Tuesday, March 31, 2015  SUBSCRIBE   
Mississippi State Gives Diversity Awards
For their significant commitments to enhancing diversity at Mississippi State, the university's President's Commission on the Status of Minorities is recognizing three individuals and a campus organization. "This year's winners have stepped outside of their norm and exhibited a great passion for exploring and promoting diversity," said Ra'Sheda Forbes, PCSM's interim chair and associate director of the campus' Richard Holmes Cultural Diversity Center. The March 27 award ceremony at the Shackouls Honors College also featured an address by professor Stephen Middleton, director of MSU's African American Studies program.
Students learn principles of land use, conservation
More than 50 junior high and high school students gathered inside a freshly dug pit at the Mississippi State University Coastal Plain Branch Experiment Station as part of an educational competition to teach them the roles that soil plays in farming and construction. Larry Oldham, soil specialist with the MSU Extension Service, said MSU faculty and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) staff typically train participating teams in advance in simulated settings to give students an idea of what to expect at the contest. Winter weather hampered training efforts this year, he said, but participants still skillfully demonstrated their abilities to identify soil properties and determine how they affect land-use options.
Legislature equalizes school millage for city, county: county officials concerned
Citizens of Starkville and Oktibbeha County will likely be paying the same tax rate for schools after the Mississippi Legislature passed a bill last week that creates an equal school millage rate for all Oktibbeha County citizens. Governor Phil Bryant must take action on the bill by April 1. If finalized, the bill would raise tax rates for citizens in the Oktibbeha County School District and lower the millage rate for citizens in the Starkville School District, according to SSD and Oktibbeha County estimates. The two school districts will officially merge July 1, forming the Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District. (Subscriber-only content.)
Alabama men jailed after weekend shooting in Starkville
Two Alabama men were arrested after a weekend shooting left one wounded in Oktibbeha County. On Saturday, Oktibbeha County deputies were called to the Starkville Raceway on Old West Point Road in reference to an aggravated assault. Deputies found one victim with multiple gunshot wounds at the scene. The victim was taken to the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson and is listed in stable condition. The suspects, identified as Deanthony Terrell Sanders and Lyzell Tywan McCaa, were stopped a short time later by the Brooksville Police Department and Mississippi Highway Patrol on Highway 388 in Noxubee County.
Business groups want Mississippi Supreme Court to reconsider ruling on Kemper
A trio of business groups has filed a friend of the court brief opposing a Supreme Court ruling that overturns a Mississippi Power Co. rate increase. The Mississippi Gulf Coast Business Council, the Mississippi Manufacturers Association and the Mississippi Economic Council join the company in asking for a rehearing on the ruling, saying it could hurt the economy. Mississippi Power said it would have to ask for an increase of 35 to 40 percent if the ruling stands. The MEC, the state's Chamber of Commerce, talked about the effect higher rates would have on business. "The higher the cost of electric utility service, the greater the impact on Mississippi's economy," lawyers for the MEC wrote in its brief.
Mississippi lands only Questair Venture manufacturing facility in the nation
The John Bell Williams Airport in Bolton and Raymond is now the home of the country's only manufacturer of the Questair Venture, a small, high-performance kit plane. In a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the airport on Friday, owners Dan Myers of Madison and Jim Cook of Clinton talked about the history of the planes and the future of the manufacturing facility. "I showed him the airport, showed him Hinds Community College, showed him the school over here has the resources, the students, and it was a no-brainer for us to choose Hinds Community College to help us continue to build the airplanes and have the manufacturing facility here," Myers said. "The main reason was the kids, the students. We can give them hands-on training, and they can help us because it is an aluminum airplane and these guys need to learn things like how to buck rivets and get turned upside down in a plane."
Gay rights supporters prepare for fight in Mississippi beyond marriage
From its newly opened advocacy office in Tupelo, the national LGBT organization Human Rights Campaign is leading an effort to persuade Main Street business owners here to post "We Don't Discriminate" stickers in shop windows. Organizers are lobbying the City Council to endorse a nondiscrimination pledge. And a new generation of homegrown activists like Will Knight, a 22-year-old community college English teacher, see it as their mission to increase gay visibility. "I feel sometimes I come out every day," Knight says. The national debate over gay marriage and equality is sweeping through this deeply religious town like a spring tornado, uprooting long-held biases but also stirring a conservative backlash.
