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Mercer announced an updated COVID-19 mask and vaccination policy Aug. 12. The school now requires masks for unvaccinated students, employees and community members in indoor public spaces, but for individual departments and classrooms, the guidelines are a bit vaguer.
Mercer’s Student Government Association (SGA) released results for their annual senatorial elections earlier this evening.
This past summer, eight Mercer students from the Stetson School of Business and the School of Engineering were selected to participate in the new Blue Bird Scholars program. The program is part of a larger university initiative to enhance corporate relations at Mercer, according to Kimberly Meredith, director of Mercer’s Center for Career and Professional Development.
“The Blue Bird Scholars program is a win for students, the university and the employer,” Meredith said. “The program is a perfect demonstration of purposeful actions put in place to fulfill the Mercer Mission. Everyone involved in this program experienced various ways to learn, to create, to discover, to inspire, to empower and to serve.”
The students participating in the Blue Bird program each completed a 12-week internship at the bus manufacturer and were offered $2,500 upon completion.
Mercer has high hopes for expanding its corporate partnerships in the coming years.
Mercer is a part of the Network of Academic Corporate Relations Officers which provides a framework for national standards and professional development opportunities. Mercer’s career offices are also looking to set up a corporate partners program or corporate engagement program, according to Senior Associate Vice President for University Advancement Allen London.
This program creates a simpler process for university relationships, London said. When a company wants to partner with Mercer, there will be a “centralized, one-stop-shop” they can reach.
These offices are working on a website that will fulfill this purpose. Mercer also recently established a Corporate Relations Council designed to focus on Mercer’s corporate connections.
While corporate relations at Mercer are expanding, they have long been an integral part of Mercer. One important partnership, according to London, began in the 1980s with Robins Air Force Base and resulted in the creation of Mercer’s engineering school in 1985. This has opened the door for a variety of relationships for Mercer.
“The beauty of Mercer is that we're small and nimble,” London said. “We can turn on a dime and we can make some decisions faster than sometimes larger public institutions can make.”
Meredith said that the Center for Career and Professional Development is also seeing developments in terms of corporate employers.
“The Center for Career and Professional Development is experiencing high levels of engagement with employers at this time,” Meredith said.
With the university’s recent relationships in mind, Meredith advised students to create a Handshake account to fully utilize the college-to-career resources that are available to them at Mercer.
The transition to college can be tough, and getting used to a new school and a new environment contributes to that. One of the most important parts of starting college is developing an efficient study plan. Luckily, there are lots of beautiful places to study on Mercer’s campus.
Tarver Library is one of the most popular study spots on Mercer’s Macon campus, but there’s a lot more to it than a newcomer might expect. The building consists of three floors with plenty of places to get some homework done. The first floor is open 24 hours a day and is equipped with an Einstein Bros. Bagels and lots of private study rooms. The second floor is where you will find the library computers and printers. The third floor, dubbed the “quiet floor,” has several study rooms with large windows overlooking Mercer’s campus. Make sure you show up early during finals and midterms, though — the study rooms will fill up quickly.
The Which Wich Lounge located in the Connell Student Center is a popular spot for students to study. With Which Wich, Brewed Awakenings and the CSC Pod located in the same area, you can grab something to eat before studying. This is a great option if you like studying in busy areas, but it can also be a quiet study spot when Which Wich is closed.
Located in Mercer Village right next to Mercer’s campus, Z Beans Coffee is perfect for anyone who loves studying in coffee shops. It was even founded by a Mercer alum. Z Beans boasts a wide array of coffees, teas and sandwiches. You can see their full menu here.
Historic Quad and Cruz Plaza
For those who prefer to study outside, the Historic Quad and Cruz Plaza are great options. Located just a short walk away from the freshman dorms, the Historic Quad is home to many of the humanities departments and is a central part of Mercer’s campus. It has some benches available, but you can also bring a blanket and have a seat on the grass. Cruz Plaza is another great spot to sit on a blanket and offers a little more open space, residing between Tarver Library and the University Center.
Godsey Science Center
Godsey Science Center is one of the newest buildings on campus, and it’s equipped with plenty of study spaces useful for STEM students and non-majors alike. With a designed study space on its first floor and seating areas set up outside the classrooms, it’s a great place to get some last-minute studying in before class or review the materials after class.
