Congratulations Graduate!

Mortorboard

Doc Seidman Says……

…….For college seniors, the month of May is something many have been waiting for.  The cold, blustery months of winter turn into the refreshing warmth of spring (except here in Florida), and college students throughout the country prepare to graduate. Graduation, or commencement, as it is called in academia, is an extraordinarily joyful time for students. And why not? They just spent the last four or so years sitting through tedious lectures, pretending to laugh at the professor’s boring jokes, and doing arduous class assignments. The thrill of walking across the commencement stage and throwing a mortarboard into the air in celebration is almost second to none. As a faculty member sitting in the audience, or as an administrator sitting on the stage, I, too was joyful and proud.

Some students learn the hard way that walking across the stage and celebrating with friends and family does not necessarily mean they have graduated. It simply means they have participated in the ceremony. The diploma comes sometime later, after the college has done its due diligence to make sure the graduation requirements have been fulfilled. It’s quite possible that there are students dressed in cap and gown, joyfully celebrating with their friends, who have yet to pass Statistics, or French, or Organic Chemistry, or Food Safety and Sanitation, or any other degree requirement. Don’t get too excited. It’s back to the classroom for you.

But for most everyone else, however, it is indeed a terrific accomplishment and a joyful time. It is something that will be with you forever and nobody can take away.

Unfortunately, many folks who start college don’t finish. In fact, recent statistics have shown that only 55% of four-year college students complete their degree within six years. At least 40% never graduate at all. If you are a student classified as a demographic minority, the chances of completing your college degree are even lower. Only thirty eight percent of African American students (46% of women and 35% of men) will complete their degree. Hispanic students do a bit better with a 46% completion rate. As a comparison, 62% of white students complete their degrees in six-years while Asian students perform the best with a 63% completion rate.

Are you the first in your family to go to college? Congratulations! But sadly, around half of you won’t finish. Do you come from a lower income family? Although government resources help, not having all the money you need is a significant hindrance as only 43% of you will graduate. Were you raised in a foster family? Your completion rate trails the entire field at only 14%.

There are many reasons for this. Money is perhaps the biggest one. Many underfunded students soon learn that they don’t have the resources to complete a four-year degree without an unwanted overwhelming debt burden. Many students get full and part time jobs while in college, but having multiple part-time jobs, or even just one full-time job, can be detrimental. The workplace culture soon supersedes the academic culture and next thing you know, classes are skipped, assignments are missed, and academic woes just pile on.

Since we are discussing money, not surprisingly, students attending private colleges have a better completion rate than their public-school counterparts (66% to 59%). Private schools, with a higher tuition and reduced class size, tend to be more nurturing. The professor may reach out to the students who seem to be fading away. Support services are more attentive too. The lines should be shorter to talk to whichever student support specialist is needed. It may not seem like much, but it helps.

The “For Profit” schools probably do more harm than good. For those of you, or someone you know, who is enticed by one of these heavily advertised universities, note that if you enroll, less than one in four of you will actually complete. They can also be expensive. Most “For Profits” make it easy to enroll and even easier borrow money. Whether or not you complete your degree, if you borrow money to  go there, or any other college, you need to pay it back. And if you fail to graduate and have a lot of debt….ouch! Not good.

Sorry to ruin the upcoming graduation party, but college can certainly be a case of “let the buyer beware.”  Whereas we would all like to think that attending college is certainly different than buying a used car, in many ways it is not. The buyer’s euphoria to find a good deal on a car might mask the deficiencies the used vehicle may have. It car might start out smoothly, but it is highly possible that as the years go on the flaws show themselves. And if you don’t thoroughly “check under the hood” before you buy it, the problems might arise more quickly.

Future college students and their families really need to “check under the hood” of the colleges they are considering attending. Check the graduation and retention rates. Investigate the advising systems in place. Kick the tires too while you are at it. Visit the campus. Talk to administrators and faculty. Make sure your future student will be well positioned to succeed and graduate. And perhaps most important, take a realistic view of the amount of debt that will be incurred. The truth may hurt, but a smart decision beforehand should help to prevent the pain of debt without graduation.

To the 50% or so that our truly graduating, all the best. Congratulations on your accomplishment. It’s a good one. Hopefully, the college taught you how to make smart decisions. Something that will serve you well in the years to come.