Lawmakers move on bonds despite complaints from Alcorn, Valley
Mississippi lawmakers are likely to agree to borrow a total of $450 million. House members voted 73-44 to support Senate Bill 2906, which contains $250 million in borrowing, while members are considering another $200 million linked to a bill financed by casino taxes. The House passage comes after supporters of Alcorn State University and Mississippi Valley State University sparked a long debate over the failure to provide money for faculty housing at Alcorn State and student housing at Valley. Bond allocations in Senate Bill 2906 include $13 million for Mississippi State University's engineering complex and $12.1 million for an MSU agriculture building for the departments of animal and dairy science and poultry science.
House OKs $24.5 million for Gulfport aquarium
The state House passed a pair of bills that would put $24.5 million toward an aquarium in Gulfport. A little less than half of that money would come from $200 million in bonds to be repaid by money that had been going to repair roads and bridges in casino counties. The rest would come from up to $12.5 million in bonds in a Senate bill that also would borrow to pay for $68.2 million in projects at the state's universities, another $1 million for community colleges and other borrowing for the Mississippi Development Authority. Rep. Richard Bennett, R-Long Beach, one of the conferees the reach the deal on the two bills with Speaker Phil Gunn and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, said the Senate bill also had money for Ingalls and the University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast campus.
Bond bill approved: Fulton-Amory railroad, Elvis Birthplace among projects
The Mississippian Railway has operated between Amory and Fulton since 1926. The Mississippi Legislature has provided $2.6 million in a $249.8 million bond bill to help ensure the 25-mile track on the east side of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway remains in operation. The legislation, which allows the state to issue bonds to finance long-term construction projects, passed both chambers of the Legislature on Monday. The bond bill also includes $1 million for the Elvis Presley Birthplace and Museum in Tupelo. Funds for a Vietnam Veterans wall at Veterans Park in Tupelo, which were approved earlier in the session by the House, were not included in the final bill. The improvements to the birthplace began in 2012 when the Legislature provided $2.9 million in state bond proceeds to match local efforts to build a theater, amphitheater and other improvements.
Lawmakers argue over borrowing, pet projects
Lawmakers put the finishing touches on a $6.27 billion state budget Monday, with soaring Medicaid costs absorbing most of the state's recent revenue growth. Most debate on Monday, the deadline for passage of spending and taxing measures, centered on borrowing $450 million earmarked for projects. The House reluctantly and narrowly approved an annual bond bill to borrow $250 million for projects statewide, with some accusing Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and the Senate of dictating what projects were chosen. "We can save some money --- 173 of us can go home, and (Reeves) can just make all the decisions for us," said Rep. Gregory Holloway, D-Hazlehurst.
Legislative leaders hire attorney in initiative suit
The Mississippi Legislature -- at least a portion of it -- is trying to block the effort of an Oxford woman to legally challenge the language it passed as an alternative to the citizen-sponsored initiative designed to enhance the state's commitment to the funding of public education. The Legislature, through Jackson attorney Michael Wallace, is claiming that Hinds County Circuit Court does not have jurisdiction in the case filed last week by Adrian Shipman, a mother of two in the Oxford Public Schools. On Monday, members of the minority Democratic Party questioned how Wallace, a prominent Republican attorney, received authorization to intervene on behalf of the full Legislature.
After Snowden, The NSA Faces Recruitment Challenge
Daniel Swann is exactly the type of person the National Security Agency would love to have working for it. A fourth-year concurrent bachelors-masters student at Johns Hopkins University, the 22-year-old has a bright future in cybersecurity. Then, in 2013, NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked a treasure-trove of top-secret documents. They showed that the agency's programs to collect intelligence were far more sweeping than Americans realized. After Snowden's revelations, Swann's thinking changed. This year, the NSA needs to find 1,600 new recruits. Hundreds of them must come from highly specialized fields like computer science and mathematics. So far, it says, the agency has been successful. But with its popularity down, and pay from wealthy Silicon Valley companies way up, agency officials concede that recruitment is a worry. If enough students follow Daniel Swann, then one of the world's most powerful spy agencies could lose its edge.