Mercer is encouraging students, faculty and community members to get vaccinated against COVID-19 by offering free and convenient opportunities to get the shot.
In an email sent to the Mercer community Aug. 12, President Bill Underwood said that Mercer’s goal is to have 80% of students either fully vaccinated or vaccinated with the first dose by “early in the fall semester.”
But unvaccinated Bears need not fear — there are five more opportunities in August and early September for members of the Mercer community to get vaccinated.
Free COVID-19 vaccines will be available at the University Center during Bear Fair Aug. 23 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. The vaccines will be given out in the aerobics room adjacent to the intramural courts in the University Center.
Vaccines are also being offered at Mercer School of Law Aug. 26 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m and at Penfield Hall Aug, 27, Sept. 3 and Sept. 10 from 8:30 a.m. to 11:45 a.m.
For both the Bear Fair and Mercer Law School sites, appointments are not needed. For the Penfield Hall site, appointments can be made through Mercer Medicine. The vaccines will be administered on-site.
For those unable to make those dates, there are several additional vaccination sites throughout Macon. Appointments can also be booked on the Georgia Department of Public Health’s COVID-19 vaccine registration site.
Fall recruitment for Mercer’s fraternities and sororities is quickly approaching, and according to Fraternity and Sorority Program’s 2020-2021 review, most of the Greek Life organizations are currently in good standing. However, there are a few exceptions.Alpha Kappa Alpha is suspended for the 2021-2022 academic year due to hazing, according to FSP. It is reported by FSP to be the only chapter at Mercer that will not be able to take in new members during the fall 2021 semester.The Mercer Student Code of Conduct defines hazing as “any act or activity required for the purpose of initiation, admission into, affiliation with, or as a condition for continued membership in a group or organization.” The code also specifies that “express or implied consent of the victim will not be a defense.”Hazing is currently illegal in the state of Georgia under the Max Gruver Act. The act was signed into law in May 2021 and went into effect in July.Alpha Kappa Alpha did not respond to The Cluster’s request for comment as of 6:15 p.m. Saturday.Six additional chapters are either on probation for the fall 2021 semester.The following chapters are on fall 2021 social probation:
Mercer’s Student Government Association (SGA) has been hard at work this summer to plan for another successful year, according to SGA President Rylan Allen.
The organization now has a newly remodeled office and has solidified many of their plans for the upcoming year, including details about this year’s SGA elections.
SGA will be conducting fall elections for SGA senators in September and voting will take place Sept. 8-9.
All SGA members will receive training, according to Allen. “We are very excited for our fall retreat that will allow members of Senate to bond and have fun with one another while also learning how best to facilitate senate proceedings,” Allen said.
SGA has scheduled monthly meetings with Mercer President Bill Underwood for this upcoming year.
Some of SGA’s planned events for this upcoming school year include Pilgrimage to Penfield Oct. 17, Christmas Tree Lighting Dec. 9 and Founder’s Day Feb. 9.
Additionally, SGA now has a new email address, email@example.com, and is currently updating their website.
Students interested in running for SGA positions for the 2021-2022 school year must attend SGA’s qualifications meeting Sept. 1 at 5 p.m. in Connell Student Center Conference Room I. Campaigning will not be allowed until after the meeting concludes.
The first Monday Senate meeting will be Sept. 13 at 6 p.m. in CSC Conference Room II.
Mercer has updated its campus vaccination and mask policy according to an Aug. 12 announcement. The university now requires unvaccinated students, employees and guests to wear masks in indoor public spaces.
The university does not require masks for individuals in outdoor settings.
While the statement released May 17 stated that unvaccinated students, employees and guests were “expected to take personal responsibility and wear masks while on campus,” the policy of the Aug. 12 statement is that unvaccinated individuals are required to wear masks while in indoor public spaces on campus.
Additionally, instructors and event organizers may now require masks in classes or campus activities regardless of vaccination status.
Fully vaccinated students, employees and guests are not required to wear masks in indoor spaces on campus, apart from the Campus Health Centers in Macon and Atlanta.
“Nonetheless, even vaccinated individuals are encouraged to wear a mask while inside campus facilities,” the announcement states.
