Friday, January 17, 2014  SUBSCRIBE   
IHL OKs lease changes to The Mill at MSU
The Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning Board of Trustees approved Thursday several adjustments to Mississippi State University's contract for The Mill at MSU that officials say will improve the security of its financing and clear the way for drawing up the final loan documents and breaking ground for the project. MSU is leasing its E.E. Cooley Building on Russell Street to Cooley Building LLC, a contractor led by managing partner Mark Castleberry, to renovate the building into a conference center and build an adjacent hotel and parking garage. (Subscriber-only content.)
More residents getting SMART: Buses see more riders during second week
Mississippi State University transportation staff are reporting growing usage of the Starkville-MSU Area Rapid Transit shuttle system since students returned to campus Monday. SMART is in its second week of operation, but MSU Parking Operations Director Mike Harris said only one bus ran on each of its seven routes in the first week. Activation of the full fleet of 21 buses coincided with the first day of MSU classes, he said, because his staff anticipated that students' arrival would drive up ridership. So far, he said, that prediction seems to be coming true. (Subscriber-only content.)
Mississippi State lauded for recycling program
Officials from the Mississippi Recycling Coalition were at Mississippi State Tuesday to present the university with the "Educational Institution Recycler of the Year" award. The organization recently named its 2013 Environmental Award winners, honoring cities, institutions and organizations statewide for outstanding recycling projects. Jeremiah Dumas, MSU associate director of the Office of Sustainability, said recycling and sustainability efforts on campus are the product of extensive research and trials over the past three years. Upon discovering that more than 90 percent of waste in offices on campus was comprised of recyclable materials, initiatives were set in motion to establish the campus-wide program.
Good yields, bad prices: Agriculture impacted by weaker market
For farmers, 2013 was a year to remember, though not all of those memories are good ones. For the 19th consecutive year, poultry rang in as the top commodity in Mississippi, and forest products saw a bounce-back year, regaining the number two spot of Mississippi's top commodity list. However, many commodities -- including corn and soybeans -- saw market prices that could not offset costs even as yields set new state records. John Michael Riley, agricultural economist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said the major difference between 2013 and the prior year were agronomic crop prices.
McCurdy joins MSU Extension Service, MAFES
Jay McCurdy has joined the Mississippi State University Extension Service and Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station as the state's new turf specialist. McCurdy is a native of Dyer, Tenn. He worked on his family's farm, where they raised row crops, cattle and sod. He also has experience working as a golf course superintendent in Hong Kong. McCurdy earned a master's degree in plant sciences from the University of Tennessee. He recently received a doctorate in agronomy and soils from Auburn University, where he studied turf grass weed control, herbicide resistance and low maintenance, biologically diverse turf systems.
Nicholas bringing fresh ideas, rock-solid faith to Starkville Academy
Life is filled with numerous paths, said Jeremy Nicholas, but three months ago the current Park Place Christian Academy headmaster could not see himself leaving his job and returning to Starkville, his self-described second home, to serve as Starkville Academy's next head of school. "God laid out a new path for me," he said Wednesday. A former faculty member, coach and director of administrative programs at Jackson Prep, Nicholas holds degrees from Mississippi State University. "I never thought I'd be in the independent school system, but you get older and realize God will take you down paths you don't yet know are there," he said. "(Jackson Prep) gave me a unique perspective of what independent schools can do and stand for. We're free to do some things -- express our values -- differently than public schools can."
Nichols vying to become Starkville's next police chief
Starkville Police Department Capt. Frank Nichols confirmed Wednesday he is one of two applicants seeking the recently vacated police chief's position. It is believed Nichols is the only internal SPD officer applying for the position. Starkville's human resources department would not confirm the identity of the other applicant. Nichols, a lifelong resident of Starkville, worked his way from patrolman to captain after joining the force in 1992. He graduated from Starkville High School in 1987 and holds an associate's degree from East Mississippi Community College, a bachelor's degree from Mississippi State University and a master's degree from Troy University in Alabama.
State's economy slowly recovering, expert says
Don't expect an economic boom any time soon, state Economist Darrin Webb told lawmakers Thursday, but Mississippi's economy is slowly headed in the right direction. State Treasurer Lynn Fitch said the latest figures show every man, woman and child in Mississippi owes $1,735 in state taxpayer debt. "The headwinds that have been against us have slowly dissipated," Webb said, and he expects the economy to allow state revenues to meet November estimates of 2 percent growth for the current fiscal year and 2.7 percent for 2015, assuming there are no surprises. Webb and Fitch gave the annual Legislative Economic Briefing to House and Senate lawmakers on Thursday.
