
About 500,000 students recently received an email offering admittance to a University of Kentucky program -- but the email was sent in error. The emails were sent to seniors last month informing them of acceptance into a "selective" program in the College of Health Sciences that usually accepts 35 to 40 students a year, LEX-18 reported. University spokesman Jay Blanton said the emails were sent through the university's Customer Relationship Management tool, and the error wasn't by the college or a specific program. "Only a handful of those on the prospect list had been admitted to UK," Blanton said in a statement. "The vast majority had not, nor had the vast majority of these students expressed an interest in the program. Nevertheless, we regret the communication error and have sent correspondence to all those who were contacted, offering our apologies." Blanton said the university has established a number of ways the students can request additional information or clarification about the error. "We regret that this happened; we have moved quickly to correct the error and will do what is required to address this issue."
M. Katherine Banks, Texas A&M's incoming president, says she's planning for a campus in 'normal mode' this fall
When M. Katherine Banks became the new engineering school dean at Texas A&M University in 2012, an associate dean drove her to the Zachry building, the heart of the university's engineering program in College Station. He pulled into the basement-level garage and honked the horn twice -- a preventive measure to scare off skunks that infested the aging facility. Above them, the building reeked of mold. Engineering students not-so-lovingly dubbed it the "Zachry Smell." Inside the building's lecture hall, a once-impressive revolving stage, was broken. Ten years later, the skunks are gone. Banks raised $76 million in private donations that helped build a state-of-the-art engineering building that boasts multiple high-tech labs and collaborative meeting spaces. Banks is not typically one to seek out attention, but starting June 1 she'll enter the spotlight as the 26th president of Texas' biggest university, the second woman to ever run the flagship campus. She takes over as Texas A&M faces multiple challenges, including how to navigate a return to "normal" campus operations after the COVID-19 pandemic upended learning and campus life. She'll also take the reins of a diversity and inclusion plan meant to increase students and faculty of color after a year where conversations about racial injustice and inequality on campus took center stage.
Mun Choi faces more questions from U. of Missouri faculty about data used in decisions
University of Missouri Chancellor Mun Choi on Thursday faced more questions and criticism about data used in promotion and tenure decisions. The information came forward during Thursday's meeting of the MU Faculty Council. Faculty members previously expressed displeasure about the arrangement during a General Faculty meeting. The university uses Academic Analytics, a company that compiles information about journal articles, citations and other data for universities. The university is paying $512,800 for the service this year. The company doesn't accurately represent the data for all faculty in all departments, said faculty member Rabia Gregory. She asked how it was being used in faculty and tenure decisions. "I believe very strongly we need to have a metrics-based approach to evaluate performance," Choi said. It can identify outstanding faculty members in addition to those who may not be performing as they should, he said. "It is not a tool to use as a deciding factor" in promotion and tenure, Choi said. A faculty member in music performance wouldn't be evaluated in the same way or using the same measurements as a faculty member in finance, Choi said.
U. of Missouri's Thompson Center founders give $1 million to expand services, endow professorship
In 2005, Bill and Nancy Thompson founded the Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders at the University of Missouri when their daughter was working as a behavioral therapist with children on the autism spectrum. At a virtual ceremony Thursday, MU announced the Thompsons donated $1 million to establish the Ron Ashworth Endowed Professorship in Child Development and expand services already established at the center. These include diagnostic and treatment services. The professorship recognizes Ashworth, chair of the Thompson Foundation board of directors and a longtime advocate of neurodevelopmental disability issues, according to an MU news release. "Ron has helped patients and families navigate between the Thompson Center and the university's health care systems because he has a great understanding of how they work and support each other," Nancy Thompson said in the release. Ashworth said that with the additional funding, the center "hopes to grow medical and diagnostic visits in the next three years by 10,000 and behavioral therapy by 10,000 to 15,000 visits per year."
Community Colleges Face a Long Road to Recovery
Tracy D. Hall figured that spring enrollment would be down compared with fall. As president of Southwest Tennessee Community College, in Memphis, she knew that even in ordinary times a fair number of students just don't come back after their first semester. Given that the headcount for the fall of 2020 at Southwest Tennessee had plunged by 19 percent from the previous fall due to Covid-19, she braced for the worst. And it was bad. This spring, Southwest Tennessee enrolled 6,069 students, down from 7,811 in the fall, a drop of 22 percent. As many four-year colleges rake in record numbers of applications and move through another admissions cycle with relatively sanguine prospects for fall classes, most community colleges still struggle with reduced enrollments and reconnecting with hundreds, or thousands, of dislodged students. And the variety among the students, a source of stability during ordinary times, makes tracking them down even more challenging during the pandemic. Covid-19's disproportionate impact on people of color and those with low incomes -- populations that community colleges often serve -- makes the institutions' road to long-term recovery uncertain.
