Friday, February 21, 2014  SUBSCRIBE   
 
Notable Mississippi State freshman class larger, more prepared
Mississippi State University's 2013-2014 freshman class is the largest and the most academically prepared class the school has ever had, according to MSU President Mark Keenum. Keenum said first-time freshman enrollment at the university has reached 3,156, an increase of nine percent over last year's number of 2,894. Overall enrollment at MSU remained stable. It exceeded 20,000 and currently stands at 20,161. The university also obtained its highest average ACT score ever of 23.94 for entering freshmen. Keenum said the university's growth is due to a team effort from all of MSU's colleges. Keenum said he believes the upward path of freshman class enrollment reflects the confidence that students and parents have that MSU can prepare them for the future.
 
Conference Helps Women In Higher Education Improve Their Skills
Hundreds of women who play vital roles in universities, colleges and community colleges are networking and learning from each other about how to improve and enhance their skills and campuses. They represent institutions of higher education from all across the state and they are at the ICC Belden Campus to develop their skills. Among those in the crowd, former lieutenant governor and now Mississippi State University vice president of campus services, Amy Tuck, who says the conference has many advantages for those who make the time to attend. "This conference leaves you empowered and armed with additional information you need. It's a networking opportunity where you hear the challenges and concerns other institutions have faced, how they dealt with those, so it provides that pathway to be able to learn from the past experiences of others," Tuck said.
 
Three Restaurant Week charity finalists chosen
Members of the Starkville Convention and Visitors Bureau picked three finalists Wednesday for the upcoming Restaurant Week's charity aspect but declined to reveal their identities until next week. This year's Starkville Restaurant Week is scheduled for March 17-23, the week following spring break. The event, launched last year, targets Mississippi residents who live within a 60-mile radius -- about an hour's drive -- and attempts to bring them to Starkville, show off the city's culinary prowess and plant the seed for future trips. The Partnership collected about 500 unique nominations for this year's competition, which collectively backed about 35 charities, Greater Starkville Development Partnership CEO Jennifer Gregory said.
 
Pay raise proposal alive in House
The House Republican leadership thwarted 23 attempts Thursday to provide state employees a pay raise. But one amendment, offered by Rep. Preston Sullivan, D-Okolona, that mandates that a plan be developed to provide a $1,000 pay raise to employees of the state Department of Education for the upcoming fiscal year, passed via voice vote. House Appropriations Chair Herb Frierson, R-Poplarville, who opposed the other pay raise amendments, offered primarily by Rep. Johnny Stringer, D-Montrose, did not oppose Sullivan's proposal. Later on, Frierson said he interpreted Sullivan's amendment to mean that a plan had to be developed for a pay raise, but that one does not have to be enacted during the upcoming fiscal year, which starts July 1.
 
House OKs K-12 education budget boost
The House adopted Thursday a K-12 education budget that would leave the Mississippi Adequate Education Program formula $265 million short for next year. The bill, HB1476, sets MAEP funding at $2.158 billion, which is $25.6 million more than the current fiscal year, House Education Chairman John Moore said. He said most of that increase is for a teacher pay raise that the House recently approved and is now pending in the Senate. Parents' Campaign Executive Director Nancy Loome said the House bill funds schools almost $100 million below what they received in 2008. "Mississippi parents are stunned and dismayed that legislators have demoted our children's education to the bottom of the priority heap," Loome said Thursday.
 
Should Mississippi adopt ACT as high school exit exam? Gov. Bryant says yes
Mississippi high school students could soon be using the same test to get out of high school and get into college. Gov. Phil Bryant, House members and superintendents are pushing a proposal to use the ACT college test as the high school exit exam for public school students. Mississippi would become the first state to set a minimum composite score on the test for students to graduate from high school. Bryant announced support for the plan last year, and House Bill 767 would set up a pilot program giving the tests to high school juniors in 10 school districts chosen by a University of Mississippi research center.
 
Special ed vouchers scrutinized; public school funds an issue
State Senate Democrats on Wednesday said they agree Mississippi public schools are failing special-needs children, but said a program to let parents remove them and take tax dollars with them is not the answer. House and Senate bills that have passed their respective chambers would create a voucher of about $6,000 a year per child for parents who remove their special-needs children from public school. Supporters say parents should be able to use the money to find private schools, tutoring or other services for their children. Opponents say it would sap millions of dollars from an already underfunded public school system and exacerbate problems.
 