CAUGHT ON VIDEO: Ole Miss student bites head off live hamster
The Daily Mail is reporting that an Ole Miss student from Madison bit off the head of a live hamster; and they have video. The Daily Mail is identifying the person in the video as "18-year-old Brady Eaves of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity and stepson of one time Mississippi gubernatorial candidate John Arthur Eaves." The footage was apparently filmed during a spring break party in Florida.
Man enters not guilty plea in UM noose indictment
A Georgia man has waived arraignment and pleaded not guilty to federal charges filed in connection with hanging a noose on the statue of James Meredith at Ole Miss. Graeme Phillip Harris, 20, of Alpharetta, Georgia made an initial appearance in federal court in Oxford Friday. He was indicted on two charges, conspiracy to violate civil rights and using a threat of force to intimidate African-American students because of their race or color. On February 15, 2014, a noose and a Georgia state flag were placed on the statue on the Ole Miss campus. The indictment says Harris conspired with unindicted co-conspirators to intimidate minority students and faculty on the campus.
Attorney: Wrong person targeted in UM statue case
The attorney for a former University of Mississippi student indicted on federal charges connected to an incident where a noose was put on a statue James Meredith said his client didn't do it. Oxford attorney David G. Hill said Monday that Graeme Phillip Harris of Alpharetta, Georgia, was in the wrong place at the wrong time but did no wrong. The Justice Department said Friday Harris was indicted on one count of conspiracy to violate civil rights and one count of using a threat of force to intimidate African-American students because of their race or color.
Report: MUW Ranks No. 1 in Affordability Among Mississippi Colleges and Universities
Administrators say about one-third of MUW's students are over 25 and enter college with more financial obligation, making affordability a top priority for the university. MUW is not only recognized for its strong academic programs but it's also one of the most affordable colleges in Mississippi. According to Smart Asset, a company that measures financial data, MUW ranks first in affordability. "We see this as an affirmation of what we're trying to achieve for our students, to provide a high quality education at the most affordable price we can," says Dr. Tom Richardson, MUW's Interim Provost and Vice President of Student Affairs.
U. of Alabama names new vice president for student affairs
The University of Alabama has named the University of Iowa dean of students as its new vice president for student affairs beginning in June. The hire of David Grady, the associate vice president and dean of students at Iowa, was announced Monday. He will join UA's administration June 15. Grady will replace interim Vice President Steven Hood, who has served in the role since July 2014, when former vice president Mark Nelson left the office to become dean of the UA College of Communication and Information Sciences. Hood, who previously served as executive director of Housing and Residential Communities since 2011, will continue to work with the Division of Student Affairs, UA Media Relations Director Cathy Andreen said. Grady has a doctorate in higher education administration from Texas, a bachelor's degree in business administration from Mississippi State University and a master's of education degree from Harvard.
LSU's Louisiana Survey finds Common Core views formed by partisan rhetoric
Louisiana adults seem to be getting their "facts" about Common Core from partisan rhetoric and basing their opinion, for the most part, on their political persuasion, according to the most recent chapter of LSU's 2015 Louisiana Survey that was released Tuesday morning. But the poll also found lots of support for the concept -- higher academic standards that could be compared with the achievements of students in other states -- just not when it was called "Common Core". "People like the idea behind the program, but the phrase has become politically toxic – dropping support and polarizing the parties," said Michael Henderson, who as Research Director at LSU's Public Policy Research Lab was in charge of putting together the annual survey.
Council: Louisiana should focus on innovation to build industry
Louisiana colleges and universities could beef up their research efforts and strengthen the state's economy by being more efficient, according to a report out from the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana. "Louisiana is decades behind other states on the intellectual infrastructure for innovation because some leaders, by and large, did not prioritize the economic development mission of the university or commercialization of research in general," the PAR report concludes. The report lays out dozens of recommendations to help streamline the pool of resources and research endeavors. Those recommendations range from the state appointing an innovation leader to revamping the Board of Regents Support Fund, which funds research.