 

 

Are You Ready for Some Football? Your College Is.

football-quarterback

Doc Seidman Says….

….On November 23, 1984, with his Boston College team losing to The University of Miami 45-41, and 28 seconds left in the game, B.C. quarterback Doug Flutie threw a desperation, “Hail Mary” pass into the end zone. Wide receiver Gerard Phelan caught the pass, untouched, for a game winning touchdown.

More than a victory on the football field, it was a win for the Admissions Office at Boston College. It is speculated that this improbable pass and catch caused applications to increase at Boston College by 16% in 1984 and another 12% in 1985. Whether or not this was completely due the football game has been debated over the years but there is no doubt that this so-called “Flutie Effect” led to an increase in the awareness of the college as well as a boost to student morale.

Can a football game really do this? Can a successful play on the field impact the admissions processes that take place off the field? More interesting to ponder, can it make a school better?

Yes, yes, and yes.  The national exposure of a good sports team has been shown to significantly increase the amount of future applications. This brings with it an increase of “good” applications from potentially good students. More applications mean the school’s acceptance rate will go down, which is a metric most schools like. For example, if during a typical year a college receives 10,000 applications and accepts 2,500 students, it will have a 25% acceptance rate. After a year of winning football, the school now gets 15,000 applications yet still only accepts 2,500 new students. This acceptance rate is now a significantly lower 16.7%, demonstrating on paper at least, the school is more selective.

Increased selectivity in the student body will have other desirable effects. If selectivity means accepting students who are more prepared for the college experience, it should positively impact both retention and completion rates. These, too, are good things.  It can also bring about more advanced classes and programs directed by more renowned faculty. The college wins again.

The glory doesn’t end with football either. A successful basketball program, even for a year or two, can fill up the school’s coffers. Gonzaga, Butler, Appalachian State, and Florida Gulf Coast University all seemed to benefit from the unexpected success of their sports teams. The so called “Flutie Effect” crossed over to college basketball, giving the students, faculty and staff something to cheer for, and the schools, some much cherished national exposure.

College football is also big business. Sponsorships, television money, ticket sales, and the like can bring in some major bucks. In 2015, it was reported that over $9 billion was generated amongst the 231 Division I NCAA schools. That’s much more money than programs in Chemistry, Literature, Engineering, and Hospitality brought in…. combined!

Is there a downside? Can a college football program do more harm than good? Possibly. For starters, it is important to keep in mind that having and maintaining a football team is expensive. If a college does not have an “elite” football program, its median loss due to football is around $3 million a year. With only around half of all Division I programs showing profitability, that’s a lot of colleges losing money on the football field.

Furthermore, it’s easy to be critical about the commitment to academics big-time football players, or other athletes, may have. There have been many allegations about players not going to classes and having work done by other students. Student football players are often enrolled in easy programs, taking easy courses with “understanding” professors. These types of incidents can harm the credibility of the school often causing outrage by the non-supporters of big time football.

Whereas there is obviously reason for concern, these incidents can occur with any student, not just those playing a big-time sport. Cheating students come in all types and are not just limited to those who can run a 40-yard dash in six seconds or less.

As an old-fashioned academic purist back in the day, I questioned the wisdom of a big-time football program. To me, it seemed to de-emphasize academics while emphasizing athletics. Wasn’t college all about academics? What value would a football team bring?

I couldn’t have been more wrong. Win or lose, a sports program has much to offer. Almost overlooked in the hoopla is the fact that involved students tend to be the happiest amongst the college population. It doesn’t matter whether it’s involvement the Chess Club, the Knitting Club, the Marching Band or the football team, those students who are engaged in some type of out- of-the-class activity are amongst the happiest. Additionally, win or lose, participation in a team sport is good thing. Aside from skills in leadership, followership, and teamwork, it looks great on a resume too. Many hiring companies will often carefully consider the student athlete resume and move their resume to the front of the pile. Playing a sport in college is also great on an interview, and of course, many will say it makes you a better person overall.

So, to big time football program skeptics out there; get over it. College and football seem to go together like…. college and football. Colleges love their football team, win or lose. A strong college football program can not only bring in more applicants, it serves as a great Saturday afternoon diversion. Students can take a break from their weekday routines, let their hair down, and have some fun, so to speak. They will even sit outside in the cold, rain, wind or snow, and cheer their team on. Colleges almost always seem to showcase their team and stadium on a college tour, and many schools even allow students to attend games for little or no charge.