Plea accepted: Scott Walker pleads guilty to conspiracy, fraud
Scott Walker turned down a federal plea deal in October, but after he saw the case being built against him and learned his co-defendant had cut a deal, the 34-year-old realized he would have to accept a less generous plea agreement prosecutors extended this week, his attorneys told a judge Thursday. When U.S. District Court Judge Keith Starrett asked if Walker wanted to plead guilty to conspiracy and fraud, the Coast businessman, once an assistant to U.S. senators and an Ocean Springs mayoral candidate, responded, "Yes sir." In exchange for his plea, the U.S. Attorney's Office will drop eight other felony charges against Walker in two cases.
 
Club for Growth hits Cochran in two new ads
Club for Growth Action launched two new attack ads on Thursday, hitting Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) on the debt and tax increases. The ads, one on radio and one on TV, point to Cochran's votes to raise the debt limit, among others, to charge he's not conservative enough. Cochran is facing a challenge from state Sen. Chris McDaniel.
 
Agriculture Department forecasts price drops
Updated projections by the Agriculture Department on Thursday forecast significant price declines for corn, wheat and even soybeans -- all large enough to trigger potential payments under the new farm bill. Corn stands out the most, with average prices dropping to $3.90 per bushel in the coming crop year, even after the department assumes reduced plantings. Wheat would fall to $5.30 a bushel, also with reduced plantings. Economists emphasized that the new data also show that global corn and wheat stocks remain tight, meaning prices will continue to be vulnerable to supply shocks.
 
Arrest warrants likely to be issued today in Meredith statue case
University Police Department Chief Calvin Sellers told The DM Friday morning that the university will seek to get a judge to sign off on arrest warrants for three Ole Miss freshmen believed to have been involved in Sunday morning's James Meredith statue vandalism. "We are interviewing a few more students today to prove to the judge that this crime threatened some students on campus," Sellers said. "We hope to convince the judge that we have a criminal charge." A university press release says that the three students, all 19-year-olds from Georgia, declined to come in for questioning and sought legal counsel.
 
3 Ole Miss freshmen suspects in Meredith statue desecration
Three 19-year-old white male Ole Miss freshmen from Georgia were declining through their attorneys late Thursday to be questioned by university police regarding the vandalism Sunday morning of the University of Mississippi's James Meredith statue, according to the university chief of police, Calvin Sellers. Sellers said the University Police Department had gathered enough evidence by late Wednesday to bring charges through the student judicial process against two of the students, and both state and federal authorities were working in close coordination to determine whether criminal charges were applicable.
 
Ole Miss frats condemn noosing of James Meredith statue
Fraternity presidents at Ole Miss declared Thursday that they would not hesitate to expel a member if it turns out that one of their own had a role in placing a noose around the campus statue of an African American civil rights figure. "We see this behavior as a disgusting representation of a racist few who have no place within our collective organizations, or on our campus," 15 fraternity presidents said in a letter dated Wednesday and released Thursday. "We are currently writing this without knowledge of any student involvement, but should we find that any of our members were involved our plan is to expel them from our organization immediately."
 
Racist Episodes Continue to Stir Ole Miss Campus
On the campus of the University of Mississippi, a few hundred yards from a monument honoring Confederate soldiers, a statue of the university's first black student, who enrolled in 1962 amid rioting that left two people dead, stands as what administrators call a powerful symbol of progress. But when two unidentified men placed a noose around the bronze neck of James Meredith this week and left behind a flag with the Confederate battle emblem, it set into motion a new round of soul-searching in a place where past and present still restlessly coexist.
 
Bin Laden search recounted at Ole Miss
It is one of the most famous sprinklings of gray hair in the world. "The 'very bad man' put this here," said Cynthia Storer, smiling as she grabs a clump of her dark locks that are graying decades sooner than most others in her family. That "very bad man" was Osama bin Laden. Storer was one of the first analysts with the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency in the early 1990s to identify bin Laden as the leader of the terrorist group al Qaeda. "We used to joke about that in the agency, actually. 'Very bad man.' But he really was," said Storer, who was in Oxford on Thursday to speak and visit with students in the University of Mississippi's Center for Intelligence & Securities Studies.
 
Energy sector focus of USM series
Entrepreneurs, students, faculty and local citizens can get the latest information regarding Mississippi's energy sector at three oil and gas forums, the first one Friday, all at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg. USM's Spring Lecture Series will be 11:45 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. in the university's Thad Cochran Center Ballroom. The subsequent presentations will be Feb. 28 and March 7. The lecture series is hosted by the Trent Lott National Center for Economic Development and Entrepreneurship, the College of Science and Technology, the College of Business and a grant from the Comcast Foundation.
 