Health sciences students in programs with clinical experiences are required to be vaccinated for COVID-19, and students and employees in clinical settings may be required to wear masks regardless of vaccination status.
The policy may change based on campus and program conditions, and members of the Mercer community are encouraged to check the policy regularly for changes.
Cathy Cox, former Georgia Secretary of State and the current dean of Mercer’s School of Law, has been named as the sole finalist to become president of Georgia State and College University by the University System of Georgia.
Georgia College’s current president, Steve Dorman, announced in January that he plans to step down from his position in September. Dorman, the university’s eleventh president, has been leading Georgia College since 2012.
Cox, who was Georgia’s Secretary of State from 1999 to 2007, became the first woman in Georgia’s history to be elected to the position. During her time as Secretary of State, Cox instituted a universal electronic voting system, making Georgia the first state in the United States to do so, and moved the largest division of her office from Atlanta to Macon.
She additionally served two terms in the Georgia House of Representatives from 1993 to 1996 and ran for governor of Georgia in 2006.
“As someone who earned her undergraduate degrees through the University System of Georgia, I know how important it is to give students a strong foundation and the skills they need to help themselves and the state succeed,” Cox said in a press release from the University System of Georgia.
Cox attended Abraham Baldwin Agricultural University, where she graduated with an associate’s degree in agriculture, and the University of Georgia, where she obtained a bachelor’s degree in journalism.
She graduated from Mercer Law in 1986 and practiced law full-time for ten years prior to starting her political career. Cox spent ten years as the president of Young Harris College before becoming the dean of Mercer’s School of Law in 2017.
Georgia College and State University, located in Milledgeville, Georgia, had nearly 7,000 enrolled students last year and is considered the University System of Georgia’s primary liberal arts university.
“I am very excited for the chance to build upon Georgia College & State University’s reputation, and work with faculty and staff to create a world-class destination for the liberal arts right here in Georgia,” Cox said.
Mercer Athletics has announced the artists slated to perform during the upcoming football season at the 2021 Ford Concert Series.The series consists of five concerts that will be hosted at Toby Town, which is adjacent to Five Star Stadium, before each of Mercer’s home football games in the fall. This is the third season that the concert series has been featured at Mercer."We're excited to continue to provide Middle Georgia with outstanding entertainment featuring live music and multiple national recording artists along with an incredible college football experience this fall," Associate Athletic Director for External Operations Daniel Tate told Mercer Athletics. "Music is part of the fabric that makes Macon special, and it is our goal to provide the community with the chance to experience one of the pillars of our wonderful city."Each concert in the series will feature a headlining performer, and some will also host additional performers.Sept. 2 vs. Point UniversityHeadliners: Dylan Marlow and Noah HicksOct.2 vs. Samford UniversityHeadliner: Craig CampbellAdditional Performers: Kaitlyn Baker, ERNESTOct. 16 vs. Virginia Military InstituteHeadliner: Jon LangstonAdditional Performers: Chris Brandi, Priscilla BlockOct. 23 vs. Wofford CollegeHeadliner: Chris LaneAdditional Performers: Joe Lasher, Kameron MarloweNov. 13 vs. University of Tennessee at ChattanoogaHeadliner: TBAAdditional Performers: JB StraussThe headlining artist for the final home game on Nov. 13 has yet to be announced.Football games are free for students to attend. Families and fans can purchase season tickets here.
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted several different areas of Mercer’s campus life, and social distancing has changed the way many of Mercer’s arts, sports and clubs function. Also affected are Mercer’s dance teams, which have had to make major adjustments in their returns to practicing and performing.
When everything shut down in March 2020, Mercer Rangreli, Mercer’s competitive Bollywood Fusion dance team, was in the middle of competition season.
Angel Shah is a senior at Mercer who has been a part of Rangreli since her freshman year and currently serves as a manager for the team.
The group was started in 2015 and, according to Shah, has grown from performing strictly on campus to placing in competitions.
“It was definitely really sad because we were definitely at an uphill progression,” Shah said. “Last year was definitely our highest point competitively.”
Mercer’s Ballroom Dance Team had also just finished a competition at Georgia Tech and was preparing to attend more when the lockdowns began.
”We weren’t able to go to any other competitions that semester, and we had to cancel club altogether because nobody knew what to do,” Noah De Mers, a junior at Mercer the president of Mercer Ballroom Dance, said.