Georgia colleges on target to graduate 250K by 2025
The University System of Georgia is currently on target to achieve a more educated workforce for the state by steadily increasing the number of Georgia college graduates. The goal is to have to 250,000 more college graduates by 2025. That means raising the annual number of graduates from about 53,000 four years ago to 80,000 -- an increase of about three percent a year, said Houston Davis, chief academic officer and executive vice chancellor of the university system. Last year, the system produced 58,798 graduates, he said Monday. The goal of graduating 250,000 more students is part of the state's "Complete College Georgia" initiative, aimed at producing a larger pool of well-educated residents throughout the state.
U. of Florida student arrested in stabbing at downtown restaurant
A University of Florida student was arrested early Sunday morning after a stabbing that occurred at a downtown restaurant. At 1:15 a.m. the Gainesville Police Department received a report about a man who was stabbed at the Warehouse Restaurant. GPD officers arrived moments later and learned that a man identified as 22-year-old Perry Alfred, of Gainesville, and a Tampa man had gotten into a heated argument. The man backed away from Alfred during the quarrel and was stabbed in his thigh, according to a jail booking report. UF spokeswoman Janine Sikes said he is a senior in construction management.
Graduate studies administrators at U. of Missouri working to chart office's future
It has been a year since University of Missouri Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin announced the dissolution of the MU graduate school. In the year since Loftin's announcement, leadership from the new administrative office, the Office of Graduate Studies, said the office has come a long way in addressing its own future. About 70 percent of what the former graduate school was doing were responsibilities the new administrative office continues to handle, said Leona Rubin, associate vice chancellor for graduate studies. The bulk of the remaining 30 percent involved interdisciplinary programs that have been moved under the provost's office. "We were already pretty efficient -- really, we were very efficient at running the graduate student part of" the college, Rubin said.
Indiana College Presidents Speak Out Against 'Religious Freedom' Law
Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act has stoked national controversy and outrage since Gov. Mike Pence signed it into law, on Thursday. Meanwhile, for university leaders in the state, it's become a public-relations nightmare. The ramifications of the law are unclear. Advocates say it's meant to protect religious liberty, but many others have expressed concern that the law will become a tool of discrimination -- a way to allow businesses to turn away lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender customers. Perhaps because of the lack of clarity about the law, colleges are fielding calls from concerned prospective students and their parents.
A university and a governor bar use of funds to travel to Indiana
The movement to boycott Indiana is growing. Not only are some higher education groups being urged to relocate meetings scheduled to take place there, but one university and a state are barring the use of certain funds for employees to travel there. Further, more college leaders in the state are speaking out against a new Indiana law that supporters say protects religious freedom, but that many critics say encourages bias against gay people. The law bars government actions that "burden" people or businesses for actions taken based on religious beliefs. The legislation -- similar to bills proposed or enacted elsewhere in the country -- was a response to the move to permit same-sex marriage. While Indiana is not unique in having such a law, it attracts many conventions (from academic and other groups) and is host for many intercollegiate athletic events.
Rhodes Scholarships Expanding to Include Chinese Students
The organization that administers Rhodes scholarships, the prestigious grant program that sends promising students to the University of Oxford, is preparing to expand to the developing world and other countries and will soon begin naming scholars from China. The move into China, announced Monday, is the first step in what the program expects to be its biggest expansion since it made women eligible in the 1970s. It is meant to cultivate a more diverse crop of young people the program hopes will become leaders in their countries, adding to a list that includes Nobel Prize recipients, former President Bill Clinton and Prime Minister Tony Abbott of Australia.
Clemson student's family files lawsuits seeking $25 million in damages after death
The family of the late Clemson student Tucker Hipps on Monday filed lawsuits seeking more than $25 million in damages from Clemson University, Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity and three individual fraternity members. The lawsuits allege that the 19-year-old Hipps was the victim of a harassing hazing incident during a 2014 pre-dawn pledge run and that Sigma Phi Epsilon brothers attempted to cover up their role in his death by deleting text messages, cellphone calls and -- in one case -- changing phone numbers. One pledge assisted in the cover-up before Hipps' body was found, texting Hipps' girlfriend, Katie Clouse, telling her that Tucker was in the library, the lawsuits said. That pledge, Tyler Stanley, texted to fraternity members that the message to Katie "should help buy time" while the search for Tucker went on, the lawsuits said.