Are you ready for some football? You had better be. Turns out that most colleges and their students certainly are.

So, You Want to Teach College?

Image result for college teacher clipart

Doc Seidman Says:

…Back in the day when I was an undergraduate student, I looked at my professors for the most part as bloviating egocentric mouthpieces. Although that was a harsh opinion, I also speculated that they had good lives. They would spend a few hours a week teaching, a few hours in their offices, make a monthly appearance or two in a committee, but spend many hours traveling the world consulting on whatever their specialty was. Who wouldn’t want that life?

I wasn’t aspiring to be a part of the college teaching profession in those days, but the thought of it was tucked away in the back corners of my brain. Instead, I choose to begin my career in Hospitality and Food Service.

Twenty years later, with cuts and permanent scars over my arms and hands, chronically aching feet, and more gray hair than brown hair, I started to think about a career change. The college teaching gig slowly moved from the back of my mind to the front. I recalled the thoughts I had about my old college professors and began seriously thinking about pursing this new line of work. The one big problem, however, was, how does one even begin? How do you take a career that was predominantly spent in the rough and tumble world of quick service management and parlay it into a more glamorous professorship? Was that even possible? Moreover, I had zero teaching experience. I had never taught a class in my life.

Back then, the Internet was just taking shape and there was no Google or Amazon that would guide me. I had to go by my own intuition. I knew the first step would be a master’s degree of some kind, so I enrolled at a local private university and began pursuing my master’s degree. I did so for the experience of going back to school and learning new things as much as for a possible pathway into college teaching. It was clearly the right thing to do as my observant dean saw some teaching potential in me and mentored me along. Yada, yada, yada, several years and two degrees later I found myself amongst the college teaching fraternity. Now, I too became that bloviating, egocentric mouthpiece with global consulting opportunities at my fingertips.

You would have to ask my students as to whether or not I was a bloviating egocentric (I’d like to think not), but I did enjoy a rewarding career in academia. I did get to see a good part of the world as the business of academia took me to Australia, South Africa, Thailand and Singapore. My experience was just about everything I thought it would be back in my undergraduate daydreaming days. Whereas I truly enjoyed my food service career, it was no comparison to my twenty plus years in academia.

So, you want to teach college too? Are you wondering not just if you can do it, but how you can achieve it?

For nine plus years in my college tenure, I served as an academic chairman. As head of the college I hired many teachers. They came in all levels of age, experience and ability. Some were older. Many were younger. Some had previous teaching experience and others did not. Some turned out to be excellent teachers while others, not so much. As a teacher myself, I was willing to train newbies. I enjoyed teaching teachers and didn’t mind giving someone their first job in the college classroom.

It can be easier than you think to get a job, at least part time, teaching college students. All too often a chair scrambles at the last minute to find someone…..anyone…. to teach a class. If he or she stumbles across your resume at the right time, you may get the call, whether you have previously taught a class or not.

Being a successful teacher on the other hand, is not as easy. As all college professors have learned, being effective in the job is more than just committee work, office hours, international travel, and lectures.  It involves carefully prepared lesson plans that utilize a variety of teaching techniques.  It also requires a commitment to accurate record keeping and other administrative responsibilities. Advising students of varying backgrounds and intellect, is also a must. There’s much more to the job than meets the eye.

During my tenure as chairman, I kept a journal. I took notes of my experiences and waited for the day when I could share them in a way that would be helpful to others. I look at all the aspiring college professors to be out there and want to help. So, you want to teach college? I wrote and published a step by step guide for how to do so.

My book, So, You Want to Teach College? Is available on Amazon. I didn’t write it to get rich. I wrote it to help others, just like I am writing this now. There may be one person out there reading this who aspires at some point to be a college teacher but doesn’t quite know how to go about it. I hear you. I was there. I went through it and I want to help.

So, you want to teach college? From building an effective resume, to how and when to apply, to how to get your class set up for success, let me show you how. Whether or not you bloviate is up to you.

Beer and the American College Student

beer

Doc Seidman Says…

…..During a recent campus tour of a large university in Germany, we wandered into the campus store and couldn’t help but notice the large selection of beer (and cigarettes and condoms) available for student purchase. In fact, we also couldn’t help but notice students walking around campus or taking a break, sitting on a bench under a tree leisurely sipping a can of beer.