In returning to campus for the 2020-2021 school year, social distancing requirements have been particularly difficult for these dancers.
“It’s definitely been incredibly hard considering the fact that dance is so active, and a huge part of social distancing is having to be able to be apart and wearing masks,” Vidya Ganapathy, a senior at Mercer and a manager of Rangreli, said.
Rangreli used to meet and practice very frequently, so the team had to make major adjustments to their schedule this year.
“A lot of the times we used to practice almost seven to eight hours a week, and not being able to meet for that time really limits the ability that we’re able to come together and work on things,” Ganapathy said.
Not being able to dance with his team members has been the hardest part for De Mers.
“I think the most challenging thing is the fact that we aren’t able to have contact with each other, which prevents us from being able to utilize the dance floor,” De Mers said.
The Ballroom Dance Club consists of around 15 members who meet once a week.
There is also the Ballroom Dance Team, which is made up of five members within the club who, according to De Mers, are “interested in wanting to pursue dance a little bit more than just on a weekly basis and wants to be involved in collegiate competitions throughout the year.”
De Mers has been involved with both the club and the team since his freshman year.
The Ballroom Dance Club was formerly restricted to Zoom meetings, but it has since received approval from the university to hold in-person, socially-distanced meetings.
De Mers said that the virtual Bear Fair made it difficult to recruit new members and that the contactless dance has caused some challenges for the club and the team.
“I think because of the fact that we aren’t having contact dancing, that did dwindle our numbers,” De Mers said.
Rangreli has been holding practices over Zoom and offering in-person workshops with under five people to ensure safety. The team is also not participating in competitions as of now.
Both teams are beginning to get back into their groove and are even starting to perform again.
“We have definitely started slowly integrating things back up and doing things online through Zoom practices, meeting up in really small groups (...) and wearing our masks while performing,” Ganapathy said.
In March, the Ballroom Dance Team participated in a competition, and Rangreli performed at MU Miracle’s Bearthon event.
Both De Mers and Shah think that, despite everything, they are now closer to their teammates and are able to focus more on what they all love: dancing.
“Instead of just practicing to compete, we started practicing more for enjoyment and bettering our own personal technique and bonding with the team as a whole,” Shah said.
De Mers said that there’s some advantages to having a smaller team.
“With the smaller numbers, we’ve been able to hone (our skills) a little bit better and allow that one-on-one operation than if we were to have a full team,” De Mers said.
De Mers and Ganapathy hope that their teams will be able to return to normal practice and competition soon.
“I’m hoping with vaccines and all, that next year — I won’t be here — but that it will be a brighter future for the rest of the team and that we can get back out there again,” Ganapathy said.
“I do hope that in the future, with the vaccines coming out and everything, that hopefully we will get back to normal and that we will be able to actually have clubs like we were able to in the past,” De Mers said.
To learn more about or get in contact with these teams, visit MU Rangreli and Mercer Ballroom Dance on Instagram.
The 2020-21 football season was truly unlike any other, and that was no exception for the Atlanta Falcons.
The Falcons finished the 2020 season with an overall record of 4-12. This is their worst record since 2013, and the team failed to make the playoffs for the third season in a row. They are now looking to make many changes to their team in order to prepare for a more successful 2021 season.
The season brought a lot of changes for Atlanta including new uniforms and the firing of five-year head coach Dan Quinn, who was released five games into the 2020 season. Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff were both fired Oct. 11 after the team suffered five straight losses to begin the season.
The Falcons have been keeping busy and made some major adjustments to their team in the time before the 2021-2022 season as a result of the lackluster performance.
One major change comes in the form of a new head coach, former Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith.
Coaching the Falcons will be very different from Smith’s experience with the Titans, especially since Smith is no longer coaching a team that has superstar Titans running back Derrick Henry. Smith said in an NBC Sports interview that with the Falcons he plans to “use multiple backs and trust our scheme” in order to account for less rushing production.
Sunday saw new Falcons General Manager Terry Fontenot fire Kevin Winston, Marty Lauzon and Mike Crews. Lauzon was the Director of Sports Medicine and Performance, and Crews was a videographer for the team. Winston was the teams’ longtime vice president of player affairs.