Federal Education Officials Release List of Monitored Colleges
The Department of Education made public for the first time on Tuesday a list of more than 500 colleges and universities the agency is concerned about and has placed under increased financial oversight. The schools included for-profit colleges, bible schools and state universities. Each of the 556 institutions was placed under one of two levels of so-called heightened cash monitoring for reasons ranging from "serious to less troublesome," according to Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell. Among the reasons for the action: late financial statements, outstanding liabilities and accreditation issues.

Bulldogs hit the road to play South Alabama
Mississippi State travels to Mobile at 6:30 p.m. today looking to keep up its recent success against South Alabama. The Diamond Dogs (19-11) have won six straight against the Jaguars including a 3-0 victory in Starkville last season. MSU leads the overall series 44-24 and sports a 7-1 record against USA under John Cohen. Sophomore southpaw Daniel Brown (1-0, 3.77 ERA) will take the mound for his first career start for the Bulldogs and will be opposed by sophomore right-hander Matt Peacock (0-0, 16.88 ERA).
Mississippi State's Silkwood named SEC co-pitcher of the week
After a week that saw a no-hitter and a win over the No. 2 team in the country, sophomore Alexis Silkwood was named Southeastern Conference Co-Pitcher of the Week, the league office announced Monday. Silkwood went 2-1 on the week with a 1.05 ERA in three appearances, all of which were complete-game outings. The second-year Bulldog struck out 19 on the week and opposing hitters batted at an average of .169 against her. "It is a wonderful honor and I am very thankful, but I wouldn't be receiving this honor without the team," Silkwood said.
Veteran Mississippi State safeties using spring to become starters
Recovery from a torn Achilles restricts Kendrick Market to the sideline during Mississippi State's spring practices. The injury hasn't removed his influence from the field though. Last week, MSU's defense sat in a blitz coverage. Safety Kivon Coman scanned the offense, looking for a receiver. Market shouted from the sideline, "Run! Run! Run!" MSU's offense ran delayed handoff. Coman reacted to the play immediately after Market's diagnosis. "He saw it before I did. I heard him on the sideline and I reacted to it real fast," Coman said. It'll become more difficult to hear Market on the field with 60,000 cowbells clanging at Davis Wade Stadium.
HUGH KELLENBERGER (OPINION): The SEC adds more coaching firepower
The Clarion-Ledger's Hugh Kellenberger writes: "There is so single better way to improve your basketball program than to hire a quality coach. None. All the facility upgrades in the world will not have the same impact as one man who knows what he is doing. Which is why the Southeastern Conference was a demonstrably better basketball conference this season than it was the last several, and why it has already improved this offseason. Mississippi State has added Ben Howland and Tennessee is set to announce Rick Barnes hire today. Between the two of them that's four Final Fours and 11 Sweet 16 appearances coming into the league. Add that a league that added Bruce Pearl at Auburn last season, and a top-five coaches that goes, in some order, John Calipari, Billy Donovan, Pearl, Barnes and Howland is suddenly very formidable."
Barnes to be named new U. of Tennessee basketball coach
Tennessee has finalized an agreement with former Texas men's basketball coach Rick Barnes and a late afternoon press conference has been scheduled for Tuesday, according to a source with knowledge of the deal. The source requested anonymity because the hire has not yet been announced. Tennessee players will meet at 3 p.m. to discuss the hire. Tennessee has made its pitch to Barnes Monday, and barring a snare in negotiations, he would accept the deal, according to multiple media reports Monday.
Alabama AD Bill Battle leaves Wichita without Gregg Marshall
University of Alabama athletics director Bill Battle is not in Kansas anymore -- at least for now. Battle spent nearly eight hours in Wichita on Monday, presenting the University of Alabama's offer to hire Wichita State head coach Gregg Marshall, the top candidate for the vacant Crimson Tide basketball coaching job. Battle departed Wichita without commenting to media gathered at the airport, returning to Birmingham by private plane. Marshall remained in Wichita, apparently contemplating the offer, on Monday night. There is no timetable for a decision, which could come today or later in the week.