Mississippi approving new Common Core courses and tests
Despite ongoing opposition, state education officials are expected to approve new Common Core standards that they say will prompt students to think more analytically and learn less by memorization. Following discussions held Thursday, the state Board of Education was likely today to approve new high school course descriptions, and a transition plan for standardized tests and new textbook lists. Mississippi public schools are switching to the new standards even as detractors try to build support in the Legislature to get Mississippi to pull out of Common Core, which has been adopted by 45 states.
Report: No 'power grab' evident in Common Core implementation
The state's watchdog body says there's no credible evidence that the Common Core, a set of state standards for K-12 education, is a federal "power grab" or an effort to usurp the authority of states and their local schools. In a 94-page report released Wednesday, Mississippi's Joint Legislative Committee on Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review analyzed what's known as Common Core, which is generally agreed-upon core academic competencies that reflect the preparation students need to be college- and career-ready. But state Sen. Michael Watson of Jackson County strongly disagrees with the report's findings and says it's biased.
Mississippi's health report card stresses teaching children to reverse trends
The president of the Mississippi State Medical Association said Thursday that teaching children about exercise and proper nutrition could be a long-term way to help reverse some of the state's terrible health trends. Dr. James A. Rish of Tupelo was at the Capitol to release the state's sixth annual public health report card, which shows Mississippi ranks worst in the nation for heart disease and for low-birth-weight babies. The state also has the second-highest rates of diabetes, obesity, cancer deaths and teen births. Mississippi is one of the poorest states in the nation, and it has long had some of the worst health problems. "Many Mississippians fail to engage in the lifestyle choices needed to maintain good health," Rish said.
Bert Case reportedly asked to retire from WLBT
Longtime television anchor Bert Case has been asked to retire Jan. 31, just months short of his 40th anniversary with WLBT-Channel 3, employees told The Clarion-Ledger. Dan Modisett, general manager for WLBT, denied that is true. "It's his choice," he said. His signature signoff, "Berrrrt Case, WLBT News," has become so recognized Mississippians often greet him with the phrase. Case's journalism career spans more than a half century, starting at the campus radio station at the University of Mississippi in 1957 after graduating from Murrah High School. He has survived Hurricane Camille, a pit bull attack and then-Gov. Kirk Fordice.
Farm bill: Lawmakers cutting deals on farm bill
From small Western towns to Holstein cows, deals are being cut this week to try to give the farm bill a fighting chance when Congress comes back from its mid-January recess. Persons close to Speaker John Boehner said he is now more determined to get the bill done. "The speaker was emphatic," said one leadership aide of a recent meeting. And two other persons confirmed that Boehner is pushing internally to end the long fight. At the same time Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has inserted himself to help House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas broker a compromise on dairy policy.
New rules would let poultry industry rule the roost on plant safety, critics say
If the Obama administration gives the green light soon, fewer federal inspectors will be present in poultry processing plants and the lines will be allowed to speed up, a change that critics say could be risky for both food and worker safety. Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., who represents a state where poultry is a $13 billion industry, supports the inspection changes and has urged Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to make them final. Worker advocates say allowing the lines to move any faster would exacerbate the already serious problem of hand, wrist and other injuries caused by repetitive motions. And food safety groups say that the federal government has yet to prove that the new inspection system would reduce the bacteria responsible for most food-borne illnesses.
Smoking causes diabetes, colon cancer, new report says
A new report from the surgeon general finds that smoking causes even more physical and financial damage than previously estimated, killing 480,000 Americans a year from diseases that include diabetes, colorectal cancer and liver cancer. The report, released today, represents the first time the surgeon general has concluded that smoking is "causally linked" to these diseases. The report finds that smoking causes rheumatoid arthritis, erectile dysfunction and macular degeneration, a major cause of age-related blindness. Smoking causes inflammation, impairs immune function and increases the risk of death from tuberculosis, an infectious disease. Smoking exacts a huge financial toll, as well.
Oxford weighs Sunday alcohol sales
The Oxford Board of Aldermen is expected to once again consider an ordinance next week to allow Sunday alcohol sales in restaurants. The Oxford Tourism Council voted this week to support the on-premises sale of beer, wine and liquor on every Sunday. The board of aldermen meets Tuesday. After decades of a near-total ban on Sunday alcohol, the city in 2011 legalized Sunday sales by the drink on University of Mississippi home football weekends, Mother's Day and Father's Day, along with Valentine's Day and New Year's Eve when they occur on Sunday.
USM Alumni Association welcomes new associate director for external affairs
The University of Southern Mississippi Alumni Association recently welcomed Shea Kidd Houze as the organization's new associate director for external affairs. Houze earned a degree in speech communication from the university in 2002. Upon graduation, she was employed in the sales industry until deciding to pursue a career in higher education. Subsequently, she completed a master's degree in college student affairs administration from the University of Georgia. In her prior role at the University of Memphis, Houze served as the coordinator of the First Scholars Program, a four-year program for first-generation college students.