As for player personnel, the Falcons recently released safety Ricardo Allen and defensive end Allen Bailey. Atlanta is also not expected to use a franchise tag on safety Keanu Neal despite Neal’s longtime status as a starter with the team. The three players are expected to become free agents.
With NFL free agency beginning in two weeks, Smith, Fontenot and the Falcons will be looking to acquire some new players for this upcoming season. Punter Dom Maggio was recently signed, and Fontenot has announced that the Falcons plan to add a new quarterback and wide receiver to the team.
This could mean big changes for Atlanta, as Matt Ryan could be nearing the end of his Falcons tenure.
With all these new faces on the field, on the bench and in the front office, fans should expect to see a very different Atlanta Falcons team playing in the 2021 NFL season.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers took down the Kansas City Chiefs in a blowout Super Bowl victory Feb. 6, winning by a score of 31-9.
One of the most uncertain seasons in NFL history came to an underwhelming end Sunday with a matchup between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fl.
Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, nealy 25,000 fans packed the stadium to watch the two teams face off.
During the Super Bowl and for much of the season, all eyes were on 43-year-old quarterback Tom Brady, who played his first season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this year.
Brady previously played 20 seasons with the New England Patriots, appearing in nine previous Super Bowls and winning six of them. Brady led the Buccaneers to a very successful season, as Tampa accumulated a 14-5 record prior to the big game. Brady surprised many despite his age, showing prowess in the pocket leading Tampa Bay.
Kansas City entered the Super Bowl as the defending champions, led by 2018 MVP Patrick Mahomes as quarterback as well as returning stars Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce.
The Chiefs scored the first points of the game with Harrison Butker’s 49-yard field goal, but Brady quickly responded with a touchdown pass to his fellow Patriots alum, Rob Gronkowski.
The Buccaneers eventually closed the half with a 21-point lead after a second touchdown pass from Brady to Gronkowski.
Despite scoring first, the Chiefs were never able to fully reach their stride on offense.
Patrick Mahomes completed 26 of his 49 pass attempts for 270 yards but failed to reach the endzone for the entire night. Mahomes was also sacked twice and under pressure for most of the night, likely the result of Kansas City having to use two backup offensive linemen for the night.
Tampa Bay never lost their early start, scoring 10 points in the second half and winning the game 31-9. Butker scored all 9 of Kansas’s City’s points, kicking 3 field goals for Kansas City.
Brady was awarded the Super Bowl MVP award, winning the fifth in his career and cementing himself as the story of the game.
Brady also became the first quarterback to win two championships after the age of 40. He now has seven Super Bowl rings, the most of any single player’s career and more than several franchises have won in their history.
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected numerous aspects of Mercer’s campus life. Campus religious organizations have had to adjust as well.
At a time when large gatherings must be held carefully, religious groups have had to change the way they hold worship.
One of these groups includes Mercer’s Baptist Christian Ministries. They have made changes to their organization's operations to account for COVID-19 guidelines.
Payton Hodges, BCM’s president, said that the group has limited music during Thursday night worship.
“We ask that everybody who comes on Thursday night doesn't sing, because we know that that's one of the health concerns that can cause COVID to spread more easily,” Hodges said.
BCM meets in Newton Chapel, which normally has a capacity of 98 in normal times, and Hodges said that the group ensures that the meetings are kept under capacity.
“We're working around that, trying to figure out what's the best way to continue to run as close to as normal as possible, while still being very conscientious about people,” Hodges said.
Hodges said he wants BCM to be a place where students can be free from stress.
“We don't want to be seen to be a place where for our council members, it feels like a job or for regular attendees, an obligation,” Hodges said. “We wanted to be somewhere where you can come and relax and and be with your friends and be able to sort of shut that off.”
BCM is currently planning a mission trip during spring break. Hodges said that the necessary accommodations for COVID-19 will be made.
Mercer’s Reformed University Fellowship has also faced these challenges.
During the spring semester, RUF was quick to offer a virtual option for students to attend over Zoom. This year, RUF has provided students with a social distanced and masked version of the traditional RUF events.
“I think the RUF ministry has adapted very well to the adverse conditions the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown everyone’s way,” Macee Palmer, a worship leader for RUF, said.
RUF meets off-campus at First Presbyterian Church. Palmer said that in-person RUF worship has been beneficial, and that she appreciates the club’s attention to safety.