As every American college student knows, the legal drinking age in the U.S. is 21. Almost everyone also knows that in most other countries, Germany being one of them, the drinking age is lower than 21. Be that as it may, it is still rather shocking to see beer being sold in the college campus store and even more shocking to see it being consumed openly around campus.

To no one’s surprise, the legal drinking age of 21 does not prevent American college students from drinking beer. Unlike their German student counterparts, you do not see American college students lazing around the campus casually and openly enjoying a “cold one.”  And you rarely, if ever, see rows and rows of beer being displayed and sold in the campus store. A cold beer for a typical college student remains the “forbidden fruit” so to speak.

For those underage college students who defy the law and drink beer, Bud Light is their number one choice. It is the beer of choice for more than one out of every four underage beer consumers. Budweiser comes in at number two. Putting the two brands together gives Budweiser products a commanding 40% share of the underage beer drinking market. Coors and Corona come in a very distant third and fourth.

It is difficult to pinpoint the exact amount of beer a typical college student consumes. Beer companies do not publicly disclose their research on underage drinking. Marketing professionals have claimed that around 10 to 15% of beer sold in the US is being consumed by people not old enough to drink it. Beer companies in America therefore face a marketing conundrum: How to advertise to a user of their product, in this case an underage drinker, who legally shouldn’t be consuming their product? They do want their business though. Like most companies, Disneyland and McDonald’s being notable examples, Budweiser and the other big beer companies want to create lifelong customers.  Marketers refer to this as “cradle to grave” marketing. Those cold Budweiser’s you start drinking in high school or college should remain your brand of choice throughout your beer drinking life. They truly want your business as early as they can get it.

How college students consume beer is a different story. Whereas college students in Germany can enjoy a beer for lunch or in an outdoor public area, his or her American counterparts must hide their beer consumption, imbibing it primarily indoors. The German student might slowly sip his or her can of beer while the underage American student chugs it down quickly. One, two, three, or more beers might be guzzled before stepping out to attend a party or event. This binge drinking approach is quite common on the American college campus, but not so much overseas.

Beer drinking at college sporting events, mainly football and basketball, is also popular. Whereas the sale of beer is banned at NCAA sanctioned postseason events, colleges are on their own as to whether or not to allow beer to be sold during the non-postseason NCAA sanctioned events. This, too, poses a conundrum. This time for colleges as they know most of their students aren’t allowed to drink beer, however, they can sure use the money a beer sponsorship brings. Whereas there is an obvious reluctance to promote beer in front of underage drinkers, beer companies are all too happy to showcase their brands and throw money at the schools that promote their products. Lately, colleges seem all too happy to accept it. Slowly, and quietly, more big schools are taking the money and inking partnerships with various beer brands.

Why many college students drink beer is another important question. Like other vices in college, cigarettes, drugs, and unprotected sex most notably, drinking beer is considered to be another rite of passage. The newfound freedom of being away from home creates a culture of curiosity and experimentation. If you haven’t already been sampling beer in high school, you are likely to give it a try in college. College depression is also on the rise, and beer, and alcohol in general, are often used by students to self-medicate. Even if students are not formally diagnosed with anxiety or depression, drinking is a way to cope with the wide assortment of problems college life brings about. This could involve anything from failing a test or a class, having trouble with friends and/or roommates, or anything else in between. Are you having a bad day? Your good friends at Budweiser are here to help.

Like many other collegiate activities, certain colleges are more popular beer drinking establishments than others. Results tend to vary based on who is doing the research, but some schools tend to appear on just about everyone’s list. They include: University of Wisconsin, Madison (no surprise as Wisconsin produces a lot of beer), Tulane University in New Orleans (not really a surprise either if you have ever been to New Orleans), West Virginia University, Penn State University, and Johnson & Wales University, where chefs and beer seem to go together. The top states for underage drinking are reported to be North Dakota, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Rhode Island. The states with the lowest estimates of underage drinking include North Carolina, Tennessee and Utah. So, if you are a parent, and you want to do what you can to keep your college bound son or daughter away from alcohol consumption, encourage them to attend school in Utah, where state laws make it much harder to purchase beer.