Mississippi Valley State campus cleared over bomb threat
Mississippi Valley State University officials canceled Thursday evening and Friday classes after being alerted of a bomb threat against the campus and the Leflore County Civic Center. The threats were made in a letter received by the university on Wednesday. MVSU administrators initially advised the community of the threat and implemented mandatory identification checks for anyone entering the campus and campus buildings. However, they later canceled classes until Tuesday. "Right now, we are working through our emergency plan," said Maxine Greenleaf, director of communication and marketing for MVSU.
U.S. Department of Education seeks input from Delta State
The United States Department of Education made a visit to the campus of Delta State University Wednesday to gather input for developing a national plan to improve the preparedness of low-skilled U.S. adults. "There are over 36 million Americans that are low skilled adults; half of the 36 million individuals are Black and Hispanic," said Brenda Dann Messier, assistant secretary for vocational and adult education, "One third of the 36 million are under the age of 35," she added. Delta State was fourth of many stops that the U.S. Department of Education has made in an effort to help craft the skills of adults in the workplace.
Auburn AD Jay Jacobs helps Boys & Girls Clubs kick off fundraising campaign
Auburn University Athletic Director Jay Jacobs encouraged community members to "save Lee County" Thursday at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Lee County Champions for Kids Luncheon. "You can't save the world, and you can't save the state," he said. "But you can save Lee County." Jacobs served as the keynote speaker for the annual fundraising campaign kickoff event, where Resource Development Committee chairman Brian Henderson announced this year's goal of $80,000. Jacobs said one of the most important things the clubs give members is hope.
U. of South Carolina trustees OK apartment complex, office building
University of South Carolina trustees agreed Thursday to have Holder Properties build a $94.6 million apartment complex and a $25 million office building in the Innovista research campus. In a novel project for USC, the school will lease the land to the Atlanta developer, who will construct and take most of the profit generated from the apartments and offices. USC is not spending any money on the buildings but will take a cut earned from the projects, which still need final city of Columbia and state regulatory approvals.
U. of South Carolina anti-smoking effort earns spot at White House ceremony
When health officials gather Friday at the White House to tout 50 years of progress against cigarette smoking, the higher education representative on the dais will be from the University of South Carolina. Gene Luna, associate vice president for student affairs, was invited to take part because of its campus lifestyle efforts. The school banned smoking in and around its buildings in 2006, and starting Jan. 1 has banned smoking anywhere on university property. The invitation to the ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of the U.S. surgeon general's ground-breaking report on smoking stemmed from USC hosting a summit of tobacco-free colleges last year.
Committee to review U. of Florida law dean candidates Friday
The hunt for a new dean for the University of Florida Levin College of Law is taking place during a time of seismic shifts in the legal profession and in the way law is being taught across the nation. A restructured economy, new technologies, globalization and other pressures have reduced the number of jobs for new law school graduates, forcing law schools to retrench and come up with new strategies for the changing market. Those conditions raise the stakes for the 11-member law school dean search committee when it meets Friday.
Thieves wiping out gardeners' hard-earned harvest at U. of Florida co-op
Giacomo Ciani and his wife, Ilaria, thought their recent harvest would be a success. For months, the couple tended to vegetable rows on their plot at the University of Florida Organic Gardens Cooperative. By late fall, their plot sprang to life. They had beets, broccoli and even Swiss chards, an elusive vegetable they struggled to grow in the past. In mid-December, however, Ciani, a 35-year-old UF physics assistant scientist and co-president of the cooperative, found two vegetable rows uprooted from his plot, including the Swiss chards. "They were completely and systematically emptied," he said recently. The couple aren't alone.
Residence hall facelifts kick off U. of Tennessee's campus master plan
University of Tennessee dorms are getting a facelift. The new Fred D. Brown, Jr. Residence Hall, currently under construction on Andy Holt Avenue, is the first step in the university's ultimate plan to redefine residential halls on campus. The current demolition of Gibbs Hall and the Stokely Athletic Center will mark the second reconstruction on campus. "It will be completely different from what we see now," said Frank Cuevas, executive director of Student Housing. "After Gibbs is finished, if approved by our trustees and the State Building Commission, we will proceed with the redevelopment of what is west end of campus -- essentially the presidential courtyard, Morrill and the Apartment Residence Hall."
Texas A&M administrators still considering parking garage plans
The controversial Texas A&M parking garages have been sent back to the drawing board and current plans do not call for as much of a hike to parking permit prices. Notably, both garages now have official backing from A&M administrators. Former President R. Bowen Loftin, in December before he stepped down, killed a plan that could have raised parking permit prices for students, faculty and staff by about 20 percent The plans are again being considered by the Council for Built Environment, which authorizes university construction. "We went back to athletics and student affairs," said Provost Karan Watson, who co-chairs the CBE.