“It’s really good to have RUF in-person while also protecting each other from the existing coronavirus,” Palmer said.
With the COVID-19 pandemic delaying sports across the globe, the 2020 NFL season is shaping up to be the most unexpected season yet. Here are some players you should be on the lookout for this season, both expected and unexpected.
Burrow, who won the Heisman Trophy and a National Championship during his time as a quarterback at Louisiana State University, is starting his NFL career with the Cincinnati Bengals. He replaces Andy Dalton as the Bengals’ starting quarterback. Expect big things from Burrow in the upcoming season, especially after he was named a team captain in Cincinnati before even playing a game, according to ESPN.
The University of Georgia running back was drafted in the second round by the Detroit Lions. He will initially split work with Kerryon Johnson and Bo Scarbrough, but Swift has the potential to become a notable player this season after being a productive back with the Bulldogs.
An alum of The Ohio State University, Dobbins is now a running back for the Baltimore Ravens. He had a strong start to the season on Sunday, scoring two touchdowns against the Cleveland Browns, and his future in the NFL is looking bright.
McCaffery, one of the top running backs in the league, has played for the Carolina Panthers since 2017. He has shown to be a very solid player, being the only running back to have two seasons with 100 or more receptions. McCaffery also holds the league record for most receptions by a running back in a single game, with 15 catches in a game against the Indianapolis Colts in 2019, according to Pro Football Reference.
This was an easy one. All eyes are on former New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in his first season as a Tampa Bay Buccaneer. Brady played for the Patriots for 20 seasons, winning six Super Bowl championships and four Super Bowl MVP awards. With such a distinguished career, it will be interesting to see how Brady functions on a new team, especially after a noted decline in production last season.
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in many collegiate sports being put on pause, and Mercer’s athletic conference, the Southern Conference, has canceled in-conference games this fall. However, Mercer Football fans are in luck because the team will still be playing games this fall.
The Bears will be playing against Jacksonville State University on Oct. 10 and will face West Point on Oct. 24. Both games will be played on the road.
The Jacksonville State Gamecocks are coming off of a 6-6 season, maintaining a similar record to Mercer’s 4-8 mark in 2019. The Gamecocks did notch a 5-2 record at home, according to JSU Athletics, so the Bears may be at a disadvantage playing on the road.
Army West Point is coming off of a 5-8 season in 2019, according to Army Athletics. That 2019 season included an overtime loss on the road against #7 Michigan and a home loss against rival Navy, so the team at Army is likely a force to be reckoned with for the Bears. Mercer may have a slight advantage due to schedule, however, as Army will have played seven games by the time Mercer plays them in October. Mercer only has two games currently scheduled for the 2020 season.
Mercer Football is led by a new head football coach this season, Drew Cronic. Cronic had a 25-3 record at Lenoir-Rhyne University, where he was the head football coach from 2018 to 2019. Lenoir-Rhyne, a Division II program, went 3-8 in 2017 before Cronic guided them to a 25-3 record over the course of the next two seasons according to a Mercer athletics press release.
"It is a dream come true to be back in my home state of Georgia and to be working at a great institution like Mercer University," Cronic said in the press release back in December 2019. "I am excited for this opportunity and I am looking forward to working with President Underwood, Jim Cole and the rest of the Mercer Family.”
Cronic’s hiring came after Mercer parted ways with former coach Bobby Lamb as a result of a losing campaign in 2019, according to the Macon Telegraph. Lamb accumulated a 41-39 record as Mercer’s head coach, beginning in 2013. Lamb’s run as coach included Mercer’s return from a 72-year hiatus in 2013, where the Bears went 10-2 and set the NCAA record for most wins by a first-year program, according to the Telegraph.
Regardless of who will be coaching the Bears on the gridiron, the COVID-19 pandemic has led the Southern Conference to postpone all athletics through the calendar year. The Mercer football team can schedule up to four games for this fall. The Southern Conference will potentially postpone fall sports seasons to spring 2021.
Students set to graduate from Mercer with bachelor’s, graduate or law degrees this May will have traditional commencement ceremonies in August due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the university. The commencement for Mercer School of Medicine graduates will take place virtually in May.