JSU grad donates more than $55K for scholarship
Most 16-year-olds haven't yet figured out what type of career they want after finishing school. Andrell Harris was no different, but he at least could call himself a business owner at that age. The opportunity presented itself in the form of a gumball machine in a friend's garage. He soon was stocking the devices in dozens of grocery stores long before finishing college. Now 28, Harris, currently living in Alexandria, Va., and a real estate and stock-market investor, has donated $55,555.55 toward the creation of a scholarship in his name at Jackson State University's College of Business.
 
Anti-abortion display restored at U. of Alabama
Bama Students for Life re-installed its anti-abortion display at the University of Alabama Ferguson Center on Thursday. The group's display was removed two weeks ago. UA apologized for the removal and is permitting the group to re-install the display for two days. Campus adviser the Rev. Pat Mahoney for Students for Life, a national anti-abortion group, joined the students Thursday to celebrate the overturn of the ban on their display.
 
UGA Foundation got good investment returns last year
The University of Georgia Foundation got a better return than most of its peers on its investment portfolio last year. In the 2013 calendar year, the foundation's investments grew by 11.5 percent, compared to an average return of about 8.2 percent on similar managed investment portfolios, according to Joe Frierson, chairman of the foundation's investment committee. For the 2013 fiscal year, which ended last June 30, the foundation got a return of about 13.6 percent, compared to about 12 percent for universities with about the same amount of assets as UGA, between $501 million and $1 billion.
 
U. of Kentucky, Louisville presidents protest proposed budget cuts
The presidents of Kentucky's two largest universities appeared before lawmakers to plead against proposed 2.5 percent budget cuts that they said could irrevocably harm higher education's progress. Both said tuition would rise, and University of Louisville President James Ramsey even mentioned possible layoffs. But the chairman of the budget subcommittee on postsecondary education, Rep. Arnold Simpson, D-Covington, said he thinks the cuts will remain because of the state's dire budget situation. Instead, he said during and after the meeting, he wished college presidents such as Ramsey and University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto would push harder for a proposal to generate more state revenue by overhauling Kentucky's tax system.
 
Worker dies of injuries sustained at U. of Kentucky construction site
A 24-year-old man died Thursday, a day after he was struck by a piece of plywood at a construction site on the University of Kentucky campus. The cause of death for Isaias Cabrera Ramos of North Carolina was traumatic head injury, according to a news release from the Fayette County coroner's office. Ramos was helping to load plywood while standing on the ground about 11:50 a.m. Wednesday when a piece of the wood flew off the Haggin Hall roof, and fell six stories.
 
College Uses Test Data to Show Value
Four years ago, Kalamazoo College faced a shrinking number of Michigan high-school graduates, declining applications and an endowment getting hammered by the recession. Then the small, picturesque liberal-arts school decided on a bold step. It started publicizing test results showing what its students had learned in their four years -- a surprisingly rare strategy in a higher-education industry that usually prefers to keep such things private. Evaluating schools and teachers based on test scores has become a battleground in efforts to revamp K-12 education. But the nation's colleges and universities have long bristled at efforts to use similar metrics to scrutinize how well they teach students. Schools have resisted the Obama administration's call for a national college-rating system that could tie federal grants and loans to student performance during and after college.
 
The Dark Power of Fraternities
A yearlong investigation of Greek houses by The Atlantic reveals their endemic, lurid, and sometimes tragic problems -- and a sophisticated system for shifting the blame. Lawsuits against fraternities are becoming a growing matter of public interest, in part because they record such lurid events, some of them ludicrous, many more of them horrendous.
 
FRANK CORDER (OPINION): Replay of 1982 in 2014 Mississippi U.S. Senate race?
Frank Corder writes on YallPolitics.com: "If anyone knows what Chris McDaniel is facing it is Haley Barbour, though it's highly unlikely the former governor will be sharing any words of wisdom with the state senator any time soon. In case you haven't noticed, McDaniel and Barbour (and his progeny) have not had much nice to say about each other lately. You see, it's been a while but this isn't the first U.S. Senate race in Mississippi where a young, ambitious politician with a deep Southern drawl has taken on an entrenched, long serving, well respected lion of a Senator. In 1982, when the Republican Party could still fit in a phone booth, Barbour sought to unseat Democratic U.S. Senator John C. Stennis. ...Barbour's campaign, grassroots based and full of spirit, simply couldn't topple Stennis with their best effort."