Alabama's Saban unapologetic about signing Taylor despite his past
Alabama coach Nick Saban steadfastly defended his signing of defensive lineman Jonathan Taylor, who has now been kicked off his second Southeastern Conference team for domestic violence arrests. Taylor, who some say should never had been on the team, was one of two Crimson Tide players arrested over the weekend. Defensive back Geno Smith was charged with the second DUI, including the second DUI of his Alabama career. A defiant Saban was unapologetic Monday about choosing to sign Taylor, who was also dismissed from Georgia before signing with Alabama for similar allegations of domestic violence. "I'm not sorry for giving him an opportunity," Saban said. "I'm sorry for the way things worked out."
Pat Dye plants Toomer's oak in yard of Auburn fan
It was an Auburn fan's dream come true last week, when legendary Tigers coach Pat Dye turned out to plant a genuine Toomer's oak in the backyard of a home near Opelika. Mitch White grew up in Mississippi and California, but he became an Auburn fan in his 20s when he would visit his aunt and her husband, JoAnn and Marvin Broadhead, and his cousins, Lane and Jason Hegwood, in Opelika. Marvin Broadhead took him to his first Auburn game, and from that moment, White was hooked. Though his career with Farmers Insurance has kept him in Petaluma, Calif., White's heart is in the Auburn area. That's why he decided to buy a second home in this area, and that's where the descendant of one of the Toomers Corner liveoaks now stands. Dye explained that he bought a number of seedlings planted from the acorns of the landmark oaks at Toomer's Corner a decade or so ago from Auburn University's Department of Forestry, and planted them at his farm near Notasulga.
Vanderbilt rape trial sentencing delayed again
The sentencing hearing of two former Vanderbilt University football players convicted of raping an unconscious woman in 2013 has again been pushed back. Brandon Vandenburg and Cory Batey, both 21, will remain in jail until the rescheduled hearing on June 15. A sentencing set for late April was delayed to give attorneys time to review court transcripts, court officials said. Attorneys are seeking the transcripts in part because of a possible challenge to whether one juror should have been allowed to serve in the case. Defense attorneys said they discovered the juror was a victim of sexual violence, but did not say so during jury selection. They question whether the man heard the case without bias.
U. of Florida ditches student football ticket lottery
The era of the student football ticket lottery at the University of Florida has come to an end. Starting April 13, student season ticket holders from last season can renew their tickets online at GatorZone. For $105, students will get tickets to all seven home games in the 2015 season. "The lottery allowed students to apply for season tickets without a guarantee that they would have them if the lottery exceeded our student ticket allotment," said Dan Apple, assistant athletics director. Demand has been down in recent years for student season tickets.
N.C.A.A. Steps Up Pressure Over New Indiana Law
While Indiana's legislature and governor said Monday that they would clarify a new law that critics say could condone discrimination against gay people, the Indianapolis-based N.C.A.A., days before the Final Four was set to begin in Indianapolis, left the door open to moving future events and its own headquarters. "We have to be able to conduct our affairs and our tournaments in an environment that reflects the values of inclusiveness and diversity," N.C.A.A. President Mark Emmert told The New York Times on Monday afternoon. "Inclusion and diversity are real touchstone values in higher education." A spokesman for Duke, one of the teams playing in the Final Four, also voiced concerns about the law on Monday. Earlier in the day, Emmert expressed similar sentiments in an interview on ESPNU.
Stomping Out Sports Subsidies
Some Rutgers University sports fans, including state politicians, say that if the Scarlet Knights want to compete with the big-name programs in their new Big Ten athletic conference, the university has to pony up for improved facilities. But a legislative body on campus last week urged the opposite, recommending that the university postpone spending on any new projects until the athletics department solves a multiyear budget deficit. The University Senate voted overwhelmingly on Friday to back a report that recommends creating a five-year plan to reduce the amount of student fees and university funding that goes to the athletics department.

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