Sororities to vote on nonbinary inclusion policy
Kelly Chen, a senior at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, came to campus in 2017 with a negative impression of sororities and fraternities and had all but written off the possibility of joining a Greek organization. Chen identifies as nonbinary, as neither a man nor a woman, and uses the pronouns "they" and "them." They considered the organizations' deeply held beliefs about womanhood and manhood inherently heteronormative and exclusionary. Chen was not interested in compromising their identity in college after a difficult time being "out" in high school. But a friend and the prospect of free food ultimately coaxed Chen to attend sorority recruitment events despite the gender-conforming nature of the organizations. "A lot of sororities push this toxic interpretation of womanhood," Chen said. "There are some implicit expectations, like that you should dress formal casual on the last day of recruitment, and everyone shows up in a dress, even if I'm personally comfortable there in a suit." Chen was ultimately drawn to Delta Phi Epsilon after learning about the sorority's explicit inclusion policy for nonbinary members. Twenty-five other national and international sororities, members of the National Panhellenic Conference, or NPC, an umbrella organization that governs the policies and practices of the sororities, are planning to meet Saturday to decide whether to follow Delta Phi Epsilon and vote to approve an amendment permitting the member sororities to change their definitions of "woman," to ensure nonbinary people are welcome in their organizations.
Texas and Utah Bar Public Colleges From Requiring Covid-19 Vaccines
As a small but growing number of colleges announce that they'll require students to get a Covid-19 vaccine, two state governments have prohibited their public colleges from doing so. Utah legislators enacted a law forbidding government agencies -- including public colleges -- to require people to receive a Covid-19 vaccine. Private businesses and colleges may still have vaccine mandates. The law drew nearly unanimous approval from legislators, The Salt Lake Tribune reports. Gov. Spencer Cox signed it in March. Meanwhile, Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas signed an executive order that also prevents public colleges from requiring a Covid shot. Florida's governor, Ron DeSantis, issued an executive order that banned businesses from "requiring patrons or customers" to show proof of immunization on the same day that Nova Southeastern University, a private institution in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., announced it would require Covid-19 shots, the Tampa Bay Times reports. Nova Southeastern's president, George Hanbury, told The New York Times that the order had caught the university off guard and administrators were reviewing it. Abbott, Cox, and DeSantis are all Republicans.

Diamond Dawg Gameday: at Auburn
Riding a four-game winning streak into the fourth weekend of Southeastern Conference play, the No. 4 Mississippi State baseball program heads to Auburn for a three game series April 9-11 at Plainsman Park. The Diamond Dawgs (21-7, 5-4 SEC) have won two of three SEC weekend series, including a series sweep of Kentucky last weekend. It is the fifth SEC series sweep for State dating back to the 2018 SEC finale against No. 1 Florida and its 11th series win in 14 tries during that span. Auburn (12-13, 1-8 SEC) won its first conference game last weekend at No. 1 Arkansas and had the lead late in the other two games. The Tigers have dropped series at Ole Miss and Arkansas, and against Kentucky. The last meeting between the two teams came in the opening game of the 2019 College World Series. Mississippi State rallied from three runs down in the ninth inning to walk off with a 5-4 victory on Marshall Gilbert's base hit up the middle. Earlier in the 2019 season, State won the final two games of the series in Starkville.
'It feels like yesterday': Elijah MacNamee shares memories of Mississippi State's wild CWS walk-off against Auburn
Elijah MacNamee still gives hitting lessons. Whenever the former Mississippi State outfielder is asked by his young pupils about his time with the Bulldogs, MacNamee is always happy to show them some of the wildest games from his days in Starkville. One of them is never far from his mind: MSU's College World Series opener against Auburn in June 2019 in front of 25,000 screaming fans, a game that produced a stunning comeback and a classic ending. MacNamee often pulls up the video on YouTube or watches it if he comes across it on Twitter, transporting himself back to that unmatched Omaha atmosphere. Ahead of the Bulldogs' weekend road series against the Tigers, MacNamee reflected on the events of that night -- and his starring role -- in a contest that can only be summed up one way. "That game," he said simply, "was crazy." MacNamee has had several friends play for the Tigers through the years and has high esteem for the school. When Mississippi State heads to The Plains this weekend, he expects three competitive games. "I have nothing but respect for them," he said of Auburn. "I hope the Dawgs take it to them -- I'm not going to stick up for them, but Auburn is good, and there's always a good series there." But that won't stop him from thinking about that game, watching that video, daydreaming about standing on second with no idea what would come.