SPORTS
 
Setup pitch: Mississippi State vs. Holy Cross
Not much has gone right for Mississippi State this season. Off the field, Mississippi State had to reschedule its first series. Instead of Hofstra, MSU hosted a much better Western Carolina squad. The Catamounts won the season opener against the Bulldogs, and the struggles continued for the 2013 national runners-up with a mid-week loss to Memphis. The Bulldogs need to get on track against Holy Cross, which opens its season in Starkville this weekend. Meanwhile, MSU is coming off its worst performance of 2014 when its infielders committed three errors against the Tigers. Half of Memphis' runs were unearned, resulting in a 6-4 loss for MSU.
 
Slimming down helped Mississippi State's Ware
There have been two words synonymous with Gavin Ware dating back to high school: weight and conditioning. Both of those attributes have been a concern for the 6-foot-9 forward throughout his career. Ware arrived at Mississippi State last year with his weight hovering around 300 pounds. He was able to shed 25 pounds before the season began but still felt sluggish from a conditioning standpoint. Ware went to work during the offseason not only building up his endurance but also dieting down to 263 pounds when his sophomore year started. It has shown up on the stat sheet as well.
 
Scribner not slowing down
Robert Scribner is back. The former Tupelo High School and Mississippi State distance running standout is back in the Magnolia State -- and he's back in good running form. Scribner, 28, recently returned to Starkville after spending several years training and competing for a team in Michigan. And in his first race of the season, he won the Mercedes Half-Marathon on Sunday in Birmingham. Scribner worked for 3 1/2 years with the Michigan-based Hansons-Brooks Distance Project. "I certainly had a great experience there and learned a lot," he said. "I thought I needed a change of setting, to see where my running might take me." To start, it's taken him back to Starkville, where he's working as a volunteer coach with the Mississippi State track team.
 
Alabama suing former wide receivers coach Mike Groh for breach of contract
A year after leaving the University of Alabama football program for an assistant coaching job in the National Football League, former UA wide receivers coach Mike Groh was sued by the university Thursday afternoon for breach of contract. According to the complaint filed Thursday morning with the Tuscaloosa County Circuit Court, Alabama is seeking $57,000 or 20 percent (the buyout) of the $285,000 contract both parties entered into June 21, 2012. Groh, who served as the Crimson Tide's wide receivers coach from 2011-12, left Alabama in February 2013 to be the wide receivers coach with the Chicago Bears on Feb. 21, 2013. The suit also states UA coach Nick Saban "elected not to waive the liquidated damages" as allowed in the contract.
 
Bo talks about biking for Bama and longing to return to Auburn
Members of the Auburn Chamber of Commerce gathered Wednesday for the organization's annual meeting, where a number of area businesses and individuals were recognized for their contribution to the community during 2013. The event also featured Auburn legend Bo Jackson as guest speaker. "It's always a pleasure to come back home. This is home for me," Jackson, who lives in Chicago, said. "One day, I hope to be back here. But right now, snow duty calls." In introducing Jackson, Auburn University athletic director Jay Jacobs praised the Heisman trophy winner, touting Jackson as "not only a great athlete, he's a great man." The chamber also celebrated Tigers’ head football coach Gus Malzahn and his wife, Kristi, for their commitment to Auburn. Malzahn was presented the chamber’s Spirit of Auburn Award.
 
Supporters of former football coach Tressel push him for Youngstown State presidency
Jim Tressel, the former Ohio State University football coach, ought to be the next president of Youngstown State University, according to an Ohio congressman and 30 other community leaders. Representative Tim Ryan, an Ohio Democrat, is among those urging Youngstown's Board of Trustees to quickly name Tressel the university's next president. The university was left stunned when its current president, Randy Dunn, announced this week he would leave to become president of the Southern Illinois University system. Dunn is only seven months into a three-year contract at Youngstown. Tressel is currently a vice president at the University of Akron.
 
NCAA Pay Case Nears Ruling
A decision is expected soon on key claims in a lawsuit that could force the powerful National Collegiate Athletic Association to share billions of dollars in revenues with student-athletes whose images it uses in merchandise such as videogames, a federal judge said Thursday. Both sides have asked U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken to decide some of the major antitrust issues in the class-action case with a summary judgment ahead of a trial set for June. Lawyers for the athletes pressed the argument that the NCAA conspires with its business partners in television and videogames to fix the price of an athlete's image and likeness at zero. Lawyers for the NCAA, meanwhile, offered several arguments for why the athletes' claims should be barred, including that the athletes don't have underlying broadcast rights. Judge Wilken said Thursday her order could come "relatively soon," but noted it wouldn't decide the entire case.



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