It is safe to say that the relationship the American college student has with beer does not appear to be going away anytime soon, no matter what the drinking age. Perhaps over time our county’s attitude toward underage drinking and beer will reflect that of our German counterparts. At that point, we can honestly declare, “This Bud’s for You.” In the meantime, it’s really not.

The Not So Big Sleep

tired

 

Doc Seidman Says….

….A recent world-class study by The National Sleep Foundation concluded that college aged students (18-25 years old) need seven to nine hours of sleep a night.  Studies also show that while some college students get plenty of good sleep, most fall about one to two hours short every night. That might not seem like a big deal but over the course of a week, a month, or a semester, it adds up.

It’s easy to see why. The college years are loaded with non-sleep activities such as academics, long hours at work so you can pay for college, and a healthy amount of socializing. Often, a good night’s sleep is just plain unattainable.

Walk around any college campus and you can see students catching up- or napping up- on the missing one to two hours of sleep in a variety of places. The college library is always a good place to observe many a student catching a few winks. Quiet spots can be found all over the library and even if you are not sleep deprived it is often hard to stay awake in such a peaceful setting. You might also see students snoozing away in a quiet corner of the recreation center, the dining hall, or any other hidden spot on campus.

Of course, many students wind up catching their zzzs in the college classroom. More often than not, you cannot blame them as the teacher is just plain boring. He or she drones on about European History, Organic Chemistry, or whatever else the average student doesn’t care much about, and dozing off can’t be avoided. Like the library, it’s tough for anyone to stay awake during those circumstances. Other times a long in-class movie- or even a short movie-  in a dark classroom will do the trick. Even if a student has every intention to watch the video, the combination of dialogue and a dark room changes the setting from attentive to siesta.

Ask any student, however, and they will tell you that they would prefer to do their sleeping in a nice comfortable bed and not an uncomfortable college desk. So, what’s preventing everyone from more bed sleeping and less campus catnaps? A major culprit would be the assortment of items college students typically consume. Foods many students consume regularly can interfere with the pleasant rhythms of a good night’s sleep.  Aside from sugar and grease, this would include the consumption of caffeinated beverages, energy drinks, and alcohol. These three beverages are practically “food groups” during the college years. They are hard to avoid. Other stimulants such as “speed,” be it prescription, over the counter, and/or from your local black-market dealer, contribute mightily to nighttime sleep deprivation as well. That’s almost a no-brainer. Even someone totally sleep deprived can tell you that.

Technology also plays a big part in collegiate insomnia. Any type of technology use within the hour before bedtime greatly reduces the chances of a restful night sleep. Sorry to say everyone, but this includes texting, sexting, and video games. Snapchat and Instagram are also no-nos. So is cramming to finish a paper. That is not good either so don’t cram. Get that paper done in a timely manner. Your professors can tell. Trust me.

The problems associated with sleep deprivation include an increase in mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. Sadly, these issues are already all too common on campus. Physical health issues can also arise from sleep deprivation making you more prone to get sick. You can become irritated more easily and attentive listening becomes troublesome. Another popular college activity is impacted too. Less sleep impacts sexual activity, leading to not only less drive, but less enjoyment.

So, what’s a college student to do? Achieving the recommended daily dose of sleep is certainly something easier said than done. Aside from cutting back on Red Bull and Budweiser, sleep researchers will tell you to put your technology away before bedtime. Creating a sleep conducive environment can also help. Keep your room dark, comfortable and cool. Try- as best you can, to create a regular sleep routine. Avoid going to sleep too late and stay away from rich foods before bedtime. For those still smoking cigarettes, know that they, and all tobacco products, are stimulants and will force your body to stay awake rather than go to sleep. Scientists also recommend using your bed for sleep and sex only and avoid using as a substitute for furniture. If you live in a dorm and your bed is really your only furniture, I don’t know what to tell you. Good luck with that.

I can tell you that there is little doubt that a good night sleep has a positive relationship with good health. There is not much more important than that. Except, perhaps that students that get six hours or less of sleep a night have a lower G.P.A. than those who get eight or more hours. So, if you are having a hard time keeping up with your coursework, get more sleep out of the classroom than in it.