“We must have a commencement,” Mercer President William Underwood said in an email sent to all students on April 14. “And we must have it in a setting, and at a time, that allows those who have been a part of your success to participate through their presence.”
The baccalaureate service will be held at 6 p.m. on Aug. 7 in Willingham Auditorium on the Macon campus.
The School of Law commencement will be held at 10 a.m. on Aug. 7 in the Hawkins Arena on the Macon Campus.
The commencement for students in graduate programs in Macon other than law and medicine will be held on Aug. 8 in Hawkins Arena on the Macon Campus. A time has yet to be announced.
The commencement for programs in Mercer’s Atlanta campus will be held at 3 p.m. on Aug. 9 in the Infinite Energy Center.
For those set to graduate from the School of Medicine, the commencement will be held virtually on its originally set date of May 2. This is, Underwood said, because many of these graduates must begin residency programs soon after their graduation.
Universities around the nation have made adjustments to their graduation ceremonies for the class of 2020. Some of these schools, including Johns Hopkins University and University of Pennsylvania, have announced that they will switch their commencement to a virtual format. Others, including Washington University in St. Louis and Emory University, have cancelled their ceremonies completely.
Mercer joins several other institutions in postponing their ceremonies to what they hope will be a safer time for such a gathering.
Graduation itself from Mercer’s programs will not be delayed, and students will earn their degrees after all requirements are met.
“I want to congratulate you now on your impending graduation,” Underwood said. “I very much look forward to congratulating you in a more formal and personal way in August.”
On Feb. 18, Macon-Bibb County made decisions about SPLOST funding for 2020.
Special-purpose local-option sales tax, or SPLOST, is an optional sales tax in Georgia used to fund the construction of public facilities such as parks, roads and schools. Macon-Bibb County approved its 1% tax increase SPLOST program in 2011, and since then it has been used to fund large projects in public safety, infrastructure, economic development, recreation and debt payments.
Over $16 million of Macon-Bibb SPLOST funds from 2016-2018 will be divided among several projects scheduled in 2020.
According to an ordinance of the Macon-Bibb County Commission, some of these projects and the funding they will receive includes:
$480,710 from 2020 Public Safety:
Fire upgrade line item for the purchase of turnout gear and fire department equipment upgrades as identified by the Fire Chief and for four vehicles
$480,710 from 2020 Cultural and Public:
Coliseum line item for repairs and upgrades to the fire alarm and monitoring and the mechanical systems and for other needs as identified by facilities management and spectra venue management
$60,000 from 2020 Parks and Recreation:
East Macon line item for the purchase of weight room equipment and other furniture, fixtures and equipment and other construction needs at the Delores A. Brooks Recreation Center
Commissioners also approved that $934,474 from SPLOST funding will go to the renovation of the Robert S. Train Memorial Recreation Center and $184,000 to construction services at Elm Street Park.
Mercer men’s lacrosse has officially kicked off their 2020 season, and it’s already looking to be one for the books.
Two sophomores, attack Sean Goldsmith and faceoff specialist Ashton Wood, were voted to the Preseason All-SoCon Team this year. Goldsmith was tied for the team’s point leader with senior midfielder Michael Quinn last season.
Their season began Feb. 1 with an electric home match against the Florida Tech Panthers at Five Star Stadium, which the Bears won 18-6.
Goldsmith scored six goals, tying the Mercer record for most goals in a game. Four freshmen, midfielder Cole Leggett, midfielder Parker Junod, midfielder Collin Stewart and attack Zach Green, recorded their first career goals for the Bears.
The freshman goalkeeper Colin Kelley recorded seven saves on 18 shots faced for a .636 save percentage. Quinn scored three goals for a hattrick and Wood took 26 faceoffs and won 20.
This is the first time since 2014 that Mercer men’s lacrosse won its first contest of the season. That year was also the last time the team finished with a winning record. This year the team has met their record of last season when they finished with a 1-12 record.
“In my final season I am looking forward to competing with my boys and having one last opportunity to fight for a SoCon championship,” team captain Quinn said.
Mercer Lacrosse is entering its 10th year as a Division I sports team, and Quinn says they are more than ready for the season.
“With Coach Hannan leading the program, we are experienced and understand the game at the Division I level,” Quinn said.