Mississippi State football notebook: Running backs Dillon Johnson, Jo'quavious Marks promise 'great things'
Jo'quavious Marks doesn't mind sharing a backfield. The Mississippi State sophomore running back knows he'll be splitting time with fellow sophomore Dillon Johnson for the Bulldogs in 2021. Neither rusher would have it any other way. "He's going to tote the rock, I'm going to tote the rock, we're going to be proud of each other, and we're going to score touchdowns," Marks told reporters Thursday. Johnson called the pair of backs "lightning and thunder" -- Johnson a power back who often proves elusive, Marks a speedy rusher with significant burst. "I think we complement each other just great," Johnson said. Though Marks received more touches in the running and passing games in 2020, the two backs posted remarkably similar per-touch numbers. Marks averaged 4.5 yards per carry and 4.5 yards per reception; Johnson was just below at 4.4 yards per carry and 4.4 yards per catch. And now, Johnson said, both sophomore backs have made a big offseason leap after their true freshman seasons.
Bulldogs Set To Meet Louisiana Tech, No. 1 Oklahoma In Ruston Saturday
After its weekend series with Tennessee was postponed, Mississippi State softball has added a pair of non-conference contests to its schedule on April 10. The Bulldogs (19-15, 0-9 SEC) will now travel to Ruston, Louisiana, to play Louisiana Tech at 10 a.m. CT and No. 1 Oklahoma in a neutral-site meeting at 12:30 p.m. Both games will stream on C-USA TV. Head coach Samantha Ricketts and graduate assistant Nicole Pendley will face their alma mater in the afternoon contest. State last played the nation's top-ranked team in 2016, when the Bulldogs played at No. 1 Florida on April 22-24. MSU has played Oklahoma (28-0, 6-0 Big 12) three times, twice when the Sooners were among the nation's top 15 teams. Coincidentally, the programs first met in 1983, also in Ruston. MSU holds an all-time record of 13-9 against Louisiana Tech (13-16, 3-1 C-USA) but is 1-2 in Ruston. State has won each of the last 13 meetings, including two games in 2019 by a combined score of 18-0. State's SEC series against Tennessee was postponed due to a positive COVID-19 test and contact tracing within the Tennessee program. The opportunity to reschedule the games later this season will be evaluated.
Sisters Anastasia, Aislynn, Alasia Hayes transferring to Mississippi State women's basketball
The Hayes sisters will start over at Mississippi State. Sisters Anastasia, Aislynn and Alasia Hayes, who all played high school ball at Riverdale, committed to play at Mississippi State. Aislynn Hayes wrote on Twitter on Thursday night, "New beginnings with the ones I love the most". Anastasia and Aislynn entered the transfer portal after finishing their season at Middle Tennessee State, helping lead the Lady Blue Raiders to the Conference USA Tournament championship and the NCAA Tournament. Alasia Hayes was a freshman at Notre Dame this past season and opted out in 2020-21 before entering the transfer portal. Anastasia Hayes, a former Miss Basketball who began her college career at Tennessee before transferring to MTSU, finished her junior season second in the nation in scoring at 26.5 points per game. She was named Conference USA Player of the Year. Alasia Hayes was a Miss Basketball finalist her senior season at Riverdale after signing with Notre Dame. Longtime Irish coach Muffet McGraw retired prior to Hayes' freshman season.