Wrap It Up

condoms

Doc Seidman Says……

…..Although sex in college is a popular activity, it is not as popular as most might people think. A 2015 study by New York Magazine found that 41% of women and 49% of men denied being sexually active in college. Additionally, almost 40% of those studied claimed to be virgins. What is high, however, is the percent of college students who will contract a sexually transmitted disease (STD).  Studies put that estimate around 20 to 25% of the total student population with some students getting an STD more than once.

Let’s face it; college can be fun; too much fun at times. But too much fun can also have consequences. As the English poet William Blake famously said, “Fun I love. But too much fun is of all things the most loathsome.” Loathsome indeed. Too much fun in college can lead to a host of loathsome woes ranging anywhere from extreme hangovers to contracting an STD.

If your plan is to have a lot of fun in college- while maintaining your commitment to academics, no doubt- be somewhat mindful of the consequences. If the fun end-game is to get to “third base” and beyond, so to speak, whether you are a guy or gal, don’t forget the all-important condom. For as unsexy as condoms can be, they are an integral part of staying healthy while in college.

But condom usage among the college population is down too. Studies vary on this but they generally agree that around 50% of students claiming to have an active sex life do not use condoms. It is worth noting that the “50%” represents those students claiming to have the more “traditional” sexual experiences. Condom usage percent decreases for the “less traditional” experiences. (For more information and better definition of “less traditional” look it up yourself.) Whichever way- traditional or nontraditional-  those percentages are too low; college sexual health experts claim.

The reasons for low condom usage vary. Many blame high schools for failing to provide their students with proper sex education. Sex Ed curriculum in high school is noted to be on the decline, people who study this claim. Furthermore, close to 90% of high schools allow parents to exclude their children from these classes if they do not agree with the curriculum. And of the schools that teach Sex Ed, 30% do not allegedly teach proper condom usage procedures. This is all unfortunate as many would say that sexual education in high school is not just important, it is where the rubber meets the road, so to speak.

As we all well know, whereas high schools are traditionally easy to blame, also falling in the blame game column is the higher than normal usage of drugs and alcohol in college. Over 45% of binge drinking college freshmen claim to not even consider using a condom, or other type of contraceptive, when engaging in sexual activity. Many of those non-condom using binge drinkers go on contract an STD.  Sexual health experts- as well as our parents- all agree: don’t binge drink.

But before we all give up beer pong, we need to know if condom wearing completely prevents getting a sexually transmitted disease. Sex health experts want to remind everyone that some diseases such as herpes are passed along through skin contact during sex. Even if you do wear a condom, it is still possible to get herpes. But condoms do, however, minimize the risk of getting an STD. It is universally agreed that wearing a condom is a much better option than not wearing one, especially if there are multiple partners.

At this point a college parent might ask, “What more can I do to help my son or daughter maintain good sexual health while in college?”

One answer might be in choosing a college that has a good sexual health reputation. (Yes, this data exists too. College sex research seems boundless.) A recent analysis based on CDC STD reporting calculated a campus sexual health index for most U.S. colleges. The findings were based on three factors: Access to contraception, average campus sexual assault rate, and public STD data from the surrounding region. The colleges with the best sexual health reputations were Oregon State University, Boise State University, and Florida Atlantic University. The worst scores went to Marquette University, Vanderbilt University, and University of Louisiana at Monroe.

Do these findings mean anything? Do they influence admissions? Do the sexually healthy schools brag about this during their campus tours?  I would imagine these results are meaningful, however, it is doubtful they influence admissions. Some of the schools on the “bad list” such Vanderbilt and the University of Pennsylvania are highly selective. I would imagine students might be happy get accepted, sexual health reputation be damned. As for hearing about this on a campus tour…. prognosis doubtful. The subject of sex rarely, if ever, comes up.

So, what can we conclude? For one, the vice industry seems to be alive in well in the college community (sorry, parents). Cigarette smoking is up, as is the percent of students having unprotected sex. Reported cases of sexually transmitted diseases are also on the rise. Binge drinking remains popular, as is the use of drugs of all kinds. Research shows that healthier students are happier students. Happier students tend to retain and graduate. There’s little doubt about that. Clearly, college students can benefit by adopting healthier lifestyles.

And that’s a wrap.

Cigarette?

cigarette

Doc Seidman Says………

………When it comes to buying condoms and cigarettes, what’s the difference between the 1960’s and today?