One of Quinn’s favorite experiences over the past four years is when the team defeated High Point at home his freshman year, and he is looking forward to their match this season.
“We had a nail-biter last year, and I am looking forward to another this 2020 season,” Quinn said.
The Bears traveled to Chapel Hill to play the North Carolina Tar Heels on Feb. 8, losing 6-14. Of Mercer’s six goals, Goldsmith scored a hattrick. These teams had played together three times before, with North Carolina taking all three contests.
Even with the loss, Mercer still leads the SoCon in shots per game with an average of 18, according to Mercer Athletics.
Some of the other teams the Bears are set to face off against include Richmond, Air Force and Monmouth. The team’s next home match is against Hampton on Feb. 22.
It’s safe to say that there have been few film franchises as iconic and impactful as “Star Wars.” The original trilogy was a cultural phenomenon and has since evolved into something much larger than just a movie series.
The sequel film trilogy attempts to introduce a new generation to a galaxy far, far away. The release of J.J. Abrams-directed “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” in 2015 saw the creation of a new stage for “Star Wars” after Disney acquired it in 2012. The conclusion of this saga, “The Rise of Skywalker,” was highly-anticipated and had high expectations.
Abrams takes up the reins once again as the director of “The Rise of Skywalker.” Ever since Rian Johnson’s “The Last Jedi” came out in 2017, fans and critics alike have eagerly awaited Abram’s conclusion of the modern Star Wars trilogy. And while “The Rise of Skywalker” isn’t bad by any means, its old, tired tropes stunt any growth made by “The Last Jedi.”
The Achilles’ heel of the sequel trilogy is the handing off of the director title from Abrams to Johnson then back to Abrams. As a result, “The Rise of Skywalker” feels disjointed. It attempts to tie up the loose ends of the past few films, but ends up raising more questions than answers.
“The Rise of Skywalker” was written as the antithesis to “The Last Jedi,” and it shows. It completely reverses many of the plot points of the latter film, including one of its most important revelations: Rey’s (Daisy Ridley) parentage. The big reveal of Rey’s lineage as a Palpatine feels tacky, and the resurrected Emperor Palpatine seems like a shell of his past self.
Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) also falls flat as both a villain and a character, deflecting back to his Ben Solo persona without any real character development. Finn (John Boyega), once so full of potential, is squandered with his limited role in this film. Poe’s (Oscar Isaac) role as a character transforms from “The Last Jedi,” but even elements of his story, such as his spice dealer past, seem out of place.
The new plots and characters “The Last Jedi” introduced, such as Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran), are completely ignored, and the story harks back to past villians and heroes without any real significance.
Of course, no blockbuster film on the level of “The Rise of Skywalker” comes without controversy. A brief scene of two women kissing at the end of the film, the first gay kiss in the franchise’s history, was removed from the film for its release in Singapore. This move was also criticized for its subtlety, as many fans were hoping for more substantial LGBTQ+ representation, particularly between Boyega’s Finn and Issac’s Poe. In an interview with IGN, Issac said, “I think there could’ve been a very interesting, forward-thinking – not even forward-thinking, just, like, current-thinking – love story there, something that hadn’t quite been explored yet; particularly the dynamic between these two men in war that could’ve fallen in love with each other. I would try to push it a bit in that direction, but the Disney overlords were not ready to do that.”
Roger Cheng of CNET said, “Here’s the thing about Abrams’ films: they move so quickly you don’t really have time to process everything that’s going on,” and I think this exemplifies “The Rise of Skywalker.” It’s chock-full of flash, which is nice, but there’s little substance. Even most of the bombshells of the film are passed over, quickly moving on to the next shootout or fight. The pacing is off, and I found myself resisting the urge to check the time on my phone when I saw the film in theaters. At the film’s end, Rey announces her chosen name, which turns out to be a very unsatisfying and even borderline cringeworthy moment.
Skywalker does have many of the thrills and high-speed chases of previous films, and for many nostalgic “Star Wars” and movie fans, it should be a relatively enjoyable viewing experience. But Skywalker was written as a pleaser. The whole thing feels like a rehash — nothing about it feels fresh, original or interesting. Most importantly, the magic present in most Star Wars films is nowhere to be found. It is instead replaced with mediocrity stew with a side of nostalgia. It is good enough, but it is missing those little elements that could have made it great.