Mississippi State women's basketball lands three sister transfers
Nikki McCray-Penson is wasting no time restocking her team through the transfer portal early in the offseason. On Thursday, the first-year Mississippi State women's basketball coach landed three sister transfers who hail from Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Anastasia, Aislynn and Alasia Hayes will all join the Bulldogs beginning with the 2021-22 season. Anastasia and Aislynn come in from Middle Tennessee, while Alasia is a transfer from Notre Dame. "I can't believe we get to do this together once again," Alasia said in a tweet Thursday night. "It's such a blessing. Thank you Lord for giving me this opportunity to play with my sisters. It means the world to me." She averaged 2.0 points and 1.2 rebounds per game in just under eight minutes per contest for the Fighting Irish this season, playing in 13 games off the bench before opting out of the second half of the season. The three transfers will join former Tulane standout Jerkaila Jordan in Starkville next season. Jordan averaged 16.7 points, 3.9 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.3 steals per game for the Green Wave.
Auburn starting pitcher Jack Owen returning to form after finger injury
Auburn left-handed pitcher Jack Owen entered the 2021 season as one of the Tigers' most-experienced players and as someone most expected to have a firm grasp on one of the team's weekend starter roles. A preseason hand injury derailed Owen's plans to start the spring, but over the past three weeks the senior has been working his way back to form with hopes of being that pitcher the Tigers can consistently count on. "I feel good," Owen said Thursday in the lead-up to the Tigers' home series against No. 4 Mississippi State. "It was tough missing the first six weeks, but getting back into the mix -- getting back into pitching even though the first two [appearances] didn't go as I planned -- it was good to throw that game at Arkansas and, you know, perform well and put our team in position to win. That's kind of the goal every time you go out there, so I feel confident going into this weekend and the rest of the season right now." Owen entered the 2021 season with 32 appearances – including a strong five-inning start against Mississippi State during the 2019 College World Series – under his belt, but his status as one of the Tigers' penciled-in starters hit a snag when he dislocated a finger during an intrasquad scrimmage before the season began.
SEC commissioner Greg Sankey 'hopeful' of normal SEC football season
Southeastern Conference commissioner Greg Sankey attended the first round of the Masters tournament Thursday, but he also had his eye on the upcoming football season. Sankey said he is "hopeful" the SEC will be back to normal this season, normal being a traditional 12-game schedule with no disruptions and full stadiums. Sankey also sat for an interview with ESPN's Marty Smith for his daily podcast on The commissioner declined comment on the future of the SEC championship football game in Atlanta in the wake of the passage of Georgia's highly controversial voting law. The law recently prompted Major League Baseball to move this year's All-Star game from Atlanta to Denver, as well as calls for the Masters to move or be boycotted. The SEC championship game is under contract to be played in Atlanta's Mercedes-Benz Stadium through 2026.
Eyes of college baseball on series between Razorbacks, Rebels
The deans of SEC baseball coaches, who have both assembled powerhouse programs, meet this weekend in Oxford, Miss. No. 2 Arkansas (24-4, 7-2 SEC), under 19th-year Coach Dave Van Horn, has been to the last two College World Series after sharing SEC West crowns in 2018 (with Ole Miss) and 2019 (Mississippi State). No. 3 Ole Miss (23-6, 7-2) has risen toward the top of the West in recent seasons under Mike Bianco, the dean of SEC coaches in his 21st year. The co-leaders of the SEC West begin a three-game set at 6 tonight at Swayze Field in Oxford, Miss., with first place in the division at stake. "You have to play extremely well to beat them," he said. "When you play them down there, they're so good at home, we kind of know what we're getting into. We feel good about our team. We know what's ahead of us and what kind of challenge we have." The Rebels, who went 3-0 like Arkansas in the season-opening College Baseball Showdown in Arlington, Texas, are coming off their first series loss, 2-1, at Florida. Ole Miss was dealt a big blow on Monday when first baseman Tim Elko, the SEC RBI leader with 36, suffered a torn knee ligament that will keep him out for at least a couple of weeks. Elko has nine home runs and a .660 slugging percentage that ranks sixth in the SEC.
Pat Dye's personal championship memorabilia being auctioned off for charity
Among the items up for bid are Dye's national championship rings from Alabama (1973) and Auburn (2010), as well an Atlanta Touchdown Club plaque recognizing him as SEC Lineman of the Year in 1960. Also included are Dye's University of Georgia Circle of Honor ring and watches from the 1960 and 1972 Orange Bowls. Dye, Auburn's head coach from 1981-92 and a long-time advisor at the school following his coaching career, died last June at age 80. He was an All-America guard at Georgia in the early 1960s, and later served as an assistant at Alabama and head coach at East Carolina and Wyoming before taking over at Auburn. Opening bids for the items range from $200 up to $2,500.

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