Today, a customer walks into a drug store and says, “Give me a box of condoms!”…… and then whispers to the clerk, “Oh, and slip in a packet of cigarettes, too.”

Welcome to the year 2018, where sex is in and cigarette smoking is out.

Or, is it? While only 15.5% of U.S. adults admit to smoking cigarettes, that number is almost double for college students. So, what gives?

Cigarette smoking is still reported to be relatively popular in the college environment. There are several reasons for this. For one, many say that smoking cigarettes is considered a rite of passage in college. It is part of the newfound freedom being away from home brings. It’s right up there with drinking beer and pulling an all-nighter. Others claim the social aspect of smoking is what starts them, and keeps them lighting up. They say that smokers can bond with other smokers as they stand outside in the cold, puffing away.  Walking outside a bar or restaurant and joining another smoker in friendly conversation is easy to do. Asking for a cigarette or match gets the conversation started and sows the seeds of a special bond.

Also, many people, women most notably, use cigarettes as an appetite suppressant and a useful step in weight control. Others think it’s cool. Some use it as an excuse to step away from a dull conversation. The thought being that stepping away to light and smoke a cigarette might be a better alternative than hearing about how well Fred did on the Chemistry test. Some students state that cigarette smoking reduces anxiety. It can be an excuse for a study break, a way to combat boredom, and/or a way to relax after a sex romp. For many, however, cigarette smoking is just plain addictive.

Interestingly, half of the 33% of college smokers don’t consider themselves to be habitual smokers and declare that they will give up the habit after college. Not surprisingly, this doesn’t happen. As any habitual smoker will tell you, giving up the habit is easier said than done.

Colleges often try and help students quit, but many anti-smoking advocates feel they do not do enough. Obviously, it’s in the school’s interest to wean students off cigarettes. Like any environment, a healthy population is a happy population. (And yes, not smoking cigarettes is healthier than smoking cigarettes.) Colleges host anti- smoking drives and wellness clinics. They make the campus tobacco free, forcing smokers to the fringe of the campus to light up. They provide smoking cessation classes, prominently display anti-smoking posters and distribute flyers. Some colleges have begun promoting anti-smoking apps such as QuitNet and SmokLog. Many even make nicotine replacement therapy such as patches and gums available at no or low cost through the college insurance plan.

Of course, cigarette smoking is only one aspect of tobacco use on campus. Chewing tobacco, vaping, and cigar smoking are becoming more popular. For every student who manages to quit cigarettes, someone else arrives on campus seemingly taking their place, vape pipe in tow.

It’s hard to believe now, but a generation ago, smoking cigarettes was an accepted part of the classroom experience. Thirty or so years ago, ashtrays could be found on classroom desks. Students were free to light up and puff away while the professor was discussing Shakespeare, Chaucer, or Nixon. Students could toke away on a Marlborough while reviewing the Periodic Table of Elements without fear of violating any school rule or policy. And if an ashtray wasn’t provided, a Styrofoam cup, Coca-Cola can, or leftover baked potato from lunch worked just fine.

Professors also used to stand in the front of the class and smoke. I’m guessing many a prof took a deep drag off a Raleigh to not only stay focused on their lecture material, but to manage the anguish over those students who were not focused on the lecture material. All this gave real meaning to the term “smoked filled room.”  To see that scene played out today in an American classroom would be downright comical. Clearly, the ashtray business is nowhere near as strong as it used to be (and baked potatoes are relegated back to consumption, only).

A generation ago, the consumer was bombarded with cigarette advertisement. Cigarette promotion seemed to show up everywhere, even in the student newspaper. Moreover, cigarette companies made their presence known on campus with lavish displays and free samples. Joe Camel was more in demand than your textbook author. But as just about all of us older folks know, public policy has shifted, bringing with it changes in how the tobacco companies can target their consumers. Joe Camel is out; your textbook author is in; sort of.

Which brings us back to cigarettes vs condoms. As our opening riddle points out, cigarettes and condoms have apparently shifted positions. Whereas free cigarettes where commonly distributed to college students a generation ago, today, free cigarettes are out, and free condoms are in. In place of Joe Camel is Carl Condom. Who saw that one coming?

Whereas the distribution of free cigarettes was shown to increase the number of smokers, can the same be true for condoms? We know sex in college is popular, but is it any safer?