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AJC On Campus: Dueling views of pandemic, Remembering Mark Ivester

By Eric Stirgus, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution #atlanta-ga

t’s been about a month since the first of Georgia’s colleges and universities reopened their campuses for students for the fall semester. The different viewpoints about how the process has gone were on display at Tuesday’s Board of Regents meeting, inside and outside the building.

Here’s more about that, the loss of a college president and other matters in the latest edition of AJC On Campus:

Remembering Mark Ivester

Funeral services were held Wednesday for Mark Ivester, the president of North Georgia Technical College. Ivester died late Saturday, a month after being hospitalized for COVID-19. He was remembered as a tireless advocate for the college.

Mark Becker to leave Georgia State

Georgia State University President Mark Becker announced Tuesday he’s leaving in June 2021, after more than a decade in the position. The Georgia Board of Regents will organize a search for his successor.

“A remarkable achievement”

University System of Georgia Chancellor Steve Wrigley used those words during Tuesday’s Board of Regents meeting to describe fall semester instruction at its 26 schools. Wrigley said in his monthly remarks to the board that the schools needed to reopen, despite pleas to the contrary by scores of professors and students and several thousand reported COVID-19 cases this semester. Wrigley said most of the student cases consist of mild symptoms, but he stressed students and employees follow social distance rules and recommendations to prevent the spread of the disease.

“You have the power to save lives”

Meanwhile, about 10 protesters affiliated with the United Campus Workers of Georgia gathered outside the Regents meeting Tuesday to plead to the board that it enact several recommendations they believe will better protect students and employees from COVID-19. The recommendations, listed in a letter, include allowing students and faculty to participate in classes remotely without the need for medical documentation, free and timely COVID-19 testing, robust contact tracing and no layoffs. “You have the power to save lives,” the group wrote in its letter to Regents chairman Sachin Shailendra. The group said it delivered about 200 letters supporting its recommendations.

USG’s $2.36 billion budget ask

It’s never too early to start planning your budget. The University System of Georgia will request $2.36 billion from state lawmakers for the budget year beginning in July 2021. It’s an increase of more than $61 million. It will be interesting to see if they get any additional funds, considering the statewide budget cuts due to the ongoing pandemic. The budget increase is based on projected enrollment growth. Several of its largest universities have more students taking courses this semester.

The U.S. News & World Report rankings

The publication on Monday released its annual rankings of the nation’s best colleges and universities. Here’s how some of Georgia schools fared in various categories.

HOPEful ideas

The Georgia Budget & Policy Institute released a report with some recommendations concerning the HOPE Scholarship, which continues to help thousands of students pay for their college tuition. The ideas include funding needs-based scholarships for low-income students and restoring HOPE Grants at technical colleges. The report shows students from higher-income families are more likely to get the HOPE or Zell Miller scholarships. It also showed racial disparities, such as Black and Latinx students are less likely to get Zell Miller Scholarships.

National Black College Hall of Fame Inductees

The National Black College Hall of Fame has scheduled a virtual induction ceremony on Sept. 25 for its slate of 2020 inductees it is honoring for their achievements in various fields. This year’s class includes a few folks with Georgia ties. The Rev. Jamal Bryant, senior pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church. Bryant, a Morehouse College graduate, is being honored in the faith category. Jimmie Colson Jackson of Savannah State University in the education pioneer category. Robert Benham, the first African American to serve on the Georgia Supreme Court, is being honored in the law category. He’s a Tuskegee University graduate.

Facebook Campus

Facebook, you may remember, was created as a website for Harvard University students to keep in touch with each other. Last week, the social media giant announced an effort that reminded us of its early days. It has created “Facebook Campus,” a dedicated section of the Facebook app designed for students to communicate with classmates of their specific college or university. Once a Campus profile is set up, students can discover Groups and Events unique to their school, and connect with classmates who share similar interests. When content is shared on Campus, only people within Campus will see it. About 30 schools are in the pilot program, including Spelman College, Georgia State and Georgia Southern universities.

Mercer’s $1 million grant to study opioid overdoses in North Georgia

Mercer University announced this week it has received a $1 million federal grant to study opioid overdoses in a four-county region in North Georgia. The three-year initiative will measure treatment and recovery by increasing access to overdose-reversing medication to expanding the substance use disorder workforce in the area, officials said in a statement. It will also include community events to increase community knowledge about preventing overdoses.

Morehouse’s film festival

The pandemic has changed our movie-watching habits to viewing them at home. As a result, Morehouse College is holding its second annual Human Rights Film Festival, scheduled Sept. 24-26, online. Morehouse graduate Spike Lee received a lifetime achievement award for his body of work during the inaugural festival last year.