College Leaders Leave White House Summit Inspired to Act
President Obama and college presidents set aside their differences over his administration's proposed college-rating system on Thursday, convening at the White House for a daylong summit on college access. In a speech Mr. Obama made no mention of the system, which would judge institutions based on measures of access and affordability, and the proposal came up only a couple of times in conversations at the event. Instead, the president and the 140 college leaders, business people, foundation heads, and nonprofit executives he had assembled for the summit focused on ways they could work together to get more low-income students into, and through, college.
Admissions leaders gather and consider how to define merit
As college presidents went to the White House Thursday to talk about new efforts to attract more low-income students to higher education, admissions leaders gathered in Los Angeles and talked about how they define merit. Who is admitted? Who gets aid? When spots and the aid budget are limited, who gets priority status? Speakers turned to definitions (from dictionaries, Latin and Greek) and to philosophy, and generally agreed that merit in higher education must mean more than having the highest grades and test scores. But beyond that, things get complicated.

History eludes Mississippi State against No. 12 Tennessee
A trio of players surrounded their coach Vic Schaefer during Mississippi State's postgame press conference. Martha Alwal fought back tears. Kendra Grant stared down at the table and Katia May couldn't remove the foul feeling of a 67-63 defeat against No. 12 Tennessee. Tennessee improves to 35-0 all-time against MSU. The trio scored 45 points, but it wasn't enough to grab the program's first win against the Lady Vols.
No. 12 Lady Vols escape Starkville after battle
Mississippi State has had several notable accomplishments in women's basketball. The Bulldogs have advanced to the Sweet 16 and produced No. 1 and No. 2 overall picks in the WNBA Draft. But the one thing MSU has never done is defeat Tennessee. The Bulldogs were 0-34 against the Lady Vols entering Thursday night's game. Make it 0-35. It was a one-possession game with 26 seconds remaining but No. 12 Tennessee did just enough to escape the upset with a 67-63 win.
Rebels, Bulldogs back on the ice
With a roster that includes players from 16 states and Canada, when the Ole Miss hockey team scattered for the holidays, it really scattered. "Everybody was on their own, all over the country and doing their own thing," coach Angelo Rosena said this week. "We were playing pretty well before the break, but Tuesday was our first practice since early December." The Rebels will take on Mississippi State in a pair of games, tonight and Saturday, at BancorpSouth Arena in Tupelo. Admission is $6, and the puck drops at 7:30 p.m.
Alabama's Bill Battle responds to report on Tuscaloosa store owner
A Tuscaloosa man is back in the national spotlight for his business selling autographed memorabilia from University of Alabama football players. On Thursday, CBSsports reported that disassociated Alabama booster Tom Al-Betar, who operates T-Town Men's Wear and T-Town Gallery in University Mall, continues to obtain and sell signed jerseys, gloves, helmets, etc., signed by Crimson Tide players more than two years after UA sent him a cease-and-desist letter. Alabama sent the letter to Al-Betar on Dec. 22, 2010. Thursday evening Alabama Athletic Director Bill Battle released a statement.
NCAA Begins Debate Over Power Shift
Under pressure to provide more benefits to big-time college athletes, the NCAA on Thursday took its first steps toward creating a Division I governance structure that would make that possible. Over several hours, hundreds of college presidents and athletics officials debated a proposal that, among other things, would streamline the association's rule-making system and provide more autonomy to the wealthiest conferences. The goal is to create an NCAA that is more nimble, strategic, collaborative, and transparent, said Kirk Schulz, president of Kansas State University.
Division I questions how athletes fit into new governance structure
"Where do the student-athletes fit into this new governance structure?" There's lots of applause, then awkward silence, as the half-dozen college presidents who put forth the new plan for the National Collegiate Athletic Association's Division I figure out who will answer the question. "I'm not sure we've wrestled with that substantially," says Wake Forest University President Nathan Hatch, chair of the Division I Board of Directors. "I think the whole goal of the board is on behalf of the student-athletes." Day one of two, hours three of seven devoted to discussing the proposed re-structuring that the board will probably approve in August made clear that plenty of questions remain, and many relate to the athletes.
NCAA Division I Legislative Council Approves Triathlon as Emerging Sport for Women
Triathlon, said to be the fastest growing sport in the U.S. Olympic Movement, received overwhelming approval Thursday from the NCAA Division I Legislative Council to be the next Emerging Sport for Women, creating new opportunities within the Olympic pipeline for student-athletes. According to a report from USA Triathlon, the vote was 95 percent in favor as announced during the council's session as part of the 2014 NCAA Convention in San Diego, Calif. Division II and III schools will also be voting on triathlon's Emerging Sport status later this week. Triathlon will be added as a fall sport, and athletic departments will be able to form teams and compete at the varsity level beginning in August 2014.

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